Civilization 6 PS4 Impressions: A tidy 4X jaunt... for a gamepad

Sid Meier's Civilization VI has come to console and brings all of the expansions and quality 4X mechanics with it, but the game might be a little complicated for the PS4's limitations.

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Sid Meier’s Civilization 6 originally came out in October 2016. With it came a ton of new civ’s and leaders with fun and varied mechanics to choose from, a rich and deeply customizable game map, and a slew of other improvements upon the franchise. It’s sold millions of copies, had itself a good couple of expansions, and plenty of other add-on content to make it one of the most enjoyably comprehensive 4X strategy titles around.

Now it’s made its way over to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and with it comes the entire grand library of Civ 6 content that has come out after its initial launch. We had a chance to get into the PS4 version, and It’s still a fully intact and wonderfully rich game. That said, our time with the Civ 6 on PlayStation 4 definitely also highlighted just a few limitations of playing on a console sans a mouse or touchscreen interface.

Getting into a Civilization 6 game

You can be as specific as ever in how you want your Civilization 6 game to be on the PS4 version.
You can be as specific as ever in how you want your Civilization 6 game to be on the PS4 version.

As previously mentioned, everything is fully intact and up to date with the PS4 launch of Civ 6. The ‘Rise and Fall’ and ‘Gathering Storm’ expansions are joined by the newest nations and leaders, Nubia, Khmer, and Indonesia, led by Kandake Amanitore, Jayavarman VII and Dyah Gitarja respectively. Players can throw caution to the wind with the Play Now option, which gives them a random nation, map, and opposing players to compete against immediately, or you can get picky and choosey.

The customization options are kept deeply in-depth on PS4. You can change your civ, the number of opposing civs, the map size and style, rules, scenarios, and even whether or not you’re playing under Gathering Storm rules, Rise and Fall rules, or the standard rules from the original launch of Civ 6. All of the options to tailor the game completely to your will are there, but it’s not hard to just go simple with it as well. Once you’ve got your settings for play settled, getting into a game is a little bit of a slog. On a standard PS4, it feels like a pretty long wait to load into a game. Certainly, there’s a lot to populate, but we waited more than a few minutes for Civ 6 to finally finish loading and send us off on our merry way.

It can take a bit to get into a game, but maybe once you're in, it moves along fairly smooth.
It can take a bit to get into a game, but maybe once you're in, it moves along fairly smooth.

That said, once you’re in the game, it’s much smoother. Turns move pretty effectively well, combat plays out nicely, opposing civs are nicely animated, and the whole machine moves like silk, even when the map is revealed and packed full of moving opponents. It doesn’t even feel like it takes as long if you want to load a save once you’ve gotten past that first loading screen. For better or worse, that fact on saving comes in handy later.

How does Civilization 6 play on PlayStation 4?

It has to be said from the top that it can’t be easy taking a format where you have all the hotkeys of a keyboard and a mouse to interact with most on-screen tooltips, buttons, stats, and icons and applying it to a platform where you have to rely on a gamepad. It’s not that the PlayStation 4’s controller doesn’t handle Civ 6 as best it can. In fact, it does quite admirably for the most part.

When it comes to accessing the map, your units, and the various stats menus, the PS4 version of Civ 6 guides you in well with helpful tutorials and is chockfull of shortcuts to make the process as streamlined for the gamepad’s limitations as possible. One button will show you global alerts, the left shoulder button will bring up your tech, culture, art, government trees, etc., while the right will bring up your social interactions with the world. It’s quite enjoyable to see some of the workarounds Firaxis put together to handle a PS4 controller in the managing of important Civ 6 aspects.

Handling and balancing various mechanics of your city management, tech, civics, and global standings works quite well with PS4's various shortcuts.
Handling and balancing various mechanics of your city management, tech, civics, and global standings works quite well with PS4's various shortcuts.

It’s not without flaw though. Civilization 6 has a lot of moving parts to maintain and the PlayStation 4, while handling most of it well, has its share of inconveniences. One of the major frustrations came in movement versus menu unit or city option selection. You see, to move the cursor around in Civilization 6, you use the joystick, and to select unit directives, you use the directional pad to cycle through the menu. Pressing the X button confirms things and pressing square will pass a turn.

In the matter of things like catapult bombardments, it was easy to forget that we couldn’t just attack enemies because we hadn’t selected the catapult via joystick and X, moved to the bombardment option with the d-pad, and then selected an in range enemy to begin attack. At best, we fumbled and just ended up staring at enemy stats. At worst, we moved the catapult closer to the enemy or ended our turn without doing anything. It was situations like this where the PlayStation 4’s controls showed their unintuitive limitations for a game like this, and though they were few and far between, they assuredly left some lingering frustration if we hadn’t saved recently. Even on iPad, the ability to simply touch and select units, spaces or options with your fingers at will is a boon the PlayStation 4 simply doesn’t have.

An admirable console port of 4X strategy

Unit management and certain menu aspects may bring unintuitive tedium, but the console version of Civ 6 is still an enjoyable romp through history.
Unit management and certain menu aspects may bring unintuitive tedium, but the console version of Civ 6 is still an enjoyable romp through history.

Despite the PS4’s limitations in some areas, Civilization 6 still plays quite well for a massive strategy game controlled through a gamepad. The robust content is enough to keep players going “one more turn” for hours on end, and despite some unintuitive moments in control and menus, it still plays shockingly simple and clean for a console 4X game. With all of the improvements to Civ 6 gathered in one place, including the new goodies, if you haven’t had a chance to check out the game before now, then the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions might be well worth your time. However, we’d still have to argue that you might be better off playing on PC or iPad if you have the option.


These impressions are based on a PlayStation 4 digital copy provided by the publisher. Sid Meier's Civilization VI is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and mobile devices.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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