Even with hundreds of hours spent across decades of games, I’m always ready for another round of the Civilization franchise. I could’ve just finished 300 turns as Napoleon on the PC, but if you handed me a tablet and said, “Wanna play Civilization Revolutions 2?” I’d still make time for it. It’s the blessing and the curse of such an incredibly engrossing series, and it’s something I was ready to dive back into all over again when I got the opportunity to preview the upcoming Civilization VI hands on for several hours.
The first thing worth noting is that developer Firaxis has kept the game’s turn-based flow as fluid as you expect. The “one more turn” ethos is alive and well, and each time you cede control to the AI feels like a chance to see something new instead of a stopping point. What made Civilization VI flow even better was the way that building and tech advance in cleaner, more open ways. Charting your progress visually is much easier thanks to simpler tech trees, as well as a new unstacking approach to buildings. Instead of having the city centers include all your libraries, markets, or Wonders in the same tile, they now stretch to adjoining tiles on the hexagonal map. This allows for more customization when specializing how your civilization grows.
I chose Japan’s Hojo Tokimune as my leader, and the benefits were clear from the start, as were the previous bonuses that were either missing before or unexplained. Now I had a clear list of how I was working towards unlocking a new Great Person to add to my society, and the newly surfaced info showed me how Civics and Tech were now more connected. Building certain structures helped me on my way to discovering Masonry, or gave me bonuses to training. There was a bigger sense of interconnectedness on display.
Meeting with the other civilizations had a fresh feel to it as well. Making deals with historical figures like Queen Elizabeth and Teddy Roosevelt was fun, particularly when their diplomatic request came with many more shifting variables. Instead of a simple yes or no, you could alter amounts of money or other resources to trade. And Firaxis promises deeper AI that will make competing civilizations work in more nuanced ways to beat you.
Civilization VI also expands the scope of the AI by bringing back City States, which are single-city civilizations that don’t compete against you for victory. I came across Jerusalem and Toronto in my time and took advantage of the new cultural options while I was there. Firaxis felt that Cultural victories had become too difficult in previous entries, so Civilization VI comes with new options for growing your society culturally. I took advantage of one of the earliest opportunities by quickly opening up trade routes with Toronto to gain both gold and cultural influence.
I was just getting used to the customizability and beginning to explore the shallower parts of the oceans when my time was up. Despite having what seemed like a lot of time (four hours), I hit turn 150 all too soon. I left Civilization VI impressed with the game and desperate for more ahead of the Oct. 21 release date. Until then, I suppose I’ll just reinstall an older Civ and make do. At least with those games, I won’t be cut off after just four hours.