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Civilization 6 on Mac: Can you run it?

Contrary to the other games we've covered so far, Civilization 6's Mac version is not new.

Yet, this turn-based strategy game deserves your attention because it's still one of the best strategy games for Mac available today.

Civilization games are famous for their deep strategy. Looks have never been their forte and you might be wondering why even bother asking if you can run it. After all, turn-based games have simple graphics and are easy to run, right? Wrong!

Civilization 6 has beautiful graphics and while it might not be as sophisticated as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, it still requires a ton of horsepower to run.

So let's see how demanding this game is and whether your Mac has what it takes.

First things first, is Civilization 6 any good?

Because it doesn't matter if every Mac can run it flawlessly if the game is bad...

Released late 2016, you won't have to take chances here. The reviews are in and they all seem to agree: Civilization 6 is a beast.

With an 88 Metascore (weighted average of scores given by critics), Civ 6 gets dangerously close to the "Masterpiece" status, usually reserved for games that get a 90 Metascore or more:

Metascore

%

Steam Reviews

PC Gamer, for example, didn't spare any compliments and gave it 93/100 score, concluding that:

Sight, sound, and systems harmonize to make Civilization 6 the liveliest, most engrossing, most rewarding, most challenging 4X in any corner of the earth.

Users, as often, were much more critical. The game has 70% Positive reviews, which is not bad, but it's not great either. I don't want to play down the opinions of the average gamer (like you and me), but the game has over 26,000 thousand user reviews, which is ridiculously huge, and there are people playing over 145 hours and still not recommend it because it has DLC...

Civilization 6 Mac

My take?

I used to think Civ 5 was perfection. I wondered how Firaxis could make it any better. Well, they did. Civilization 6 feels familiar, yet the gameplay is superior and the graphics on another level. This is one of the best strategy games you can play on your Mac.

The test

But can your Mac run it? To give you a proper answer, we did what we do best and tested the game on as many Macs as possible.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017)

3.1 GHz Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, Intel Radeon Pro 560 (4GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016):

2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)

iMac (5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)

3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)

Mac Mini (Late 2014):

2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012)

5.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4000 (1.5GB)
Remember, the target is to cover different types of setups. In this case:

  • New high-end Macs (the 2017 MacBook Pro).
  • Older high-end Macs (the 2014 iMac).
  • New, but basic Macs (the 2016 MacBook Pro).
  • Older and basic Macs (the Mac Mini and 2012 MacBook Pro).

Hopefully your setup will closely match one of these.

⚠ Notice the 2016 MacBook Pro, 2014 Mac Mini and 2012 MacBook Pro do not meet the recommended system requirements, but more on that below.
These are the settings we used to run Civilization 6’s internal benchmark :

  • 1280x800 (or equivalent 1344x756) resolution
  • Medium Preset
  • Anti Aliasing: MSAA 2X

Remember, the aim is not to get the most frames per second possible, but to see how these machines would run the game under normal conditions.

Civilization 6 Mac can you run it

The Results

For a turn-based strategy game, Civ 6's Mac version is a highly demanding game. The results were much lower than expected, but there's more than meets the eye here.

Civilization 6 Mac scores

Keeping in mind that we aim for 30 frames per second (FPS) or more, most of the results here are poor and suggest that Civilization 6 is unplayable on anything other than a high-end Mac.

But things are a little more complicated. 10-15 FPS is unacceptable for a racing game or a shooter, but for a turn-based strategy game? Also, the in-game benchmark is particularly demanding because it takes place late in the game when lots of units are on screen.

Let's look at the different scenarios and see what can be realistically expected from the game.

Do you have a high-end Mac?

If you have a Mac with a dedicated graphics card with 2GB of video RAM or more, Civilization 6 will run just fine: smoothly and with no perceivable stutters. Older model or new model, a powerful graphics card is all you need.

Granted, getting barely 30 FPS running a turn-based strategy game on a high-end machine is disappointing. This is probably due to the fact Civilization 6 does not support Metal and has to run on the aging OpenGL graphics engine.

This explains why we're seeing similar results to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's, which is a much more graphically intensive game. Luckily, Civ 6's gameplay is much more forgiving than Mankind Divided's. More on that below.

Do you have a new, but basic Mac?

This is where it gets tricky. If we look simply at the results, in this case using a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro, I would have to conclude that the game is unplayable at 13 FPS on average.

But Civ 6 benefits from a very particular type of gameplay: turn-based strategy. This means you don't need super fast frames to enjoy it. I played this game for a few hours while on a trip and had a great time. You can have fun playing it on a similar Mac too, but you'll have to compromise.

Civ 6 Mac minimum settings

Running the game at the same 1280x800 resolution as before, but with settings set to Minimum and Anti-Aliasing off, I got on average 22.70 FPS. Then we went ahead and tested the game during a normal match. While playing the game around turn 137 (with a decent quantity of units on screen) we got 26.3 FPS.

Still low, but more than enough to enjoy such a game.

This is far from ideal and I would not recommend it to those who need 60 FPS at 4K to enjoy a game, but this is decent enough to play this baby on the road.

Do you have an older and basic Mac?

Unlike Mankind Divided, you can still launch the game, even if you have an older machine that is far below the system requirements. But seeing how my 2016 MacBook Pro struggled, I wouldn't recommend you try it.

Still unsure?

If you're still on the fence, I recommend you run the free Cinebench OpenGL benchmark and compare your result with ours. That should give you a decent idea of the FPS you should expect playing Civilization 6.

Alternatively, you can use the form below to estimate the result your Mac would get running the Civ 6 benchmark (we apply the average ratio of all of our results compared with our OpenGL results):

⚠ This method will only give you a rough estimation based on our tests and results. Still, it should give you a good idea of what to expect.

Bottom line: If you get anything lower than 12 FPS (like the 2016 MacBook Pro we tested), I wouldn't recommend it.

Always check those system requirements

We like testing the waters and see if unsupported machines can run a game, but you shouldn't. Otherwise, you risk buying a game you cannot play!

These are the game's minimum system requirements:

  • OS: macOS 10.11 (El Capitan) and 10.12 (Sierra)
  • Processor: 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5 (4 cores)
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Hard Disk: 15 GB
  • Graphics: 1GB Radeon HD 6790,  GeForce 775M, Iris Pro or better

The game officially supports the following graphics cards:

  • NVIDIA GeForce 650M, 675MX, 680MX, 750M, 755M
  • ATI Radeon HD 5750, HD 5770, HD 5870, HD 6750, HD 6770
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000, 5000, 5300, 6000, Iris, 515

If you don't have one of these, I'm afraid this game isn't for you...

Final thoughts

In spite of the disappointing results:

System requirements aren't as high as expected
The game can still be played on mid-range Macs
Performance is dragged down by OpenGL
Demand level: ⚠ Medium 

More Performance Review:

These tests were possible thanks to the contributions of Pavel, and Camilo, two Mac Gamer HQ testers.

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