Sid Meier's Civilization VI is a turn-based strategy 4X video game developed by Firaxis Games, published by 2K Games, and distributed by Take-Two Interactive. The latest entry into the Civilization series, it was released on Microsoft Windows and macOS in October 2016, with later ports for Linux in February 2017, iOS in December 2017, Nintendo Switch in November 2018, and PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in November 2019.
|Genre(s)||Turn-based strategy, 4X|
Similar to previous installments, the goal for the player is to develop a civilization from an early settlement through many millennia to become a world power and achieve one of several victory conditions, such as through military domination, technological superiority, or cultural influence, over the other human and computer-controlled opponents. Players do this by exploring the world, founding new cities, building city improvements, deploying military troops to attack and defend from others, researching new technologies and cultural civics, and engaging in trade and negotiations with other world leaders.
The game featured several civilizations not featured in previous incarnations of Civilization, while many returning civilizations had new capitals or new leaders. A critical design focus was to avoid having the player follow a pre-set path of improvements towards their civilization which they had observed from earlier games. Civilization VI places more emphasis on the terrain by "unstacking" city districts from the main city tile and giving bonuses for placing districts near certain terrain types. Other new features include research on the game's technology tree based on nearby terrain, a similar technology tree for cultural improvements and a better government civics structure for those playing on a cultural victory path, and new artificial intelligence mechanics for computer-controlled opponents that include secret goals and randomized engagements to disrupt an otherwise stable game. The game's first major expansion, Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, was released in February 2018, a second expansion, Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, followed in February 2019 and a season pass, The New Frontier Pass, in May 2020.
Civilization VI is a turn-based strategy video game in which one or more players compete alongside computer-controlled AI opponents to grow their individual civilization from a small tribe to control of the entire planet across several periods of development. This can be accomplished by achieving one of several victory conditions, all based on the 4X gameplay elements, "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate". Players found cities, gather nearby resources to build and expand them by adding various city improvements, and build military units to explore and attack opposing forces, while managing the technology development, culture, and government civics for their civilization and their diplomatic relationships with the other opponents.
Civilization VI builds upon the general gameplay of Civilization V, including continuing the use of the hex-based grid introduced in Civilization V. New to Civilization VI is the idea of "city unstacking": some improvements to cities must be placed in the hexes in the bounds of the city but not within the city's space itself, whereas in previous games, all improvements were considered stacked on the same map hex or square that the city was located in. The player must assign specific hexes as "districts" in the city, which have certain limitations but grant bonuses for improvements placed in that district.
For example, the encampment district specializes a city for training military units, and allows for the construction of further buildings that grant production and experience bonuses to said units. Such encampments may not be placed next to the main city center. Other improvements gain bonuses for being placed in appropriate terrain - campuses benefit greatly from being placed adjacent to forest or jungle hexes, reflecting on scientific advance from studying the diversity of species within such biomes. Players can opt to attack specific districts of a city instead of the city center, which can affect the city's operation. These districts may also add new strategies to the city's defense. For example, with a military encampment in place, attacking forces approaching a city are not only subject to ranged attacks from the city center, but also from the encampment. The attacking forces may need to take the encampment first before they can successfully strike the city center.
In order to reduce congestion on the map, players are able to perform a limited amount of unit stacking (a change from Civilization V), but are only able to stack similar unit types or symbiotic units. For example, a warrior unit can be assigned to a builder unit to protect that unit from barbarians in the early game, and a battering ram can stack with a spearman to take over cities.
The game's technology tree, now known as the active research system, has also been modified to help boost technology research if the player has access to appropriate improvements or resources (e.g. building a quarry helps boost the research into masonry). Technologies based on access to water, such as sailing, would be limited if the player started in the middle of a continent. A new feature called Eureka Moments is able to increase the player's progress toward certain technologies after completing specific tasks; for example, laying a mine field contributes to the military tradition technology.
Past iterations of the game were considered difficult to win if the player decided to pursue a Cultural victory. To balance the game toward Cultural victories, a new Civics tree is introduced. The Civics tree has transferred cultural improvements that were previously part of the Technology tree in earlier Civilization games into a separate mechanic. Culture gained from cities is used to build on the Civics tree in the same manner Science from cities builds up the Technology tree. Completing certain Civics will then unlock policies, or policy cards, for the player's government. In Civilization VI, the government is defined by placing appropriate and available policies into a number of slots divided among Military, Economic, Diplomatic, and Wildcard categories. The policies define boosts or limitations for the civilization (e.g. improved attack bonuses for military units against certain types of enemies such as Barbarians). Policies can be changed for free upon completing a single Civic, or for a small cost at any other time, allowing the player to adapt to a new situation as needed, according to lead producer Dennis Shirk.
More advanced cards, only obtainable through significant advancement in the Civics tree, can unlock improvements that give the player pursuing a Cultural victory advantages over other players, such as reducing the time or cost of producing new units. Various choices made by the player may cause unhappiness in their population as with previous games, but in Civilization VI, many of these were localized to the city affected by the choice rather than the entire population, further aiding towards Cultural victory-style players. The Religion system introduced in Civilization V's Gods & Kings expansion is built further upon in VI, featuring more units and improvements that can lead to interreligious conflicts.
AI opponents have new agendas that influence player interactions. Some of these agendas are unique to each leader, emulating notable historical events, respective personalities and policies. Each AI character also has a second hidden agenda, which can only be revealed through espionage.
The game was developed by the same Firaxis Games team that developed the expansions on Civilization V, and most of the new mechanics introduced in these were present in Civilization VI at its launch. This follows from Sid Meier's "33/33/33" rule of sequel design: 33% of the game should retain established systems, 33% should feature improved systems over the previous version, and the remaining 33% should feature new material. Firaxis used "Frankenstein", a small group of dedicated Firaxis fans, to bounce ideas for gameplay improvements. Because of the larger number of systems in place, the studio expected to ship the game with a large-scale tutorial, separate but supplementing the guidance given by the player's various in-game advisors.
A major foundation of the development of Civilization VI was to prevent players from following routines in playing through a game, according to lead designer Ed Beach. The developers placed much more emphasis on the significance of the procedurally-generated map in how it would influence the player's strategy as the game progressed, so that no game of Civilization VI would be the same. For example, the redesigned technology tree was aimed to pull players away from automatically following a rote path through the tree, and instead adapt a path through it based on their placement on the map.
Modifications to the game such as the unstacking of cities and city districts lead directly to support this approach, since some districts and city improvements depend specifically on what available terrain is nearby. Such changes were also the result of design choices made by Civilization V's lead designer Jon Schafer during its development, such as the unstacking of player units. These changes in Civilization V exposed other weak areas of the core gameplay of the series, specifically how cities were simply seen as places to dump improvements and Wonders with little effect on the map, according to producer Dennis Shirk.
Beach, as lead designer for Civilization VI, wanted to improve upon these weaknesses, desiring to make the game map "just as important as anything else in the game", and took the step to unstack the cities to accomplish this, following in how Schafer took to unstack unit tiles in Civilization V. According to Beach, these features add city management elements similar to those found in city-building games, and force players to make decisions based on the geographical location of the city, instead of sticking to a specific city improvement route.
Because of the importance of the surrounding terrain to the growth of a city, Firaxis had to review their procedural generation for game maps to meet this new approach. Beach noted that early testing with the unstacked cities on archipelagos generated by their older system made gameplay nearly impossible, and that with mountains becoming a valuable resource towards city expansion, test players would restart maps built on the old map generation system to get the right placement of mountains to exploit them successfully. The new map generation system attempts to spread out terrain more, and in areas where one type of important terrain may be absent, makes up for this by including other valuable terrain spaces, such as a river-rich region where there is a lack of mountains.
Senior gameplay designer Anton Strenger compared their approach towards the development of the computer opponents, with main and hidden agendas, similar to concepts they had used in Rising Tide expansion for Civilization: Beyond Earth. They selected historical leaders to span a diverse range of faction and playstyle dynamics, while also looking for figures that had "really interesting personalities" that they could fit these agendas into. Beach previously designed a system in the Civilization V: Brave New World expansion that gave a "Mayhem level" in the computer opponents. Internally, the game tracked how much action was going on for the players, and if it determined that the player was progressing without little change, the computer would cause one or more of its controlled opponents to make erratic moves, creating a new situation for the player to deal with. The Mayhem level was used in Civilization VI, as according to Shirk, it is a "really interesting way of making sure that there's always something that's going to pull the player away from what they're doing or what they're focused on all the time". Whereas the process of tuning this for Brave New World required manual playthroughs of the game, Firaxis had set up several computers in their offices to run Civilization VI, using only computer-controlled opponents; the results and behaviors of these games were reviewed by the part of the team dedicated to the artificial intelligence systems and used to balance the Mayhem level.
The game was developed with a new engine that is expected to be more friendly to modification. The game's visuals were inspired by the Age of Exploration. User-interface elements feature elements like compasses and astrolabes. The fog of war is rendered using a cross-hatch drawing style to replicate old maps from the Age of Exploration. The developers planned to bring back the movies they had shown players upon completion of a Wonder from Civilization IV, but are now rendered in game, and as to make the final shot of the Wonder more impressive, they developed a day-night cycle that continues on in the game. While this cycle does not affect the core gameplay, art director Brian Busatti anticipates that this feature could be used by modders to create new tactical considerations.
The game uses a more cartoonish look than those of Civilization V, as according to Firaxis, with much deeper gameplay, they wanted to keep the visuals simple to avoid interfering with the complexity of gameplay. The graphics of individual units and buildings are being developed to be both readily-detailed when viewed in a tight zoom, while still being recognizable from other similar units when viewed from a distance. This necessitated the simpler art style to allow players to quickly recognize units and buildings while looking over a city without having to resort to user interface tooltips or similar distractions, according to Shirk. Individual units were designed to include flair associated with the given civilization, such as applying different helmet styles to the same class of footsoldier units.
Composer Christopher Tin, who wrote "Baba Yetu", the Grammy-winning theme song for Civilization IV, returned to write Civilization VI's main theme, "Sogno di Volare" (translated as "The Dream of Flight"). The theme was written to capture the spirit of exploration not only in "seeking new lands, but also the mental exploration of expanding the frontiers of science and philosophy". Tin premiered the song at a London concert in July 2016. The game's original score was written and orchestrated primarily by Geoff Knorr, who was assisted by Roland Rizzo, Griffin Cohen, and Phill Boucher. Each civilization features a musical theme or "core melody" with four variations that follow the era that the civilization is currently in.
The first expansion, Rise and Fall, was released on February 8, 2018, and brought the concepts of the rising and falling of civilizations. The cities have loyalty, if the loyalty goes too low, the city becomes a free city and may join other civilizations. A civilization has the potential to enter into a Golden Age by completing certain milestones, and can choose a special bonus in that age, but if the player does not maintain certain milestones afterwards, the civilization could fall into a Dark Age, affecting loyalty. In a Dark Age, the player can choose to implement powerful Dark Age policies, but they have a cost. If the player gets a Dark Age followed by a golden age, instead of getting a golden age, it gets a Heroic Age, with the right of choosing 3 bonuses. The expansion also adds governors, which increase the loyalty of cities and award a special bonus to that city, by promoting governors, you add another bonus to it.
The game's second major expansion, Gathering Storm, was announced in November 2018 and was released on February 14, 2019. The expansion added, among other features, impacts from natural disasters like floods, volcanoes, and droughts that affect gameplay. Additionally, a new climate system was added to track climate change throughout the player's game, with potential for additional environmental effects to result from this. Existing civilizations and leaders were rebalanced to reflect these new gameplay additions respective to each civilization's historical past, such as Egypt being able to take advantage of river flooding for improved food production.
A free update to the game released in September 2019 added a new multiplayer game mode called "Red Death". This mode is comparable to battle royale games for up to twelve players. Taking place on a post-apocalyptic world, each player controls one civilian unit and multiple offensive units that must protect the civilian unit from the other players, while at the same time, keeping the civilian unit out of range of an expanding "red death" zone that eventually covers the world map. Meanwhile, these units can also scour the wasteland for resources that help to improve the supporting units. The mode was the result of an April Fools' joke by Bradley Olson, the lead multiplayer gameplayer designer, who secretly added the basics of the mode on April 1. Once the mode was discovered, the project team found the mode to be fun and expanded the idea.
Firaxis announced in May 2020 that it will launch a "New Frontier" season pass for the game, consisting of six total content packs, each to release every other month starting in May through March 2021. A total of nine new leaders and eight new civilizations will be added through the six packs, as well as new gameplay modes and additional features. There will also be additional free updates to the game for all players along with these content packs.
The first "New Frontier" pass expansion featured the Maya civilization, led by Lady Six Sky, and Gran Colombia civilization, led by Simón Bolívar. The expansion also introduced a new game mode titled "Apocalypse." In the Apocalypse game mode, natural disasters happen much more frequently. Once the world's climate change level reaches maximum, the world enters an apocalypse state, causing an even further increase to severe natural disasters and meteor strikes.
The second "New Frontier" pass expansion featured the Ethiopian civilization, led by Menelik II, along alternate costumes for Catherine de Medici and Teddy Roosevelt with different abilites, and the "Secret Societies" mode, that allows players to join one of four available secret societies, each with a different hidden agenda, including exclusive traits.
Civilization VI was released for Microsoft Windows on October 21, 2016. The OS X version, developed by Aspyr Media, was released on October 24, 2016. At that time, Aspyr had been evaluating the feasibility of porting the title to Linux operating systems due to a large number of requests from players, and announced in January 2017 that they planned to go ahead and complete the Linux port, which was eventually released in February 2017.
A version for iPad was released in December 2017, while a general iOS version (supporting iPhones) was released on October 4, 2018. The Rise & Fall expansion was released for iOS on July 24, 2019, while Gathering Storm was released on November 22, 2019.
A port for the Nintendo Switch was announced in September 2018 and was released on November 16, 2018. Cloud saves were added in April 2019 for both Windows and Switch versions through linking of a player's Steam and 2K accounts, though only supported saved games from the base game at that point due to the lack of the expansions on the Switch. Both Rise & Fall and Gathering Storm expansions were available as an expansion bundle for the Switch version on November 22, 2019.
PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports were announced in September 2019. Both were released on November 22, 2019, alongside the Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm expansions as separate and bundled downloadable content.
Civilization VI received "generally favorable reviews" for PC and Nintendo Switch, according to review aggregator Metacritic. Critics like Scott Butterworth from GameSpot praised the game's nuanced additions and the unstacking of cities, which "adds a new strategic layer that fills a gap and creates greater variety in the types of thinking Civ demands." IGN's Dan Stapleton echoed the same love for its "overwhelming number of systems" and for feeling "like a Civ game that’s already had two expansions."
Peter Glagowski from Destructoid was slightly more critical, dubbing the religious victory condition in the game a "nuisance" and recommending "turning it off". He also lamented the lack of scenarios, the scrapping of the diplomatic victory condition (which would eventually be reintroduced in Gathering Storm), and the absence of Steam Workshop support at launch.
The game shipped more than one million units in its first two weeks of release, making it the fastest-selling game in the Civilization series to date. By May 2017, the game had sold more than 2 million copies, contributing significantly to publisher Take Two's 2017 financial year which had reported revenues of $576.1 million. Take Two stated that Civilization VI was on track to surpass Civilization V's lifetime sales of 8 million copies.
The game won the Best PC Game and Best Strategy Game awards at the 2016 Game Critics Awards, as well as the Best Strategy Game at The Game Awards 2016 and the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers.
In August 2017, Fantasy Flight Games announced that they would be publishing Civilization: A New Dawn, a board game building upon their 2010 release Civilization: The Board Game, incorporating new mechanics and features based on Civilization VI. It was published in 2017.
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