New Game Review

Review – Civilization VI (Switch)

Gandhi has declared war on you.

When rumors first started going around that Firaxis was developing a Switch game, I think we all safely assumed XCOM 2 War of the Chosen was about to make it’s handheld debut. An exciting proposal for sure, especially given its status as one of the greatest strategy games ever made and would fit in perfectly with the Switch’s handheld philosophy. Then they went and announced Civilization 6 was coming instead and there was certainly some confusion. There were worries about performance, controls, the exclusion of the most recent expansion Rise and Fall, and the general consensus that they should have just ported XCOM. After playing it though, I’m glad to say that almost all fears were unfounded.

I'm sure this will end well
I’m sure it won’t end horribly at all.

The performance is the clear MVP here. Everyone expected the Switch to melt under the large dense maps that make up the late-game Civilization experience, with turn and loading times that would make Total War look acceptable. Somehow, instead it all just works as it should. I haven’t seen late-game turn times take longer than fifteen seconds and loading times are under thirty. If this seems long, just keep in mind that there is no loading in-game. It’s simply thirty seconds and then no waiting again until you exit and re-enter. The FPS is as close to a stable thirty that a turn-based strategy game could possibly require.

Neither the graphics or resolution were dramatically scaled back in order to achieve this either. I don’t know exactly what it’s running at, but due to the lack of blurriness and the crisp UI, I have to assume it managed 720p at least. All in all, it’s a tremendous feat and one of the best ports the Switch has received. That being said, the controls aren’t quite as well done sadly, but are a far sight better then anyone expected and probably the best you can do with a game pad.

Map
I just love the Civ 6 UI; the minimalist style with just exactly what you need on the main screen. More strategy games need to learn how to do this.

The main issue is selecting units on the same space. While there is a list to select what unit you want, it’s another click that can be a minor annoyance. Another problem is how the camera is disconnected from the currently selected square. You move the camera and select a tile, only for the camera to zoom back to where it was because the cursor didn’t travel with you. It takes a while to get used to using both sticks to navigate a board game map, but it’s perfectly doable. In handheld mode however, it’s a non issue due to the genius inclusion of full touchscreen controls, by far the superior way to play the game. No camera issues, no selection issues, menus are more easily navigated, and it just feels right. Not available in docked mode, but handheld mode is the way to play anyway.

As for the game, it’s classic Civilization. If you haven’t played before, you start by picking a Civilization from amongst all of history and then lead them across the eras, from Ancient times to the modern Information age. You explore the map, find and expand cities, research and develop new technologies, control your government and it’s policies, and it ultimately culminates in victory either through your Scientific endeavors, Cultural advancements, Religious expansion, or good old Domination. That was the original premise back in 1991 and though there are a few more wrinkles here and there, that core game is more than intact here.

Buff af
Sumeria is my favorite Civ, because how can anyone stand against The Rock’s ancestor?

Civilization VI on Nintendo Switch wasn’t something anyone saw coming. Yet now after playing it, I can’t imagine a better fit. The “one more turn” philosophy meshes perfectly with the Switch’s pick up and play handheld potential. Plus with performance that arguably plays better than an equivalent PC and full touch screen controls in addition to a not awful game pad, this is another third-party win for the Switch. The lack of the Rise and Fall expansion is a regrettable oversight on Firaxis’ part, but one that is easily remedied. Even then, I don’t see myself going back to the PC version anytime soon.

Graphics: 9.0

This is an shockingly impressive port with graphical parity even in handheld mode with the PC version. The art style is in the same vein as Civ IV, which is widely held as the best of the series and it meshes well with the inherent ridiculousness of your average Civ game. FPS is solid and stable as well and considering this is the full game with no alterations or removals, that’s quite impressive.

Gameplay: 8.5

The core game has changed little since the first release and here for the first time on console is the full Civ experience. Any issues one could imagine transitioning to console are mulled over by a decently designed new UI and touch controls during handheld if you wish to skip the issue all together. Sadly it lacks the Rise and Fall expansion, with the QoL additions, balance changes, and feature tuning for the base game that it really could have used.

Sound: 7.5

Sean Bean is the clear highlight here as the narrator for techs and wonders. The music is nice at first, but will quickly grow repetitive over your 100+ hours playing, let alone if you decide to replay as that Civ. Different tracks for every culture helps, but not nearly enough. VA’s for each leader are cool, but only apply in Diplomacy which is not where you spend most of your time. Still, Sean Bean.

Fun Factor: 10

A full Civ game with stable performance, on graphical parity with the proper PC game, a perfectly capable control scheme, and on a handheld. What more could you ask for? The only blemish on it is the lack of the most current expansion, but both are no doubt on their way which will serve to only sweeten this already incredible experience.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Civilization VI is available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch.

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A proud native Californian, I was introduced to gaming through the many nights long ago I spent playing Diablo and haven't looked back since. These days, when not playing, I enjoy reading a decent book, playing soccer (football to all the non-Americans), and hanging out with the sorry saps that I consider friends. Some of my favorite games are Baldur’s Gate II, Total War Warhammer, Final Fantasy Tactics, and basically anything Chris Avellone has ever touched.

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