Our actual review of Civilization VI is going to be delayed (if it happens), considering review code just turned up today. However! I can still give you a few thoughts on it, as well as an in-depth look at the options, benchmarking, performance, and the like.
As someone has actually asked me this, I’ll note that there appears to be no controller support aside from the Steam controller (which is basically a hybrid mouse/controller anyway). If you were planning on playing this on a TV while sitting on your couch or something, it looks as though you will need a Steam controller to do so. It’s possible there’s some undocumented standard controller support, which I can’t test as I have no working controllers, but it’s highly unlikely.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the graphics options.
While this is a native PC game, I’m still slightly surprised by the fidelity of the options on offer. I mean, Civilization VI is a turn-based strategy game, and they’re not usually known for having superior options to Face-Shooter 5, but that’s pretty much what’s happening here!
The sliders for both Performance and Memory offer up a good mix of default options based on your particular rig, although mine (i7-3820, 16 GB RAM, GeForce GTX 970) appears capable of handling things turned up high.
The options on display in the above shots are on close to maximum – the only thing not on full is Shadow Resolution, which can be pushed up to a whopping 8192×8192. Also, resolution goes up to 3840×2160, which is always nice to see.
In case you’re running a low-end rig, though, you don’t need to worry too much: Civilization VI doesn’t exactly look like ass when put to its minimum settings. Here are a few comparison screenshots from a brand new game, running on max and lowest settings respectively.
A noticeable difference, but not one that’s likely to matter much: Civ 6 looks fine on either. All things depending, you may even prefer aspects of the lower-quality settings. I mean, I can hardly blame you for turning off bloom.
Performance is a trickier beast, but Civilization VI has a built-in benchmark which I’ve tried on multiple settings with some… interesting results. The benchmark essentially sets up a game with a metric shitload of cities and units, and then has the AI play it out for a few turns while it monitors the framerate.
On my rig, the difference between lowest and highest is pretty staggering, but also pretty inconsequential. By and large, I was averaging about 60 FPS on high settings, and 100 FPS on low. As the highest my monitor supports is 60 FPS, that doesn’t mean much to me… but it does speak pretty well of how much of an impact the settings might make on lower-end systems.
That said, there are some unusual factors. A few times during the benchmark the screen would come close to freezing, and the framerate would drop dramatically. As nothing was happening on screen at the time, this is most likely the computer figuring out what’s going on behind the fog of war. The bizarre thing is that this was much, much worse with the settings set low than it was with them set high. On higher settings, it’d drop to about 30 FPS; on the bare minimum, it scraped 18 FPS. This might be something to do with optimisation – on lower settings, Civ 6 may try to do things in a less efficient way because that way won’t completely fuck low-end systems – but that’s pure speculation, and frankly it’s optimistic. It’s either that, or one of the lower-end options ironically makes parts of the game run a little slower on my PC.
I suspect the biggest bottleneck with Civ 6 performance is going to be the CPU, but this isn’t something I can easily test, nor can I easily figure out exactly where the benchmarking is having these issues. This does tie in with what I found in my preview in terms of AI turns taking quite awhile in the late game, although considering the sheer number of units and cities that are being managed at that point, that’s probably to be somewhat expected. I don’t think it’ll particularly surprise anyone, anyway, and it doesn’t feel particularly excessive unless you’re waiting for something and hammering the End Turn button over and over again.
I’m also impressed by a fair few of the non-graphical options. The usual suspects like volume, subtitles, and language are all present and correct, but there are some more detailed options for tailoring particular aspects of how the game runs. You can choose how often it autosaves, and how many autosaves it keeps; you can have the game window muted when it’s inactive; you can change the clock format from 12-hour to 24-hour and opt to lock the mouse to the game window. Lots of lovely little quality-of-life tweaks, basically.
Also, you can disable the intro video. Yes.
There’s also a full-on keybindings tab which I suspect is going to be tremendously useful. Not so much for having fast quicksaves or anything (although maybe that too!) but for being able to tap a key to switch to ranged attack, or to see the Appeal of the various hexes. This is slightly more in-depth stuff and it can all be done through in-game buttons, but if you’re going for a victory where you really need to keep an eye on Religion, I suspect that the ability to switch that view on and off at the touch of a button is going to be great. Again: the keybindings themselves aren’t unexpected, but it’s nice to see everything being rebindable, and bonus points for actually saying “You can’t bind Escape, LMB, or RMB.”
Finally, let’s have a look at creating a new game. Basic setup is what you’d expect, with land size/number of civs/etc., but you can do some really interesting stuff with the advanced options. This is mostly world generation stuff so it might not be interesting to most people, but I’m bizarrely excited to try futzing with world age, temperature, rainfall, and sea level to see how much of a difference it makes to the world the game generates for me. Not only that but you can input (or take out) a game seed and a map seed, so if you want to challenge people to play under the exact same conditions you did, you actually can!
Saying I’m satisfied with how Civilization VI sits on the PC is a bit of an understatement. It’s a game designed ground-up for the PC, but one that hasn’t been done lazily with a “Oh, it’s a turn-based strategy game, so we don’t need options” mentality. There are a plethora of options – more than I’d realistically expect from some triple-A shooters, as mentioned above – and they range from both the impressive graphical range to
I’m also satisfied with how it performs, although this is a little trickier to compliment because I don’t know if that’s because I have a powerful rig, or because it’s incredibly well optimised. It’s silky-smooth, quick, and efficient.
As for the game itself – well, I detailed that pretty thoroughly back in the preview, but I will say I’m excited by the new civilizations and leaders. Each civilization seems to fit a particular playstyle far more than it did in previous games, and while this somewhat encourages particular paths, a few of them look varied enough that they should allow for some really interesting games.