Genre: 4X, Turn Based Strategy
Year: 2016
Developed by: Firaxis Games
Published by: 2K Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, XBox One
Feeling Like: Civilized

There are few franchises that I hold more reverence for than Civilization. Familiarity helps. Throughout the decades, it’s retained the same premise; choose a civilization and try to take over the world – turn by turn. That sounds old hat for a game, but it’s how you attempt to conquer that puts Civilization a step above others. You don’t simply build things, you establish cities. You don’t just attack others, you invest your resources into researching new technologies that will lead to greater weapons. You don’t just move around the map, you reveal the secrets of the continents. There are no levels, only eras and ages.

Every iteration has seen significant upgrades, but the familiar rules mean that every iteration is hotly anticipated by fans. The core fundamentals will be the same, but the excitement lies in changes to…well, everything else! How you collect natural resources, what to focus your research on, the technology tree, the music and how you can win are just a few of the variations you’ll find. It’s like unwrapping a present when you already know it’s going to be great.

Isometric views, highly detailed structures and varied topography? Hold my Cartographer, I’m going in!

My first experience with Civilization was on a Macintosh (no color) back in Mr. Ollech’s Grade 7 class. We’ll get to that one day. Needless to say, it was the only video game available to us since it was “Educational.” Also, the Mac had no games. This usually led to a “who can finish their lunch the fastest?” competition, and to the victor went Civilization. I was entranced then, and I’m entranced now. I’ve played nearly every single one of the franchise, aside from Civilization 5. This is about as big a travesty as a fan of the series can commit; the fifth iteration is widely considered the best one. I never said I was THAT civilized.

I can’t precisely say how many actual matches I’ve actually completed. The fun, really, is starting fresh and leaning towards a different research, or people. There are so many subtle differences and changes that you’ll never play the same game or map twice. I frequently save, but also frequently decide to start over, since I really needed that Scout unit and I didn’t expect so many barbarians in the desert.

Barbarians never built anything this pretty.

You have all the time in the world to make your move. Cities need decisions on what to build. Units need to be told where to go. Your government needs to decide how the government decides. Like a board game, there are systems built on top of systems, and it won’t come to you in the first few games. But, like any good board game, once the dots start to connect, it’s like you can see for the first time.

Out of all the entries on the 500 so far, Civilization 6 is the only one that’s tempted me to re-install and start playing again.

The screenshots don’t do the game’s graphics justice, either. At all times, it’s a beautiful tableau. The lush greens contrast nicely with deserts, rivers, oceans, mountains and all the secrets in between. Animations are smooth, colors are vibrant and every turn yields a new face to barter with, or a new adversary to be feared. Maybe you can butter them up with gold and false promises.

Cities have never looked better, in any Civilization game.

The opening cinematic is frisson inducing, seeing all aspects of humanity summed up in a few minutes is inspiring and gets you in the mood. The score is incredible. Can it get any better? Well, how about Sean Bean telling you how to play the game? Ned Stark’s guidance is always welcome, and it ensured I never skipped a single tutorial or history lesson.

True to form, I never was very good at any of the Civilizations. I usually pick the second easiest difficulty and just try to trade and build in order to secure building as many Wonders as possible. In previous iterations, you may see a glance of them but in Civilization 6, you get a terrific voice over, highlighting the awe of your recently finished Wonder of the World – complete with scaffolding and a time lapsed clip of its completion. As if I needed any more incentive to build the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

I love the visual language of Civilization 6. Unlike in other Civ games, you can’t build every city improvement on the same tile. It means more strategic decision making when placing a new settlement, as well as diversifying each city’s identity. The map is a great mix of simple tile graphics and deep resource layouts. The landscape becomes more crucial to pay attention to. Cities truly spread out and look like cities, not crowded tiles. Although it’s impossible to learn everything at once, I soon felt less intimidating and more eager curiosity.

Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about Climate Change. Escapism at its best.

Not that the learning curve isn’t steep. I am constantly checking guides, tips, in-game tutorials and any advice I can find on what technologies are worth it, which starting perks to go for and how I can take over the world as Canada. However, the complexity is necessary and rewarding, and never feels too obtuse. When everything clicks, and you get the unit you want and you have a mega city pumping out new improvements in mere few turns, you’ll truly feel like a ruler of nations.

The 500 is a funny project. I’ve resigned myself to not adjusting the order anymore, because I’ll end up re-ordering things until I’m dead and the 500 will never be complete. However, a few entries here and there will show that I was completely wrong in how low/high a game’s placement is. Civilization 6 is one of them. Undoubtedly, it should be higher. The more I re-visit my 20 hour experience, the more I read about the DLC and mods, the more I read about how to get various winning conditions, the more I realize how incredible the game is. How tempted I am to literally stop writing this very sentence and start exploring as Wilfrid Laurier.

The phrase “one more turn” is a small joke among the gaming community, referring to how addictive Civilization is. Hitting space bar will end your turn, allowing your decisions to unfold across your very eyes. Seeing tangible results of your meticulous decision making is mesmerizing thanks to the game’s impeccable design. It makes it VERY difficult to quit.

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