Firaxis finally unveiled Sid Meier's Civilization VI by revealing several savvy changes, from cities spanning multiple tiles to more complex relationships with fellow leaders. To see how everything is coming together, I recently went hands-on with the new entry, completing around 40 turns. Let's just say if you thought the one-more-turn itch was already hard to resist, it's going to be even harder with Civilization VI.
Civilization VI brings all the important decision-making back, but makes the process smoother than before. I notice the improved interface immediately, which makes navigating and setting up turns easier. The game always lets you know which units you haven't moved, if research is available, and a blue outline shows how far each unit can move. I'm more of a builder than a warrior, so my strategy is to do just that and eventually research astrology so I can erect a holy-site district and found a religion.
As the leader of China, I put down my first city and notice one of the new systems immediately. What I do in the world can inspire my people for technological advancements. Since I built my city on the coast, people will naturally go out and establish fishing boats and nets, and I immediately get a boost toward learning sailing. Before I can move on I need to make a production and science decision. I select a scout to help me explore the map, and I pick sailing because my bonus toward it has cut down the time significantly to obtain it (only six turns).
I send men off in two separate directions to discover more of the map and decide to build a monument for my city, which helps me get more culture. Soon enough my city grows; now two tiles around my city are occupied by citizens that can bring things in such as harvests, and it's satisfying already seeing some progress in the matter of a few turns. I spot some whales that I can harvest to make my people happier, but it requires the sailing technology; thankfully, in one more turn my research is complete.
I move my scout a few spots and discover a barbarian camp. If I don't do anything about them, they're going to raid my city, so I need to act sooner rather than later. This puts a damper on my peaceful plans; I need to build up my power to take on these baddies. I build a ranged attacker, and later I'll build a warrior for back up.
I also have plenty of options for my next research now that sailing is complete. I look around my city; pottery can help me bring in the grain, mining helps with the stone, and animal husbandry helps with a deer nearby. The deer is within the border of my city, so I decide on that. I can also always buy tiles to pull them into my city, but for now I work with the deer since it's already there.
Civilization VI has separate tech and civics trees, which were previously combined. "There were always a lot of things in the tech tree like 'chivalry' that weren't really a technology," says lead designer Ed Beach. I complete my first requirement in the civics tree, which is all driven by culture. Some examples of things under this tree are establishing a military tradition, starting a new trade up, or dabbling in mysticism and religion. A scroll bar lets you see you how far you can go with your advancements through history.
With my first civic complete, I can now put bonuses into my government. I can select either a military or economic bonus. These come in the form of cards that you place in open slots. I choose combat and production bonuses. I'll get more of these cards as I complete more civics, so I can always adapt it to my playing style at the time.
After building up my army more, focusing on a settler to establish a new city, and starting research on foreign trade, I run into Egypt's Cleopatra. All the leaders speak in their correct native language, a nice touch as Cleopatra greets me in Coptic. She invites me to visit her city and I agree.
Civilization VI introduces leader agendas, and Cleopatra's is "Queen of the Nile," which states that she likes powerful militaries and will try to ally with them. Firaxis pulled this detail from her actual life; she aligned herself with powerful men like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, seducing them so Egypt wouldn't get attacked. She also has another randomly assigned hidden agenda that I'll need to discover through trade routes or by sending a delegation.
Cleopatra likes me because I've been building up my army to take out that barbarian camp, but if you don't have a powerful military, she won't give you the time of day. Later, when my army loses forces facing the barbarian camp and I explore too close to her border, our relationship declines. She especially gets mad once I meet and stay on friendly terms with Teddy Roosevelt, whom she dislikes. Rumors and gossip show up about leaders throughout the game; this new system gives you more information to react to and plan your decisions around.
After my astrology research is over, I build a holy-site district and construct a bunch of buildings to produce faith, such as a shrine. This eventually lets me found my own religion; I go with Buddhism and generate a great prophet to spread its message. I don't get to see much beyond that, which is a shame because I think Cleopatra is about to become my enemy and I know my decisions with what to do with her are only going to get harder.
I'm already so immersed at crafting my own tale that I can't wait to dive back in. The drama is heightened by your relationships with leaders and all the systems just play off each other so well. Every improvement we've seen from Civilization VI feels for the better so far.