‘Member when I said I was going to try getting my review for Civilization VI: Gathering Storm out within a week or two of launch? Yeah, that…obviously didn’t happen. Going back to the “I can play Civ VI for three or four games and then I get turned off it for a while” thing I’ve mentioned before, my latest turn off partway through my first Gathering Storm game. I haven’t played in over two months, and as such, I don’t feel super confident in doing a full-fledged review. I do want to (finally) get it out and get on to new business though, so I’m going to play a little bit and get out a quicker review than I’d normally do.
First off, let’s talk disasters and climate change. Disasters are a lot of fun, and having more of a challenge at the end–and throughout the game–is pretty great. When you get to the end of a game of Civilization, you’re usually just coasting, especially on a difficulty where you can win most or all of the time. I have had a game of Civ V where I lost by only a few turns on a high difficulty, but at anything below that I had already won quite a while before I actually won. The same (usually) goes for Civ VI, which I’m a lot more mediocre at, and usually play on Prince, which is effectively normal difficulty. Gathering Storm adds some more difficulty later on in the game, although it’s also a thing you’re going to be planning for from the beginning. When settling cities, for example, the game warns you what tiles will be underwater first due to climate change, so you can start working well in advance of it actually happening. As for natural disasters, they can be both a huge benefit and a huge hindrance. Any strategy game fan will tell you that the early game is super important, as anything that happens will snowball through the rest of the game. Depending on how RNGesus is feeling, a badly-timed tornado can damage your units just as your neighbor is eyeing your land. However, this can also go in the other direction, and most disasters will give you some kind of benefit as well. +1 food from a storm can really help, especially going back to the fact the earlier is better thing I mentioned. +1 food with a few hundred turns left in the game means hundreds of more food over the course of the game, from one tile alone. The benefits of disasters, at least the ones prior to the massive climate change disasters, most often far outweigh the disadvantages.
One thing I don’t know how I feel about is that you’re kind of guided down the path of contributing to climate change in the mid game. Being forced down a path is one of the things that most bothers me about Rise and Fall, which I’ve mentioned before. That said, it’s much less annoying in Gathering Storm, probably because, you know, that actually happened in history and you wouldn’t really have an expansion without it. The steady, uncontrollable corruption of Catholicism in Europa Universalis IV has never bothered me, probably for similar reasons, so I don’t see any reason why I should dislike it here. And you can of course control it later on, even if the AI might not want to. I’m going to say I’m indifferent to it, probably leaning slightly more to liking it. The most annoying part was the speed at which it appeared and progressed, but 2K has toned it down a bit, I just haven’t started a new game since then. The community seems to like the updates, so I’m going to say they’re pretty good.
One thing I really like, even though I feel it could be slightly improved, is the new resource system. Before Gathering Storm, there was no real accounting of resources. If you had one copy of a resource you could build a unit in the city that controlled that resource, if you had two you could build it anywhere. Having three or more of a resource was useless for anything but trade. In Gathering Storm, each copy of a resource you control gives you a per-turn income, with units requiring a certain amount of that resource to build, and a per-turn requirement for later units. Swordsman don’t really need more iron once their swords and armor are built, but ships will need a constant supply of oil. This, for the most part, is great. Resources finally feel like they matter, and there’s benefit in having more of a resource than just enough got get by. It is kind of annoying how low the cap is though, and how much the AI loves to hound you about trades. I should probably be happy about there finally being some engagement with other players, but they just do not shut up sometimes. The low cap has a similar problem. Once you hit it your income of that resource is effectively useless, and you should be trading it away so you’re still getting something from it. However this means constantly talking to the AI when you might just want to get on with the game. Something that could work is increasing the cap and the resource cost of units, while keeping the production level. This would slow down the need for constantly going to the AI for fear of losing income, without ramping up the number of units you could mass-produce in a short amount of time. As long as it was only the resource cost going up, and not the production cost, you could slow down some of the annoying chatting without slowing down the actual game too much. It would be a bit longer before you were able to build a unit, which would be a bit slower, but the actual production time woul be the same. Just a thought.
Finally, I really like the improvement to the World Congress. Gathering Storm adds a new resource, diplomatic favour. Favour is used for voting in Congress, and numerous votes can be made for or against any Proposal. The first is free, and each subsequent vote costs ten favour more than the last. It can also be traded, and exists before the World Congress is established, which means that it’s useful throughout the game. But…the AI sucks with it and is way too eager to give it away. In the image above, you can see I have an inordinate amount of favour compared to the AI, mostly because I hoarded it all game while they constantly used it to buy things like strategic resources from me (which again, I was trading away a lot because I was constantly hitting the cap). And that’s…not necessarily the wrong way to do it. It may be slightly cheesy, but favour is at its most useful late in the game when you start voting for World Leader, nabbing a Diplomatic Victory. If you have 4.6 times as many as the rest of the civs combined like I do, you’re probably going to win those votes.
All in all, I really like Gathering Storm. Yeah, I have a few problems with it, but they’re far outweighed by the things I like, and a lot of them have been addressed in the months after launch. It’s probably one of the best things to come out of Civilization VI since launch, and I like it way way more than the first expansion, Rise and Fall. I’m not a fan of loads and loads of expansions cougheu4cough, and considering Civilization V’s two expansions I wouldn’t be surprised if this is all we got, but I would definitely be up for more in the future. One more of this quality would be outstanding. As for Gathering Storm itself, if you’re on the fence, I say wait for a sale and grab it. It’s a lot of fun, and I don’t think you’ll regret getting it.
Oh, and canals are awesome. Because of course they are.