Civilization VI Rise and Fall: An Experience for Existing Fans Only
How can anyone look at a creation like Civilisation VI: Rise and Fall and review it in such a way that makes sense, a way that explains the appeal to people that are not educated in turn based law. Sure, I could explain the mechanics, the new features, the goals and the tactics. The problem with that is unless the reader is already versed in Civ language and structures it is just going to sound like the most boring thing on the planet and for the people that do understand what I am talking about… well, there is every chance I am preaching to the choir.
Therein lies the problem with Rise and Fall and the whole Civilization franchise really, it isn’t bringing in anyone new. Civilization carries a lot of weight and getting into the game at this point is akin to climbing Mount Everest, not impossible, but really bloody difficult. But just like climbing Everest, the satisfaction to be had by beating that learning curve is amazing and once you understand Civ you can probably say goodbye to your life. The “one more turn” syndrome is a very real thing, resulting in hours, sleep and sanity lost as personal conquest becomes paramount.
I am one of those Civ addicts and have been since Civ 2. I won’t pretend to be a good Civ player, but I adore it. I enjoy the challenge, the flow and even the sheer amount of time it takes to finish one match. It is an exercise for the mind and not the reflexes, one that can be taken at a leisurely pace yet still remains challenging and satisfying. If you are a Civ player like me, you don’t need a review, you don’t need someone to tell you the good bits about Civ, you have probably already bought the game and are in the process of conquering Gandhi and his warlike tendencies.
I must say for those of us that are returning to Civ there is a tonne of new stuff in Rise and Fall. Perhaps the biggest change is the loyalty factor. Each city in your Civilization has a level of loyalty to you as their leader. This loyalty is affected and influenced by a number of things such as the city’s amenities and military strength. Another new feature that ties into this loyalty is the ability to appoint governors to cities. These governors help to guide the city in a particular direction depending on which governor is chosen. Some are military focused, some science, some economy and some faith. These governors are upgradeable and provide significant boosts to their chosen field of expertise as well as improving loyalty in the cities.
Another major addition is the introduction of “ages.” At the end of each era, (i.e classical, medieval etc) my performance was assessed and my civilization then entered into one of three particular states. These states or “Ages” consist of the Dark Age, The Standard Age and The Golden Age. If you haven’t done particularly well in the previous age you will enter a Dark Age in which the loyalty of your citizens will be tested, but you will get access to boosts and policies to improve. If you have done exceptionally well you will enter a Golden Age in which research and production are boosted. A standard age is just gameplay as usual. There is even a Heroic age which only comes about when a civilization moves straight from a Dark Age into a Golden Age and provides a huge boost to just about every system in play. At the beginning of each age I was able to make a dedication, a kind of direction I want my Civilization to move in and by moving in that direction I increased my chances of improving my era score and entering a Golden Age.
So those are the two biggest changes with the Rise and Fall expansion. There are of course a number of new civilizations (8 to be exact) and a host of tweaks and improvements, all of which improve the core Civ VI experience. However, none of them addresses the huge barrier to entry that Civilization has now developed. Even for players like myself, players that have been invested in the franchise for years, struggle with some of the complexity. I mean as I write this I have a guide open to make sure I explain some of the concepts correctly. It is dense, it is complicated and as a new player, I would imagine it is terrifying.
So while I love Rise and Fall, just as much as I love all the Civ games I wonder if Firaxis has given up on new players entering the fold, if they are only creating games for fans. That is the way it seems to me and I feel like that is a shame. I want more people to experience the wonder that is Civilization. I want people to see what I see in this franchise that has consumed so many of my waking hours. But as it is, there is no way I can recommend Civ 6: Rise and Fall to someone new to the franchise. If a new player approached me about Civ, at this point I would say their best entry to the series is Civilization Revolution on the Xbox 360 and PS3, not any of the core games and certainly not Rise and Fall.
These, however, are just the musings of a long-time fan. Rise and Fall is wonderful, I adore it. I love the new features, the new tech and the gameplay tweaks. They all make sense and fit the game world wonderfully. It really is the perfect excuse to come back to the fold, just don’t expect to be able to convince new players to join you for the ride.