Review: Civilization VI: Gathering Storm19 Feb 2019 0
Review: Civilization VI: Gathering Storm
Released 14 Feb 2019
Sid Meier’s Civilization was always about history, but the latest expansion for the newest iteration, Civ 6 Gathering Storm, is about the future. While the tornados, floods, and volcanic eruptions that headline the DLC are the main worry turn to turn, the threat of global warming and rising oceans loam overhead like hungry vultures in a desert.
The second expansion to Civilization VI brings natural disasters into the mix, adding everything from volcanoes to geothermic vents to the game. While some of the disasters, like tornadoes, are purely destructive forces, some like floods and volcanoes are a bit more complex -- eruptions and rivers overflowing may destroy improvements and damage districts, but they increase tiles’ fertility in the aftermath, encouraging the risk-reward endeavour of settling near disaster prone areas.
The natural events themselves are well executed, with hurricane storms that get automatically assigned women’s names to floods ranging from seasonal monsoons to straight up deluge events. Although they’re a bit too ephemeral to fit Civilization properly -- a 420-year-old tornado raging through a continent is tonal dissonance and completely murders immersion -- their recurrence and general effects seem balanced enough to be ever present without being game-breaking.
As the game progresses and fuel like oil and uranium start playing a bigger role in the match, pollution starts to affect the planet. Global warming comes out swinging, raising temperatures in the poles and melting the ice caps, which in turn increases sea levels and starts to consume any coastal tiles and cities unlucky enough to be caught.
In order to fight nature’s unstoppable events, players can construct wonders and buildings that nullify or slow down disaster effects; flood gates on cities can keep them in one piece when oceans rise, and the Great Bath wonder nullifies flood damage in rivers but halves their fertility bonuses, among other things. The careful use of industry and fuel also serves as a proactive measure before global warming kicks in and disasters increase in intensity, creating an interesting layer of strategy besides the usual self-serving, civ-expanding considerations.
Gathering Storm also brings the World Congress back to the franchise, first introduced in Civ V’s Brave New World expansion. This time around, they form at a set point regardless of the player meeting all other empires or not, and work in a slightly more active manner than in the previous game. Besides regularly meeting every few turns, special meetings are also called when emergencies happen, such as a particularly troublesome leader or a civilisation that’s been struck by catastrophe. The United Nation’s body also hosts competition-like events such as the Olympics and World Fairs, which give participants Diplomatic Points that can be used for favours or to attain the new Diplomatic Victory condition.
As usual, the expansion also adds several new civilisations and rulers, ranging from the Maori’s oceanborn civilization to the Malian’s desert-based merchant bonuses. The civilizations are pretty standard for Civ VI in terms of bonuses and characteristics, lacking anything truly special like Venice’s dedicated focus to a single city playstyle in Civilization V. In fact, aside from Eleanor of Aquitaine’s unique option of leading either a French or English empire, the factions are quite boring unless you’re particularly gunning for one of them.
When it comes to worth, Gathering Storm is fun, but hard to justify its full paying price of nearly £35. Unlike Rise and Fall’s multiple game changes involving timelines, eras, and mandates -- which effectively turn the game from a “live in the moment” endeavour to a proper long-term tailoring experience -- this new expansions mostly gives you more things to react to. Truth is, without Rise and Fall, Civ VI is still a worse game than Civ V, and with Gathering Storm alone, it’s not even in the same league at all. Together, Civilization 6 just about manages to offer an engaging experience that might finally be able to challenge its older sibling.