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Like any good empire, the Civlization games grow and develop throughout their lifetime. Starting as something more rudimentary, they eventually flourish into phenomenal games thanks to the release of expansion packs that historically move the games in some seriously impressive directions. The base or ‘vanilla’ version of Civilization games are never the best way to experience them. So when these expansions come along it’s a sought of milestone in the game’s development, something that pushes the Civilization into a new era.
When it originally released back in October of 2016 I said in my review that “Civilization VI feels so complete as a base game”. This was particularly impressive because previous games felt like they were holding content back to be put into expansions. Civ 6 never held back. It released as a game that was almost overwhelming with the level of content it brought to the table. No game is ever perfect though and I’ve been very excited to see what Civ 6 could do, and what directions it could move in, with the release of its first expansion – Rise and Fall.
Rise and Fall adds a boatload of new content, including but not limited to: New Civilizations, Golden Ages / Dark Ages, Loyalty, Governers and Emergencies. To cover each of these in a great level of depth is far too challenging for one article, but I’ll do my best to describe them succinctly.
Entering into a Golden or a Dark Age is dictated by how you perform within any given era. Whilst you play you can hit milestones within your empire’s journey that will give you points towards achieving a Golden Age. These milestones can range from building unique units and structures for your civ, killing barbarians, settling new cities, discovering new techs and a whole lot more. Entering into a new era also lets you make a dedication and fulfilling that dedication will also help generate points. Earn enough points and you will enter an era of prosperity with a Golden Age, earn too few and your empire will sink into a Dark Age. Rise triumphantly out of a Dark Age and you can enter into a Heroic Age, something even better than a Golden Age. Each of these ages will provide bonuses and challenges for your civ.
Loyalty is a new mechanic that impacts each civ on a per city basis. Lose loyalty from one of your civs and you will find low yields in that city or even a revolt. Your loyalty has outward pressure as well and if that pressure gets particularly high then you may end up converting another civ’s city to your own.
Governors can be recruited and appointed to specific cities within your empire. A range of Governors are available to pick between and they each have their own unique benefits. Once established a Governor can be promoted to gain new benefits or you can choose to recruit a new Governor instead.
An Emergency is a new game-wide event that can potentially impact all players. If a player is getting too powerful an emergency may trigger to try and stop that civ. Joining the fight and dealing with the threat can reward you with benefits once the emergency is over, although if you fail the powerful civ may just get even more powerful.
The expansion also adds a range of new units, new wonders, new tiles, new structures and new civilisations/leaders (pictured above). Checking out the new civs and playing around with their in-game advantages proved to be an enjoyable experience. The diversity to new play styles and tactics is almost infinite thanks to the depth of strategy the game offers. I will never get sick of having a new empire and a new leader to play around with and Rise and Fall has at the very least offered a couple of new leaders I will probably continue to use time and time again in new matches.
“an experience that could continually shift the balance of power”
Firaxis went in to the Rise and Fall expansion with one philosophy in mind. They wanted to create an experience that could continually shift the balance of power, allowing for players who are behind to catch up and players in the lead to fall behind. This constantly adapting field of play should make for a more exciting experience and should allow players who aren’t dominating the game to remain hopeful and fight for victory.
In their philosophy Firaxis succeeded in some clever but subtle ways. The Golden and Dark Ages alone mean that players are forced to adapt to their current situation. Slumping into a Dark Age can put real pressure on a civ, even if they were ahead of the game. With Loyalty on the decrease and the potential of a revolt on hand, you can’t ignore the effects of the Dark Age. Even with those effects plaguing you however the Dark Age also gives you access to very powerful policy cards that can totally shift the way your playing and allow a player to get a very significant boost if they are clever. If you can pull through and come out the other end of a Dark Age in a good place then you’re potentially looking at a Heroic Age in the near future, something that can be of serious help to any civ, and can make for a serious shift in power.
Emergencies are also a fun addition with their effect being much more obvious. Is somebody dominating your game? Time to knock them down a peg. Emergencies in a small way function like the Global Congress of past games, allowing multiple players to target the player in the lead and try to negatively impact their progression. Whilst emergencies don’t quite have the full effect of a Global Congress, they are a simple yet powerful way to shift the balance of play.
After playing multiple games with the new expansion I can clearly see the benefits of the new mechanics. You’re never in a safe place and there are constantly new things for you to consider, lest you slip into a Dark Age. The Civilization multiplayer has never been the game’s strong suit, with online matches being almost impossible to complete from start to finish with all players engaged. However the new changes make me want to find a way to make multiplayer work all the more – react to emergencies with real people, watch the shift of power occur with real players, and see how everyone adapts in their own individual ways.
For me Rise and Fall is a massive success, although it’s still only a small step in making Civilization VI the best product it can possibly be. With hundreds of hours sunk into this game, I can safely say that the game’s biggest issues haven’t been addressed. Clever computer AI and a real, well thought out diplomacy stand in the way of a perfect gaming experience. Civ is the kind of game you’re going to play against the AI 90% of the time just because it is the most feasible method of play. Yet the AI are still not in the place they need to be to make that a completely rewarding experience. Exploiting habbits of the AI and having the AI not react to your threat appropriately can make the game easier than it ever should be. And not having diplomacy that feels authentic makes for a wooden experience when dealing with your opponents.
I have nothing but positives to say about the updates that come with Rise and Fall, but I will say that it only feels like a small step forward when compared to some of the gigantic game changing expansions that arrived as part of Civ V, and the updates weren’t what the game needed the most. Although this is only the first expansion, I foresee a bright future ahead for Civ 6, a Golden Age if you will.