In the year 1886, Greece was a world superpower thanks to unparalleled scientific discovery and widespread cultural influence. Sparta was home to great scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, and world wonders such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Edgar Allen Poe wrote The Raven there, while gazing out of his hotel window at the herd of elephants on the horizon. It was beautiful.
But then Mahatma Gandhi launched a surprise attack on the ever peaceful nation, using tanks to obliterate the simple archers and club-wielding warriors defending the city, and Greece quickly fell. You snake, Gandhi.
Upon reflection, we probably should have taken the time to train up a military capable of protecting our glorious nation, but excuse us for thinking that we could all just get along and not invade each other whenever we felt like it. Appalling behaviour, quite frankly, but then that's Civilization VI – a superb turn-based strategy game in which millennia spanning empires aren't built on kind words and playing nice. Chances are, you're going to have to get your hands dirty.
A standard game of Civilization sees you picking a famous historical leader from one of the world's great nations, founding a capitol city in 4000 BC, and then trying to guide your people through to modern times and beyond. Each turn you'll be able to move military units, decide what to build, choose research options in order to progress, and more.
You've got a lot to think about here. The map is broken up into hexagonal tiles, and every tile has worth. Maybe it'll have a resource like wheat or coal on it. Perhaps it'll be ideal for farmland, or marshes will make it unappealing to the masses. Every city you found can make use of the surrounding tiles, so you'll need to take food, fresh water, luxury items, and free space to build on into account before setting up shop. Movement takes up valuable turns so you'll want to decide where you'll need to find your perfect home quickly.
You can improve your cities by surrounding them with districts devoted to productivity, religion, education, and more, and the more your cities grow, the more of these districts you can add. Each of these districts can be improved upon with buildings: libraries and universities go in the campus, improving your research speed, while galleries and the like find home in the theatre district, generating culture.
There's world wonders to build that give you special perks, and city protection to take into account, lest you end up like our poor defenceless Greece. And depending on which leader you're playing as, there's unique buildings and units to consider.
Every building, unit, research option, and movement across the map takes a number of turns to complete based on your productivity, the size of your city, and others variables, and since you've got a finite number of turns to play with, using them wisely is one of the keys to victory.
There are numerous ways to win a game of Civilization VI. You can achieve a religious victory by spreading your faith around the world like a virus – our own religion, Johnism, was massive in Sao Paolo but failed to make much of an impact elsewhere. You can out-culture everyone with great works of art, turning your civilization into the number one sight-seeing destination. Winning the space race means throwing everything you've got at science, while a military victory means... well, smashing everyone up.
Aside from the bog standard game, you can play with another human in the multiplayer mode - the game speed is significantly increased to accommodate online play – and there's a scenario mode which gives you very specific conditions that need to be met in order to succeed and move on to the next one. There's no real campaign here, so to speak, but there's enough variables in play to make sure that each game of Civilization feels different to the last.
Fans of the previous, PC-only Civilization games may be wondering how the game has handled the transition to PlayStation 4 and the answer is: surprisingly well. Obviously, these games are easier to control with a mouse and keyboard, but Civilization VI has been well optimised for the DualShock 4, and aside from a couple of cumbersome mechanics, it rarely frustrates.
All told, Civilization VI is quite brilliant, offering a thoroughly engrossing and frequently rewarding experience with a high level of replayability. There's a lot to love here, and as far as the strategy genre goes on PS4, there's no better game than Civilization VI. But there are a few wrinkles which might put some players off.
By far the biggest issue here – and this has always been an issue for the series – is that when you finish your turn you have to wait for the A.I. to complete their turns before you can move on. On a small map with few fellow civilizations this wait is tolerable, but in a huge world with a dozen competitors you'll be waiting as much as you're playing. It's not unusual to be waiting thirty seconds to a minute between turns.
When you've got sixteen turns left before you finish building the Great Pyramids in the outskirts of Hull, you could conceivably be doing nothing but moving to your next turn for whatever sixteen multiplied by thirty seconds is. It's not a deal-breaker, and if you're into strategy games then you've presumably got patience to spare, but it's still a bit much.
The music can get pretty obnoxious, too. There's a mix of sounds from around the world going on, running the gamut from instrumental, traditional folk tunes like Scarborough Fair and Greensleeves to aggressive chanting that sounds a bit like the All Blacks doing the Haka. Your best bet is to mute the music and run the Spotify app in the background.
Don't mute the speech though because then you'll be missing a treat. Every time you discover something new like, say, the wheel, or gunpowder, or nuclear fusion, Sean Bean turns up to deliver a timely quote about it in his soothing Sheffield twang. It's like a cup of warm cocoa for your ears.
Civilization VI is an excellent strategy game that offers numerous ways to play, and all of them are viable options. You can lead a peaceful nation or a war-mongering empire and still have an engrossing and rewarding experience like few others on PS4. Excessive load times, grating music, and some occasionally irksome controls are the only real downsides to what is otherwise the system's best strategy game, and a title that strategy fans can scarcely afford to skip.