Civilization VI - June 2019 Patch Analysis02 Jul 2019 0
Civilization VI is now roughly at the three-year mark out in the wild blue yonder. With the latest patch having released just a few weeks ago, we wanted to take a retrospective look at the current state of the game amidst some of these changes.
At a macro level, most of the changes in this patch seem to be aimed at balancing out various systems within the game, rather than civilizations themselves. The question is, do players enjoy these updates, or do they have grievances with the grievance changes?
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Production & Power
Production received a sweeping set of buffs, especially for mid-game buildings. Notably allowing Lumber-mills on Rainforest tiles after Mercantilism is researched. Likewise, Lumber-mills, Pastures, and Quarries received a buff to their output, to bring them up in line with Mines. The river bonus for Lumber-mills was removed, which players are bummed about as that potentially lowers complexity decisions. The general consensus seems to be that production improvements are now, potentially, too streamlined. Streamers, forum posters, and players alike are hoping that production will be given another pass.
The right amount of power may now exist, but now it’s a question of distributing that power so that interesting options can co-exist, rather than a homogenized system or one clear obvious choice. There's also some adjustments to how Industrial Zone bonuses are structured as well, which has sparked some pretty in depth discussion on how to optimize city design, and whether it's worth it or not. For players that really want to push their city setups to the limit, now they have factors like Aqueduct and Dam adjacency bonuses to consider when trying to build powerhouses.
On the Technology side of things, progression through the tech tree has been slowed down from the Medieval era onwards by around 10%. Feedback on this seems positive, as it slows down the otherwise exponential explosion of science from a completed Campus and Library that catapults you right into even more science. The update to defensive technologies is more of a mixed bag:
- Medieval and Renaissance Walls are now immune to Battering Rams
- Renaissance Walls are immune to Siege Towers.
- Battering Rams now can upgrade into Siege Towers, and Battering Rams and Siege Towers only work with Melee and Anti-Cavalry units stacked on them.
Now you can't just stack a Knight on a Siege Tower and get the best of both worlds, which previously was somewhat common given their relative strength against other land units. The only issue with this update is that, your average highly optimized Civ player doesn’t enjoy wasting time building multiple defensive structures, and their production cost reduction from this patch relative to other more powerful buildings was very minimal, almost to the point of irrelevance.
Diplomacy is still in a weird spot. While the system itself has received a dramatic overall, most serious players still think it's just not a realistic win-condition to shoot for. There are too many variables at play, and it's not something you can straight-forward attempt to rush like other victory options (which is required at Deity difficulty when playing against the AI). However, for the casual player, the system feels a bit more involved and doesn't incentivize you to just build up a vast quantity of favor, ignore the World Congress, and then spend it all when convenient (which was the previous reality).
A common issue in our research however, was confusion and lack of clarity on the grievance system. A few key examples were a lack of hard definitions for what constitutes a particular grievance, like having too many troops up against a border of another civilization for example. It’s not immediately clear how many turns you would have to move said troops, nor how many you would have to move, in order to comply with a request. Likewise, some players reported receiving a warning for having too many troops along a border when that exact AI issuing the warning had even more troops along the same border! This lack of design clarity can make for frustrating moments when trying to avoid unnecessary conflicts with others, and it still results in the grievance system feeling unrealistic.
Worse yet though, is the AI. Candidly, the AI still just makes highly irregular judgments in some areas of the game. Pantheons are a strong example, wherein as of writing this article, the AI is currently dead-set on taking Initiation Rites, which is a pantheon that focuses on clearing out barbarian camps, sometimes completely regardless of the number of barbarians near them. That means the player is never pushed away from other potentially more powerful options, because the AI will disregard them completely. In regards to Diplomacy, AIs will still send demands for trivial amounts of gold per turn, with little to no downside to ignoring them.
That renders the entire aspect of demanding tribute feel trivialized and unnecessary, if not just annoying. Civilization V was not without its own AI issues, but Civ VI seems to continually have problems with the AI using all of Civ VI’s various complex systems in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, that often means the only way to compensate for the AI’s inability to plan ahead and gain context is to just throw large bonuses at it in order to combat the clever intuition of a player. While there have been many updates to the AI over the years, this fundamental principle still exists, and arguably still holds Civ VI back a touch. Granted, it is far easier to write about this issue than to actually code a machine capable of adjusting strategies on the fly in a strategy game. This isn’t a shocking revelation so much as a continuous disappointment in AI growth over the years relative to Civilization.
Quality of Life
On a much brighter note, the June update also brings in quite a few quality of life features for the game. Below are just a few notable ones, but there are many more:
- England, Canada, and France have all had minor changes to their overall Civ design from a balance perspective.
- The Goddess of the Harvest pantheon was removed from the game, as players would often use it to brutal efficiency when clearing various resources or features to make way for Districts.
- A Power lens has been added to the game in order to make it easier to keep track of electricity and what areas of your empire don’t have power available.
- There is a Unit Abilities tooltip that can be moused over to see what exact abilities a unit possesses.
- Gossip and Combat status messages have been cleaned up so your entire screen isn’t cluttered!
Likewise, the new map types, 7 Seas and Small Continents, are being well received. Personally, I am excited to test out the 7 Seas setup, as it strikes a strong balance between normal land expansion and the importance of having a modern Navy, along with canal design. Integrating city management and design alongside natural map geography yields interesting choices, so I’m hoping this map type will bear fruit in that regard. One of the bigger gripes of players however, is how coastal cities are currently implemented into the game with environmental disasters and district tile requirements.
Sadly, June’s update really doesn’t take much of a swing at that area of the game, other than Military Engineers being able to contribute production towards Flood Barriers. So, for now, most coastal cities are still relegated to the rather straight-forward line of building a Harbor and making tons of cash early on until they slowly sink into the briny deep, thanks climate change!
There’s plenty more changes that take place within June’s update, so we encourage you to read the patch notes. After three years, we’re starting to reach the point where development on the game may be coming to a close, but there’s still potential for one last balancing patch, or perhaps even a surprise expansion!
In all of my reading on overall sentiment of the game, the one common thread was that Civilization VI, and more specifically Gathering Storm, is a unique beast of a game, for better or worse. There are a lot of additional systems and potential complexities that naturally build a point of comparison to Civilization V’s Brave New World. Yet for all of these systems, some still ring too hollow, and don’t feel fully fleshed out. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see what Firaxis still has planned. Can they build a Civilization that will stand the test of time?
What are your thoughts on Civ 6's latest patch? Let us know in the comments!