Sid Meier's Civilization VI for Switch Review
It feels good to hold all of human history in my hands.
When I first reviewed Civilization VI back in 2016, here’s what I had to say about it as I awarded it a score of 9.4 (for amazing) and nominated it for game of the year:
“Civilization VI will go down in history as the most fully-featured launch version in the series. Many of those are smartly revamped versions of Civ classics, but it finds its own identity with great new ideas like spread-out cities, customizeable governments, research boosts, and leader agendas. And even though the AI has some improving to do, it can put up enough of a fight to make world domination a challenge.”
Considering Aspyr has already successfully adapted it to tablets and, more recently, to phones, it’s no shock that Civilization VI works well on the Switch in handheld mode. All of the text is fully readable and the cartoonish art style works well on a small screen. Where it breaks new ground is in how the Joy-Con are used to control a complex 4X strategy game in either handheld or docked mode, and the Switch version works almost as well in that capacity. It definitely takes some getting used to before accessing of all Civ VI’s many menus feels natural, but the logic is consistent enough that if you’ve gotten into one you can figure out how to get into most of them.
I recommend playing in handheld mode at least to start out, because that gives you the option of using both the Joy-Con and – should you struggle to find which button gets you to the desired menu – touch controls, which let you simply poke the menu you want. Fortunately, Civilization is a turn-based game, which means you have all the time in the world (human history, even) to get the hang of it.
Note that this version of Civilization does not include the Rise and Fall expansion that came out for the PC version earlier this year, but as far as I’m concerned that’s okay. It does benefit from a number of bug fixes and AI improvements that resolve a few of the complaints I had in my original review.
One catch with the Switch version is that in docked mode it tends to chug a bit as you scroll across even a modest empire, and naturally the amount of time it takes for your AI opponents is longer than it would be on a PC. But I do love being able to quickly put it down and pick it back up – that’s better than it is on a phone, generally, because of the fact that the Switch can’t be used to browse the web and check Twitter, which means that as long as you don’t start up another game and cause the Switch to quit out it’ll be lightning fast to jump in and play a few turns.
As a side note, the proof-of-concept in these controls is pretty important because it means that it’s only a matter of time before Asypr brings Civilization to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, accessing a far greater audience than ever before. And everybody should play a Civilization game, at least once.[Update: Civ VI for Switch is missing one notable feature of the other versions: online multiplayer. You can still play on a local network. However, multiplayer Civ remains a cumbersome exercise.]