I looked forward to Civilization VI for months before it came out, and on its release day, I was more than happy to drop $60 for a great gaming experience. After all, I liked Civilization V, and despite Civilization: Beyond Earth’s problems it was still an okay experience. The first couple weeks with Civ VI, I had a blast figuring everything out, but there were a lot of little things in the gameplay that lessened the experience, and unfortunately, nearly half a year later, they have not improved.
Like Civilization V, the sixth installment is a historical strategy game that starts the player off in the Ancient Era, and you have to work your way through time all the way to the modern day and then into the future. Although part of me was bummed out that the technology tree in this game is missing a few things the fifth one had, such as giant death robots, it does allow you to start sending people off to colonize Mars near the end. Being the big space nerd that I am, I thought that was pretty cool. The way cities are set up is also a bit different from the previous game. Instead of taking up one tile area, cities need to build their districts out in their surrounding tiles. This allows for every city to be unique and changes up the game on every playthrough. World Wonders also now take up their own tile as well, and they require more prerequisites to build—Stonehenge must be built next to stone, the Great Library needs to be built next to a science district, etc. Additionally, there’s also a civics tree to go along with the technology tree, and if you fall behind on accumulating culture, other civs can easily gain an advantage over you if they research better forms of government before you do. In many ways, there’s a lot more strategy involved in this game, and a unique playthrough every time is certainly a bonus.
Religion works much the same way this time around as it did in V, and I still wish there was more strategy involved. Choosing one religion over another has no impact on what tenets your civilization can adhere to. You can found Protestantism and then build mosques, or Taoism and build cathedrals. I wish this wasn’t the case, but it doesn’t look as if the Civ games will be changing this any time soon. This seems like a glaring flaw to me, because in a historical and educational game about strategy, you would think this wouldn’t be the case. After all, when playing against AIs, certain civs prefer founding certain religions. Queen Victoria of England always goes for Protestantism, and Hojo Tokimune always goes for Buddhism. Even the tenets and religious structures you can build have an element of accuracy. Gurdwaras, places of worship for Sikhs, provide civilizations with extra food, which makes sense, since in real life gurdwaras do provide free vegetarian food for people. What doesn’t make sense is not needing to found Sikhism in order to build gurdwaras.
Being a strategy game, every civilization has its own unique and historically accurate buildings, military units, and other bonuses that affect how quickly they generate culture, science, production, and faith. They have different personalities and agendas based on their historical counterparts, and each game starts with a quick introduction into who the different leaders are and what they achieved in life. I wouldn’t say that the Civilization games provide in depth history lessons, but what they do teach us has always been fairly accurate. I’ve learned a lot about different histories and cultures by playing Civilization, and I’ve even learned about more than a few (non-white) people my history books forgot to mention. But due to the games’ grab bag treatment of different religious beliefs, I can’t say that this part has been all that educational. I didn’t even know gurdwaras belonged to Sikhism until I looked it up.
Even more unfortunately, while Civilization VI can be a fun game, it has more than its share of faults. Before its release, we fans were promised that this would be an easy and friendly game for modding. Naturally, this left a number of us excited, and modding was what many people looked forward to the most. Civ V released its modding tools about a week after it first launched, but Civ VI took over four goddamn months, and in that time period, I actually stopped playing the game. I felt cheated out of my money, because I paid $60 for what felt like an incomplete product, and even now that modding is out, there isn’t any kind of world builder or easy to use map editor. World building was my favorite part of Civ V, and I’m frustrated that I can’t do the same for Civ VI even half a year later.
Not only that, there’s a couple annoying glitches. For instance, in order to build the defensive structure Medieval Walls, you first need to construct Ancient Walls. Unfortunately, even if you have done that, sometimes the game won’t let you upgrade your defenses. Upon going to war, your cities can take damage and if they do, it takes about ten turns for your walls to be repaired, and in the meantime, you can’t build better walls. This particular glitch occurs if your Ancient Walls ever get damaged—even over a hundred turns later, well after the waiting period is over, I still can’t upgrade. On top of that, I just got done playing a game that glitched up despite my never going to war, and it did it to numerous other buildings as well, not just my defensive structures.
If you do play a game where war happens, there’s also all these weird consequences. The first time playing, I had three other civilizations declare war on me, and then all the remaining civilizations accused me of being a war-mongerer, which hurt my ability to make deals with them or find allies. The difficulty system also needs some adjustments. The easiest setting is Settler, which is for beginners just learning how to play. Sometimes, it seems way too hard in Civ VI—in Civ V, playing on Settler felt like playing on a level called “you can’t lose if you try”. And indeed, even trying, I couldn’t lose. In Civ VI, however, I’ve nearly lost a couple games on Settler within the first twenty turns. At the same time, though, playing on Deity, the hardest difficultly level, seems way too fucking easy. The latest game I played on Deity, I somehow managed to surpass all the other civilizations in both science and culture, which I could never do in Civ V. I’ve seen a few other people online complain about Deity being too easy, so I’m assuming it can’t just be my computer.
Furthermore, there’s no option to avoid playing on a map with city states, unless you go into the game’s coding or pick multiplayer. While I normally don’t mind city states, they always have a habit of popping up where I need to expand, so I like going without them, but that’s not possible anymore. This same problem existed in Beyond Earth—it was annoying then, and it’s annoying now. I don’t feel comfortable screwing around with my game’s coding, nor do I like playing with other people. As such, this is just as frustrating to me as my inability to create my own maps.
This only accounts for some Civ VI’s problems, and it has many. I’m hoping that over time, newer updates will fix this, and maybe I’ll get my giant death robots and the ability to build maps in the future, but as of now, the game feels incomplete. Fixing these glitches would vastly improve the gameplay, but even then, without more strategy surrounding religion, this installment has the same failings as the previous one. Though Civilization gives an accurate representation of different cultures—even if that representation could, admittedly, be a bit more in depth—the game could only improve by focusing more on correctly portraying religion, and there’s no reason not to. It would both drastically improve the game in terms of educational value while also adding another layer to the gameplay itself. Sadly, if you were interested in buying this game for yourself, I’d wait another half year and then see how people like it.