Sid Meier's Civilization VI Preview - Something Old, Something New

Sid Meier's Civilization VI Preview - Something Old, Something New

Firaxis knows that Beyond Earth was flawed, but from what Ive seen, Civ VI may well be the franchise's absolution.

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I was a doubter when it was announced, but by jove Civ 6 looks amazing gameplay wise! Still not buying right after release though.

For pity's sake- you did not see "XCOM" resurrected. You saw X-Com resurrected. You youngsters are welcome on my lawn, but you must respect the importance of punctuation.

Anyway, the problem with making the next Civ game the best one is that they already made Alpha Centauri. A Firaxis under 2K, that isn't free to take risks and make wild decisions, is not a Firaxis at its best. I still love the Civilization series, and I hope this game blows even 4 out of the water- but there'll be no absolution for Beyond Earth until they repent the sins of 5.

Recusant:
For pity's sake- you did not see "XCOM" resurrected. You saw X-Com resurrected. You youngsters are welcome on my lawn, but you must respect the importance of punctuation.

If you really want to get pedantic about it, then "You saw 'UFO - Enemy Unknown' resurrected" would be the correct corrective response. Its not just punctuation that should be corrected, its also titling as well. ;)

Recusant:
For pity's sake- you did not see "XCOM" resurrected. You saw X-Com resurrected. You youngsters are welcome on my lawn, but you must respect the importance of punctuation.

Does that really matter? If you're to be correct, you saw X-COM resurrected.

Recusant:
Anyway, the problem with making the next Civ game the best one is that they already made Alpha Centauri. A Firaxis under 2K, that isn't free to take risks and make wild decisions, is not a Firaxis at its best. I still love the Civilization series, and I hope this game blows even 4 out of the water- but there'll be no absolution for Beyond Earth until they repent the sins of 5.

This seems like the Civ game that's made the biggest changes so far. Districts, Civics Tree, Policy Cards, etc. Also, can someone explain why people find Civilization V so offensively bad? Yes, I can see that they dumbed it down a little from Civilization IV, but Civilization has never been rocket science, guys. Even Civilzation IV isn't particularly complex.

Am I the only one who can't see the rating, or is that a thing that they're doing now?

Rangaman:
Also, can someone explain why people find Civilization V so offensively bad? Yes, I can see that they dumbed it down a little from Civilization IV, but Civilization has never been rocket science, guys. Even Civilzation IV isn't particularly complex.

Actually, I wouldn't say it was dumbed down really. It may have been dumbed sideways, or maybe even dumbed up. Several things became more complex, just not in ways that were particularly satisfying (at least to me) and the added complexity in things like cultural policies and then religious tenets often boiled down to just a few "right answers". It also managed to make the UI worse than earlier games: managing city production is worse than civ 4 assuming you know what the ctrl, shift, and alt keys do in civ 4. And unit movement is very clunky and annoying because of one unit per tile. Also, the one unit per tile rule is something that the Civ AIs just cannot cope with in the slightest. They just bleed units and kill nothing against a well arranged position unless they for whatever reason have an overwhelming technology advantage. So just play against players, you might say. Well, that was pretty broken at launch too unless you wanted to forego simultaneous turns because the way to win a war with a human player is to wait for them to end their turn, then move into position and attack. So neither of you end your turn, or one does and then the other takes advantage. And multiplayer in general just had extremely bad optimization and desyncing issues such that it was awful to play.

There are a number of other objections you can raise to changes made going from Civ 4 to Civ 5, but those are the ones that come to mind first for me.

Also, this isn't Civ 5 specific, but the more I learn about the pastoral nomads of the Eurasian steppe, the more I am dissatisfied at how the Huns and Mongols are depicted in Civ games. Why am I building cities with irrigated farmland and trading posts or villages as a faction of pastoral nomads from the start of the game? Either don't include those factions or don't make settled agriculture an implied prerequisite of "civilization". Now, sure, I understand allowing an early to mid game nomadic playstyle would take effort to implement and balance. But so would any improvement. Done right, nomads could be a great addition: various mechanics that get at the advantages and disadvantages of settled agriculture versus pastoral nomadism would scratch several different nerd itches in the area of economics, anthropology, and history.

Imperioratorex Caprae:

Recusant:
For pity's sake- you did not see "XCOM" resurrected. You saw X-Com resurrected. You youngsters are welcome on my lawn, but you must respect the importance of punctuation.

If you really want to get pedantic about it, then "You saw 'UFO - Enemy Unknown' resurrected" would be the correct corrective response. Its not just punctuation that should be corrected, its also titling as well. ;)

Yes, exactly- that's why it should be "X-Com resurrected", and distinctly not "UFO- Enemy Unknown resurrected"; Encaen's not British. Let's not be half-assed in our pedantry, here.

Rangaman:

Recusant:
Anyway, the problem with making the next Civ game the best one is that they already made Alpha Centauri. A Firaxis under 2K, that isn't free to take risks and make wild decisions, is not a Firaxis at its best. I still love the Civilization series, and I hope this game blows even 4 out of the water- but there'll be no absolution for Beyond Earth until they repent the sins of 5.

This seems like the Civ game that's made the biggest changes so far. Districts, Civics Tree, Policy Cards, etc. Also, can someone explain why people find Civilization V so offensively bad? Yes, I can see that they dumbed it down a little from Civilization IV, but Civilization has never been rocket science, guys. Even Civilzation IV isn't particularly complex.

Why was Civ 5 so bad? The short answer is that they handed over control of the gameplay to the art department. This lead to the adopting of several monumentally bad decisions that never would've seen the light of day. This is especially noteworthy since it's almost identical to what happened to Master of Orion 3, which sank the entire genre-defining series. But that's why the changes happened, and I suspect you're wondering what the changes are.

See, it's not a question of dumbing it down. Few of the changes make things less complex; a handful actually do the opposite. But "more complex" doesn't necessarily mean "better", or even "no less bad", as Call to Power showed us. Most of the problems come from "solutions" to standing patterns in the game that the devs wanted to correct, in and itself a harmless or even good thing, but the corrections they put in made things worse- and usually were developed in ignorance of other, more obvious and better solutions that often were implemented in earlier games. So, what specifically did Civ 5 do wrong? Well, from the top...
-Removing unit stackability. The problem this was meant to correct was the "stack of doom" that arose when players would place an entire offensive army in one group, making it almost impossible to stop; a stack defends against an attacker with its best unit: send in your swordsmen, and my axes (who have a bonus against them) will fight; send in your horsemen and they'll meet my spears. You may damage my units, but I have so many that you'll never be able to finish the weakened ones off. Even at its height, the AI was never bright enough to counter this strategy (say, by bypassing your army and attacking your cities directly, or by pillaging your countryside in an effort to draw you out). Civ 3 added in collateral damage, so a number of other units in the stack would take damage, even on a successful defense, but if the stack was large enough, that wouldn't matter. What's the obvious solution? Limit stack sizes. What's the done-before-in-series solution? The collateral damage of the first game, wherein a defeated stack lost all its units. Period. Play the original Civ for a couple of hours and you'll never use stacks of doom again.
-Not bothering to teach the AI how to use single unit stacks. Programming an AI is hard. I get that. But twenty-five years of practice gave us the AI of Beyond the Sword, which finally learned the importance of naval invasions and destroying resource production sites (albeit not very well). Civ 5 threw all that out and started over, but didn't bother to teach the AI how to do it. Back in 1991, in a game when the nations of the world were throwing around armor (early tanks), I managed to conquer half the world with two chariots. I couldn't even do that in Civ 2, and that was twenty years ago, so why can I hold off the Russian army, which is four times the size of mine and bristling with tanks, with a pair of archers, each entrenched on a hill beside a one-tile-wide chokepoint, for so long that eventually, the Russian army is only 20% bigger than mine, and never once does Catherine try to do anything different?
-Adding to the stupidity of the above, making roads cost maintenance. The justification for this was that in previous games, you'd typically find yourself in the late game with almost every tile in your empire covered in a road, to better enable fast movement. This (so criticized the art department) looked ugly. And so a limiting factor was put in; you had to pay one gold upkeep per turn per road tile. This was a bad idea in and of itself, but when you add in the fact that you were limited to one unit per tile, moving an army of any size at all became a logistical nightmare. And if it was so bad for an intelligent, multi-decade veteran of the series, imagine how bad it was for the brain-dead AI. The obvious solution to this problem: make the roads (or at least the networks of them) look different. This decision was especially inexcusable, as it came from the art department, which decided what the roads looked like.
-Allocating happiness on a civilization-wide basis, rather than per city, and by extension,
-Making happiness the greatest check in expansion. This lead to the idiocy of the citizens of, say, Washington becoming more unhappy because you built Boston. Please try and think of a way that makes the least bit of sense. "Our civilization is expanding, gaining new resources, improving our way of life, and demonstrating to the world that we are a power to be reckoned with!" "That sucks!" Of course, it's an abstraction, but even if you put that aside... The first few Civ games prompted a strategy known as ICS, or "infinite city sprawl"; cities were centers of production that gave you gold, units, and science; make enough of them and individual quality wouldn't matter much. Civ 3 killed this strategy by ramping corruption up so much that any city more than a certain distance beyond your capital would never produce more than one shield per turn, but this was hideously strategically limiting. Civ 4 sidestepped it by making cities cost gold in maintenance; each new city was an investment that would take time to raise itself to profitability, and adjusting your sliders to raise your tax income lowered your scientific output. Of course, you could run a deficit for quite a while if you planned it right, but it made every city location important; the days of plopping down willy-nilly were over, and in a way that didn't strategically cripple you. But happiness is just city productivity, there's no direct effect on your budget, which Civ 5 couldn't let spiral out of control, so they made buildings cost maintenance, forcing city specialization- until you researched two or three happiness boosting buildings (which could be built, and contribute to the global total from, each city; more than one would usually offset the penalty from the city itself as well as any specific penalties it generated), at which point there was really no check at all.
-Making the AI opaque. The problem here was that it was easy to game the system; learn why the AI liked and disliked you and push it to gain maximum advantage. Civ 4 told you in rather exacting detail why each Civ thought what they did of you. Now, here there's really only so much you can do by way of a solution; if there's a system, it's going to be possible to game, and if it's possible to game, people will game it. But the obvious option here was to expand the diplomacy. Allowing for praising and denouncing was an admittedly good idea, but it didn't go nearly far enough- no negotiating treaties, no laying out desired or undesired actions in advance. And it came at the expense of having any idea what the AI's rationale was. Yes, it made it somewhat more like dealing with a real person, but it also made diplomacy pretty much a waste of time- doubly so, given the AI's military stupidity.
-Adding in language-specific voiceovers for each leader. This is a relatively minor complaint; by itself it would be just a "resources spent doing this would've been better used elsewhere" complaint, had they not so boasted about it- and then so screwed it up. Now, I would imagine it's relatively difficult to find a video game voice actor who speaks Nahuatl. Maybe I'm wrong there, but if you can pull that off (and Firaxis did, all due credit to them), you can also find one who speaks Avestan. If that's too much to ask, Farsi. So why is it that the Persian leader is speaking Arabic? In terms of relational history, that would be the equivalent of having Montezuma speak Spanish. The argument can be made (and back before 5's release, frequently was) that in Darius's day, the political language was Aramaic, the closest surviving relative of which is Arabic (actually, that's not quite true; there a still a number of Aramaic speakers today, it being the language Jesus spoke, but how many of them would voice actors in an American video game?), but if you accept that, then Washington should be speaking French- and speaking of Washington, given how close Firaxis's headquarters are to the border, how on earth do they think that what he uses sounds like a Virginian accent? Also, accepting that argument doesn't change the fact that Ramesses is speaking Arabic, which there's just no excuse for.
-Eliminating transportation ships, hideously unbalancing natural wonders (including the likes of El Dorado and the fountain of youth), no research overflow, great scientists easily outshining all other great person types, no barbarian visibility spawning restrictions, inability to cancel open borders treaties without declaring war, tech trading removed entirely and replaced with research agreements that as balanced as going to knife fight and bringing a Death Star, a completely static endgame victory screen, and forced Steam integration. I could go on, but I think I've made my point.

Sid himself has gone on the record saying that every new Civ game is 1/3 old stuff, 1/3 new stuff, and 1/3 reworked or changed stuff. While his personal level of involvement with the projects is probably not what it once was, I suspect that ethos still holds true. I don't begrudge Jon Shafer wanting to experiment. I don't even begrudge Firaxis that the experiment failed- it was an experiment, after all. But as Beyond Earth showed and the released information from Civ 6 seems to indicate, they don't realize that it didn't work- they don't acknowledge the failure.

Maybe I'm misreading the situation here. Maybe Civ 6 will turn out to be the best in the series- I honestly hope it does. I'd love to eat these words. But for whatever reason(s), Firaxis ain't what it used to be. It's gone from standing like the Lucasarts of 1995 to cowering like the Lucasarts of 2005. Let's hope they manage to turn it around.

Bob_McMillan:
Am I the only one who can't see the rating, or is that a thing that they're doing now?

This is just a preview. It's not the final build, so it's got a number of bugs and tweaks to address. Can't give it a score until we see the final product, since preview builds are almost always flawed.

Recusant:
For pity's sake- you did not see "XCOM" resurrected. You saw X-Com resurrected. You youngsters are welcome on my lawn, but you must respect the importance of punctuation.

Anyway, the problem with making the next Civ game the best one is that they already made Alpha Centauri. A Firaxis under 2K, that isn't free to take risks and make wild decisions, is not a Firaxis at its best. I still love the Civilization series, and I hope this game blows even 4 out of the water- but there'll be no absolution for Beyond Earth until they repent the sins of 5.

I'm happy to say that your list of Civ V issues read a lot like a list of fixes in Civ VI. You're going to regret asking for smarter pillaging, because you're going to spend a lot of time maintaining your infrastructure. Barbs do it constantly, and it seems to be a standard AI tactic to some extent.

Roads are fixed with the Trade Route updates. Builders replace workers, and they're consumable units, getting 3 improvements each. Roads are created when you complete a trade route, and establish a Trading Post in the destination city. Internal or international, your roadways follow your trade, which mirrors reality pretty well. (You can still construct roads for military purposes with a Military Engineer support unit.) I'll grant you that I didn't know about the reason for the road change, and that's really ridiculous.

Happiness(Amenities, basically) are per-city here. It's got some clever features as well, like the fact that you can construct a Stadium in one city, but it also applies its benefit to other cities within a few tiles, because people will travel for sportsball. You can, to some extent, keep a city happy entirely through its neighbors, so you don't need the Entertainment Complex district.

All that said, wait, absolutely. I'm not sure enough yet, and nobody else is either, so it's a safe bet to wait and see what launch brings, and perhaps worth waiting for an update or two before you dive in.

I still wouldn't call that fixed roads. I rather enjoyed how late game roads could realistically be built everywhere. I like building infrastructure, and taking that away because the art team didn't like how it looked was bollocks.

 

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