Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm Review

Screenshot of Cree city training athletes for the World Games in Civilization VI Gathering Storm
Competing in the World Games can help you achieve a Diplomatic Victory

Quick Info
Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K
Release Date: 14 Feb 2019
Time played: ~78 hours (245 hours for base game and expansions)

Changes in gameplay along with more content

It's been a few years since the release of the vanilla version of Sid Meier's Civilization VI which scored a respectable 8 out of 10 here on Choicest Games. I enjoyed the evolving soundtrack, the amount of detail on the maps, the introduction of less well known leaders and the way in-game actions can give you boosts in research and culture (e.g. settling a coastal city giving you a boost in research to Sailing). The game was buggy when it was first released though and some aspects of the game are overcomplicated, not to mention notification spam can become a chore.

An expansion pack called Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and Fall was released in 2018 and added a whole bunch of new content as well as a Timeline feature and Golden Ages which made each time you played the game feel more unique. The expansion still didn't address notification spam and the Loyalty system while a boon for peace-loving players, creates even more headaches for warmongers. I ultimately enjoyed the expansion which is why it also received an 8 out of 10.

Released only a year after Rise and Fall, Gathering Storm brought even more features to Civ VI as well as new civilizations, wonders and units. As the name implies, the main change to the game is the introduction of global warming, climate change and natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, flooding and drought. The player is given tools to mitigate some of these such as dams, flood barriers and the potential to use renewable energy sources.

The game also introduces the concept of a Diplomatic Victory and the ability to generate a new currency called Diplomatic Favour. Once all empires have met each other, the leaders will periodically meet during the World Congress to vote on resolutions that can help or hinder your progress. The option to participate in scored competitions such as the World's Fair or World Games can also confer benefits if the proposals are enacted.

Screenshot of flood barriers and rising sea levels in Civilization VI Gathering Storm
Sometimes it's a matter of too little, too late with respect to rising sea levels

Messing with Mother Nature

Civilization VI places great emphasis on the terrain surrounding your city and this expansion pack further capitalises on this. Not only does this manifest in cosmetic aspects such as rivers being named after the empire that first discovers them (e.g. the Rhine River for Germany, Darling River for Australia, etc.) but you now have to weigh the risks versus rewards when you settle cities near a flood plain or near a volcano. When a river floods or a volcano erupts, the adjacent hexes might be incredibly fertile as a result but there's also the chance of property damage and loss of life.

Also, when the world is wracked by climate change, the consequences are quite brutal in Civilization VI. Not only does the occurrence and severity of adverse weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and drought become progressively worse, low-lying coastal hexes will become flooded and there's no going back when that happens. I found this out the hard way when in one game I was the first nation to industrialise and despite switching to carbon-friendly forms of power generation such as nuclear power and renewables, this didn't stop the world reaching the maximum phase of climate change resulting in many tiles flooding, lost to the ocean forever. The game does offer other means to mitigate the flooding but the flood barrier technology came way too late in the game for me and the sea level rise was happening too quick for me to do anything about it. With the benefit of hindsight, I could've waited until renewables came about before powering my cities but it feels a bit like cheating since obviously Humanity only discovers how poorly it treats the environment until it's too late.

Yet Another Victory Type

Diplomacy has received a revamp in Gathering Storm with the return of concepts we've seen in previous Civ games such as the World Congress once you've met every other civilisation in the game. Civilisations are able to vote on resolutions that will either help or hinder their progress and you do so using a new currency called Diplomatic Favour. Diplomatic Favour is generated by the tier of government you have (i.e. more advanced governments generate more diplomatic favour), being the suzerain of city states and by maintaining alliances. There are also other ways of generating diplomatic favour such as building wonders, scored competitions or even picking a civilisation that generates diplomatic favour. One of the more interesting changes the expansion brings is America's ability to generate extra diplomatic favour for each Wildcard policy slot it has in its government. Sweden and Canada also have the ability to generate extra diplomatic favour: Sweden gains favour each time they recruit a Great Person and Canada gains favour for every 100 Tourism their empire generates.

Diplomatic Favour is used when voting for resolutions in the World Congress, but they can also be used towards winning a Diplomatic Victory. Each time you successfully vote for the winning outcome in a resolution, you will be granted a Diplomatic Victory point and there will even be resolutions later in the game where you can vote for the World Leader (and whoever wins that resolution earns 2 Diplomatic Victory Points). If you reach 20 Victory Points on Standard Speed, you win the game.

There are pros and cons with adding another victory type to the game. It's good because it provides another avenue for a civilisation to win the game even if they're lagging behind with other victory types, but it also adds another layer of complexity and yet another thing to keep tabs on if you happen to be the strongest civilisation in the game; another potential way you can lose when you least expect it.

Victory Ambush

And while we're on the topic of losing when you least expect it, it's a good opportunity to talk about victory ambuses. Now, this has been an issue with Civilization VI from the start and this expansion doesn't make things any easier with the addition of Diplomatic Victories. Technically, you can periodically check how close you and your opponents are to a Domination, Scientific, Cultural, Religious or Diplomatic Victory, but Domination is the only one where it's quite obvious how everyone is doing since you only need to glance at the map to tell. Even a Religious Victory isn't too bad since at least there is a religious layer you can apply to the map to see how you're doing. Scientific, Cultural and Diplomatic Victories are a bit trickier and there have been occasions where I've been doing reasonably well in the game, only for a Defeat screen to pop-up because an opposing empire had somehow pulled a victory out of nowhere. With some of these victories, I think it would be beneficial to provide a more prominent warning than a usual notification: something that would give you the opportunity to deal with your rivals before it's too late!

Screenshot of a rock band performing in Civilization VI Gathering Storm
Rock bands going on world tours is a great way of winning a cultural victory

Badass Bots and Boisterous Bands

Gathering Storm also introduces a few mid-game units such as the Skirmisher which sits between the Scout and Ranger, as well as a couple of Medieval and Industrial era mounted units. Although it does mean you have an additional stage in history where you have to upgrade your units, I think it's a welcome change overall as now there is potentially less difference in damage potential when someone is more technologically advanced.

On the other hand, the return of the futuristic unit called the Giant Death Robot (this unit also existed in Civilization V) makes it really difficult for any opposing empire to defeat you. I've seen them in action and their stats are terrifying. I have no idea how you're supposed to beat them if you don't have GDRs of your own. So, the addition of the new units seem to level the playing field yet the introduction of GDRs seem to contradict this (they look pretty badass though).

Finally, the civilisations seeking a cultural victory will love the new Rock Band units. You can even specify what genre of rock they perform which changes where you'll want to perform concerts on their world tour. For example, Surf Rock bands generate more tourism at seaside resorts and harbours, whereas Glam Rock bands perform at 2 experience levels higher on theatre squares.


Gathering Storm delivers what fans generally expect from a Civilization expansion: new gameplay that creates interesting new opportunities along with a bunch of new civilisations, buildings, technologies and units to play with. Some may be annoyed at how brutal climate change and natural disasters can be in this game, or the fact that there is yet another victory type to keep tabs on to ensure nobody usurps your position as a superpower, but others will welcome it. Overall, I'm in the latter camp and am pleased with how Gathering Storm turned out.

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