Reinventing a game which released over two years ago for the better is quite a feat, but that’s exactly how Firaxis has reinvigorated Civilization 6 with Gathering Storm.
From the first time you boot it up, you can sense that change is in the air. This is no longer just a game about building an empire and conquering the world, you’re now responsible for moulding the world around you, and the way you treat it shapes the way it responds to you.
It goes a step further from Rise and Fall which, in of itself, significantly shook up the way the game was played with the governor and loyalty systems. The world around you has come alive and is no longer just reduced to simple textures and icons. It’s become the most important player on the map because a flood or volcanic eruption can completely change the flow of the game.
You could be building one wonder after the next, have an army full of elite warriors, or be the most progressive nation with the best options for trade, but then a force of nature might come along and irreparably damage your structures, or you could be flooded out of house and home.
And that leads onto the most fascinating inclusion in Gathering Storm – these disasters can be man-made. The melting ice caps and rising sea levels, all because of the way a civilization is treating the world. You could be the architect of your own downfall all because you sought some short-term gain.
So it also changes the way you play and the resources you use. If you keep burning coal, you can expect the changes in the atmosphere, and that will impact the overall temperature. But then, later on, you have the choice of building wind farms and using geothermal energy in an effort to try and fight back against the damage done to the world during industrial ages. You can still change your destiny even late on.
Gathering Storm speaks to the times we live in. The world around us has been badly affected by generations of mistreatment and so we are trying to find ways to be more eco-friendly. In that, the game carries a powerful message. And interestingly, Gathering Storm even includes some technologies and energy sources which remain unproven in the real world, though scientific research suggests they may have long-term benefits.
This plays a massive part in the newly added 21st Century era, and the technologies which are involved in that, like cybernetics, and even off-world missions which take your civilization into outer space. It’s a longer game now, and so the need to be smarter about consumption and how things are developed over a sustained period has never been more crucial. This is a Civilization game about the long term now more than ever.
For me, Civilization has never felt so dynamic. Sure, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen nature influence a Civilization game, but there’s something much more real and forceful about the way it works here.
Civilization has always been an enjoyable romp through the ages, clicking your way through screens, building relationships, starting wars, and exploring the map. But now there’s a degree of uncertainty which follows each turn. You’re never quite sure when nature will strike, or how it will impact the way you play.
You’ll need to carefully consider the research you undertake, what you spend money on, and ultimately how you’re contributing to the way the world changes. But at the same time, doing so within the confines of the age that you’re residing in.
As far as I’m concerned, Gathering Storm is one of the most exciting and interesting Civilization expansions of all time and it plays like it. The game feels more different than ever now, to the point where you wonder how you ever played Civ 6 without the changes Gathering Storm brings.
Especially with the World Congress system and the return of the Diplomatic victory, which joins the likes of Cultural and Domination Victories, focusing on tourism and conquering other civilizations respectively. With Diplomatic Victory this time around, you can earn favour within the World Congress for uniting with other leaders and backing them on the big decisions.
This adds to your overall favour and standing with these other nations, and so when the time comes to vote on big decisions, you’ll have more sway. But also you can call in diplomatic favours from nations you’ve backed and looked after, and likewise they can do the same for you. It all impacts your standing.
Of course, no new expansion would be complete without additional nations, and there’s eight new ones to find here, along with an additional leader for England and France in Eleanor of Aquitaine. Each offers their own challenges, in terms of bonuses and units. And along with them come new World and Natural Wonders to add to your cities and units to defend them, including a giant death robot.
Because why the hell wouldn’t you want to build your own Terminator who will eventually end up wiping you off the map!
They’ve even added a new Production queue to stack items for development and an Empire Lens so you can see the borders of each civilization at a glance. Simple, subtle tweaks, but ones which make the whole experience more streamlined and seamless.
There’s even new scenarios to sink your teeth, including an interesting World War 1 themed event. Gathering Storm is just everything you could want from an expansion for Civilization 6, and it opens up new possibilities for the future of the game and, indeed, the franchise. Imagine how much further Firaxis could take natural disasters on a new engine for Civ 7, or what else they could add to Civ 6 in terms of scenarios or maybe even another expansion.
This almost feels like a brand new game but in the best possible way. Every playthrough is bound to be different and with even more ways to win the game, you have to think even more clearly about the approach you want to take. Though there’s now something to suit every play style.
The only negatives I found are that the game seems to have slowed right down. Loading times, sadly, feel longer than ever and sometimes it takes a while for the new additions to the game to factor into your playthrough.
That said, when I play an expansion, I look to see how many more reasons it gives me to play the base game, what it adds, what it accomplishes, and even where it fails. For me, Gathering Storm has probably added another 50+ hours of game time to Civ 6 for me. I went through multiple playthroughs to see which victory I could attain and how the changes affected me throughout, and I’m looking to do more after this review as well. You can’t beat longevity like that.
Personally, I feel like I played a different game to the 50+ hours I’d already spent in Civ 6, and still loved every second of it. For my money, that makes this the most important and arguably the greatest Civ Expansion of All Time. Just thinking about it now is giving me the itch to dive back in. Wonderful!
+ New additions make significant changes to the game
+ The new victory diversifies playthroughs even more.
+ Watching the disasters play out on screen is satisfying and horrifying all at once
+ Continues to be so much fun
+ Hours of fun!
– Load times feel longer than ever
– New features can sometimes take a long time to factor into playthrough
Civilization VI – Gathering Storm Review
9 out of 10
Tested on PC
Thanks to 2K who kindly supplied us with code