Civilization VI, releasing in October, is just as deep, engaging and strategic as ever

SINGAPORE - After six long years, it's time to go back to the roots of human civilisation and duke it out with other would-be global conquerors for worldwide supremacy.

The latest instalment in Sid Meier's Civilization series, Civilization VI (Civ VI), is just as deep, engaging and strategic as ever.

The game's publisher 2K gave the media a quick hands-on preview ahead of its Oct 21 launch, and Civ VI does not disappoint.

The turn-based strategy computer game has become more refined and streamlined, although the core concept remains the same. Players fight for victory over the game world, represented by a series of tiles, throughout the course of history from ancient times to the modern world.

Despite having sunk hundreds of hours into Civ V, I was still overwhelmed by the usual dazzling array of options that greets you when you fire up a new game.

My first game was a short-lived affair, as my strategy was not to win but to explore as many new things as possible.

It was quite daunting to be confronted with eight different civilisations, such as Brazil, China, England and Japan, when I wanted to try them all, and so I rolled for a random one.

My first civilisation in Civ VI was the Egyptians, placing me in the olive-skinned hands of Cleopatra.

A few minutes in, some of the key changes from the previous game become apparent.

Workers are gone, replaced with Builders that have limited charge on the things they can build - three, by default.

There are now two separate tech trees for scientific research and civics, as well as the inclusion of a government system that lets players select certain cards that grant bonuses to their economy, military or diplomacy.

When I first saw the game's early reveal footage, the one thing that threw me - and other online viewers - off was the change in art direction. Units look more cartoony than in Civ V, which had more realistic in-game models.

But after playing with it, the art just works. It doesn't just grow on you - it supports the gameplay beautifully, adding a level of detail and richness that is very easy on the eyes.

The new district feature, which lets me designate certain tiles within my cities for specific purposes such as scientific research or military use, adds a whole level of tactical consideration to the game. Now I have to consider which tiles are safe for me to build on, as I lose those bonuses or capabilities if they are attacked and destroyed.

It also makes your starting location far more important, as well as requires you to properly plan where you want to expand and build more cities.

After being stomped by aggressive barbarians who pillaged my sorry attempt at a city, I started a second run.

This time round, I ended up playing as the Aztecs, an aggressive, warmongering civilisation fronted by Montezuma.

The Aztecs excel in the early game by having hard-hitting early units, at the cost of long-term growth. One of their new unique units,the Eagle Warrior, converts defeated enemy units into Builders for you to upgrade your cities.

However, I failed spectacularly to take advantage of their early-game strength, as I was busy ramping up research to unlock the newer goodies further down the tech tree.

I spent close to two hours in-game and barely made it past turn 50. Then again, I was poring through the vast tech tree, reading the Civpedia and generally exploring the hand-drawn world map.

The short hands-on session teased us with new victory modes, new Wonders and new units, which will make plumbing the depths of Civ VI a long-term affair.

Strategists and world conquerors alike can look forward to sinking in another few hundred hours of their lives into the game once it's out - and it will be worth it.