A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.
Civilization and Me
My first encounter with Sid Meier’s Civilization came in the mid to late 90’s. I was in the Navy and someone had it installed on one of the computers in our shop. I remember playing through and getting excited when I built my first knight. However, it was a turn or two later, a plane from China came flying over my civilization. This was off-putting, to say the least. I stopped playing shortly after that.
It wasn’t much later that I bought my own computer. A Sony VAIO desktop that came with several games pre-installed. Among those games was Civilization II. I don’t remember going straight to the game. At some point, I gave it a try and started coming to grips with how the game worked. I enjoyed the FMV advisors who popped up and told me how my empire was growing. Better still, I was able to make it through a whole game without being surprised by a far more advanced civilization. I mostly stayed on par with the AI opponents. Whether that was from my own skill improving or simply better understanding of how the game worked, I’m not sure. Perhaps both.
I was late getting into the 3rd iteration of the series. I did rather enjoy it. When Civilization IV came out, I think I truly fell in love with the series from the very moment Baba Yetu and Leonard Nimoy reciting “In the beginning, the world was without form and void” filled my eardrums. I couldn’t count the number of hours that I put into it. I began following the series on forums such as Civfanatics. I started listening to the podcast known as Polycast. I even wrote a letter to the podcast on the discussion of “realism verses gameplay” and laid out my thoughts on the subject. This eventually led to an invite to guest host on the show, which I have a handful of times now.
Upon the release of Civilization V, I was intrigued by some of the changes coming into the series, but skeptical of others. I was particularly worried about One Unit Per Tile and the removal of Religion. Still, I was excited by other aspects such as City-States, something that I had suggested in forums and other areas, though my suggestion was referencing minor civilizations.
When the game came out, my worries held true. However, there were aspects of the game that still drew me in. I learned to adjust to the “Carpet of Doom” and when Religion was added back in through the Gods and Kings expansion, I was ecstatic. In fact, I felt the new way that religions were implemented was even better. I always found it hard to go back to previous iterations because I would find myself missing the new features added.
When Civilization VI was announced, I grew excited. New features like Districts intrigued me while the game retained many of the features that I had grown to love. Religions and Trade from Civ V and a kind of compromise with the one unit per tile with the creation of Armies. That latter would help to lessen the “carpet” effect that would become prominent in Civ V (at least, in theory).
Civilization VI has been enjoyable. The release of two expansion packs and several DLC really helped to breathe new life into the game. And when they announced the New Frontier Pass, I was paying attention in full. However, one thing I found is that the franchise was leaving me stale in a certain aspect.
As a player who favors single player, I always loved the aspect of developing a civilization and growing it. Interacting with other civilizations was a dance. But the franchise started bogging the game down with “war weariness” and driven paths to victory. I was about the role-playing. About the rise and fall, not the beeline to victory. With the last couple of iterations, it would often become clear who was going to the top contenders to “win” the game by the middle ages (at the latest). The winner could most often be predicted before the modern ages even came about.
This style, perhaps, came from the rise and demand of multiplayer gaming. Regardless, it was defying the heart of what the game was… a journey from prehistoric nobodies to a well-established powerhouse of a civilization that would endure time.
That is where the next part of this feature comes in. Over the next couple of days, I will be outlining my thoughts on what would be the ideal next steps in the Civilization franchise. As Civilization VI begins to show its age and new games who are taking a crack at the formula such as Age of Empires 4 and Humankind, I think that some drastic changes may need to be taken to keep the beloved series on top. Stay tuned…