The Civilization franchise has always been most at home on PC with a keyboard and mouse. It’s the game’s natural state of being and translating that to a console is a tremendous undertaking that I was afraid they might not pull off. Thankfully, my fears were quickly laid to rest as I was sucked back into the immensely addictive strategy game mere moments after starting up my first campaign on the PS4 version, wielding a PS4 controller.
I’ve been a big fan of the franchise on PC and have grown used to the brilliantly optimised state that Civilization VI is currently in. Since I’m familiar with the game’s systems and tactics already, heading into the console version was an absolute breeze and to my surprise, absolutely everything about the game has been streamlined and adapted how you expect a console version of such a legendary strategy game to be.
We built this city
I won’t go into the actual detail of the game and what it encompasses as we already have a great review from Abigail on the PC version of the game. You can find all you need to know here. Instead, I’ll be focusing on the console-specific optimisations that were made, starting with the general UI. Civilization VI‘s UI has always been this dense cluster of information with a plethora of options and sub-menus. At first, I was fearful that not enough information could be shown on a console version, but Firaxis stepped up to the plate and optimised every single screen and function to work perfectly with a controller on a large television.
All the text is zoomed in enough to be readable on a television while not being obnoxious and debilitating. This is quite the impressive feat considering that you can often accidentally open up a whole short story’s worth of text by hovering over something. Not once during my time with the game did I feel like I was using an inferior version of the UI, just a different one and that’s probably the strongest praise you can give to a console port of a strategy game.
Civilization VI features a lot of micro-managing and intricate strategy which can become overwhelming, even using a keyboard and mouse. If you’re an experienced player, going into the fine grain is pretty much essential and doing this on console has been made incredibly easy. The control options you get on a controller are just enough to allow you to do the same actions as a mouse and keyboard at almost the same speed if you’re quick enough on the stick.
Unit movement is incredibly smooth while managing your cities and resources is as intuitive as ever. It takes some slight getting used to at first, especially if you come from PC, but in no time at all, it starts to feel natural. Camera controls are on point, there are various shortcuts you can use to get to essential information quickly and the controls barely get in the way of your goals.
The optimised UI, the intuitive controls and the decent performance makes this the perfect way to get into grand strategy in the comfort of your couch.
During the later game when things ramp up quite considerably, I did find it slightly more difficult to select units that have been piled into one spot or managing my armies in large scale combat. However, I didn’t see any other way they could do it and what we got is the closest we’ll come to a perfect console port. New players will find the tutorials just as intuitive as the PC and in no time at all you’ll have that “one more turn” addiction that is sure to make you miss some sleep.
It’s how I imagined a grand strategy console port to be and throughout my experience, I was just continually impressed with what they managed to pull off. While in my heart of hearts I still prefer the control and perspective of having a mouse and keyboard, this is an alternative that is definitely worthy enough of your time if you aren’t able to get the PC version or prefer your grand strategising to happen on a couch rather than an office chair.
A few bumps in the road
Civilization VI is a big resource-intensive game, especially once you get into the late game on a big map filled with many civilizations making hundreds of actions a turn. Here’s where the port’s only faults lie and that’s the loading times. During the late game in my campaigns, there were times when I thought my game had crashed or froze when I hit the end turn button. Usually it sorts itself out, but I’ve found it gets progressively worse as the game grows more complex.
It loses a couple of points in this regard because the game world stutters to the point where it can get distracting when other players take their turns. Sometimes it resolves quickly and you can be well on your way, but other times it freezes for an uncomfortable amount of time and you have little choice but to wait it out. Thankfully everything remains smooth when you take your turn and I’ve experienced no hiccups and great performance otherwise. It’s a shame it can get overwhelmed pretty quickly, but it’s a small sacrifice to play a port as masterfully done as this.
Conquer the world
Console gamers that have missed out on the Civilization series now have little reason to delay it any longer. This isn’t some gimped out, rushed version of the classic PC experience, it’s an entire reimagining of how the game works. The optimised UI, the intuitive controls and the decent performance makes this the perfect way to get into grand strategy in the comfort of your couch.