It has been about a year since we last saw an expansion for Firaxis Games’ Civilization VI, and while Rise and Fall made some tweaks to the formula, it was a small step in comparison to what this second expansion brings to the table.
Gathering Storm not only throws in a new set of interesting and engaging systems, but also provides plenty of variety in leaders and content, to bring about the biggest Civilization game to date.
There is the redesigned Diplomatic victory system with the new Diplomatic Favor currency, new units, improvements, wonders, and plenty of UI tweaks to look forward to. The main attractions, though, are new leaders and civilizations, natural disasters, and the Climate Change system.
Gathering Storm gathers the largest roster of leaders we have seen thus far, with 45 prominent figures to lead your people to victory. New faces such as Dido of the Phoenicians, and Mattias Corvinus of Hungary, bring new abilities that can dramatically alter the familiar game of Civilization VI.
It is great to see that Firaxis has continued their great track record of being able to adapt with new additions, and give the inclusions viable advantages that can affect gameplay significantly and make players think a little more. Being able to go beyond just warmongering always make for an interesting campaign,
However, that said, not all the new civilizations and their leaders are evergreen, especially considering the random nature of the maps. Wilfrid Laurier of Canada and Mansa Musa of Mali. amongst others, provide great benefits that only apply with certain tiles, but an unfortunate starting location can easily become an insurmountable mountain to overcome.
Of course, that is the burden of leadership, and overcoming such challenges is part and parcel of the Civilization experience. What is undeniable is how refreshingly new the additions feel, in terms of strategising and planning when it comes to Gathering Storm.
Even the best-laid plans are subjected to nature’s wrath, and with Gathering Storm adding in destructive natural disasters, no civilization is truly safe. While such occurrences are rare, to catch players unawares, the aftermath is often significant enough to warrant a change in priorities.
There are floods to ward off, volcanic eruptions to prepare for, and even the less harmful storms and droughts can easily curtail progress. Technology can help stave off some of the harm, and all is not lost even when you lose tiles of improvements and even some of your people, as such disasters also bring in benefits like increased fertility to the land.
It is a great addition to Civilization VI’s robust suite of features, and considering its real-world connotations, a long overdue one that only serves to enhance an already great foundation.
All that also plays into the new Climate Change system that overlaps with disasters. Burn too much fossil fuels in a bid to drive up productivity could lead to increased storms and floods. While the short term effects may be trivial to your budding civilization, the long term costs are not.
Rising temperatures are now a factor to consider, with melting ice caps and rising sea levels potentially removing certain coastal tiles from play. This can be disastrous if you have not achieved the technology required to prevent such losses, and adds an added layer of consideration for leaders especially in the later eras.
While the game does telegraph which tiles are going to be flooded during the different stages of the rising sea levels, it still hurts when you lose some tiles to the effects of human progress. Clever planning and preparation go an even longer way this time around.
Resources, like the aforementioned fossil fuels, iron, horses and more, are now consumables that can be harvested instead of tapping on a stagnant supply that can be cut off instantly. Build up a stockpile that can be a safety net, or trade them off, and it is a much more well-balanced economy overall than before.
Interacting with your fellow leaders have also undergone an overhaul, with new mechanics to keep things exciting when dealing with diplomacy. While broken promises and alliances still hurt your standing, the new Grievances element helps you to weigh how your actions affect certain civilizations and vice versa.
It allows players to justifiably go to war with an opponent who has repeatedly broken their promises with less diplomatic red tape and penalties, and it applies both ways. Overall, having this new layer of accountability improves the whole system of diplomacy.
As mentioned, to achieve a Diplomatic Victory requires the earning of Diplomatic Favor. This new currency is the reflection of the goodwill you generate by helping others, and can be used to trade for resources and money. A great way to start is by maintaining positive relations with your city-states, or simply helping others out with their requests or demands.
Once you hit the Medieval Era, the currency can then be spent to affect major decisions at meetings of the new World Congress. Simply put, you can buy your way to having things done according to your whims. This could mean declaring war on a nation or preventing further pollution to save your coastal settlements, it is an exciting way of influencing the world that befits your standing.
Each decision you win gains you Diplomatic Points, of which 10 is needed to achieve a Diplomatic Victory. However, with restrictions in place such as earning the maximum of two points at a time and an overwhelming dependency on the World Congress to gain said points, it is a much longer and arduous journey to win a game of Civilization.
A new expansion is always an appealing prospect, but making an excellent game even better by iterating on systems, making improvements, and adding elements that dramatically change up how you play is an expansion done right.
Civilization VI: Gathering Storm feels like the most complete version of Civilization yet, and that is amazing considering how much it already boasts at the start, it is truly a title that deserves world domination.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A strong expansion with new and significant additions that refreshes the Civilization VI formula for that one-more-turn feeling.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 8/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 10/10