Strategy games aren’t exactly known for their whimsical, colorful visuals, but Firaxis has managed to break away from the pack with its Civilization series. It’s clean environments and cute, slightly cartoony characters give the series a charm that can’t be matched, and with Civilization VI, the team is upping its game again.
“With the ‘Age of Exploration’ theme in particular, we knew we were going to make the map more important with the game,” lead designer Ed Beach says in a developer video produced by Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller. “And what better way to kind of bring that out [than] to just have the art style reflect it?”
This led to Firaxis completely changing the look of the “Fog of War,” the system that limits the range you can see the map until your units move forward. It now resembles old cartography, with brown splotches and sketches of the landscape “melting” away to reveal the real-time location. As your move into a new area, the cartography moves back into location. The drawn-in trees at the edge of the map contrasted against the “real” trees by soldiers is a beautiful effect.
To help tell the game’s story with fewer words, environments will reflect that battles that you have fought over the course of Civilization VI. Cleopatra’s sphinx, for instance, will show damage after Egypt has gone to war, and “construction” states in cities slowly show iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower being erected over time.
“Everything’s destructible. Everything can be pillaged,” says art director Brian Busatti.
Civilization VI hits PCs on October 21, but it isn’t the only Firaxis game to expect this fall. While XCOM 2 launched as a PC exclusive earlier this year, the game will be making the jump to both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in September.