Civilization VI has the most beautiful and stirring opening of any game. It’s short, light on words but deep on meaning. It’s been floating around as “launch trailer” but it’s so much more than that. There’s no award for Cinematic of the Year or Best Cutscene but indulge me and you’ll see why this one stands out…
“The currents before us are ever changing. We must adapt and press forward if we are to see our journey’s end.”
“And how will we know when we get there?”
Thus, begins Civilization VI. Or at least, that’s how it begins for one man and his family.
Seeing Sean Bean’s character go from a simple man in ancient times, to an explorer in China, to an early pilot, and then seeing his daughter take to outer space almost canonizes a strange thing I’ve always thought about Civilization.
Of course, you play the same leader from beginning to end, the game has never shied from that. But what if you were literally the same? What if you’re an immortal, guiding your people subtly and not so subtly through the currents of time, geopolitics, exploration, and discovery?
Such an immortal might easily become a warmonger. I’ve lamented, to anyone who will listen, that Civilization has always felt odd. Most of the research and discovery is always geared towards a military application. Mathematics unlocks siege engines, civil service unlocks pikemen, and nuclear fusion unlocks giant death robots.
Not Sean Bean, though. Instead, Bean’s journey through time shows a different kind of Civilization. His journey is one that marries exploration, science, violence, and creation. He is equally unafraid of the journey and the moment. In fact, he relishes both and invites us to do the same.
He invites us to be the kind of leader who not only lights the torch on the monument but also dons winged hussar armor and rides towards a hail of bullets. Perhaps this is why Bean does not get to answer the question posed by his daughter. In fact, he himself does not get to see the end of the journey.
It seems he’s slain in the skies over Europe during World War II. But, as the bullets tear through his cockpit, the camera pans down to show his picture pinned to console in front of an astronaut. It’s his daughter, and she’s going where he never could, to the furthest edges of exploration.
Christopher Tin’s masterful “Sogno di Volare,” the main theme for Civilization VI, proudly calls out that “man will be lifted by his own creation, just like birds, towards the sky, filling the universe with wonder and glory.”
Games can be a lot of things to a lot of different people. They can be gory, scary, violent, sad, diverting, joyful, and therapeutic. But sometimes they can be hopeful too. Sometimes, something as simple as an introduction can remind us that, as a civilization, we’ve come so very far but that we’ve still so much further to go.