Quite possible the greatest strategy franchise of all time returns to consoles once more with the release of Civilization VI for the Xbox One and Playstation 4. We played the Xbox version for this review.
The announcement of Civilization VI for Xbox One and PS4 felt long overdue. Not necessarily because it’s a must-have game that belongs on consoles despite originally being a PC title, it was mainly because a version for the Nintendo Switch was released last year that showed us the transition could definitely be made to gamepad controls.
Unlike the console-centric versions of Civilization Revolution (which is brilliant on handhelds as well), Civilization VI gives you the full experience that’s mostly identical to the PC game – which means bigger maps, sessions that are more drawn out over time and it all generally feels like it’s less tailored to typical console gamers.
But while you can compare this version to the PC original, it probably makes more sense to look at the Switch version. The interface and controls for the Switch edition have mostly carried over to the Xbox One version, and although I’ve always considered Civilization to be an offline experience (I started out playing the original floppy disk version back in the early nineties) you can go online and play multiplayer games on your console version as well.
And no matter how many optimizations went into Civilization VI, its fundamentals are still very much like they were back in the old days – start out with a small tribe of people and choose how to build your empire from there. My personal preference is to invest in (military) technology without building up my costly troops and to strike just when another nation wants to enforce global dominance on my modest little empire. Still, you can choose a path of diplomacy as well, engage in trade, or find your own ways to become an economic and/or military superpower.
With so many options, it’s no surprise that Civilization VI is an incredibly complex game, yet it somehow magically keeps that “easy to access and play” feel alive. This is very much true for the console version as well, although there’s a bit of a learning curve before the controls get past that “where is everything?!?” point since it’s not just a case of having a mouse pointer and controlling it with a thumbstick as though you were playing the PC version. By the time you’re done playing through your first campaign, however, things feel comfortable and intuitive.
It came as no surprise to us that Civ VI runs smoothly on an Xbox One X, and probably does so on a regular Xbox One as well. It’s not the most demanding of games, but when you zoom in there are plenty of details to appreciate in the visuals and in how they’re animated. You can even expand the visual and gameplay wealth of the game by buying the expansion pack that was released at the same time, but buying both will cost you about as much as two other AAA games – so unless you’re a strategy nut with a console that could be a factor. The core game’s a great starting point though, and you can always upgrade later. It’s a shame there isn’t a combo deal in place though… after waiting so long, console gamers kind of deserved one and it puts a bit of a damper on an otherwise brilliant game.