One of my biggest gripes with the Civilization series - and historical strategy games in general - is that it tells the story of empires as a non-stop progression from good to better. Unless you get conquered by another player you are always moving onward and upward in technology, productivity, and prestige. But all great empires also face decline. With Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, Firaxis have at last set out to model this. While the expansion did not always give me the harrowing feeling of the Fall of Rome narrative I was hoping for, it does add an interesting ebb and flow to proceedings.
Each civilisation now accumulates Era Score based on accomplishments and discoveries with the goal of reaching a certain threshold before the world progresses to the next global era. If you fall short of that threshold then you enter a Dark Age, the map colours desaturating, the music taking on a sombre tone. Exceeding the threshold by a certain amount, on the other hand, can earn you a Golden Age, which casts the game world in a heavenly glow and causes your civ’s theme tune to swell. These audiovisual touches really help to sell the fantasy of facing a time of plenty or a time of tribulation, but the underlying mechanics are not quite as impactful.
Find out how Civilization VI: Rise and Falls civs, leaders, and unique abilities work.
The primary difference between a Dark Age and a Golden Age ties into the new Loyalty system, which can cause your cities to rebel and become Free Cities. This is a new type of minor power that can either be conquered or brought into the fold by raising the city’s loyalty - including by civs that are not the original owner. This brings back, in some form, the concept of ‘culture flipping’ cities we last saw in Civ IV, which I was happy to see.