Firaxis Games recently released their E3 walk-through of Civilization VI, narrated by none other than Sean Bean. We have to say we were a bit disappointed when we first saw it at E3, as a) it wasn't live gameplay but rather an edited video and b) the new features weren't fully detailed and explained.
However, with that in mind we thought we'd try and look more closely at these features and how they might affect a game we've played for hundreds if not thousands of hours.
Showcased first was how a trader moved between two separate cities of the same empire, creating a road between the two as a result. By sending a trader between two seemingly isolated places, it automatically links them. While traders aren't a new feature in Civilization this would make them even more integral to your game regardless of whether you're going for an economic, cultural, scientific, religious or military victory.
Also shown were the new districts in the game, "each with its own focus and distinct advantages". Religious districts, for example, strengthen the faith of the people, with districts like the Encampment being suited to other purposes such as defence. Other districts include the Theatre and Arts district as well, which improves culture, as well as the Industrial District which maximises production but is more suited to the Industrial time period. These are built outside of main cities and allocated by the player, being split into four categories: research, growth, culture and production. Wonders are also dependent on the districts now, some needing to be near certain districts in order to be built. Each civilisation also has unique districts that only they can build too, increasing the tactical options when choosing civilisations.
One of the key things the districts system does is it encourages thoughtful development of civilisations. Players can't simply allocate all wonders to a single city with maximised production, and so the game encourages them to diversify more if they really do want to aim for wonders. In the same way it also allows for a lot more specialisation if they want an entire civilisation focused on certain things like war or the arts, with each district benefiting more from advancement in certain areas of research (the campus benefits from researching chemistry, for example). This changes how the game plays by changing the core of how empires develop in a general way and in a geographic way, districts also receiving an adjacency bonus when placed next to certain things as well. It's something that could very well shake the way we play Civ to its core.
We briefly mentioned wonders, and as you can imagine there are some rather interesting effects for them being tied to specific districts. One, they will be more exposed and defending and attacking wonders is now a strategy that must be considered. Do you build a wonder close to a border in the hopes of spreading culture or do you build it in a more protected location in the midst of your empire?
A seemingly small change is how workers now function. They will now improve a tile in a single turn, but they only have three uses (somewhere in between old workers and workshops). Given that traders create roads it is easy to understand why the change was made, but clearly it will change how we play the game and it likely decreases the amount of end game micro-management we're faced with.
We could probably spend a full preview on the changes made to the tech tree and how it is in part replaced or augmented via civics. This is going to be really interesting and with the addition of Eureka moments tied to each advancement (basically complete an objective to get 50% of the research points needed for a certain tech/civic). This is going to alter how you play the game and make research more driven by player action.
Your policies is another area that is getting a huge change, and it holds tremendous potential in terms of changing the game. Every time you unlock a new civic you can change up your policies in four areas (military, economy, diplomacy and wildcard), these policies grant various bonuses and keeping on top of what sort of bonuses you need in each stage of the game will be key to your success.
Another change in the series affects barbarians and their behaviour too. If a Barbarian attacks a player's empire, then, it will be a raiding party from a larger camp. To totally eradicate the problem the player will need to destroy the source of the Barbarians through neutralising the camp which will also the gain the player materials. This may sound familiar and it certainly looked familiar in the video, but talking with the developers we now understand that Barbarians will be more organised and focused. If a Barbarian scouting party sees your city they won't just haphazardly attack and hope for the best, they will let their camp know and before long a bigger Barbarian horde will attack. It's not just that, but with districts and important buildings now being located outside of the city centre, pillaging is going to be much more of a concern. Leave some Barbarians alone for a few turns and they may wreck much of what you have built. It sounds like the early game is going to become much less of a formality.
The game also benefits from new and improved animations as well, and it looked detailed and easy on the eye in the trailer. Visual changes also affect the fog of war as well, with undiscovered locations being covered in a colourless hue reminiscent of an aged map, the cities also being covered in the same way too. These are then filled with colour when they are explored.
Overall, after watching the Sean Bean narrated walk-through a few times, while reading up on and asking about some of the changes teased therein, we're more confident that Firaxis are once again reinventing the long-running strategy series. It remains to be seen if all the improvements and changes come together to form a greater whole, but we're hopeful that this will be the case when the game lands on PC on October 21.