It’s 2AM on Friday night.

Teddy Roosevelt has offered me 15 Gold and 2 Gold a turn for some Sugar and Open borders. I don’t need the money but the American border growing ever-closer to mine has me questioning whether refusal of his request will have those Archers I’ve seen pottering around pointing their bows at my capital of Athens.

This questioning of every next move is a common occurrence in the latest offering from Firaxis and 2K Games, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (henceforth referred to as Civ 6).

As this is a preview we were only able to access 10 of the 20 leaders and play on Prince (normal) difficulty. I chose continental maps and to compete against five other civilisations.

Besides those few exclusions on the side of leaders there was a ton of content to work through so let’s me talk about my favourite bits and hopefully I can help anyone reading this decide whether this game is worth pre-ordering.

Step one, become a city planner

You might think this is me having a laugh. One of the changes to Civ 6 is in how a City is upgraded. In previous games you selected your improvements (Monument, Workshop, Barracks etc.) and they were built inside the city. While this is easy it becomes stale and has players just clicking on which improvements to build until they have them all.

Civ 6 shakes things up with the District system. Rather than having all improvements contained in one city you now have to build a district on the tiles surrounding your city.

Some can be placed near the city, others can’t and this creates a nice bit of thinking. You will have to decide whether you want to use the tile for an improvement to gather food or a unique resource, such as sugar, or use it for a district.

While you can have the same districts in every city you shouldn’t do that. As you can already tell, tile space is at a premium and for that reason you might want to consider mixing up which districts go where.

It’s also important to note that districts grant you unique benefits and these benefits can be increased if certain parameters are met such as having a Holy Site near a natural wonder to generate more faith.

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Districts are placed around your city, rather than in them as are Wonders. Space management is key.

The growth of your city is no longer determined by how much food you are bringing in and how the population grows but rather how much housing you have. The constant reminders that “Athens is low on housing and growth will slow until this is solved” is annoying, but necessary.

Let slip the civilisations of war

Relationships in Civ 6 are tough. My plan with every game is to be nice to everybody, accept their pleas for resources and to never step on toes.

In Civ 6 that approach seems like the hardest you can take. For instance, as Pericles of Greece I became friends with America, because they were the nation next door. That relationship is blossoming and we are the greatest of friends, well, for the next 10 turns at least.

Teddy and I are tight.
Teddy and I are tight.

However, because Roosevelt stepped on the toes of Norway’s Harald Hardrada, I’ve been denounced. Great.

The trouble here is I did nothing, in fact, the Norwegian leader and I were getting along well until the US decided to screw it all up.

Dammit, Harald, we were chums!
Dammit, Harald, we were chums!

This has been a part of the Civ experience for a while now and while it is nice, I do wish there was a way to remain neutral when your allies are at war. Let me be Sweden Firaxis, please.

The needs of the few

To a large extent, relations with other civilisations are influenced by the type of government you enforce. In addition to that the growth of your civilisation is influenced by your government.

For instance, Monarchy grants you +2 housing in any city with Medival walls meaning you can grow faster. In addition each government has policy slots (Military, Economy and Diplomacy)where you can assign bonuses that will help you along your quest for glory.

There are numerous tweaks you can make to improve your government.
There are numerous tweaks you can make to improve your government.

New government archetypes open as you progress and you can change your policies once you’ve unlocked Civics. Civics are accrued through Culture and are unlocked in the same way as one researches new technologies.

Players can also unlock a Legacy Bonus the longer they stick with a particular government. These bonuses include increased production toward wonders, extra XP for units and discounts on purchases with gold.

Noteworthy additions

The voice work in the game is superb. The narration by Sean Bean is enthralling and I find myself hanging on to every word he says.

Better than Bean’s voice is the music. As I’ve progressed through the ages I’ve noticed that the music changes, when your nation is having a rough time, the music becomes more ominous and changes to a lighten the atmosphere when the bad times have passed.

Should you pre-order?

There is a lot to get through in this game and while I have played for 14 hours, I feel as if I’ve just scratched the surface of what Civ 6 is bringing to the table. With that having been said, Civ 6 feels like going back to your favourite restaurant after a year away from it and finding the food is better.

Based purely on this preview build though I can’t outright recommend pre-ordering the game. Ardent Civilization fans will love the added depth the new systems will bring to the game but I feel that for newer players this might be daunting.

There’s also the matter of the “pre-order bonus” that the game has tacked onto it. I use “tacked on” intentionally because if you pre-order the game you get early access to the Aztec civilisation. The nation led by Montazuma will playable after 90 days to those who buy the game after its release. No exclusive content, discount on the R899 price tag, nothing but a nation everybody else will be able to play after a timed-delay.

As a matter of principal then no, don’t pre-order Civilization 6. You might have to wait 90 days to rule the Aztecs but there’s so much content here 19 out of the 20 leaders shouldn’t hurt the experience at all.

I’m going to keep playing the game in anticipation of its 21st October release date and tell myself that just one more turn, couldn’t hurt.