PAX West 2016: The Return of the King

Civilization celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, a moment to celebrate for developer Firaxis Games as it prepares to launch the 6th installment of their beloved series and unquestionably the king of turn based strategy games. The history of the franchise, new changes in the upcoming installment and more were discussed this afternoon at their PAX West panel featuring art director Brian Busatti, designer Brian Feldges, associate producer Sarah Darney from Firaxis and hosted by Dan Casey of the Nerdist.

 

The big news for Civilization VI was the reveal of unpacked cities, a concept that adds strategic importance to the layout of different buildings as players expand. Unpacked cities means that buildings have both adjacency bonuses and requirements, such as a boost to sailing research when installed near a body of water. Brian F pointed out the strategic importance of selectively targeting parts of an opposing city such as focusing on disabling production or civics based on attack strategy, a change that should appeal to veteran real time strategy fans.

Espionage returns from Civilization 5’s expansions to empower players to gather opponent information and possessions through spycraft (those Jane Austin novels must be had). Enemy leaders and their natural inclinations can be deduced by espionage and turned against them, which may also tie into the new Religion victory type and the addition of the most requested new civilization since the previous game in the Kongo. Officially revealed this afternoon, they bring a unique religious structure and unit that is optimized for rough terrain traversal and taking out ranged units into the mix.

Civilization 6’s art style is reminiscent of Revolution (my personal favourite), which may be influenced by the art team’s decision to focus on emphasizing gameplay elements through shape design. Sarah also described an adjustment in the art style to account for colour blindness or other vision factor that may hinder the user’s ability to interpret the game, a welcome change for a medium that still has a long way to go before achieving visual parity between gamers with different visual needs.

On top of that, the upcoming game marks the return of movie sequences for the construction of a wonder, now transposed into the game engine which allows gamers to see their own city as the backdrop as the wonder unfolds into its completed form. These will be accompanied by an adjustment to increase the impact of great persons, which are described by Brian B as the equivalent of a mini wonder.

My biggest takeaway from the panel was a comment by Brian F that designers at Firaxis have to code, a company decision that shows in the previous installments that continually add intricacy to one of the most complex programs ever made (gaming or otherwise). He summed it up as “Civ creates stories” and the upcoming Civilization 6 game promises to create some of the most elaborate and challenging stories in video games.

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