The great citizens of Toronto screamed in fear as a nearby volcano erupted. Two farms and an iron mine were enveloped in hot fiery death as the cataclysmic event tore through my Canada like a particularly malevolent force of nature. Why I settled near the volcano, I’ll never know. Are there even volcanoes in Canada?
This is just one of the many features added in Gathering Storm, the latest expansion for Civilization VI. During the early phases of the game, it’s extremely important to pick the right location as disaster areas are littered around the map, forcing you to weigh up their disadvantages against possible advantages. Rivers, for instance, are prone to flooding, causing damage to surrounding tiles and anything you’ve built on them, but fertile ground is left in the aftermath for you to exploit. Just beware that there’s a risk of recurrence. Other natural disasters include droughts, hurricanes and volcanoes, but before you start worrying about the difficulty this new feature could present, fear not. It’s actually very manageable – you can build a dam to prevent flooding, for example – and only contributes to a small part of the overall picture.
In addition to these natural occurrences, you can also be the direct cause of manmade disasters. As you reach the Industrial Era, power and the management of strategic resources comes into play, letting you build coal power plants in industrial zones to power and boost other buildings, generating more research, production or culture. This however does come at a cost.
A handy little climate screen will help you keep tabs on the environment, telling you what the global temperature is and how high the CO2 levels are, amongst other details. If you really want to get ahead, then by all means, burn as much fuel as you like to keep your power plants running, but the planet will not thank you; the ice caps will eventually melt and sea levels will rise.
You could choose not to power the buildings, in which case they will still generate yields for your cities, just not as much. You’ll have to wait until the later stages of the game for more eco-friendly alternatives to become available in the form of Wind Farms and Hydroelectric Dams, so your patience will be rewarded.
Previously in Civ VI, when you worked a tile for its resource, you would earn ‘one iron’ for your nation for the rest of the game. In Gathering Storm, each strategic resource tile now produces a yield similar to food and production, meaning if you worked an iron tile you now get two iron per turn. However, instead of requiring one iron tile to build Swordsmen, you now need thirteen iron resources to build one unit, meaning that you can’t just spam armies together anymore. You now need to carefully plan your approach to victory around using these strategic resources.
New engineering projects have been introduced which will help shape the way you build your empire. As well as the aforementioned dam district to help protect against flooding, you can now build canals, giving your navel units easy access to other bodies of water, as well as being able to build railroads and tunnels, aiding travel through mountains and between cities.
Alongside these engineering projects, new Wonders have been added like The University of Sankore, one of Mali’s ancient centers of learning, and the famed Golden Gate Bridge, which is perfect for connecting cities with roads. One of the more interesting additions to the Wonder line-up is The Great Bath. This is specifically designed to be built on flood plains, actively helping when a flood occurs, adding faith and protecting your city tiles from damage – It’s really good to have before you develop dams.
New units have also been added, like the returning Giant Death Robot, which really lives up to its name once powered to its fullest. My personal favourite is the Rock Band unit, which can be sent to different countries to perform on stage to your benefit. I sent my first band, ‘Friendly Explosions’, to London to generate some faith and tourism for me. Sadly after three sell-out shows, the band decided to part ways, which made me a little sad.
The Giant Death Robot is one of the many cool things to come out of the Future Era. Once you reach the 21st Century, Technology and Civics Trees are randomised and will vary between campaigns. Some of the stuff included will enable you to relocate people to seasteads, help combat a declining environment and enhance your people with cybernetics. It does mean planning in advance will go out the window here, but thinking on your feet is never a bad thing and it’s a nice late game challenge, especially if you’re chasing down a Science victory.
A whopping nine new leaders and eight new civilizations have been added to the game, mixing things up and complementing some of the new rules introduced. In a Civilization first, new leader Eleanor of Aquitaine is the first to be able to lead two different nations (France and England) with her Court of Love ability, which provides loyalty pressure against other cities. If you fancy going for the new Diplomatic Victory, then you might want to go with Sweden and their leader Kristina, while if your interests lie in making a ton of money, then look no further than Mansa Musa of Mali. For the warmongers out there, The Ottomans have been introduced with half-price siege units for storming cities early and getting that Domination Victory.
Speaking of warmongering, it’s now been replaced entirely with a new mechanic called Grievances. Whereas before, declaring war and generally being a bit of a git meant that everyone started to dislike you, your misdeeds now only affect the nation you’re being rather unpleasant to, generating a grievance score. Having a high amount of grievances against a nation not only gives them a free pass to retaliate, but later in the game when the World Congress comes into play, other Civs are more likely to vote against you because, you know, you’ve been a bit of a git.
This is where the new diplomacy mechanic also comes into play. Influencing city states, competing in World Games and doing nice things for other Civs will eventually generate Diplomacy Favour which can be used to ask for promises from other nations, or more importantly buy votes in the World Congress – a returning feature from the older Civ games. During the later stages of a game, every 30 days the world leaders are called into congress to discuss world events. Motions can be passed, like causing the cost of nuclear power plants to rise or giving amenities for certain luxury resources.
More importantly, you can nominate someone (most likely yourself) to be given Diplomatic Victory points. This is where the Diplomatic Favour comes into play, letting you buy votes and slowly grind towards a Diplomactic Victory. Building on Rise and Fall’s emergency system, if one nation gets too far ahead of everyone else, an urgent session is called and the leaders will need to vote on how to deal with it. In the main game I played, Sumaria’s religion was on the brink of taking over, but a session was called to try and tackle it. If you happen to be the target of an emergency, Diplomatic Favour once again comes into play and you can vote it down, keeping you in the running for a victory.
Other nifty little features have been added like the Empire Lens, which is good for checking the layout, yields and adjacency bonuses for cities, a production queue which lets you order up to eight items in a city, taking away some of the micromanagement while you attend to other duties, and a Hall of Fame screen that lets you view how many times you’ve won with each Civ, the high scores and stats per game. Finally, there are two new meaty scenarios to sink your teeth into: The Black Death and War Machine.