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Civ VI is done. So how does Civ V look in comparison?

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by Park Hyun, Jun 6, 2021.

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  1. Park Hyun

    Park Hyun Chieftain

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    I've been stuck with only a tablet for a bit, so went back and loaded up Civ V to see how it compared as a final product to Civ VI as a final product. It made me realize that for all the conveniences and improvements to Civ VI (an in-game clock!), there was always something about Civ VI that seemed to be missing: emergent storytelling.

    TL;DR: Civ VI is better in almost every way except in the thing that I liked most about Civ V, which was its feeling of emergent storytelling, and I think the cause is Civ VI's agenda system.

    Here's the scenario: I started out as Morocco on a nice desert floodplain. I quickly realized that I was pinned between an ocean on one side and two city-states on the other. I needed space to expand. On the other side of the city-states was the Maya, who had pledged to protect both. I focused on building up my military, and raiding and weakening the nearest city-state. Pacal warned me to leave it alone, and I blew him off. My second attack resulted in the Maya declaring war and advancing with a large army of inexperienced and obsolete units, who I slaughtered in a pitched battle across the river. I then advanced and conquered the nearest city-state.

    Why it matters: Now I may have no idea what the AI was "thinking," but that scenario is as clear as anything Thucydides would write. I had obvious reasons for doing what I was doing, and the Maya had obvious reasons for doing what they were doing. I needed to expand, and the Maya needed to maintain a buffer state and uphold their credibility. OF COURSE I had more experienced and upgraded units, because I was focused on military expansion. OF COURSE the Maya threw a large, unprepared army against me, because it had to build its forces quickly once it realized the threat and while it still could benefit from the nearby city-state units. Whether that was the result of good AI or just happenstance is kind of irrelevant, because it's the kind of thing that I recall happening in most of my Civ V games, where my mind was always able to ascribe clear motives to the AI's moves.

    That's just not something that happens in the Civ VI, and I think that's why the game has always felt unsatisfying despite its leaps forward in game mechanics and its vast array of leaders and civilizations.

    If I had to guess why Civ VI lacks a sense of emerging storytelling, I'd guess that it's the fault of the agenda system. In theory, an agenda system sounds cool - hey, leaders are people too, and they have biases. But in practice, it creates random incentives and disincentives that don't seem to have any real weight to them. The AI attacks you just because. It wants to trade with you just because. It wants what it wants for no real reason and with no rational explanation.

    If there's something to be learned from this, it's that Civ VII could improve by losing the agenda system. I don't blame Firaxis for trying it - it was worth a shot! But some things just don't work out. The name of the game is "Civilization," not "Leader," and tying a civ's story to the whims of one regent makes the game actually feel less realistic, not more. After all, in real life, heads of state do lots of things they aren't interested in because they need to shore up political support. LBJ wanted to create a huge welfare state in the USA; he wound up micromanaging a war in East Asia.

    My suggestion: Firaxis, you like 1/3 new. How about the 1/3 new being rotating leaders? If a leader's agenda is at odds with the needs of that civilization, that leader is replaced with someone who will [push back the enemy/improve happiness/fix the budget crisis]. It would put new emphasis on the long-term interests of a Civ. It could create new mini-games/strategies in that players could try to get hostile leaders switched out with politicians more amenable to your civ. It would be more realistic, since countries do change leaders and vice-versa. And it would allow for all sorts of new gameplay mechanics, such as democracy being advantageous in that its changes of leaders are less disruptive but occur more often, whereas monarchies are the opposite.

    What say you, Civ fans?
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
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  2. Zaarin

    Zaarin Diplomatic Attaché to Londo Mollari

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    I thoroughly agree with you; the agenda system was a neat idea, but it just didn't work. I would add that Civ5 did two other things better than Civ6, though:
    • Victory Conditions: Civ6's victory conditions are all tedious slogs. Even the Culture Victory, which looks virtually identical on paper, was much more fun and interactive in Civ5. Also Religious Victory just needs to go.
    • Religion: Neither Civ5 nor Civ6 handle religion particularly well--I'd like to see it overhauled completely in Civ7--but in Civ5 at least religion had a bigger impact on diplomacy, had effective passive spread, and would be spread by AI adherents who didn't found the religion.
     
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  3. Horizons

    Horizons Needing fed again!

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    It's been so long since I played Civ5, but I remember the ideology system was incredibly overbearing. I guess they were trying to recreate 'the fall of the Berlin wall' but in typical clumsy Firaxis fashion.

    Other than that, it was graphically much more appealing. Civ6 is definitely a 'cartoon' game full of gimmicks and nonsense (but I'd never go back to Civ5 lol!)
     
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  4. Zaarin

    Zaarin Diplomatic Attaché to Londo Mollari

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    Matter of taste. I personally think that Civ5 is one of the ugliest games ever made and was from the day it was released. I am so glad the early 2010s "realism is a shade of brown" trend has mostly died...
     
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  5. Archon_Wing

    Archon_Wing Vote for me or die

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    Well, think actions speak louder than words, regardless of theory right?



    I bought both at the same time.

    Btw, note that most of my playtime in IV is not reflected on Steam since I had the CD version, so that's basically the times I started IV by accident and played it anyways. ;)
     
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  6. jasper

    jasper Warlord

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    Whats funny is the game kind of does that for you through that golden age historical records that highlight all your firsts etc.

    But seriously, what you desribe is a player creation. Theres nothing about civ 6 preventing an historical narrative unfolding in the players mind. My own "little story" plays out all the same.

    If anything id say your dislike of the agenda system is because its transparent in that it tells you what the ai randomly like. If all that information were permanently hidden then id bet 20 bucks youd praise the civs for being a tad more diplomatically unique.
     
  7. Zaarin

    Zaarin Diplomatic Attaché to Londo Mollari

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    I disagree. In Civ5 the AI had preprogrammed personalities with a few variables so that, as I mentioned in another thread, you could develop a sort of metagame relationship with the AI leaders based on their behavior. In Civ6, the AI all have the same personality aside from two neurotic fixations (sometimes schizophrenic fixations, as when Cleopatra gets the Paranoid hidden agenda--"I like a man with a big army--by the way, I hate your big army." :crazyeye: ).
     
  8. Horizons

    Horizons Needing fed again!

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    Yes I like the way she says 'big' and then takes a surreptitious glance at the player's nether regions :D
     
  9. Linklite

    Linklite Emperor

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    For me the issue is thst the AI decisions don't seem to have personality. When they declare way, it doesn't seem to follow a narrative, they fo it just because the numbers add up. It makes it hard to form a narrative when they don't seem to particularly react to your actions in any special way. You don't have Alexander who will use any excuse as a provocation for war while Cleopatra will tries to mediate any dispute, for example. It's pretty obvious that they're all identical apart from two fixations as dictated by agendas.

    Part of it is how the AI uses things as well. Denouncings are second only to DoFs in making me feel safe (AI only declare surprise wars and so if they denounce, they're not going to do anything about it). As a result, Denouncing me just tells me that they don't like me, which I already knew because of the unhappy face, so it doesn't add to the narrative. When they like me, they don't tell me why. So they don't really express what l they're "feeling".

    They also don't have much change in behaviour according to my actions. We don't get into colonisation races (a la "the race for Africa") or resource grabs. Sometimes CSs get to the the focus of contests, but that seems somewhat random in that it's just that one civ might grab Akkad, then I will, theb some other civ will, rather than two of us having a rivalry over it. Religion tends to be better, granted.

    Combine a lack of difference in behaviour with a lack of distinct personality, and it's very difficult to formulate a narrative. For individual events, yes, but I rarely get a feeling of rivalry or significant interaction. The AI is just there plodding along and occasionally we'll have a squabble and if we survive, we just go back to plodding along again.

    I think the agenda system was a good idea, but it didn't go far enough. Harald was a vanilla AI that had a thing for boats, but really you need a naval AI that is specifically built to be focusing their civ around naval doctrine. Or better yet, give Harald a viking AI that is built to use his civ. Pie in the sky I think, that would be very expensive to implement compared to the generic AI with a hint of flavouring via the agenda system.

    To clarify, I've never played Civ V, nor any other Civ, so I'm not saying that it did it any better (or worse), I'm not in a position to say that. I'm just judging Civ VI by its own merits.
     
  10. Archon_Wing

    Archon_Wing Vote for me or die

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    One big problem about Civ 6 personalities is there's no backstabbers. Like once you've friended them, it's going to stay that way as long as you renew. So you don't really need to care about what they think anymore unless you go out of your way to mess it up
     
  11. tsf4

    tsf4 Warlord

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    Just give them random personalities like civ 5 had. I’m tired of agendas determining that a game with Norway or Alex by you means war. They should have a chance of being not warlike.
     
  12. Zaarin

    Zaarin Diplomatic Attaché to Londo Mollari

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    To clarify, Civ5's AI personalities had random ranges but were not random per se. So Attila is always going to be a warmonger...but he might be less of a warmonger in some games than others.
     
  13. Park Hyun

    Park Hyun Chieftain

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    I'd add another thing, which is that unpacked cities seems to make a civilization smaller, not larger. I like the district mechanism, but even on large maps, a player quickly runs out of free space. In contrast, Civ V's cities maintain open spaces between them, creating a sense of real distance and open ground. Your civilization simply feels larger. There are other benefits to one-tile cities, as well - islands are easier to settle and terrain is easier to read.

    While I'm happy to recommend that Firaxis ditch the agenda system, I'm less enthusiastic about removing districts. However, perhaps they can integrate more into the districts, the way they brought back "stacked armies" in the form of Corps and Armies. Two easy ways to do this: (a) let cities build neighborhoods in districts, and (2) bring wonders back into city centers. Integrating non-specialty districts into specialty districts (an aquaduct runs through this theater district!) would do a lot to reduce clutter and keep more space between cities.
     
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  14. Zaarin

    Zaarin Diplomatic Attaché to Londo Mollari

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    As someone who plays the game primarily to build wonders, I prefer the wonders stay on the map--it feels very rewarding. I do agree that districts need to stay but could be made more compact.
     
  15. Makenshi

    Makenshi Ahoy, ye salty dogs!

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    Matter of tasted, indeed. Civ 5 is one of the beautiest games ever made, to me. It saddens me that realism went through the window and cartoony is the norm everywhere from Diablo 3 (back in 2012) to Humankind (soon to be released).
     
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  16. Zaarin

    Zaarin Diplomatic Attaché to Londo Mollari

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    I think we have different definitions of both realism and cartoony. To me, having colors no more makes something cartoony than being muddy brown makes it realistic. IMO what went out of fashion was not realism (though hyper-realism did go out of fashion) but rather gritty grimdark aesthetics, to which I say good riddance. Depending on the context, realism can be attractive (Kingdom Come: Deliverance and Red Dead Redemption 2 both spring to mind as games that employed a realistic aesthetic without going grimdark with lovely results--note that KCD in particular was very realistic but also very brightly colored), but stylization invariably ages better and also has more personality. Civ6 achieved mixed results IMO: the map is stunningly beautiful, but the leaders suffer from inconsistency in style--to some extent made up for by the dynamic animations. I hope Civ7 chooses a more distinctive style and sticks with it consistently.
     
  17. Park Hyun

    Park Hyun Chieftain

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    It's cool that all that you build a wonder and - bam - there it is, big and beautiful. That said, it's a little weird to have an Eiffel Tower outside of downtown and as large as an entire city core. I generally want to have a suggestion if I'm going to make a critique, but in this case, I'm out of ideas. Civ V's tiny wonders may be underwhelming, but they're at least still visible and leave the map looking sufficiently grandiose.
     
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  18. Linklite

    Linklite Emperor

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    Generally speaking I much prefer realistic over cartoon, but looking at the screenshots for V and I can't bring myself to play it. It really doesn't look good to me. Personal preference, obviously.

    I'm hoping for something more realistic in VII, but not as bland as V.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
  19. Zaarin

    Zaarin Diplomatic Attaché to Londo Mollari

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    Yes, realism doesn't have to equate to bland and ugly with no art direction, and Civ5 was both. This is why I emphasized that the trend in the late 00s and early 10s that went out of fashion wasn't so much realism as a grimdark aesthetic. The real world is, after all, full of beauty.
     
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  20. James_Champagne

    James_Champagne Warlord

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    I don't want to be too harsh on CIV V as it was the first Civ game I ever played, but I tried going back to it recently and... well, I found it hard to get into. There are some things I like about it: I think it has a better title song than CIV VI, I liked how when you entered a new era you got an artwork card and a quote, I liked things like the global reports and demographics (though I've since discovered there are mods to add those to VI as well), and I liked building roads. But other than that, I find it pretty lacking... I hate how you only just hear your civ's music the whole game and none of the other ones (well, except when you interact with the leaders), I don't like how the great people they give you are utterly random (though some of the great works I wish had carried over to VI), I find the graphic style pretty dull, creating wonders is a bit of an anti-climax... to me it's a game that just doesn't have much of a personality, and it seems a little threadbare compared to the complexity of VI (not that VI is without flaws, of course).
     
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