I’ve never played multiplayer in any Civilization game, and I’ve never particularly wanted to. And that’s not too uncommon, multiplayer for the game is very different from singleplayer, so much that it almost feels like a different game.
First off is the fact that multiplayer is almost always played on quick speed (Civ VI has an online speed that’s even faster than that), so the game doesn’t last forever like it might in singleplayer. The different speeds in Civ are mostly the same, with things like research and build speed edited to make up for the greater or fewer number of turns. The one thing that doesn’t get changed depending on speed is movement. If a unit can move two hexes per turn, it will move two hexes regardless of what speed you’re playing. That means that slower game speeds will in a way make units faster. If you’re trying to attack a far-off civ on quick speed, you might get behind in tech on the way there. It’s always the same number of turns, but that number of turns will be a lot more years in quick than in epic or even standard. The second thing is that it’s usually played in this weird mix of real-time and turn-based strategy, again to help speed the game up. The game is still played in turns, but each turn has a maximum amount of time before it automatically ends. More importantly, everyone plays their turn at the same time, so unit placement can be more of a challenge. Combine that with the fact that most games turn into domination victory only matches, along with loads of other things, multiplayer and singleplayer Civilization feel super different, and I’ve never wanted to even try muliplayer. That is at least, until now.
While multiplayer and singleplayer Civ might feel quite a bit different, the game mode released with Civilization VI‘s September 2019 patch, Red Death, feels different than both of them. A multiplayer-only game, Red Death isn’t about growing, it’s about not dying. The game takes place after a nuclear apocalypse, while a wall of radiation–the red death–slowly encompasses the map, forcing people together. You have to get your people onto an orbiting ship and escape somewhere safe. It sounds to me like the prequel to Beyond Earth, minus anyone else surviving. It’s basically a battle royale mode, which like multiplayer, I’ve never had all that much desire to play. But you know me and Civ, I guess it can get me to do anything.
One of the most enticing things about Red Death is the fact that it’s really fast, even faster than normal multiplayer game. While a normal game of Civilization multiplayer will generally take greater than four hours–there’s a reason they’re played on quick–Red Death will take one or less, maybe one and a half. This is accomplished largely by taking a lot of things out like cities, tech, and diplomacy. Everyone’s an enemy in Red Death, you don’t get to talk to them. The game starts out mostly the same as a normal game of Civ, with an unexplored map and a settler unit protected by a couple of military units. But you don’t want to settle a city with your settler, that’s a route to turn 0 loss. The game is over when you lose all of your citizen units, so you’re going to want to protect them as much as possible. The civilians are effectively your cities. When they’re gone, you’re gone. This also makes exploration extremely important, in a game where it’s already extremely important. You can’t build units, you have to search around the map and find people holed up in the ruins of former cities or at supply drops. Get there first, and they’ll join you. Get there second, and all you’ll get is the chance to look at a destroyed Statue of Liberty or Petra.
There’s a lot more to the game mode, and if I went on about all of it, we’d be here forever. If you want to know more, you can check out a game of Red Death on the Civilization Youtube channel. Most of the information is in the first twenty minutes or so, you don’t have to sit through an hour of gameplay. I just wanted to say that, man, Red Death looks crazy fun. Some of my biggest turn-offs to Civilization muliplayer have always been the speed and how militaristic it is. It’s a bit ironic, because Red Death is an even more concentrated version of that, and that’s what makes it look like a lot of fun to me. Multiplayer never interested me because it was too different of a game, but here we have something even more different, and it looks like loads of fun. During the livestream, I was excited throughout, especially when people started butting heads. I don’t know if I will ever actually try out Red Death, but “don’t know” is a heck of a lot more than “won’t”, which is where I was before with Civilization multiplayer. Maybe some of the Novus team who tire of me talking about Civ will play with me, or maybe I’ll play hotseat against myself and pretend I don’t know where the other mes are. Even if I were to try online multiplayer, the fact that so much of the game has been removed makes me feel like I actually might have a chance, even though I have little to no idea how to play standard multiplayer. Or cross my fingers and hope they design a singleplayer version like they’ve said they might. But until then, Red Death has gotten me super excited about Civilization multiplayer, and the fact that it’s in a free update is especially cool.