Clear your schedule in advance of Civilization VI's October 21 launch

— 2:42 PM on May 11, 2016

Firaxis has announced Civilization VI. I'm going to let that fact sink in, along with its implications for all your spare time. Polygon published an interview with Firaxis' lead designer Ed Beach, detailing all the wondrous new ways in which you'll forego the company of your family and friends for months on end.

If you're wondering what all the fuss is about: Civilization is a long-running series of turn-based strategy games where players evolve a civilization from its prehistoric days to the far future, in the hopes of dominating the world by military force, diplomacy, or cultural achievements. Created by Sid Meier, the series of games is only rivaled by Facebook when it comes to mankind's collective waste of productivity.

Let's talk about the changes in the the new title. Back when it was released, Civilization V made a drastic change to its predecessor's gameplay style: military units could no longer be stacked. That forced players to actually think about their tactics instead of just showing up at the enemy's doorstep with a ton of units. Firaxis' Beach told Polygon that while this change was a positive one, it also had its problems. Maps became a little too busy with units, and players often had to build many copies of the same unit type. Those changes are now being rolled back a bit. Same-type units can now be joined together to make what Firaxis calls "corps" or "armies," and support units can be grouped with a main unit type, making for potentially interesting combinations.

Civilization VI's other big change affects the cities themselves. In previous games, players would build city improvements that would magically remain within the confines of a single map tile - even wonders like Machu Picchu or the Great Pyramids. In Civilization VI, city expansions actually take up tiles around the city center. Firaxis tells Polygon that there are 12 different district types available, and each of those will allow the construction of different building types. Building placement will become a strategic consideration, and the surrounding terrain will make an even greater difference. Firaxis hopes this change will force players to adjust their playstyle as the game goes on, as it believes most people just settled on a given city strategy and stuck with it in past games.

It's no secret that Civilization's AI was always a bit lacking in the consistency department. Although the AI players collectively posed enough of a challenge, their personalities sometimes swung in ways that weren't necessarily consistent with what one might expect. One day Ghandi would be flowery and peaceful, for example, and the next day he'd ship you a few nukes by air with "from India with love" written on the nose cone. Firaxis hopes the redesigned AI will make individual leaders' personalities stand out more, in accordance to their historical dispositions.

Last but not least, research in Civ VI ought to make players be a little more proactive with their choices. In the new title, Polygon's interview suggests exploring map areas and having access to certain resources will boost certain parts of the tech tree. For example, having access to the coast and its characteristics may net you a bonus on seafaring technologies. This change should dovetail nicely with the city expansion, too, making careful tile selection and defense considerations more important than ever.

Civilization VI is already up for preorder on Steam for $60, and it will be available October 21.

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