Along with our group-selected 2016 Game of the Year Awards, each member of the PC Gamer staff has independently chosen one game to commend as a personal favorite of the year. We'll continue to post new Staff Picks throughout the rest of 2016.
Saladin and Gandhi declared war on me, and I thwarted their invasion and made peace. Now, for some asinine reason, most of the world is calling me a warmonger. My friends in Rome, meanwhile, have used our open borders agreement to pointlessly surround my capital with swordsmen, forcing me to break our friendship agreement and declare war just so I can move my own troops around again. I guess I am a warmonger, at least when I can no longer play the game without going to war.
The foreign policy of Civilization 6’s AI leaders is absurd, but as irritating as those stories are, there’s a lot of good in the grand strategy series update. The new district system is one of my favorite additions to any Civilization. Cities are no longer a single tile with a few farms and a mine nearby, and can be properly sprawling and unique. It’s much more fun to play with just a few metropolises, carefully managing land usage and bonuses, nestling a campus in a valley beneath a mountain range and linking a harbor with a commerce district.
While they could use work, I’m glad systems like caravans and religion have been carried over from the Civilization 5 expansions. I don’t play Civilization for the discombobulating foreign affairs, but for the design and management of a network of cities—which is what Civ 6 has excelled at improving.
There’s every reason to be hopeful that Civ 6 will get better, too. When Civ 5 came out, there was a contingent (which I was a part of) which said that, sure, it looks nicer and it’s more accessible, but Civilization 4 is obviously superior. History is repeating itself with Civ 6, and while there are reasons to hold off for now (the inevitable price drop one of them), I’m optimistic that within a few years it will obtain the status Civ 5 eventually did after that initial shunning.
My only big disappointment is the time it’s taking to release mod tools, which Firaxis still hasn’t announced progress on. Not that the lack of tools has stopped modders from tinkering with Civ 6’s files: So far I’ve installed mods to increase the yield of ocean tiles, add useful information to the UI, and simplify my trade route decisions. When proper tools do come, through, it should be a boon for Civ's community of creative historians.
I’m certain we’ll see an official expansion next year, as well, but what I’d like more from Firaxis are free updates to aspects that won’t necessarily be touched by an expansion. Adding new civs and systems is nice and all, but first, the AI should really be more fun to play against—and it looks like that's happening. An (opens in new tab)claims to have “improved AI deal negotiations and analysis.” I haven’t had a chance to test that claim just yet, but at least Firaxis is on the case.
For the most part, Civ 6 is a collection of great ideas that could each use tweaking and improving. I like the new policies system, for instance, which adds a welcome layer of governance, though the abstractions can be odd—why does class struggle eliminate war weariness? I mostly ignore religion because I find dispersing missionaries tedious, but trade remains a priority for me, and I love seeing roads develop along routes (if any bit of micromanagement deserved to be cut from Civ 5, building roads was it).
I initially recoiled from Civ 6’s more colorful, cartoony graphics—I was all set to call it an unworthy successor to Civ 5—but now I love zooming in on my little mines and markets and harbors to see them work. I’m glad my fascination with miniatures is satisfied digitally, or I’d be buried in tiny plastic trees and farms and cathedrals. Civ 6 saves me space while I waste my time, and for that I am grateful.