Civ VI: Rise & Fall
More ups than downs
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