Civ VI: Rise & Fall

More ups than downs

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents - david wildgoose

De­vel­oper Fi­raxis • P ublisher 2K Games • P rice Us$ 30 • Avail­able At steam, re­tail www.civ­i­liza­tion.com

Rise & Fall isn’t an over­haul of Civ VI. In­stead its core new fea­tures are ad­di­tions to the mix that are not in­tended to fun­da­men­tally re­con­fig­ure your strate­gies, but rather en­cour­age play­ers into con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ent ap­proaches. Over­all, I think, the de­sign goal is to in­tro­duce a lit­tle more push and pull be­tween the com­pet­ing sys­tems, a lit­tle more flex­i­bil­ity and even un­pre­dictabil­ity to the arc of a sin­gle play ses­sion.

The new fea­ture that best re­flects the ex­pan­sion’s ti­tle is the Golden Age, in which play­ers rack up points for their em­pire’s achieve­ments - e.g. elim­i­nat­ing a bar­bar­ian camp, cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the world, build­ing a unique unit, and so on. Qual­ify for a Golden Age and you’re re­warded with bonuses and a lovely yel­low hue to your em­pire. Fail and you could en­ter a Dark Age, your in­flu­ence di­min­ished, your em­pire sub­tly greyed out, but with the prospect of bounc­ing back next time into a pow­er­ful Heroic Age. The Golden Age sys­tem does well to cap­ture the ebb and flow of an em­pire through his­tory. And in game­play terms it puts the brakes on run­away civs, al­low­ing oth­ers to mount a come­back in the mid­dle or late game if they make smart choices.

Emer­gen­cies, another new fea­ture, achieve a sim­i­lar ef­fect. I en­coun­tered these when a par­tic­u­lar civ - my­self in­cluded - had em­barked on a con­quest spree. An emer­gency is called, with other civs able to ac­cept or re­ject an of­fer to lib­er­ate a city from a war­mon­ger. In one game I played as Shaka and had set­tled Africa be­fore march­ing into the Ara­bian penin­sula and tak­ing sev­eral Sume­rian cities. An emer­gency was called and soon I found my­self hav­ing to de­fend Uruk from a coali­tion of Euro­pean and Asian civs dis­pleased with my re­cent mil­i­tary suc­cesses. It worked. My con­quest was put on hold and I had to re­think my strat­egy of north­ern ex­pan­sion.

The new loy­alty sys­tem, on the other hand, pro­vides a non-mil­i­tary means of tak­ing a city. With loy­alty, Rise & Fall asks, what if you could con­vince a city that you’re do­ing a bet­ter job than its cur­rent ruler? Ap­ply enough pres­sure to a city be­long­ing to another civ and it will rebel and, per­haps, flip over to your side. Un­for­tu­nately it’s never as sat­is­fy­ing as con­quer­ing a city by force. As a layer of shift­ing num­bers, the loy­alty sys­tem is in­her­ently in­di­rect and ob­fus­cated. There’s some ad­min­is­tra­tive plea­sure in shuf­fling around gov­er­nors and pol­icy cards to buff loy­alty bonuses, es­pe­cially when a Golden Age swing things in your favour, but the loy­alty sys­tem feels tacked on, and there’s a dis­tance be­tween it and the un­der­ly­ing game.

Rise & Fall also adds new lead­ers and units and maps and won­ders and nu­mer­ous ap­pre­ci­ated tweaks. It doesn’t ad­dress core Civ VI prob­lems (like bet­ter balanced dif­fi­culty set­tings or AIs that un­der­stand com­bined arms), but it does shake up the mid­dle and late game in in­ter­est­ing ways, giv­ing you more to think about and more ways to grasp vic­tory and deny it to oth­ers.

the Golden Age sys­tem cap­tures the ebb and flow of an em­pire through his­tory

Scot­land’s unique tile im­prove­ment is, of course, the golf course.

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