Games Review: That Civilization VI (Switch, 2018) works on a console at all is kind of a miracle

Civilization VI was already complicated game long before the decision was made to port it to console. A great game to be sure, but a very complicated one. Civ has long made its home on the PC. The game’s overall complexity and forest of nested menus made a jump to console seem all but impossible. How to navigate from one of a hundred menus to the next without the nimble keyboard and mouse and keep the game from being hopelessly confusing? This was, of course, before the Nintendo Switch came along.

It’s still a challenge to be sure. Civilization VI on the Switch represents a bit of a bumpy, cumbersome transition from its PC origins, but is nevertheless a tremendous achievement in console porting. That it exists at all, let alone that play as well as it does, is kind of astounding.

The first thing that may irk Civ devotees is that the breeziness with which the mouse lets players navigate the game’s many menus has been crammed into the console’s multi-button control layout. This, to me, is the primary trade-off one must make with the Switch version of Civ VI — you lose the immediacy of the keyboard and mouse controls BUT you can take Civ VI with you in a way that is more portable than almost any laptop would allow.

The effect this move has had on the game as a whole is that the pacing is now much slower. This, I’m sure, will raise a few eyebrows. Civ is already a slow burn. Having the pace of each game drop again means it takes much longer to secure any of the game’s victory conditions, but it remains every bit as satisfying when you do.

The Switch version of the game represents only a minor graphical downgrade from the PC version, which was already keeping things fairly simple with its animation-inspired aesthetic. The game runs well on TV mode, and puts in an extremely solid performance in handheld which only adds to its appeal for me. That the average game of Civilization takes many hours to complete makes it an ideal fit for the Switch’s grab-and-go design.

The Switch version allows me to take the game with me anywhere I go, and play a few turns throughout the day when I get some downtime. When I get home, I can put back on the TV dock, hit the couch and continue. I also didn’t have to worry about battery life — its staid pace means button presses aren’t a constant and I found I’d barely made a dent in the charge by the time I got home to put the Switch back on its dock.

In terms of content, the Switch version contains all of the currently available content for Civ VI, including the Gods and Kings expansion and DLC nations like Australia. It’s … a lot of content, and quite a bargain for the game’s asking price. Whether it will be updated to include the forthcoming Gathering Storm DLC remains to be seen, though we strongly doubt 2K will be quite that charitable.

If this port is your first exposure to the Civilization series, as I suspect it will be for many Switch owners, then I doubt the many nips and tucks required to make the console version work will concern you. You probably won’t even know they’re there, and you’re reward for this benign ignorance is one of the greatest, deepest and most complex turn-based strategy titles ever created.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Looks great; Runs great; Civ VI on the go
Lowlights: Even slower pace may annoy long time players
Developer: Firaxis Games, Aspyr
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Available: Now

Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a retail code provided by the publisher.

David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously worked as a freelance games journalist and critic, appearing on PC World Australia. He tweets at @RhunWords and plays the odd game at twitch.tv/RhunWords when the internet works.