My favorite part of every single Civilization game is exploring the randomly generated world. Where are the mountain ranges? Will this ocean go on forever? Why is Gilgamesh on my doorstep… again?
It’s such a fun part of the game. Not only am I uncovering what board I need to deal with, but I’m also finding out what other leaders are around, what resources exist, and potential areas to found cities. Contrast that with what the later stages of the game look like. There you’re mostly focused on coming up with a final victory plan. That means strengthening your defenses if you’re going for a non-Domination win or planning to conquer those final few cities. There are typically very few curve balls. Sure, the Rise & Fall expansion added emergencies, so the rest of the world could try and team up to stop winners, but it was still generally pretty flat.
In my early hours with Civilization 6: Gathering Storm I’ve come to better appreciate these simulated situations. That’s partly because they help make it feel like you’re dealing with an evolving world.
World generation has been overhauled to make more real-world sense. You’ll find mountain ranges where continents meet, rivers that provide fertile ground, and more.
Each of these will now automatically be named by the civilization that discovers them, too. Egypt will always start alongside the Nile. Wonders like Matterhorn, Mount Erciyes, and Mato Tipila are now likely to be found alongside these faults — and not just isolated in the middle of nowhere.
It honestly goes a long way towards making me care more about the worlds I’m playing in.
A solid, ever-shifting world helps emphasize the new, slower evolutionary changes. The map suffers from periodic disasters based on a setting. So you can turn the dial all the way up to experience significant events that leave swaths of lands destroyed. Basically, you could decide to play Gathering Storm as a future earth simulator. The name feels deathly appropriate.
Droughts will cripple your food income and reduce output until repairs are made. Floods, on the other hand, may destroy districts — but sometimes make the land more fertile. Tornadoes can tear through plains, dust storms through deserts, blizzards through tundra, and massive hurricanes through the ocean. Oh, and there’s a number of volcanoes on the map which may become more or less active throughout time. Have fun with those…
There’s always something you need to keep in mind. Disasters will pop up, move, and then dissipate. You’ll generally know which direction they’re heading in, but it’s never an exact science. Once again, this is a more true-to-life Civilization 6.
A Haboob-level dust storm hit a particular region in my game, affecting more than 20 different tiles. Thankfully the desert was mostly uninhabited at this point. The storm ended up damaging four tiles, killing one military unit, and causing a loss of two population.
Later in the game, as the Industrial revolution comes on, CO2 levels will grow, causing an increase in global temperature. This leads to more frequent and damaging climate events. It’ll also cause polar ice to melt, potentially opening up new seabound passageways. We’ve all had that one match where half of the world is locked off due to a single ice tile. Now all you have to do is pump the air full of pollution!
But it wouldn’t be climate change without rising sea levels. And the Settler lens will now warn you when you found a city that might suffer from future sea level changes. There are three different levels of encroaching ocean, too, so some areas are more at risk than others. It’s all a matter of how much risk you want to take. Though you can build improvements to help hold off the incoming water.
Those same evolutionary changes also apply to the World Congress. It’s a return feature from the previous Civilization game, but one that’s very welcome.
Developer Firaxis has introduced diplomatic favor and grievances to help provide the entire system with a little more depth. You can spend favor to multiply your votes. While it won’t convince others to vote for you, it effectively accomplishes the same thing. In one of our games, an Emergency Session was called to consider enacting punishment on Nubia for starting a war of aggression and taking over a nearby city. Nearby AI civs weighed in, voting to punish her. Far away civs refrained from even voting. But Nubia opted to turn in all of her Diplomatic Points to prevent any such punishment from taking effect!
It’s a cool system, in essence, but I wonder if it’s still a bit too predictable. The AI act exactly how you think they would. They don’t usually care too much about punishing other civs unless until the two butt heads directly. And every AI in the game will be at your doorstep trying to get you to trade your favor away.
Eventually, the world holds periodic votes on resolutions which affect the entire planet. There are two outcomes for each. For example, one development treaty could either double production towards buildings in a specific district, while the other option could forbid all new development. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but the system functions best when dealing with human players. When resolutions are going to benefit one specific player, obviously the AI are just going to vote for themselves. And at least in our match, the player automatically won the tiebreaker.
I’m more convinced about Grievances. These are awarded to civilizations who are wronged in any way. Denounce someone and they’ll get a small number of grievances. Declare a formal war and you’ll still get some, but not nearly as much as if it had been a surprise attack. The new resources gives you free rein to strike back and retaliate without the AI civilizations growing frustrated at your “warmongering.” It’s such a welcome addition!
So far, a lot of what’s included in Gathering Storm injects much needed life into the mid game, too. The expansion includes some incredibly unique leaders and civilizations that don’t play like your garden variety empires. There’s a ton for fans to be excited about.
If Firaxis follows the path laid by Civilization V, this is our last expansion before the next main game release. Some areas still aren’t quite perfect, but we may finally be at a point where those Civ V faithful finally step forward into the next game.