5. Civilization VI
Unlike many of the other games we’ve nominated for Game of the Year 2016, Civilization VI doesn’t really have any competition. Sure there are other strategy games out there, but none that offer the experience that the Civ franchise has provided over the years. A slow-paced, turn-based game about creating a world power, Civilization VI only really has its past self to be inspired by. It has to constantly fight the urge to become complacent and instead reinvent itself (but not too much) over again with each game. With Civ VI, you can chalk up another victory for the franchise, Firaxis Games, and 2K.
Civilization VI is the only place where you get to really play emperor (or a peace loving enlightened leader of some sort, if you prefer). Every game, depending on the parameters you set, will have its own story and history.
You’ll see all sorts of events unfold, such as failed attempts at aggressive expansion that lead to a Treaty of Versailles-like disaster for the losing side, or Cold Wars where two Civs fight for the same winning condition but avoid conflict that would derail their progress at all costs. In a gaming world where imagination is often replaced with cutscenes and story lines that explain everything for you, Civilization VI is a modern title that still lets you create your own narrative, and is executed in a near flawless way.
Mechanically, Civilization VI improves on so much of the areas that needed major touch-ups in Civilization V while also throwing in game-changer additions that enhances the quality of life for marathon players. History and diplomacy nerds like myself can revel and agonize in the majorly improved diplomacy screen that actually tells you useful information. It may seem innocuous to accept a foreign leader’s invitation for dinner, or to establish an embassy, but you foresee conflict down the road. Maybe it’s best we keep a distance so that the path towards war can remain clear and unsullied.
Religion, kind of a strange experiment in Civilization V, is now a full-fledged victory condition that feels like an entirely different game, should you commit to it. Culture, once nothing much more than a shallow hoarding of points, is an incredibly deep system of gaining tourists, recruiting great-people, and using modern technology to spread your greatness around the world. These are just a few of the many ways Civilization VI made its own experience that much more authentic.
The Civilization franchise achieved greatness a long time ago, but it’s clear that the team behind it is committed to providing the most authentic game of diplomacy and empire building imaginable. Civilization is the best in its genre — it practically is the genre — and even with a lack of direct competition, it’s a model franchise that continually goes above and beyond to top itself, and always succeeds.
You can read Ed McGlone’s full thoughts on Civilization VI here.