Gaming for the Rest of Us: First Impression- Civilization VI: Rise and Fall

Before I can review the first expansion for Civilization VI, let’s get something out of the way. There have been a lot of complaints about Civ VI, and Civ V before it, and I think they all boil down to two basic problems.

First, starting with Civ V, the team at Firaxis tried to incorporate real time strategy elements into the Civilization franchise. I don’t think many people will seriously argue there is even a close competitor to Civilization in the 4X strategy genre, so I believe most of Civ’s competition comes from the RTS genre, of which there are many good titles. Unfortunately, that attempt on their part was a mixed bag, leading to some of the problems players complain about in specific.

Second, and perhaps far more important, Civ has always had an AI problem. Back in the halcyon days of Civ I or II, nobody expected sophisticated AIs, and the game took full advantage of that fact by plain cheating to make the game harder. Modern players with modern hardware expect a modern AI, but the expansive nature of Civilization makes designing a good AI for the game a challenge at best. I’m not saying the team at Firaxis couldn’t do better, but I understand the challenge they face in doing it.

Keeping those things in mind, most of the things I could say bad about the Rise and Fall expansion are things I’ve already said bad about Civ VI itself. The game play is somewhat convoluted, the AI just dumb sometimes, and the execution sometimes excruciatingly slow.

It’s always dangerous to lead with things I don’t like in a review because that’s what people tend to remember, but the fact is Firaxis has one of the greatest gaming franchises in history in its care, and it needs to do better if it doesn’t want to go the way of EA and lose the loyalty of once fantastic titles like SimCity or Ubisoft with the Anno series.

All of the new elements to Rise and Fall add value to the game, but they’re understated and seem to be designed to add that familiar RTS anxiety to a 4X game. It doesn’t always work because I think it faces the player in the wrong direction. When Civ VI introduced things like districts, it was an intriguing advance on Civ’s core ideas. Instead of building on that, Firaxis has doubled down on the 4X in RTS clothing gambit it seems to have committed to in Civ V, and it still doesn’t quite seem to be working all the way.

Overall, I’d say wait on this expansion a bit yet. It’s not really worth the $29.99 Firaxis is asking for it for what you get, but if they’re listening to the community, future patches and DLCs may yet fix some of what doesn’t work as well as it could yet. If they don’t, there’ll be room for a new king of 4X. Or we can all go back to playing Civ IV, probably still the best entry into the franchise so far.

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Science and Technology: My first impression of Google+

I have to hand it to the people at Google. They managed to create a lot of buzz about their latest project, getting millions of people to start using it in less than a month. Unfortunately for Google, my first reaction to Google+ is, “So what?”

It’s not that Google+ is a bad product. It’s more that it’s a product that does not yet have a need. It’s a superficial clone of all the other social media experiments going on out there that doesn’t add a whole lot new to what people are already doing.

That’s not to say it couldn’t. Google has the potential to weave together its impressive array of products using Google+ in a way that could revolutionize the way people use computers and the internet. But, so far that hasn’t happened. Instead, Google+ is a sophisticated chat board.

So, what would I like to see in Google+ that would get me excited? Here are a few things:

  • I already use a battery of different services to maintain an online presence. Having to migrate all of that information to Google+ by hand is the single biggest detriment to me using it. If Google wants its product to be amazing, figure out a way to let me import information from places like Facebook and LinkedIn so I don’t have to reproduce it.
  • Create a way to support groups. Facebook may have botched the attempt, but it had a good idea in introducing the concept.
  • Tie Blogger, ¬†Google Docs, Sites, and other Google based web presence applications into Google+. For me, my Facebook pages, especially for my businesses, are valuable enough to deal with the annoyance of the rest of Google.
  • Figure out a way to tell me my streams have updated in some sort of unobtrusive way.

I think the biggest thing Google could do is develop Google+ with business applications in mind. Make Google+ a clearinghouse for small businesses trying to get the word out about who they are and what they do, and I think people would join in droves.

DLH

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