I write this article happy because it was this series that brought me into the world of games and real-time strategies, and more than 20 years down the line, the draw is still strong. However, I have played every Civ game since Civ II and I wasn’t the biggest fan of Civ VI when it came out. In fact, I would still rank Civ II and IV above Civ VI. So please keep my personal preferences in mind as you read this review of the second major expansion for Civ VI.
After the lackluster Beyond Earth (where fans first complained it’s too similar to Civ V and later that it was too alien) Sid Meier and Firaxis Games made a return to the roots. Thus the world got the 6th Civilization game. Civilization VI is a game that plays straightforward from the beginning. No need for early gambles on culture or religion, just keep your people happy and be polite to other leaders. Coming from Civ V, it was refreshing.
Of course, the biggest change the VI brought was the rise of cities from the hex chains for the first time since the first Civilization game. World wonders also consume one hex and with the farms, mines and sawmills free space has become one of the most important resources. In fact, space planning from prehistory to the informational age is one of the biggest challenges you will face in the game.
However, the cartoonish art and the stupid AI ensured I’ll never have as much fun in Civ VI as I have had in II and IV (maybe even V?).
Rise and Fall DLC
Fast forward a bit and in February 2018 we get the first major expansion with the Rise and Fall DLC. The focus of the expansion is to add mechanics that emulate the dynamics of civilization’s rise and the potential for its collapse due to a number of factors. The player will be challenged in how they deal with these turns in their civilization. The Loyalty mechanic was also added which made settlements able to rebel.
However, if you check the Metacritic link above, you’ll see that just as Civ VI, Rise and Fall got good reviews by critics, but mixed by players. That is because, while new things were added, the problems that plagued the original Civ VI were not addressed in Rise and Fall:
- the AI still cannot fight (even with superior troops they just circle your base and get killed);
- if you up the difficulty the AI just cheats and keeps the level of stupidity;
- mobile game like graphics and childish unit animations;
- boring and monotonous micromanagement, etc.
So plenty of people have been looking for this next expansion with the hope that at least some of these issues will get fixed.
Gathering Storm DLC
Getting back to the main topic, Gathering Storm. The main focus of the new DLC is the weather and how human action affects it in the last eras. The player can experience how the climate and the environment change over time, whether randomly or by his/her decisions.
So yeah, we get climate change and it’s directed by the human factor. I don’t want to go political here; climate change has been part of older Civ games, too. And at the end of the day the issue shouldn’t be political at all. Let’s leave it with the scientists, where it belongs.
How does climate affect gameplay? Well, climate change and related natural disasters start with the era of industrialization, when you discover a steam engine and begin to burn coal to start the industry or recruit advanced units. In the pre-industrial era, occasional storms, floods, volcanic eruptions, or hurricanes figure as an occasional instability factor.
Obviously, the use of fossil fuels leads to a warming of the planet, divided into 7 critical phases, each with its own hazards. We have sea levels rise, droughts and storms are getting stronger, etc.
Besides climate, the other major novelty is the World Congress, a body similar in constitution and function to the United Nations. However, I found World Congress lacking. It’s fairly unrealistic and deals mostly with resources, where you’d expect such a body to deal with much more important matters.
There are also some (beneficial) UI changes, new civilizations with new leaders and units, a better map generation and some other small changes so this might be called an expansion.
Should You Buy It?
It honestly depends if you like the base Civ VI game, as this expansion does not alter gameplay in any significant way. Unfortunately, Gathering Storm does nothing to address the issues raised in the first part of my post – the AI is still stupid and a lot of the mechanics break during gameplay… It you didn’t like Civ VI from the start, this expansion won’t change your mind.
If you do enjoy Civ VI, you might find the game refreshed with the new expansion, as new content and a host of minor tweaks are added (map & map generation, resources, new civz and a new era). The AI prevents true single game enjoyment, however multiplayer and your friends can provide all the challenge you need. This might also be the best way to enjoy this game.
Check our gameplay video:
New civz and new leaders
Natural disasters can be compelling
AI is as stupid as before
Expensive for what it brings