Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sid Meier's Civilization VI - 20/20 hours

The civics tree in this game is, indeed, something I could write a whole meandering post about. It exemplifies the main flaw of the Civilization series, one so deeply baked into the game's design that it would be unrecognizable without - the notion that history is like an arrow pointing forward and that societies can be grouped based on how far "ahead" or "behind" they are of each other.

It's a blatant ideological assumption that is both made obvious and rendered absurd by splitting off the "social technologies" from the main tech tree. The last thing you can research on the civics tree is "Social Media." And given that the structure of the tree is such that you can't get to the end without first researching a bunch of interlocking prerequisites, it kind of implies that social media is the inevitable and culminating outcome of thousands of years of political and philosophical thought.

It's silly, really. Which is a shame because it's actually a good basic idea. A big problem with, say, Endless Space's four-directional tech tree or Fallen Enchantress's three separate tech trees is that though they allow players to potentially focus their research and become stronger in their areas of particular interest, all of the different directions compete for the same resource, and thus the most efficient path is almost always to spread out your research and only occasionally beeline for the more expensive techs when getting them early would give you a significant advantage. Civilization VI's culture system forestalls that by requiring significant separate infrastructure investments for each of your main branches of research. It would be interesting to see that sort of thing taken overboard and combined with a tech tree as complicates as Space Empires V's.

But I've said too much already. By now "Civilization presents itself as a simple board game but actually has some surprisingly sinister ideological assumptions behind its mechanics" is a quotidian observation. I'll just say that I love the series in spite of all that and have long since accepted its absurdities as the price I have to bay for all that sweet turn-based grid-filling action.

It's a little sad to move on from Civilization VI a mere three days after I started. I could easily play this game for another hundred hours at least. It's definitely starting to grow on me, despite the AI declaring wars that make no sense, the way certain tooltips inadvertently overlap to make some information virtually unreadable and a city-state system that's a step up from Civilization V, but still in need of a few tweaks to make it a truly compelling alternate avenue of power.

However, as much as I've enjoyed myself these last couple of days, I'm also aware of the fact that this is one of those games that's going to be dramatically improved five years from now. So much so that it was probably foolish of me to buy it so soon. However, I like to think that my purchase will be counted as a vote to make an expansion pack. The basic foundation of the game is really good, and I'm excited to see what the designers are going to do with it.

In the meantime, it's been good for my morale to have a game that I could clear in less than a week. My goal is to be done with the blog by June 21, 2018 and at the rate I've been going, I should just barely squeeze in under the wire. I'm hoping that I've got a few more games as addictive as Civilization VI to help me get ahead of the curve.

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