Firaxis came out of nowhere today to announce that Civilization VI — the next iteration in the classic Civilization franchise that’s probably responsible for enough cumulative productivity drops to match the GDP of a small island nation — will be released on October 16, 2016.
For those who don’t follow Civilization or have only done so intermittently, it’s known as a 4X game (eXpand, eXplore, eXploit, and eXterminate). These types of titles are almost always turn-based and offer gamers the ability to begin as the ruler of a small city-state at the dawn of human history. Discovering new technologies and advances unlocks everything from world wonders (expensive projects that deliver a significant advantage once completed) to alternate forms of government. Each civilization in the game (Aztecs, Americans, English, Chinese, and Zulu are some of the common civilizations) has its own strengths and weaknesses, and players can further fine-tune the game by choosing specific cultural, social, and economic philosophies. Exactly how these traits impact game play varies from title to title, but the subtle changes Firaxis makes to the Civilization formula are what set each game apart from its predecessors.
Here are the Civ VI features Firaxis has unveiled thus far:
Cities now expand across multiple tiles on the map. In the past, each city, no matter how large, occupied just one map tile while the surrounding tiles were used to implement various improvements. A city in a mountainous area might be surrounded by mines to increase production, particularly if there was a rare resource or two in that area, while a city in grasslands and river country would emphasize food production. Firaxis claims that players can now build cities to take advantage of local terrain, but it’s not clear how this will play out in practice.
Like Civilization V, Civilization VI will keep the one-unit-per-tile rule. This was a controversial change last time around, because it made it more difficult to protect units with low defense from enemy attacks (previous Civ games allowed you to stack units on the same tile). Civilization VI is tweaking the existing formula in one important way: It’s now possible to stack certain support units with other military forces. Warriors can “embed” with settlers, while an anti-tank unit can embed with infantry. This should help prevent some of the problems with 1upt that cropped up in Civilization V without returning to the days when an essentially limitless number units could occupy exactly the same space.
Other features of the series like diplomacy, multiplayer, and the technology tree are all implemented in Civ VI, along with a comprehensive series of tutorials that will teach new players how the game works.
The art direction is rather interesting, and I’m not sure if I like it or not. While it’s a touch cartoonish, the stylized presentation and level of detail are still quite high. Units seem like they’re a bit larger than in past Civilization games relative to the terrain features like trees, or even the cities themselves. But this could be a consequence of the map zoom level or something that will change as development progresses.
Firaxis has released a launch trailer for the game, though it doesn’t contain any gameplay footage or information.
Hopefully Civilization VI will hit harder than Civilization: Beyond Earth, which won awards and reasonable acclaim, but ultimately wasn’t seen as setting a new high bar for the series. Personally I’m hoping enterprising modders will create mods that allow Leonard Nimoy’s voice acting to be pulled out of Civ IV and dropped into Civilization V. While V’s narrator wasn’t bad, he couldn’t top Nimoy.