Q4 of 2017 has, without a doubt, been absolutely absurd when it comes to high quality premium game ports on iOS. However, just as we were thought we were finished with the App Store game release rush that has become tradition each holiday season, Aspyr comes out of left field with Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (Free) for the iPad. Better yet, the release of the game was just non-chalantly announced on Twitter, like when your parents just casually mention late in the morning on Christmas that there’s one more present behind the tree. Civilization VI was released on the Mac and PC a little more than a year ago, which is one of the many things that makes this port so exciting- There’s still an actively maintained game with content in the pipeline for the Mac/PC, and the iOS version even boasts additional expansions coming in the future right in the main menu. This isn’t just some port they farted out to make a little extra money on an otherwise forgotten title from other platforms. This is the real deal.
If you’ve never played a Civilization (or Civ) game before, they’re the quintessential 4X title. In the game you’ll explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate to eventually dominate the entire map via different several different victory conditions. These victory conditions are what makes Civ games so irresistible to me, as while you can win through sheer military might and obliterating every other civilization on the map, you can also win by founding a religion and convincing the whole world to believe in you. By keeping an eye on what the rest of the world is up to, you can also potentially shift gears to race towards an entirely different victory condition, all while continually expanding your empire, sucking up resources, and managing relations with other leaders.
You reach these goals by initially settling one small village and sending your warriors off to fight barbarians, while selecting which technologies and civics you’ll be passively researching with each turn. Just a quick glance at the tech trees in the game will perfectly illustrate the ridiculous amount of depth to be found in Civ VI. You’ll start out deciding if you’re better off by researching pottery or animal husbandry, and (assuming your civilization survives long enough) eventually choosing between whether you want to research nuclear fusion or nanotechnology first. As you advance through the tech trees you’ll go from training rock slingers to archers to advanced artillery and missile launchers. The curve this all follows is really awesome, and the feeling of progression you get in a game is unreal.
As far as the port concerned, it is phenomenal. We often talk on our podcast about what a bummer it is how developers need to release iOS games that work on as wide of an array of iOS hardware as possible. It makes sense, since you want a large pool of people capable of downloading your game, but it really sucks to buy brand-new hardware and have practically nothing that fully takes advantage of it. This is perfectly illustrated in our best games to play on your new iPhone series of articles, which has more or less been the same games since Infinity Blade ($5.99) was first released, with new additions being few and far between. In this situation, Aspyr made the bold move of requiring fairly recent iPad hardware. You can only play the game on an iPad Air 2, the 2017 iPad, or any iPad Pro. Honestly, I’m surprised the iPad Air 2 is included at all, as this game was fairly taxing on my PC!
On my iPad Pro, Civ VI looks the same as if I’m running it on my PC with the visuals turned down, which is somewhat expected. The whole thing is running at a lower resolution, which in my opinion is totally fine as I don’t think anyone plays Civ games for the eye candy. Enemy turns do take a while, particularly in the later stages of the game, but this bothers me far less on the iPad as it did on my PC. Typically when I’m playing iPad games, I’m in my chair, and have the TV on, so looking up while the AI takes their turn isn’t as big of a deal as when I’m sitting down at my PC where I really don’t have much else to do other than wait. Being turn-based, there’s no penalty for looking away for as little or as long as you want. Also, the game auto-saves with each turn, so you can quit at any time without losing anything.
Civ VI plays exceedingly well with touch controls, but there are some awkward things that you need to pay attention to during the initial “new to mobile" tutorial. For instance, you access tool tips by touching and holding and close sub menus via a three finger tap. Everything else is fairly intuitive, and fat-fingering when selecting units is mitigated by zooming the map in and out via familiar pinch gestures. Also, if you have a Bluetooth keyboard (or a Smart Keyboard cover), the game supports all the same keybinds and keyboard shortcuts from the PC/Mac version. Having tried it, I think it’s a little weird playing this way with a keyboard and no mouse, but it’s super cool that the option is there.
Honestly though, the best thing about this Civ VI port is that it’s free to try. You can play the first 60 turns of the game as the Chinese empire in single player mode, without spending a dime. This will walk you through the entire tutorial of the game, and give you a considerable amount of time after that to decide whether or not Civilization is a game you’re interested in. The full unlock is $59.99, although as of this writing there’s a launch promotion for $29.99. Expensive for an iOS game for sure, but consider this is a real-deal port of a fairly new PC/Mac game. The only thing it’s lacking is online multiplayer (it’s LAN only), but other than that, everything is here. You can select any leader you want, play on “huge" sized maps, change victory conditions, and everything else.
Put simply, if you have an recent iPad, you must download Civilization VI and at least play through the free content. When I first played Civ VI on my PC a year ago, my initial reaction was “This game is amazing, but I sure wish it was on my iPad instead." Well, it’s on my iPad now, and I could not possibly be happier. I really, really hope this port is wildly successful for Aspyr as I’d love nothing more than iOS gamers to send a clear sign to developers that we’re more than willing to pay for these AAA games and want more of them.