Confession time. I’ve never been a Civilization gamer. I’ve never even played a single one of them. Why? It may come down to the fact I’m not much of a PC gamer, something in itself that stems from never owning a very powerful PC. That isn’t to say that I’ve never been interested, Civilization is a series I have always admired from afar, intimidated yet intrigued with each new entry. With the announcement of a Nintendo Switch version though it left me with little excuse not to finally take the leap and see just what I may have been missing out on all these years.
My first port of call was, of course, the game’s tutorial a feature that nine times out of ten I’d choose to ignore and instead just learn through playing. For newcomers like myself though, Civilization VI’s tutorial certainly helps at the very least ease you into what is a whirlwind of rules, skill trees, resources, winning conditions and systems. Even still the game is tough to get into and one that requires your full attention and focus. This is not the sort of experience you’ll pick up after a few five-minute sessions here and there.
Civilization VI is a turn-based strategy in which players grow their civilization across several periods from a small tribe to eventual world domination. There are a lot of moving parts at play when it comes to your development and I’ll be honest it can feel like a mammoth task even just getting your head around what you should be doing let alone when you should be doing it. Things aren’t made any easier considering the game has numerous ways for you to win; by being the predominant religion, meeting certain criteria in the field of science, through culture, through sheer brute force or by simply surviving with the highest score as time expires.
Each requires very different tactics and even then you’ll need to prepare and manage your civilization every step of the way. If like me you thought you could simply build armies and take out everyone then think again. How do you think these sorts of things are paid for? You’ll need to consider trade routes, explore the world for new resources, advance your technology, work on your relationships with other territories and slowly grow your population. It’s not about putting your focus into just one area but managing your resources and being smart with your approach.
The game includes a long list of civilizations and leaders each with their own traits and abilities. Cleopatra of Egypt, for example, sees bonus gold through trade routes while districts will also construct faster when placed next to a river (think the Nile). While I’ve still a long ways to go before I get through the entire roster, experimenting with each is an interesting exercise that encourages you to think differently as to your approach.
And this is barely scratching the surface when it comes to the depth on display in Civilization VI and to go through every system… well, let’s just say we could be here a very long time. At times I found it tough going – especially early on – but I persevered and in so discovered a new genre of game that I am eager to explore more. Does the game require a big commitment from newcomers? Of course and, if I’m honest, I’m still learning new things many sleepless nights later. What a rewarding experience it has been though.
What I absolutely love about Civilization VI is that every playthrough will yield a completely different result. This is thanks to the game’s numerous options and customisation features as well as its randomly generated nature. One game you may decide you want to shoot for a religious victory on a huge sprawling map while another may be very conflict heavy, your goal to conquer all the capitals with fewer turns. You may find yourself going to battle with multiple leaders in one playthrough only to become allies with them in another. It’s this unpredictability that keeps you on your toes and has every game feeling unique from each other.
I was surprised with how bright and vibrant Civilization VI’s looks were, the game sporting an almost watercolour effect. The way the world reveals itself as you venture out and explore each hexagonal tile really makes the action pop on screen whether you’re playing in docked or handheld mode.
While it is certainly impressive how well Civilization VI has been translated over to the Nintendo Switch, it does come with a few hiccups too. Perhaps one of the most noticeable is the framerate that takes a bit of hit especially as civilizations build and the map becomes busier. While it didn’t ruin my overall experience with the game it did make the latter part of my games a little more annoying. Although the developer has done an admirable job making what was originally a PC game work on a console it can at times be a little much juggling everything through the use of a traditional control scheme. Thankfully the device’s touch screen functionality steps in to offer a better solution, albeit one only available when playing in handheld.
There’s no denying how much fun I had with Civilization VI, however, its multiplayer options run the risk of hurting its long-term appeal. Sure, the AI make for decent enough opponents, but if you want to substitute in a few human adversaries your only option is to link up with another Switch owner that also has a copy of the game. That’s right. No online play and strangely no hot seat offering either. It’s disappointing especially for the latter to be missing given how the game essentially feels like a glorified board game.
Civilization VI has been one of the most demanding experiences I’ve ever played and while the barrier to entry will be intimidating to newcomers, it’s a game that rewards those willing to put in the time. You wouldn’t think a PC series would work so well on the Nintendo Switch but Firaxis has accomplished quite the feat and delivered one of the strongest third-party offerings the console has seen.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by 2K Games