Civilization 6 might be the most complete-feeling Civ game on its release in series history. I commented in my review (opens in new tab) that it feels like it already has about an expansion and a half worth of features compared to the launch build of Civ 5, and it’s the most transformative step from one game to the next Firaxis has ever taken. Yet, there are still huge opportunities to be seized and threadbare or just plain boring systems that could be fleshed out or retooled. Here’s where I think the devs should focus their efforts with upcoming expansions:
Make the map more dynamic
Civ 6 is all about that beautiful, detailed map and how you interact with it. There’s only one problem: It remains largely static and passive as an entity, changing only based on what you and your competing civs choose to build on it. In the real world, continents can undergo significant changes in 6000 years, both as a result of human activity and the whims of nature. For example, the and the that followed it saw significant changes in global climate between about 900 and 1900 CE. Swelling and receding tundra could upset or give a boost to food production in marginal regions.
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There are plenty of other examples: The desertification of the African sahel. The disappearance of the Aral Sea. The Roman city of Pompeii being buried under ash. The devastating damage to urban centers by hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes in the 20th and 21st Centuries. And of course, the present age of global warming (which was even modeled in some previous Civ games by rising sea levels—I miss stuff like that!) I’ve talked before about how acts of the gods can be in terms of fun factor, but I think a well-designed expansion that takes this living map and makes it feel even more alive could be a huge win.
And if we’re going to shoot for the stars, I’d adore a mechanic or scenario that allows the world to end in a nuclear apocalypse, unlocking a “Post-Apocalyptic” era with new units, techs, civics, and victory conditions.
Religion and culture need some love
Civ 6 launched with in-depth religion and culture systems, as well as a religious victory condition for the first time in the series. There’s just one problem: they’re not very fun. The religious game basically boils down to spamming missionaries faster than your opponents, and “theological combat” is a shallow affair, with only three unit types and no real tactics or planning involved. Culture also seems to be a pretty basic port of the tourism system from Civ 5’s expansions, and while it has some nifty late-game tie-ins like archaeology and national parks, it’s still not really a victory I get excited about. More than once, I’ve won with culture when I wasn’t even trying to do so on the Prince difficulty.
Both of these systems need a dose of added strategy and excitement. Maybe instead of missionary spam, preachers and apostles could act like spies that you station in enemy cities to perform missions? If we’re going to keep theological combat, we could at least use some kind of rock-paper-scissors dynamic with a few new units, and maybe some support options (like a 'Grand Inquisitor' who gives an attack buff to all your inquisitors in a small radius). Culture-wise, I’d love to see some kind of endgame project or mission to secure victory, instead of just waiting for a number to tick up. It’s entirely passive and anticlimactic at this point. It doesn’t require much decision-making, nor does it inspire late-game drama the same way a military victory or a neck-and-neck space race might.
Expand on the already great diplomacy system
Diplomatic interactions with other leaders . Firaxis would be wise to build on this. The one victory condition from Civ 5 we’re missing so far is the Diplomatic one, and we also lack the late-game shake-up that was the United Nations. Such an addition could mesh beautifully with AI agendas and the casus belli system. Perhaps the UN could pass a motion that makes religious war justification unlawful, for example. It would also be great to see late-game treaty alliances like NATO or the Warsaw Pact in a Civ game. Perhaps even a shared Diplomatic Victory condition, if that’s not too blasphemous?
While we’re at it, I think Civ could benefit from adopting a few more things from the grand strategy genre, like deeper diplomatic relationships. Maybe you don’t want to conquer a neighbor’s cities, but rather make them into a vassal or tributary state. Maybe diplomacy-focused countries could establish something like a sphere of influence, granting benefits to their allies but also allowing them to spread their culture to sphered civs more easily? If there’s one thing Civ 6 is primed for, it’s building upon the diplomacy game to create a volatile and stimulating ecosystem of trade deals, multinational organizations, and political skullduggery.