The Rise of Nations
Some games require a long introduction, and then there are games like Civilization VI, which arrived on Android last month. The mobile port of Firaxis’ acclaimed turn-based strategy game comes courtesy of Aspyr Media, who also handled the iOS and console ports. But does this strategy giant fit on a smaller screen?
If you’re already familiar with the PC version, you feel free to skip ahead because the gameplay is very similar. You start by picking one of 19 Civilizations. More are available as DLC. Even among the vanilla nations, there’s a fair degree of diversity. Each has a unique unit, building, and ability. I think Firaxis made some odd choices in terms of which nations are in the game though. Why is Brazil an option but not Portugal?
A standard game begins in 4000 BC and runs to 205. This is customizable in the game options. The gameplay is turn-based and uses a randomly generated hex-based map. The effective use of tiles is one of the keys to victory. Different terrain types provide additional resources and adjacency bonuses. Various civilizations gain particular benefits when settling specific kinds of terrain. For example, Egypt gets a bonus to construction when placing structures on floodplains. Knowing each nation’s strengths and weaknesses is a large part of having a successful game.
The Fate of Empires
It’s not all building and exploring, mind you. There are five victory conditions to work toward, bumped to six with the Gathering Storm expansion. Will you conquer the world? Or would you rather achieve cultural dominance? Your empire could be the first to settle the stars or unite the Earth under a shared faith. If those are too specific, you could just rack up the highest score and run out the clock. Here is where those strengths and weaknesses really come into play. Different civilizations lend themselves to different victory conditions. Egypt is an excellent choice for cultural victories. Arabia has a decent shot at science or religion. The Romans and Scythians are great contenders for world domination.
However, just because you want to focus in one direction doesn’t mean you can forget about the others. Players who neglect their army may be overrun by barbarians or jealous rivals. Meanwhile, a society devoted to war may fall behind economically. They could also miss out on the unique bonuses provided by allying with city-states, minor non-player nations sprinkled around the map. This is particularly important late in the game when politics often matter more than force.
The most significant area where Civilization VI differs on Android is the interface. Also, welcome back to all the PC gamers. If you’ve played the PC version you may be wondering how the developers fit all the little icons that border the screen onto a mobile device. Aspyr solved this issue by dividing them into four separate collapsible bars. For the most part, this works well. I never felt I was deprived of important information, even if it meant one extra click whenever I needed to check something.
The Bad News
Unfortunately, not everything transitioned seamlessly to mobile. it was sometimes difficult to select individual units out of a group. Voice acting has been cut down to the bare minimum and Most of the cinematics are absent. The graphics are also a few generations behind. They are still decent, though. Glitchy, but decent.
There were other issues as well. It takes several minutes for Civilization VI to launch, assuming it launches at all. While I personally never had any trouble getting the game to start, several of my coworkers weren’t so lucky. I will say that loading screens certainly take their time. This title also does a number on your battery, draining it even while plugged in. Another problem I encountered with Civilization VI is that my old saves didn’t work when switching from the free trial to the full game. On top of that, as I was editing this piece, the game booted me back to the trial version. I’m sure this is fixable but I’m not looking forward to my conversation with customer support.
Civilization VI isn’t escaping without a recommendation. However, as much as I enjoyed playing it on mobile, it doesn’t compare to its PC counterpart. What it really needs is the ability to share cloud saved games with the PC version. Until that becomes an option, I’m not convinced portability is enough of a selling point.
Still, I enjoyed playing Civilization VI on Android. It’s an excellent turn-based strategy game that made the jump to mobile mostly intact. If you can get it to work as intended, there are worse ways to spend twenty dollars. Just don’t go in expecting a PC-quality experience.
Is it Hardcore?
A fantastic turn-based strategy game, Aspyr Media has mostly succeeded in bringing Civilization VI to Android. The port is far from flawless, but worth playing if you can get it to run.