Saturday, 23 December 2017

Civilization 6 for the iPad: Personal Recommendation

Yesterday I woke up to the news Civilization 6, the 2016 game that is one of the best strategy video games ever, has been released to iOS. It’s a full port, you get exactly what PC gamers got on Steam (minus the expansion packs and the mods, the former are said to arrive eventually and the latter incompatible with the Apple way). Personally, I was ecstatic with the news; games like Civ 6 are the epitome of tablet playing. It is as if the gods intended for such games to be played on a tablet.
This could have been the one game to rule them all, at least as far as I was concerned. My appreciation for games I can play any time I feel like when I have a minute here and a minute there is immense, given the fact I hardly get a minute there or a minute here; plus the fact my iPad & I are rarely far apart. Most console or full on PC games port poorly to mobile, because they were never designed to be played in short bouts; Civ games are the exception because of their turn based nature. That is, as long as the game always lets you save. And as long as you can get over the need to have just one more round…
Skepticism crept in once I realised Civilisation 6 is a free game with in app purchases. That is almost always the universal sign for trouble. Turns out my skepticism was well founded!
Allow me to therefore explain why I, or for that matter, you, should not buy Civilization 6 on the iPad even though it could well and justly claim to be the best game on the platform. Because, at least for now:
  1. It is quite buggy. I hope and assume they will fix it, but be prepared for some frustration.
  2. I don’t know what the game’s rendering story is, exactly, but on my 12.9” iPad the game does not play at the screen’s native resolution. It is still a fine looking game, but text does look a little on the blurry side and there is definitely eye fatigue as a direct result. [You can even witness the effect yourself if you magnify the attached screen shot.]
  3. I have a problem with the history of Civilization’s particular publisher on iOS. Their games are abandoned shortly after release, and fail to get the updates necessary for the game to continue running under new versions of iOS. As examples, I will cite Side Meier’s Pirates (buggy for a couple of years before it was pulled off the AppStore entirely), Civilization Revolution 2 (Civilization’s former mobile port wasn’t as good as the real thing but it was fun; alas, it was never updated to 64 bits, as Apple required for iOS 11), Sid Meier's Ace Patrol (formerly available under separate premium and freemium versions, neither got an iOS 11 update), and the original XCOM (probably the contender for best iOS game upon its release, XCOM was never updated for iOS 11 either).
  4. Which brings me to the elephant in the room. Cost: after 60 rounds of free play, Civilization 6 asks for $47 to completely unlock the game. That’s more than any other game I know of is asking on iOS, and by a very wide margin. What’s worse, that’s actually a 50% discount price that’s supposed to go up to its full $94 glory as of 4 January 2018.
  5. Given the way in app purchases work on iOS, this unblocking fee is not family shareable. In my case, it means that each family member that wants to play Civ 6 would have to pay separately.
  6. Lest we forget, Civilization 6 is a two year old game by now. No one is expected to pay full price for it anymore on any other platform.
So there you have it. I argue that I, and so should you, need not bother paying $47 or even $94 for the privilege of playing Civilization 6 on an iPad no matter how glorious the experience is. A financially successful release here would spell a dangerous precedent.
Note I am not arguing against fully priced games; I think the devs need to earn their money. However, Civilization 6 on the iPad does not deserve to be a fully priced game: it is not a new game anymore, it is technically flawed, and it comes from a publisher who has a record of contempt towards iOS users.
Recommendation: Avoid Civilization 6 and wait till the publisher regains their sanity.

23/12/2017 update:
I caught some flak, some justified and some less so, on my arguments above. So I will correct and/or clarify myself:
First, I was informed that Civilization Revolution 2 for iOS has been updated to support iOS 11. According to the AppStore, that update has been made 3 weeks ago (whereas iOS 11 has been out since September). Pickings aside, I think it's a great mobile game, have reinstalled it, and see myself playing it a lot until Civilization 6 is adequately priced. And probably even afterwards, because Civ Rev, while clearly an inferior game, is a more mobile friendly game.
Second, it was pointed out to me the publisher of Civilization 6 for the iPad is not the same publisher as the abandonware games I have cited. That is true: the publisher specified on the AppStore for Civ 6 is the same publisher behind the wonderful port for Knights of the Old Republic (if you don't have it, drop everything and get it now!) as well as Jade Empire (which appears to be well done as well, but I haven't played it much - yet).
However, 2K Games appear in the credits of Civilization 6 for iPad, and they are definitely to blame for abandonware. More importantly, with the exception of XCOM, all the games I have cited as abandonware are Sid Meier games. Civilization 6 also happens to be a Sid Meier game.
I will therefore argue that if the producers of Civ 6 want me to pay full premium console price for their game, breaking all AppStore traditions, the least they could do is let us know how long they are planning to support the game for. As it is, the record stands firmly against them.

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