Civilization VI: Rise and Fall the first expansion to 2016's massive strategy game has released. From the outside looking in Rise and Fall did not appear poised to replicate Civilization V: God and Kings success at remaking the game; the changes were less drastic, the features more subdued. However, despite these misgivings Civilization VI’s first expansion has done everything I wanted and even some I did not know I wanted.
When Civilization VI first launched I commented that it was the most complete feeling base Civilization game I had played. It was new and refreshing while simultaneously being familiar. In a sea of halfway sequels, Civilization VI was undeniably distinct from its predecessor. That being said it was held back by the reality it was a new game and with any new release issues were to be expected.
As such many fans stayed away, instead continuing to play the fully expanded and patched Civilization V. Opting to wait for its inevitable expansion before moving on to the new series. In many ways making Rise and Fall a sort of relaunch for the game.
Personally I feel now is a great time to jump into Civilization VI as its most glaring flaws seem to be a thing of the past. As Rise and Fall does more then add new features, it also seems to adjust many under the hood systems that makes the gameplay easier and smoother to adjust too.
This is especially true in regards to the enemy AI. In Civilization VI the enemy was to be blunt pretty bad. Often they would attack with either overwhelming force and forget to use units or declare war and then little would come. Other examples of bad AI would be an eternal war, whereby the AI is clearly defeated but would not give you peace.
This could oftentimes cripple a players game due to the accumulation of war fatigue. Slowing growth, in my time with Rise and Fall I have noticed the AI acting decidedly less stupid. There will still be the idiotic statements from Gandhi about “Nuclear weapons are the future!” despite it being only 900 BCE... however these are little annoyances rather the game altering ones.
As for the more visible changes Rise and Falls “Ages” System adds a level of strategic depth and tension that was lacking in the original game. As the Ages pass for each play together now if one falls behind in a certain age they can incur a “Dark Age” while if they succeed they achieve a “Golden Age”. Much like in Civilizations previously.
What makes this incarnation of the Age system so interesting is Dark Ages need not be terrible, in fact I have found myself purposefully putting myself in Dark Age. This is the fact a Dark Age comes with very interesting benefits, one of my favorite increases science growth in any city that has both a Science District and a Holy Site. Allowing me to often take an early scientific lead while building my religion. They also allow one to achieve a “Heroic Age” if one moves into a Golden Age from a Dark Age, a VERY advantageous position to be in in any circumstance.
Of course the ages can hurt you as if you have a far flung empire a Dark Age can cause your empire to literally crumble. As Loyalty makes it return to Civilization and if your city rebels, they do not just spawn barbarians they secede from your nation. Making themselves a “Free City” a threat you always have to watch out far, especially if one is going from a Domination Victory.
In many ways what is interesting about Rise and Fall is that while all the additions seem small on their own, they add up to be greater then the sum of their parts. Rise and Fall actively feels like a new expereince and one that has changed drastically from what I new before, even something as small are road management has taken on new importance. As a City connected by a road is often more loyal, then one that is not.
At its core Civilization VI: Rise and Fall feels more calculating, strategic, and deliberate than its vanilla edition did. Expansion once again comes with a price but it is not nearly as cumbersome as it was in Civilization V making Rise and Fall less dependent on military might then previous editions in the franchise.
A further testament to how new and interesting Rise and Fall feels is that I have not even spoken about the other major changes present in the expansion. Governors provide interesting strategic choices, “Crisis” can almost be a gamble, and even Alliances are useful.
Rise and Fall is clearly still Civilization VI it just now feels more polished, dynamic, and exciting. Rise and Fall is an expansion others in the genre should look at and if you are one of those people still playing Civilization V you should look too. Civilization VI: Rise and Fall deserves your attention if you are a fan of the series.
You’re reading TAY, Kotaku’s community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out our tutorial hereand join in. Follow us on Twitter@KoTAYku and Like Us on Facebook.