Civilization VI gets even more addictive

It becomes far too easy to lose yourself in the Civ world for hours on end.
It becomes far too easy to lose yourself in the Civ world for hours on end.PHOTO: 2K GAMES

Civilization addicts know all too well the dangers of "one more turn", but that doesn't stop us from returning to the massively popular empire-building franchise.

The latest instalment in the popular strategy series, Civilization VI (Civ VI), is no different.

In fact, it is even more potently addictive than before, thanks to the new features that complement the age-old strategic core of the 25-year-old franchise.

Following its launch last Friday, I spent the weekend sinking tens of hours into it, despite already having spent time playing an advanced pre-release version of the game.

The goal of Civ VI is simple and unchanged since the start of the franchise: from a humble start of one small city in the ancient age, build up an empire and see it through history from the classical age all the way to modern times.

The game world, made up of hexagonal "tiles", is ripe for your taking. Players can choose from one of the 20 civilisations, such as China, Germany and Rome, to build cities on these tiles and create borders that mark their territory.

Each civilisation has its strengths that suit a particular victory type. There are five ways to win any given game of Civ: Culture, Domination, Science, Time, and a brand- new one to Civ VI - Religion.

I was surprised by a Culture victory while playing as America, for example, when I was gunning for a Science victory. It turns out my unique building, the Film Studio - inspired by the country's exciting Hollywood golden age - was generating enough culture points at a rate that far outpaced any of the other civilisations in the game.

I then followed Spain through a Religion victory, which occurs when you convert 50 per cent of the cities in each civilisation to your chosen religion.

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It is one of the easiest victories to achieve, as you can produce religious units like Apostles and Missionaries early on in the game.

For experienced Civ players, learning the new features will take about an hour or two. These features, however, add an extraordinary amount of depth and strategy to the game that will make each game feel different and fresh.

One of the biggest changes lies in how cities can now have "Districts", which are specialised areas that take up one tile. These include universities, which boost Science research, or a Factory, which gives your city more production but lowers its cultural attractiveness.

This adds a bit of a micro city-building strategy to the game, as you will want to maximise your district placement to get the most bonuses.

There are now also two separate technology trees, one for scientific advancements and one for cultural and social growth. The latter, called the Civic tree, lets you choose from various policy cards that grant additional bonus and which can be swopped about depending on your needs.

Gearing up for an attack? Swop to a card that lets you produce offensive units in half the time. Looking to boost trade with other civilisations? Swop to the "Caravansaries" card, which gives additional gold on your trade routes.

Given the sheer scope of the game, each decision made will have a knock-on effect on further decisions down the ages.

This means that Civ VI rewards foresight and planning far more than previous games, which can be quite daunting to new players - or even moderately experienced Civ players who have seen the franchise through.

When all this is put together with the excellent background music and colourful visuals in Civ VI, it becomes far too easy to lose yourself in the Civ world for hours on end.

I find that the most exciting time in a new game is the early- to mid- game portions, where I'm exploring the map, fending off barbarians with limited resources and trying to keep up with my rival civilisations.

The late game, once most cities are established and the map has been colonised, can feel a bit draggy and the pace a bit slower.

With experience, I could tell whether I was going to win, which then makes the late game an exercise in patiently sitting through another hundred turns or so, waiting for the inevitable to happen.

•Verdict: Civilization VI is, by far, the most polished and strategically deepest game in the franchise, which will give long-term fans hundreds more hours of gaming joy. However, newcomers to the series may take a while to learn the ropes before they master the game.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Civilization VI gets even more addictive'. Print Edition | Subscribe