It’s weird playing Civilization VI and having it echo real life. As I’m playing North America is locked in one of the coldest weeks it’s had in recent memory, and on the opposite side of the globe Australia is sizzling. Regardless what anyone says, there’s no denying climate change is here.
Not that Firaxis is trying to do that, mind. After all, that’s what the Gathering Storm is all about.
Firaxis introduces environmental effects and natural disasters in Civilization VI’s second expansion, something that hasn’t been seen in the series in a while. Anything from floods, and snowstorms to more violent effects like volcanoes. (Incidentally, volcanoes occur along the tectonic plates that run between continents now, which is something the geology buff in me appreciates.)
These effects aren’t random though. Counter to what climate change deniers claim, natural disasters in Gathering Storm are affected by the amount of carbon released into the environment. Run more coal power plants and rail roads and the earth heats up faster, leading to more storms, floods and even rising sea levels.
The problem is, you really want to be burning those fossil fuels. Climate change in Gathering Storm goes hand-in-hand with the new power system. Certain buildings need power to run at full capacity, and you need (you guessed it) fossil fuels for power. As currently the only civilization in the industrial age, responsibility for all the carbon emissions falls squarely on my Canadian shoulders. Of course, alternative sources of power are available in the game. I fully intend to pivot to renewable energy sources once I hit the tech requirements for it. I’m planning to keep the earth clean, and win the game with the power of Canadian courtesy after all.
Because of course the new Civilization VI expansion has new leaders to play with. I’m currently playing as Wilfred Laurier of Canada, and hope to win with sufficient niceness, hockey rinks and Tim Hortons. Other new entries include Dido (Carthage), Suleiman (Ottoman), Kristina (Sweden), Mansa Musa (Mali), Pachacuti (Inca), Kupe (Maori), Matthias Hungary). The most interesting entry however has to be Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was an amazingly important leader during the Crusades, and interestingly enough, they’ve programmed it that she can lead either the English or French! She has the same leader abilities regardless of which civilization she leads, but the different synergies in the respective civilization is likely to result in different strategies. Which is a really interesting way to tweak the game space.
We also see the return of the world congress and the diplomatic victory. Civilizations now accrue diplomatic favour, which you can trade or spend during the world congress to add votes to whatever proposal is being passed. Proposals can help or hinder a specific victory, such as making a specific religion or method of production better or worse. Of course, the most important one would be to grant victory points. Collect 10 diplomatic victory points via the world congress or emergency session and you win the game! I’m currently halfway through that victory condition as I’ve been trying to play as diplomatically as possible, but I fully expect it will become a lot harder in the next few turns.
I think that the last major change is probably the most important though. Previous iterations of Civilization VI tracked how much of a ‘Warmonger’ you were. The problem is, sometimes the AI would just denounce you and attack. Defend yourself and maybe conquer one other city in self-defense and the rest of the AI civs would just dogpile you. I’ve ended up being ‘forced’ into a domination victory pretty often, either in vanilla Civilization VI or even with their first expansion, Rise and Fall.
While anecdotal (I’ve only played one game after all), Gathering Storm seems to have largely fixed that issue. Your relationship between civilizations are now tracked by grievances. Dig up an ancient artefact on their land? They gain grievances against you. Capture their spy in your land? Gain grievances against them. The number of grievances is also affected by if a war is declared, the size of a city conquered, and others. Which means that if you play reactively, and are enough of a nice guy, you can actually kind of sneak a few small city conquers and be largely unaffected!
This happened to me twice in my current game. As Canada, I was suzerain over a decent number of city states, and on two separate occasions another civilization declared war over my city state, which allowed me to respond with a protectorate war of my own. In both cases, I defended the city state, and managed to even conquer a city or two without much repercussion. I’m not sure if it’s going to be that easy all the time, but it’s great that the number of grievances you have with or against you is clearly denoted. This means that it is something you can plan for and plan around, rather than be randomly affected by like in the current warmonger system.
There is the common consensus that each iteration of Civilization comes into its own at the second expansion. While this is only my preliminary observations, that statement seems true for Civilization VI as well. Gathering Storm is marketed for its environmental effects, natural disasters and canals, but I think what might make the system hum is the new grievances system.
Gathering Storm releases February 14th. Tell me if I’m right about the grievances, or if you think there’s something else that’s more important to Civilization VI as a whole.