Civilization VI – New Frontier Pass hopefully the start of something special

Posted on June 15, 2020

It’s been a long journey for Civilization VI. The massive strategy title launched back in October of 2016 and since then we’ve seen multiple updates, expansions, and even a pretty slick Switch port!

I’ve been on this journey with the game since day one and it’s amazing to see how this one game has maintained such longevity throughout the years. In fact, Civilization VI has become a bit of a staple for me and a game I’ll return to time and time again. The Rise and Fall expansion added some great content back in early 2018 including loyalty, governors and emergencies. In 2019 things got a little heated as the world congress, diplomacy, and global warming were introduced with Gathering Storm.

After 4 years of solid content updates and expansions, the team at Firaxis aren’t finished with Civilization VI just yet. In fact they’ve recently announced and released their ‘New Frontier Pass‘ which will continue to add content every other month up until March of 2021.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time with the New Frontier Pass which so far adds two new Civilizations in the form of Maya and Gran Colombia and their respective leaders Lady Six Sky and Simón Bolívar. There’s also a few new city states, natural wonders, resources and a brand new game mode.

Unfortunately the New Frontier Pass does not arrive with the same amount of quality content as the game’s previous expansions. This is to be expected, of course, because the pass will continue to unlock new content for months to come. This does make it a little trickier to discuss although there’s still plenty here for us to dissect.

First and foremost we should talk about the two new civilisations, Maya and Gran Colombia (pictured above). The Maya rely on densely packed cities with benefits to remaining within 6 hexes of their capital. They don’t get housing from fresh water and instead need to focus on careful city planning and farmland. Gran Colombia on the other hand are a militaristic civ whose army is as speedy as they are deadly. The Commandante Generals earned from entering new eras will help to further buff Gran Colombia’s military and propel them towards domination.

These two new civs slot perfectly into the current roster of empires and leaders although I can’t help but feel they’re a little lacking in comparison to previous leaders. Maya and Gran Colombia feel good to play but they’re hardly exciting new additions. I say this as someone who was thoroughly impressed by the new civs added to the game’s previous expansion, Gathering Storm. I think fundamentally the big problem is that both civs feel quite basic and standard. Compare them to the Maori, Inca or a handful of other previously introduced civs who were considerably more outlandish and unique in their approach and what they could achieve. I think it’s a symptom of the Season Pass approach rather than another big expansion. Because where previous civs could be introduced and take advantage of brand new systems and mechanics, these new civs kind of just have to slot into the parameters that already exist.

Whilst I’m not usually a stickler for visuals, I also can’t help but notice that the new leaders, Simón Bolívar in particular, don’t maintain the same visual standard as other leaders. He just looks a little rough. The visual downgrade added to the somewhat underwhelming gameplay design makes these new civs feel a bit like fan content. I wish a little more love was given and it makes me slightly concerned for the next civs ready to be introduced in the coming mo-nths.

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New resources, city states and natural wonders are a refreshing addition. It’s always good to be surprised by something new you haven’t seen before and I’ll admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised a few times since playing with the New Frontier Pass. The two new resources are nice but it’s the 6 new city states and the 3 new natural wonders that stand out. A particular shoutout to the Bermuda Triangle which is a new natural wonder that not only gives naval units a movement bonus but also teleports them to another ocean tile. It’s this kind of fun absurdity that can make any given game extra enjoyable and special.

However the best part of the Maya and Gran Colombia update is definitely the new “Apocalypse” game mode. Not only does this beef up the regular natural disasters you’ll encounter within a standard game of Civ 6 Gathering Storm, but it also adds a bunch of new ones too. Forest Fires burn down jungles and forests and can spread continuously until they burn out. They can be a huge hazard but within the ashes of their blaze, new prosperity can be found. Meteor showers leave an impact on the world and grant a fun bonus to any civ that first walks across the impact site. Then there’s the Soothsayer who’s a new support unit that can conjure natural disasters and use them to the player’s advantage. The world feels more dynamic and apocalyptic than ever before and I’m loving it.

Overall the Civilization VI – New Frontier Pass is a bit of a mixed bag. I don’t love paying for content that I’ll supposedly get later so I’m not such a big fan of the Season Pass approach. Although it’s become such a staple in the games industry and doesn’t feel out of place for a game such as this. I’m concerned that we’ll reach the end of the Season Pass content and it won’t feel as fulfilling as one large expansion like they’ve done in the past, although only time will tell. I do love most of the new additions and am having fun with all the new changes, even if Maya and Gran Colombia feel a little underwhelming compared to previous civilisations.

Ultimately we’ll just have to wait and see where things go from here. The next part of the New Frontier Pass unlocks next month with Ethiopia being invited into the fold alongside a new district. Whilst I’m tentative at this point, I know I’ll be checking out each and every update this game introduces.