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What I’d Like to See in Civilization VII

Firaxis put out a new video and thread (on reddit) earlier this week thanking the Civilization community for taking part in the last year of Civilization’s updates and New Frontier Pass. While the video and thread didn’t outright state that this was the end of development for Civilization VI, the tone of it all suggested a sense of finality. Whether that ends up being true or not, these are some of the things I’d like to see in the next installment of the long running 4X series.

Better Diplomacy

Players often have “better AI” at the top of their lists, but the fact of the matter is the more complex these games get, the less feasible it is to program the AI to properly take advantage of them.  That’s not to say that Firaxis can’t improve AI in some areas, such as diplomacy, and that’s where I’d like to see them put some extra effort in Civilization VII. Basic interactions with the AI in VI often feel insane. AI in alliances with you will regularly attack city states you’re suzerain of, or accept/decline trade deals that shouldn’t/should otherwise make sense. They just don’t come off as rational actors and at a base level I think that’s something that could be improved.

Additional diplomacy features, such as the ability to vassalize cities, for example, would be great, too. World Congress could use an overhaul as well. I’d love to see alliances expanded, too. It would be interesting if you could, with a high enough alliance level between a couple of civs, form something like NATO and be able to secure a “Domination” victory without having to kill off literally every civ. You’d basically be forming a team with a few civs later in the game, but it would be difficult to pull off.

Terrain Elevation

In VI, Firaxis took some lessons from Amplitude’s approach to 4X in Endless Legend by unpacking cities into districts, which turned out to be a great feature for the Civ series. Firaxis should again take a page from Amplitude’s playbook and implement terrain elevation into the game’s map scripts. While the series has changed considerably over the years, the maps haven’t seen a change as dramatic as this and elevation would introduce some interesting new wrinkles to the game’s strategy.

Better Tall vs. Wide Balance

In Civ V, building your civilizations “tall” was the name of the game. And for those unfamiliar, tall play is defined as having a few cities (say, 4) with high populations. V’s happiness mechanics severely punished players for expanding “wide” (having many, smaller cities) and VI went in the complete opposite direction. I love to play Domination victory games and I often just find a point where I end my game abruptly once I realize I’ve essentially reached a checkmate militarily over the AI. The process of going through and capturing or razing their dozens of cities or even managing my own in the later stages of the game just drains me.

To Firaxis’s credit, they have introduced a number of mechanics, including Governors, certain wonders and policy cards, and even some civs that favor a taller play style, but the game overall favors wider play. A consideration for both play styles should be a core part of the design of VII.

Orbital Layer

The orbital layer was one of the few features introduced with the spinoff Civilization: Beyond Earth that I had hoped to see make an appearance in VI, but it never did. Adding an entire new layer of the map to manage (satellites, orbital units, etc) in the later stages of the game would be a great way to enhance what is often the least intriguing points in a Civ game.

More Late Era Focus

This is a broader point than a specific set of feature requests. Firaxis has definitely put some effort into making the late stages of VI more interesting, but it often still drags on for me. The issue, at least for me, is a combination of tedium due to the incredible amount of micromanaging required at later stages, fewer new things to look forward to, and, frankly, the way the game’s performance grinds to a halt at this point in the game. I have a beefy PC with a 9900K, 3090, and 32GB of RAM and my turn timers can exceed one minute in the later eras. Turning on quick combat and movement helps, but I suspect the real culprit is the fact that everyone has way too many cities to manage at this point of the game so there’s simply way too much going on.

If Firaxis can better balance tall vs. wide play, add new features such as the orbital layer, and maybe make some under-the-hood or in the background improvements to focus on late game performance, that would go a long way towards making later era Civ less of a slog.