The release of a new Civilization game always feels like a special occasion. It's like a solar eclipse on the PC world - rare and dazzling, it causes us to put the rest of our lives on standby while we gawp at it. The series has been with us since gaming’s own ancient era, and with Civilization VI just a few days away, it's time to start thinking about the post-launch game.
Read more: here's everything we know about Civilization VI.
Historically, Civ DLC has been crucial to unleashing each game’s potential, as the devs chuck in new features to plug the pacing or mechanical gaps that inevitably arise with a game attempting to chart pretty much everything that’s ever happened. For better or worse, a Civ game only becomes 'complete' after a couple of meaty expansion packs, and based on our several hours of imperialist fun with a preview build of Civ VI, here's a bunch of things that I’d like to see added after release.
Near future era
Civ has had a pretty unstable relationship with taking things interstellar or orbital. After the magnum opus (or Great Work?) that was Alpha Centauri, we've had the maligned Call to Power spin-offs dabble with space colonisation, while Beyond Earth didn't introduce enough interesting mechanics to really exploit its space setting.
It's time for Civ to reclaim that frontier with a worthy expansion that takes us out to orbit. Say what you will about Call to Power II, but its use of an extra 'space' layer of map over the old one was interesting, allowing you to attack earth-based units from orbit, set up space colonies and mine asteroids. This era could also bring back wackier future technologies and new hazards to contend with like global warming.
Naturally all this cosmic malarkey should be optional, as the concept of Gandhi raining nukes from his Death Star may be a tad unpalatable for some.
Immigration - bit of a buzzword these days, innit? And despite what the Daily Mail say, it's always going to play a big part in shaping nations, seeing as it’s been occurring ever since the first stick-huts were washed away by a landslide, forcing the tribesfolk to go crash round their neighbouring village’s fire.
The series has dabbled in this area before. In Civ IV, border cities would have mixed-nationality populations, and if the neighbouring civ had a stronger culture then they could take over the city. But this never ran very deep. The fact of peoples from poorer civs migrating to wealthier civs - or refugees fleeing wars - should be ever-present with all the accompanying issues it brings - economics, happiness, culture-clashing, integration policies, and so on.
The notion of 'people moving around' has defined the world as much as war and Wonders, so it's time Sid or Ed or whoever’s actually in charge to accommodate it.
The Civ series is well aware of this concept, having released two standalone Colonization games but never elaborated on any of their mechanics in the main series. It's a controversial topic, but again it shouldn't be ignored in a game that purports to broadly capture the ups and downs of human history.
Settling uncharted shores should present you with new challenges and mechanics, making it more of an event rather than just another piece of land to turn your colour. You should work to come to agreements with other colonising nations about splitting the land, have colonial wars with them that don't affect the home front, as well as have the option to work with the indigenous people of the land (or just destroy them).
Perhaps this could be integrated with Barbarians. Those savages have been nothing but a thorn in the side of fledgling empires in all Civ games to this point. That’s fine, but let’s vary them up a bit. We could still have brutes who want nothing but to pillage our lands, but also introduce 'indigenous people' who you can trade with, integrate into your society and recruit special units from.
Break-up of nations and empires
The Civilization series could just as easily be known as 'Imperialism' based on how the late-game pans out. Sure, in Civ V they tried making small, tall empires viable, but this was rarely as effective as making the blob of your empire spread like a virus across as much of the globe as possible.
Civ’s empire-centric leanings fail to reflect the world post-WW2. As the game goes on and people in far corners of your empire start getting big ideas about autonomy, it should get tougher to hold onto foreign lands. Wars of independence and civil wars - like in Civ II - could make a return here, with the possibility of spawning new nations, particularly late on, preventing games from going stagnant.
Such a system could be used to the advantage of the nation getting broken up, too. You could grant your distant and culturally detached cities independence peacefully, for example, turning them into a city-state that's permanently your ally unless someone pulls off a coup.
Unions - whether voluntary or forced - have shaped human history. From imperial unions such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ideological, autocratic unions like the USSR, federal ones like the United States, or... whatever the EU is, they’ve all changed the world dramatically.
In an inverse way to my previous point, this would make the mid-late game more volatile, as suddenly nations could hyper-expand through joining together, potentially forcing you to have a completely different relationship with them. If you entered a union, there would of course be trade-offs, as you'd need to run key decisions by your fellow union leaders and would effectively be splitting power, but such a setup could be a great way for smaller nations to get some economic and tech boosts as they cosy up to bigger nations, or for medium nations to unite into a formidable superpower.
(What you see in the picture is not a political union, just PCGN’s Phil dealing with some macemen in the Dark Ages - clearly wishing he was in a union with someone like Big Teddy Roosevelt so he could fend them off.)
Most of the features that we saw in the 'complete' version of Civ V made it over into Civ VI, with the one notable exception being the World Congress. While a nice idea, it never worked previously due to the awful AI, and I don't think I could deal with another game in which some halfwit rival Civ decides to impose a global ban on sugar just 'because'.
Despite that, the idea of a system where all nations (who choose to opt in) can have a say in global matters in the later game is a good one. As in Civ V, it should let you make sweeping suggestions like a global ideology or global religion, but sanctions should only be imposed with good reason.
Something like the World Congress or UN could be expanded to various crises as well, like nuclear attacks and wars. So perhaps an emergency session could be called to embargo a bullish nation preying on its neighbours, or have everyone chip in to send economic aid or even ‘peacekeeping’ (yeah, right) troops into warzones.
More interesting economics
Firaxis doesn't go on about this, but many of the ideas in Civ VI can be traced back to the Civ V Community Balance Patch, which overhauls much of the main game (I highly recommend you squeeze in a couple of games on it before Civ VI!). One of the more intriguing additions is the idea of monopolies, so if your nation has the lion's share of a certain resource within its borders, that resource offers bigger benefits, increasing its value.
Essentially, that old economic chestnut of supply and demand actually becomes a thing, as other nations are willing to offer more for your resources that can't be obtained elsewhere. Something like this should appear in Civ VI down the line in a future expansion, so that the value of luxury resources fluctuates with their availability. Also, let’s chuck loans in there. Big nasty loans in which you can set the interest rates on and exploit/assist developing nations that need a bit of a leg up in the world, like the benevolent leader you’ll no doubt be.
Those are our thoughts so far. What would you pay good money for in an expansion, if anything? Let us know in the comments below.