After a couple more solid days play, I have to say I've soured on this game a lot.
I stand by saying the underlying concept and structure is possibly the best yet in the series, but the execution is just destroying this game. The main things really annoying me so far have been:
- Let's face it, the new city UI really is terrible. It's almost impossible to get a visual at-a-glance look at a given city. Sure you can read reports but they won't show things like adjacency bonuses or improvements. Given all the new multilayered dependencies this seems like such a huge oversight.
- It seems we're back to the bad old Civ III days where strategic resources are desperately, vanishingly rare, sometimes as few as one per two continents. I've seen Eurasia-sized double continents on huge maps with no oil, or only one nitre. Even when there were four or five of a given strategic resource, it was a coin toss as to whether they would all be clustered hard in one spot. I don't mind scarcity to encourage conflict and trade, but that's so low as to just hand one player an insurmountable advantage during one age or another.
- Special abilities which let you bend the rules from previous games which are both fun and useful are now vanishingly rare one-offs tied to a wonder or (more usually) single great person. For example buying tiles outside your normal territory buy radius can now only be done with The Great Merchant Crassus specifically, and not with a class of great people as a universal ability (like in Civ 5 Great Generals could do it). This particular one was is especially frustrating given the rarity of strategic resources.
- Mid-late game consolidation is agonizingly slow even if you pour everything you can into production, even by Civ standards. Not only does building stuff appear to be slower overall compared to previous versions (like, roughly twice as slow for everything except wonders which are only maybe 20% slower than in Civ 5), but the prerequisite of having the relevant district (all of which take quite a while to build) adds a burden of a couple hundred more turns before you can really get a city going on all cylinders. Never mind when enemy spies decide to sabotage your industrial district. Believe me I used all the stacked production bonuses - bonus tiles (mines, etc.), an upgraded industrial district with some adjacency bonuses and a workshop/factory/powerplant, tons of trade route bonuses, policy bonuses, city-state bonuses, encampment bonuses, goddamn, I mean... what the hell else do they want stacked up before a city can build things decently quickly? It's an incredibly boring grind.
- I've actually lowered my opinion of the district idea, because it doesn't actually force true choice and only makes the previous problem much worse. Districts just adds a huge additional burden in terms of time spent building infrastructure. Some of it is so silly as to be absurd! Such as when I got excited I had aerodromes. Oh boy! Airlifting! Oh but wait nope, need to build a hangar first. Oh wait, nope again, have to build an airport. Fffffffffffffffffffffffiraxis! When you consider just how unforgiving district placement is, it's not actually fun. I think the IDEA was sound, but fuck me this is just another barrier.
- I mentioned it before but everything is barebones, outside of maybe the civics tree. There's missing techs, lots of missing units, a bare minimum number of Civs and leaders, few wonders (both natural and buildable), and so on.
A lot of these are fixable problems. A few more units and options can come with expansions. Even simple numbers tweaks would go a long way.
After I finish the current game, I'm leaving this until the expansion or a big rebalance patch. I have zero interest in playing multiplayer when it seems that for now at least big advantages would be WAY too swingy and prone to lucky rolls.