Last week, I got some play time with Civilization 6’s forthcoming expansion, Rise and Fall. My demo was only 150 turns long, but I played a few games and am starting to get a sense of what the expansion’s gameplay changes actually mean. That said, many of the changes really affect mid- and late-game situations, most especially in regards to diplomacy.
So, let’s take a look at developer Firaxis’ new ideas.
Eras and Golden Ages
Golden Ages make a welcome return, but they’re a lot different from the systems used in previous games, like Civilization 5. Instead of being tied to population happiness, they are a product of certain achievements.
The new system seems geared to encouraging big projects, like Wonders, but it’s also tied to combat. I managed to win a golden age by building a city near a natural wonder and earning a Great Person. But most of my points came from destroying barbarian camps.
Each time I do something good, my era score goes up. This is shown in the user interface via a circle that surrounds the main action button.
The Golden Age is achieved by winning a certain number of points. But failure to win a minimum number of points leads to a Dark Age. I fell into one of these, and it was not so bad. There’s a loyalty penalty (more on that later), but in early game stages, this is not a huge problem. I imagine that in late game, with a large, sprawling empire, it might be a bigger deal.
Loyalty and Governors
There’s a new system, based on the loyalty of your people. Those in far-flung cities, especially those that have been conquered and are populated by foreigners, are more difficult to control than cities closer to home.
If a city’s loyalty counts drops too low, it revolts and becomes a free city, which can easily be overrun militarily or culturally by a rival.
There are various ways to encourage or impose loyalty. The simplest is to assign a Governor to a troublesome outpost. These are a new set of characters, each with different skills. I assigned a militarily competent governor to one of my border cities. For my glorious capital city, I chose a Governor who could help with culture.
Governorships come up every now and again, via Civics research and other gameplay unlockables. They can also be upgraded individually. With my small empire, I never needed a lot of Governors, and so I kept upgrading my military dude, who brought serious benefits to my defensive capabilities.
Loyalty can also be massaged by cultural influence, big projects and espionage, among other tricks. Location is a big part of this. During one of my games, a city belonging to the Cree rebelled. By looking at the loyalty filter, I could see that the city was quickly turning toward the cultural power of nearby French cities.
It’s a little like the loss of cities to cultural superiority that was a part of Civilization 4, but it seems less arbitrary, with more options to control the situation before it becomes too dire.
Historic Moments are basically mini-screen presentation that record all the good things you do as a leader, from early scientific discoveries to military victories to building Wonders. These Moments go toward my era score, so they are more than just an attaboy. But I enjoyed their presentation.
Alliances and Emergencies
Alliances can now be defined specifically. So I can work with another nation on an economic or a military alliance, accruing big benefits. My short games didn’t allow me to really dig into this, but it did make me take relations with my neighbors a little more seriously in our early interactions.
The enemy AI in Civilization games is notoriously fickle. If this system encourages these NPCs to be reasonable and coherent, I’m all for it. But I can’t say one way or the other at this point.
Emergencies occur when a country does something especially egregious, or lurches ahead of the pack in some way. It’s an invitation to join forces with others, with a specific target in mind.
I was offered an Emergency against Spain. I accepted and then regretted the decision. None of the other countries accepted, and the city I was tasked with capturing within a certain window of time was too far away.
Emergences are a gamble, in which it’s possible to win money and resources. But if you fail (as I did), you have to give up some of your own goods. I’ll be approaching these with more caution in future. My guess is that their efficacy is tied to diplomatic relations. At least, that’s my hope.
Other New Stuff
There are nine new leaders. So far, we know who six of them are:
- Korea – Seondeok
- Netherlands – Wilhelmina
- Mongolia – Genghis Khan
- India – Chandragupta
- The Cree – Poundmaker
- Georgia – Tamar
There are also more resources, wonders, units and buildings as well as extra government policies.
Apart from a few aesthetic changes, like the city menu, Rise and Fall adds to the general complexity of Civilization 6, offering some genuinely interesting ideas and a real sense of peril.
The concepts of loyalty, golden eras and enhanced diplomacy are a move forward, but I’ll need to play more to be convinced that this is enough of a progression to justify the $30 price tag currently advertised on Steam. We’ll have more on this when Civilization 6: Rise and Fall launches on Feb. 8.