I haven’t rediscovered it yet. That Civilization magic that keeps me up into the wee hours of the morning, hopefully not on weeknights. The third, fourth, and fifth instalments all in their own way refined and built upon this magic. But when I tried to play Beyond Earth, I found it wasn’t there. Oh well, I thought, the magic wasn’t in the spin-off but it will arrive with the new one in the main series. But I have been trying to play through Civ 6, and it took longer than I expected to make it through my test run on Settler (lowest) difficulty.
Truth be told, the main reason I’ve made it as far as I have in my Civ 6 games is that I committed myself to write about things other than the series I am working on about that other game. My deliberate effort to stay casual rather than a part time job has meant that I was able to make time for Civilization, though I could just as easily have spent 100% of my gaming time there. Sort of like how Civilization used to perclude playing any other video games…
Inside the game, the part I am having the most difficulty with right now is that the new idea of districts struck me as brilliant. What I am finding less than brilliant is that the cost of building them is so high that it has made both of my attempts so far into production queue logjams because I have to wait so long for district construction to be complete. Technology and social policy acquisition are hardly limiting factors anymore; it’s being able to build the districts in any sort of reasonable time frame while still pumping out industrial and military units.
But my beginner’s misadventures in virtual city planning are probably things I could learn to avoid given time and practice with the new rules. What concerns me more is the interaction with other civilizations. Although it has long been the case that interaction with your neighbours consisted mostly of them finding excuses to declare war on you because you deign to exist next to them, sometimes it almost feels like a geopolitical game. I fondly remember a round of Civ 5 where I propped up the Roman Empire with huge gifts of strategic resources because it was the only buffer between my land of peace, science, and cultural advancement and the Huns’ sprawling empire based entirely on brutality. The fact that I could use game mechanics to create a narrative was neat. This was more of an exception than a rule, but if that sort of shenanigans could become common then the whole idea of foreign relations could be a lot of fun. My experience so far is that it’s the same as it ever was, except now the leaders will insult me for having a small navy or not adopting their religion before they declare a war of naked aggression because my land is next to their land. It doesn’t make that part of the game much more compelling than it used to be.
So, while I like the new ideas, until I rediscover the magic that drew me to Civilization in the past I won’t be grappling with the prospect of pouring infinite amounts of time into the game. It has stood the test of time for 26 years, but if I start to feel about Civilization 6 the way I do about Beyond Earth, I may yet be cured of the obsession with getting through just one more turn.