Early Reviews Fuel High Hopes for Civilization VI

Early hands-on previews of Civilization VI came out Thursday, and those who had a chance to partake in the turn-based PC game found that it successfully built on the foundation of the past versions, while bringing some fresh changes to the experience.

It has been 25 years since the Sid Meier classic debuted to great acclaim, and after 2010’s Civilization V raised the bar, it seemed that developer Firaxis would have to pull out all the stops with the next iteration.

The initial hands-on reports strongly suggest that the development team has managed to stay true to the concept of exploring, expanding and building — while offering a fresh take on the game play.

Civilization VI is more than just fresh new visuals, by all accounts. It features new diplomatic options, new ways for the computer-controlled powers to react with players and one another, and greater worker management to streamline the turn-to-turn running of a growing nation state.

Civilization VI will arrive at retail on Oct. 21, and gamers who have enjoyed the past versions — notably Civilization V — may have their hands full this fall trying to live up to the original title’s tag line to “build a civilization that endures the test of time.”

Early Reactions

The game reviewers who had a chance to play the preview build of Civilization VI were quick to highlight its new features — both good and bad. The most notable change might be in the game’s visuals.

“While Civ VI retains the functional hex-grid structure introduced in Civ V, developer Firaxis has dropped the more realistic look, redesigning everything with brighter colours and cartoonish characters more similar to those in Civilization Revolution,” wrote Sam White for Ars Technica.

Gamers may have to do more micromanagement in some cases, noted Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch.

“Workers are no longer automated, meaning you have to direct them to improve the lands around your city manually, to gain access to key strategic resources like horses, niter (for gunpowder) and oil,” wrote Etherington.

Yet the change in workers to “builders” — a consumable unit — also means that it can be purchased via gold, do its job, and be consumed to rush to completion.

The upside is that “no longer will you have workers sitting idle on tiles in the late game, especially as Civilization VI alleviates one of that unit’s key functions,” wrote Mashable’s Mike Futter.

Building a Better Civilization

Creating a new version of a beloved classic often is tricky, but it seems that Civilization VI builds on what fans love about the series while addressing previous shortcomings.

“There appear to be huge improvements in computer-generated opponents adding more randomness and intelligence so that repetitive game play doesn’t become boring,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“More flexibility in the build-out process would allow the player to use creativity more effectively to progress through the game,” he told TechNewsWorld, “while reducing the pain of figuring out specific programmed [obstacles] in paths to success.”

Going the Distance

The biggest challenge for Civilization VI could be ensuring that it has the same re-playability and lasting game play appeal as past versions. That requires a careful balance of remaining true to the past while adding improvements and enhancements.

“The depth of the franchise is its strongest appeal,” said Joost van Dreunen, principal analyst at SuperData Research.

“Increasing the complexity of some of the game’s aspects, like breaking the cities out into component pieces rather than stacking them, allows players to make better use of the landscape and its resources, which adds to the game’s overall appeal,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The graphical updates are a really nice touch for a franchise that continues to do well,” van Dreunen added.

The new game play options also make “the game less frustrating for those buying into it for the first time, and a better standalone experience,” said Enderle. “Granted, convincing new players that this is the case will be critical if this benefit is to be realized.”

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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