So, it turns out Civ is still a machine that kills my brain.
I have a pretty bad relationship with Civ. Always wanting to play it, but it leading to really horrible anxiety and disengagement and unhappiness. But every new game (and particularly new iteration or expansion) makes me think it's going to be different this time.
I got superhyped about this one, on account of the Ed Beach connection, the promise of something more boardgamey, and the gorgeous, gorgeous art of the strategic map. As I loaded it up I got even more excited by the presence of Sean Bean, irrationally everywhere (because of course Corsican navigators have Yorkshire accents, why wouldn't they?). I spent ages thinking about who I was going to be, and eventually started.
It was the most fun opening game I'd had in forever. Enough new systems that I didn't know what was what, slowly expanding, and worried about every move. I took too long to found my first city, looking for a good location (ended up going almost exactly where they'd started off), and so Trajan of Rome, who was my nearest (very near) neighbour, started ranting at me about how I wasn't big enough (apparently that was his main kink, big empires). I dubbed it Trajansplaining and got annoyed with it, but followed his advice (as if I wouldn't expand as the game went on anyway). Then he praised my success in meeting his criteria (I rolled my eyes at his patronising nature) and two turns later he declared war on my out of the blue.
I was pretty grumpy about this, so utterly destroyed him which I guess made me look like a permanent warmonger, but I figured 'he started it' was about as valid a Casus Belli as I would ever get.
It was so promising, it was a genuinely interesting early war, with positioning critical, and combined arms powerful. I was a bit disappointed in his strategy, but maybe that was just because he was a dick? (Or I've got the difficulty too low, which is more likely).
Anyway, the short version is, I really, really enjoyed the early game, finding out the new bits, shuffling the policy cards and generally optimising and building.
But then I hit the slog. Choices became less interesting. Sean Bean talking about history became less exhilarating. The game just entered the weird loops of ending turns and shuffling units and trying to come up with something interesting to do. Taking over Rome had left me hated by my other neighbours, but way ahead technologically and economically, and that lead never let up. I'm just clicking my way through history, just like the old days.
I ended up declaring a war of colonisation against the guy who had hated me all game because I took one of his cities after he (again) inexplicably attacked me with a significantly weaker force. I guess I need to make sure I pick 'cede whatever' when making Peace treaties like that, but it's annoying that this option doesn't appear to be there later on.
It's very Civ. Maybe I've got the difficulty too low. Maybe I just don't have the head to make it interesting. Maybe I just have a bad relationship with the game, and can never trust it.
But I want to love it so much. Want to drown in it's systems without getting bored of them. Want to play smarter. But it just doesn't appear to have the right kind of depth. Scythia keeps on sending apostles around my cities, I keep on asking her to not convert. She breaks her promise, and I have to send apostles to take back my cities. Is this interesting? I can't even use it as a Casus Belli, and she's on the other side of the world anyway, can I be bothered to wage a war that will just make even more people hate me?
I really love a lot of the new ideas. If I felt like Casus Belli worked properly, I think it could be amazing. But you still just appear to be reviled by everyone for any warring, even in (slightly over eager) self defence.
My other complaint is that it doesn't really try to explain it's systems to you. I've had to do a lot of digging in the civilopedia for stuff that I feel should be available as a tool tip, or a 'right click on this to find out the details'. I wouldn't even mind reading the civiopedia page if it just game me a shortcut there, rather than having to dig through every time.
Which is pretty petty, but I'm used to Firaxis making this sort of thing so smooth. Feels weird for it not to be.
Anyway. I'll finish this game. Then maybe play another one next time I want to erase a couple of days of my life.
I shouldn't have rushed to buy it as soon as payday hit though. It's a dangerous pattern. Even when I managed to break up my play with visits to the cinema and boardgamey friends, I still feel like I've just wiped out a big chunk of time and a big part of my brain.
I don't know why I do this.
I don't know why I thought Ed Beach would be able to make it better for me.