I’ve been a long time fan of Civilization games. I don’t know exactly how many hours I’ve clocked playing them, but in the last 25 years, I wouldn’t be surprised, if we were talking about more than ten thousand. Sure, the game has always had its problems, mainly that the endgame is always somewhat anti-climactic, but its still fun to try out different things with different civilizations.
So, of course, I couldn’t help myself and buy the game pretty much right after it was published. And, boy, was I disappointed.
Maybe I should’ve seen it coming. After all, Beyond Earth wasn’t very good. I tried to like it, but I just couldn’t. Even though the DLC made it better, it still felt like too little to actually fix the game. It just all felt like someone had some interesting ideas, probably well-researched ones, but that they couldn’t really communicate them. Even things like the technology tree didn’t feel like something fun to explore, but it felt more like a chore to find the best place to continue research in the a the messy way the technology tree was represented.
Here, they tried to make it all different. The new version has a noble goal, which is to say that it tries to enforce different playstyles through managing the options you have available to you. These options depend largely on the site you start in, so your initial decisions might actually have a lot of effect on what happens later on.
The problem is this: it doesn’t encourage, it enforces. Like previously, the game has a tech tree, but now it also has a policy tree, which works in the very same way the tech tree does. In both of these trees, you’ll find some of your steps “inspired” through different triggers, like building a harbor will trigger certain some sailing related tech. These inspirations are very good. They pay for half the tech or policy. So, you often end up chasing the triggers. So, instead of giving you different approaches to the game, it actually conditions you to do certain things in order to get the triggers.
At first, it felt pretty good, because you could work towards certain things, but at the same time, there are a lot of bottlenecks in the trees, so you can’t actually move past quite a few things before you either pay full price for a tech or do something you don’t really want to do.
Also, there’s a few of these triggers early on I really hate. One triggers from you finding another continent and another for finding a natural wonder. Since you can’t really plan either of these, they feel like a crapshoot. You either happen upon a new continent, or you don’t. If you don’t you might lose 4-5 rounds in a very close technological race.
Also, the new civilizations don’t really appeal to me. They all seem to have abilities that I don’t care for and since those abilities are resources, I feel like I’m wasting those resources. For example, Russians have an ability which lets them gain extra science and culture from international trade routes, if they are behind. So, okay, seems like a nice ability, but only if you are losing. Now, who plans to put themselves into a losing position in order to be able to gain an advantage of the ability? Its a bonus for me, but since I don’t see myself being in that position, its more feel-bad than anything else.
Than there’s the UI which is quite horrendous. I often have to zoom in to be able to do what I need to do, because the different elements cover other elements completely. That’s not a very good flow for the game.
… and the religion… If anyone with any power over this happens to be reading this, please, please do a complete redesign of it. If you don’t deny the religious victory from the advanced options, you might just randomly lose to it at any time. The missionaries and apostles always seem to be everywhere. I’m just trying to have a nice war here and I can’t even move my units, because a third nation had decided to bring in a dozen or so religious units in, which block large parts of the map. Didn’t anyone test this out?
Even Casus Belli, which seemed like a nice, straight-forward idea, feels like it was botched. Casus Belli means ’cause for war’ and the idea is that if you use a Casus Belli to declare war, other nations want mind that as much and your diplomatic relations won’t suffer as badly. So, if you have this system, why can’t I have Casus Belli when an opponent sabotages my factories, time and time again? I see this as declaration of war from them as it is, but for whatever reason, in this game its just business as usual. My fucking allies can keep doing that to me and I can’t retaliate through war? What kind of a world is this supposed to be?
Finally, the art is quite bad. Many of the characters have features like from a caricature, but instead of going the full way with that, they just seem laughable in all the wrong ways.
So, all in all, V was much better. This one just tries too many things without thinking them through. It feels more like I’m following some path than I’m leading a great nation. Of course, there’s certain historical accuracy to this, because most countries just follow certain more or less natural paths, but the countries that become truly important nations in the world history are quite different. There’s some leader who just dared take on the world and won. Here you are restrained from doing just that.