LOS ANGELES – Civilization has now covered the same subject material six times, but in its defense, the entire history of the world requires nothing less. The latest installment in Sid Meier’s classic series, Civilization VI, is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary step in the franchise’s history, focusing on small, subtle improvements, especially in city design.
Everything from the franchise’s cartoony graphics to its delightful anachronisms returns in style here, and tells a story not only of how civilizations rise, but how they stand the test of time.
I met with 2K, which will be publishing Civilization VI, at E3 2016 to experience a hands-off demo of the title. If you’ve played a Civilization game before, you can probably already guess how it went. A representative from Firaxis, the game’s developer, began by controlling a humble Chinese village. While it’s possible to start as early as the Stone Age, this demo began with a society that already understood agriculture and animal husbandry. Still, the town had little to call its own, save for a small city center, a rice paddy and a rock quarry.
The game, like previous installments, is a turn-based strategy title that takes place on hexagonal grids. As you expand your reach to encompass more and more hexagons, your resources, technologies and achievements will increase accordingly.
After a short time, for example, the demo’s small Chinese town had developed granaries and water wheels, and was equipped to send settlers to found a new village. The settlers chose a spot by the sea, and suddenly, the ocean was a new exploitable resource. The representative also developed a trade route that linked the two societies.
One town turned inward to spiritual enlightenment, and here, we learned about the new Districts mechanic. Rather than just build a city and be done with it, Civilization VI lets players customize individual parts of their city. By constructing a religious district, the first city became more culturally advanced, and constructed a Wonder to seal the deal. (The Wonder was a pyramid, which the Chinese never built in real-life, but Civilization has mixed and matched cultural anachronisms on purpose for years, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.)
We also got a look at how diplomacy in the game worked. To the east of China sat the United States of America (again, Civilization is not exactly the real world), and President Theodore Roosevelt was only too happy to trade some cotton for China’s excess stone. This helped foster a friendly relationship between the two countries.
On the other hand, some societies were not so understanding. The second town had to deal with barbarian raiders, and built up a military encampment district as a result. The raiders were no match for advanced Chinese pikemen, and the barbarian territory soon became Chinese.
Egypt, under the leadership of pharaoh Cleopatra, proved to be a different story. Giza’s forces crushed a huge portion of the now-industrializing first city before the second city responded with a new advancement: riflemen and tanks. After conquering Giza, China had the option of either sparing the city and annexing it, or razing it to the ground. The representative chose the former, although an educated guess suggests that such an action would cause problems for the Chinese in the future.
With its focus on choices, consequences and a mix of historical realism and anachronism, Civilization VI looks to continue the trend that made the first five games such enduring classics. Expect to see it on Oct. 21 for the PC.