It’s taboo to say these feared words, but I’ll admit that Civ is too long. Sometimes way too long. And unless you drastically alter your playstyle or use certain mods, it’s very difficult to get it shorter.
A few weeks ago, I was really getting into the Tides of History podcast’s overview of the ancient world, and somehow that got me playing Civ VI one weekend night.
If you know me, you know I love the Civilization series. Between the six games (I’ve only played 3-6, Revolution, and Beyond Earth), I’ve probably played a good 500 hours of this franchise. In university, it was a staple online multiplayer game with a few of my friends; we played an absurdly long online session for several months back in 2014 or so. One that, as you might expect, never actually finished…
Because Civ is too long!
This game I played a few weeks ago? I set it to “Online Speed,” the very fastest one you can do, x2 faster than normal. Buildings, units, all super fast. Combat animations, skipped. Granular processes, automated. A small world with something like six civilizations competing.
And yet, after more than 4 hours playing nonstop, I hadn’t even gotten to the Industrial Age! I ended the game because it was midnight and oops I needed to go to work the next morning, and of course I never went back to it because all those peaceful civilizations around me suddenly declared war at the same time, like they always do. Wars always take so much longer than everything else…
Civ is too long even for the console-centric Civilization Revolution game. I adored that one in my teenage years, but a session of that one would also take 4+ hours. Just getting to a victory or defeat can take an entire day, sometimes multiple.
It’s also not even a great “podcast game.” It’s just mentally demanding enough that any Youtube or TV you put on in the background will fade too far in your mind and you’ll miss it all; gotta micromanage all your little dudes and towns after all. If you’re paying too much attention to the other screens, you’ll mess up and accidentally find yourself in a crisis in your kingdom.
I love Civ, but man it’s not a game friendly to my modern gaming habits. I like stuff I can just pick up and fiddle around with in the evening. Roguelikes, recently, have really become my thing because of this. I can start and finish a single session or maybe two, and it’ll only be an hour long. You get a ton of variety each time you play, but each playthrough is short enough you’ll be yearning for more–but you can quit easily if you don’t have the time. Stuff like Loop Hero, Monster Train, and Neon Abyss? Heck yeah that’s all for me.
I wish there was a simple way to condense the Civ experience into a much shorter runtime. I don’t want 10-hour games; there’s not enough variety in the Civ game loop to justify that for me these days, because I always end up falling into the same play pattern every single time out of necessity (get rich and purchase my way out of every problem). I can vary up the game conditions, maybe something like perma-war with all competing civs, just see who can battle each other to death first in the Stone Age, and I can get those tiny 4-civ games on an even smaller map. But even those can take a lot of time.
My dream has always been to assemble a group of friends to have a years-long marathon Civ game over LAN, get together evey couple weeks, play at the very slowest speed, play with the maximum number of civilizations and city-states on the biggest map possible. But that’s the kind of thing you can do, like, once ever. It’d take genuinely a thousand hours to get to the end, most likely.
Civ is too long, and I wish there was some other game that condensed everything I love about it into a bite-sized 1 or 2 hour size. Does that exist? Maybe, but probably not with the same energy, fidelity, and decent-for-a-4X-game UI the Civilization series is so great for.
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