Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm Review

Can Your Pollution Stand The Test Of Time?
Developer: Firaxis, Aspyr Publisher: 2K, Aspyr Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux

This second expansion gives us strong new features, but some problems remain neglected

The original Civilization game is very clean. No health bars for units, no unique attributes for playable civs, no Deity difficulty, and only 14 available civs. That said, it’s playfully appropriate that it was one of the first games (if not the first) to feature global warming as a game mechanic. Keep your tiles clean of pollution, or they’ll rot away. As the language shifted from global warming into climate change, so too has the Civilization series; Gathering Storm is the second expansion pack for 2016’s Civilization VI – and the best.

Climate change in Gathering Storm isn’t just a neat mechanic designed to spice up the late game. Rather, it’s portrayed as realistically as it can be. You can end all fossil fuel production, cancel all of your flights, and preach peace and harmony through nature…but the goddamn Romans and Aztecs aren’t listening and keep pumping out their black smoke. The seas rise, drowning millions across the world, while the Mali sit and laugh from their desert cities. They’ll get coastal tiles, after all.

As the world heats up and the ice starts melting, natural disasters will grow in number and intensity. Oh yes, they’re back too. Most of the time, unfortunately, they’re not much of a hinderance. River floods and tornadoes are hardly going to destroy a city, and you’ll have reliable protections against many of these disasters later on in the game. Even if you turn the ‘intensity’ dial up to 11, the most they’ll do is create minor nuisances on your path to climate refugee-creating victory. It felt deliciously evil to be a Scrooge character on a permanent global scale, and I could always turn away the Ghost of Acidified Oceans Future. I love video games!

Except for volcanoes. I call those ‘Volc-hey, no’ because that was what I said every time they destroyed my Districts

Being on the receiving end of a climate catastrophe isn’t fun, especially if you’ve been playing by the rules. But, as Machiavelli says, politics and morals don’t mix. So, I played as Sumer and intentionally buggered up the atmosphere with my pollution and fervently pushed other civs to boycott clean energy. You can’t win a culture victory underwater, Victoria. My food supplies just doubled thanks to my new fisheries – and I didn’t even have to go anywhere!

Of course, the new Diplomacy system allows such dickery to occur. The first major change to Diplomacy comes in the form of ‘Diplomatic Favour’, a currency gained through trading and certain buildings. The second is ‘Grievances’ and the Diplomatic Victory. Grievances are accumulated through doing uncool things to other players. They can (and do) excuse you giving them the finger right back, which comes in very handy if you let off a cheeky nuclear device to destroy an incoming army. In the words of space wizard Machiavelli, diplomatic favour surplus is ‘unlimited power’.

However, the AI are still the class dunces they’ve always been. Still pitching bad deals, and still disliking me just because I’m winning or don’t have enough money. You try living on a budget, Cleopatra! Still, you can get your own back in the World Congress which returns from Civilization V. Make like Khrushchev and bang your shoe on the table until you get enough Diplomatic Victory Points to win the game!

Every few decades after the Congress is established, a vote is declared to distribute Victory Points in diplomacy. Unlimited power, once again, lies in hoarding your diplomatic favour points to win these votes. Then again, other players could be using theirs in more effective short-term ways. A balance is required, for sure, but I never had a problem with simply hoarding mine until the victory point votes were cast. Having a large surplus also helps you vote down punishments for your actions, which you may have to cash in. There’s a give-and-take aspect to this new system that is so obvious that it’s difficult to understand why it wasn’t in the base game.

Or you can cash it all in just to fulfill your globalist fantasies
[Screencap by


New civilizations also bring new ways to play. By far the most interesting is the Maori; they gain double yields from unimproved tiles and start their game in the ocean. There’s a calm comfort to this kind of start, and I must confess to losing more than a few games because I unintentionally RP’d a valiant Pacific explorer. Eleanor of Aquitaine is the first leader to be playable by two civs: England and France. Civilization VI has played around with the new variety focus on new leaders as opposed to civilizations – a boon to the modding community – but it’s fantastic to see more historically-accurate experimentation with this system. People may complain about less ‘important’ factions like Hungary or Canada being added to a game like Civilization, but I want the entire world to feel how I felt when Australia got added! When Waltzing Matilda started playing, I developed a big stupid grin. I main Australia now; they just so happen to have a playstyle that fits mine perfectly. I’m getting distracted, but you get the point – the continued focus on leaders for gameplay variety is a very good one.

Final thoughts

Gathering Storm is the second expansion for Civilization VI, and you know what they say about Civilization games getting their second expansion. That’s when they’re ‘done’. There’s not much else that developer Firaxis can do to trumpet Civilization VI’s strengths, but this isn’t said in a negative way. If there’s one more expansion due a-la Civilization V’s Brave New World, then it’ll be pretty fantastic from building on Gathering Storm.

Reviewed on Windows // Review code supplied by publisher
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  • Great new features
  • New leaders bring interesting playstyles


  • AI is still wishy-washy
  • Disasters could have more oomph


Aza blames his stunted social skills and general uselessness on a lifetime of video games. Between his ears is a comprehensive Team Fortress 2 encyclopedia. His brain, on the other hand, remains at large.
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