[GS] Thoughts about Gathering Storm and New Frontiers


Searching for the daguerrotype of God
Apr 16, 2020
Christchurch, New Zealand
Hopefully I'm not beating a dead horse here.

The more I look back on it, the more I see the shortfalls of Gathering Storm. The biggest is obviously the world congress, it's simply not fun for a randomised, listy and arbitrary mechanic to pop up every 30 turns. I want it out of the way almost all of the time. Resource stockpiling was just a bunch of missed opportunities to me, it was either not impactful if you had tonnes of them, or pretty annoying if you didn't. In both of these mechanics, Civ 5's implementation seemed to be much more well thought out. The last is global warming, which wasn't terrible, but not amazing. I think negative events like floods, tornadoes and famines are good, but famines aren't impactful, and the rest are just temporary blockers and give you too many yields, especially forest fires and floods.

Other features like power were okay, but even though power is so important in real life in Civ 6 it just seems to be a few more yields for a few strategic resources, and not really all that important if you have those bases covered or even if you don't. I'm sure society would ground to a halt in real life with sustained power shortages, but my people don't seem to care all that much in Civ. In any case even if you don't have power you'd be too far ahead of AI to care. Grievances were an improvement, but sometimes it's same-old when you've done something marginally wrong like take an opponent's city in a defensive war and the whole world hates you. I can't say if the science victory update meant anything much, or the new techs and civics and era, but they're not bad either. But I don't think there should have been a new era when half the game is set past the Renaissance. The new infrastructures are ok, but I don't like district bloat or the AI's mountain tunnel spam. If anything, it doesn't help AI choices, because they can be a waste of AI production. I don't pay attention to Rock Bands, Skirmishers or Giant Death Robots, but they exist.

The new civs and leaders are unique to play for humans, but not so great for AI. Kupe often settles on a tiny 1-tile island, which isn't wrong and definitely realistic for polynesians, but I feel like it's a waste of a civ slot with Kupe in weak positions because he'll just sit at the bottom of the leaderboard with a 20 population city on one tiny island in the tundra, surrounded by fish, and with no science or culture because there's no places to put districts. Kristina and Wilfred have to deal with the world congress to win and get bonuses to useless diplomatic currency, and don't have amazing bonuses for other victories, maybe except Open Air Museums. Suleiman, Musa and Eleanor are interesting but weak for AI, and Suleiman's weakness is probably because the AI is terrible with anything to do with war after the Classical Era. Dido, Pachacuti and Matthias are alright, but Dido and Pachacuti aren't particularly unique leaders, and Matthias has decent bonuses but the AI obviously will still struggle with conquering. Rise and Fall civs like Cree and the Netherlands play well with AI but are pretty generic.

The world wonders are weird... Golden Gate Bridge and Panama Canal aren't useful, the scale is all off but that's not a problem. I've never built the Great Bath because the AI gets it first, it might one of the reasons why they're doing so badly, because they're spending their production on a wonder so early. I've also never built the Meenakshi Temple, but I don't see how it could be useful even for a Religious Victory. The University of Sankore is ok, but I don't think about desert cities that much and if I have one I'll just build it for fun. The Orszaghaz is a diplomatic wonder and not really worth my production, but it looks cool. The natural wonders are just natural wonders, I'm not bothered by them.

I would play a Rise and Fall game, but a few mods that I really like are Gathering Storm only, and I think that the lighting in Rise and Fall is too garish and bright now that I'm used to the dull and more grounded Gathering Storm lighting. I could use Customisation VI and get rid of some mechanics, and disable some leaders that depend on things like World Congress from appearing so they aren't at a disadvantage, which I might have to do. And I just don't like strategic resources being a lucky dip, which isn't unrealistic, but the diplomacy and trading system means that resource trading isn't in your favour at all. Even then, the player produces so much gold that it's not worth your time to sell resources.

When New Frontiers was announced, I thought the patches in New Frontiers might fix some of the problems I saw, especially because it seemed to promise so much for me. While we got a half-baked product, I think covid and the short time span between patches, and maybe some corporate involvement, led to the problems we have with Civ 6 today. In fact I don't use any of the modes in my games, because the AI suffers with them, and I don't feel like it's worth my time to click 'end turn' until I win – these game modes tend to give you massive bonuses and hinder AI. I can't think of any reason why Firaxis hasn't done a final bug patch just to fix the glaring problems like the constant crashing, the annoying launcher, the broken modes and the AI mess, as well as multiplayer stability, except a decision from 2K. Meanwhile, the bloody launcher has had at least 4 updates by now.

Lastly, I did enjoy Gathering Storm while the shine was still there and I was getting to learn it, and back then, Civ 6 actually worked. I think that New Frontiers had plenty of effort put into it and Firaxis developers definitely were well meaning when they released the updates, even if they had game-breaking bugs. It did put life back into Civ 6 after a year of radio silence from Firaxis, which is happening again. But I think the game was better before New Frontiers, or at least more coherent and stable if it wasn't great, and if it were possible I'd go back to the patch before all this crashing happened.
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When New Frontiers was announced, I thought the patches in New Frontiers might fix some of the problems I saw, especially because it seemed to promise so much for me. While we got a half-baked product, I think covid and the short time span between patches, and maybe some corporate involvement, led to the problems we have with Civ 6 today. In fact I don't use any of the modes in my games, because the AI suffers with them, and I don't feel like it's worth my time to click 'end turn' until I win – these game modes tend to give you massive bonuses and hinder AI. I can't think of any reason why Firaxis hasn't done a final bug patch just to fix the glaring problems like the constant crashing, the annoying launcher, the broken modes and the AI mess, as well as multiplayer stability,
You have to imagine the scene in Firaxis's office -

"Well we have next week for working on Civ 6 - let's see; we could either fix all the bugs and annoyances that spoil the game, or we could add a new fantasy game mode with zombies."

"Oooh, if we do the zombies can we do a video with us going BRAAAAAAINS to camera?"

"Yes, you can do that."

"OK! Zombies it is!"
I liked some of the concepts introduced in Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm but the implementation was terrible and QA was non existent
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I agree. The overall problem I see with Civ 6 development, is that they just kept piling on content, but did very little to integrate each bit of content with the rest, and never refined systems in an impactful way beyond their first implementations. The World Congress is maybe the most egregious example. Not being able to influence what is voted on, not even being able to determine with certainty what you yourself are voting on, and no interaction between WC and regular diplomacy, means it doesn't really add much strategy to the game...it's just some randomized busywork you have to deal with every few turns. I think it needs a serious overhaul and rethink, but did anything in the game ever get that? Expansions added even more systems and content. Patches fixed some bugs and tweaked some numbers, with a +1 here and a -2 there.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like in Civ 6. I am particularly fond of the civ designs, most of which were good, some of which were great (and one of which I thought was awful, can you guess which one?). The game had a lot of potential, and a Vox Populi-style overhaul could have been amazing. But as it stands, while I've had a fun with it, I am left a bit disappointed by the wasted potential.
I love the new modes and Civs, but I do wish they did more:
- Bug fixes, from minor to major.
- Make religion victories more dynamic it’s just domination light. Give religious units their own promotion trees, earned through spreads and theological combat. Like a combination of rock bands and regular units. Get rid of martyr as a promotion and make it a reward for high level religious units, that instead get a relic if they die or use all their actions. Make relics buff passive spread in the cities they’re in.
- Make world congress more interesting and more interactive. Let me put forward my own proposals instead of having random ones.
- Allow diplomatic victories work for alliances.
- Give spies more missions: Like hurting a religion in the city they’re in, provide a tourism modifier, earn diplomatic favour, etc
I have to admit, it's the same thing for me. When I first got Gathering Storm (I got it with RnF at the same Time) I was very amazed by it, I loved each Feature except the Natural Disasters. I enjoyed it for quite some Time, but after some few Months I started to notice the many design flaws and the issues that it brought to the Game. All the Ideas in Gathering Storm are great IMO, but the Issue with them is either the bad implementation or the lack of refinement.
But, as you said, it overall improved Civ6, stable and solid.

World Congress: Dumb AI Choices aside, there is no way to Influence other Players or have a say on the Resolutions discussed. But The biggest Issue for me is that the Resolutions don't have any or much impact on the Game. You ban Whales, then what? does that stop me from pursuing a Victory or culturally influencing others? And why isn't there any Resolution that would really help reducing the Global warming Effects? What's the point of a World Congress if not that?

Resource Stockpiles and Energy/Power: This two are great Ideas but very underutilized. They could have been a good Solution to the late-game boredom. Resources and Power should play a big role in producing and maintaining your Military (which tbh kinda is, but you either have lots of them or nothing at all, which is a balance Issue), building Infrastructure, Industrialization, manufacturing of products (a missed opportunity in C&M Mode), Diplomatic relationships for Trade, Global Market, an incentive to warring a player that has them, Colonization...etc.

Natural Disasters: I like the Idea behind them, but I don't like how they unreasonabaly increase the yields of tiles. And constantly having to repair the tiles they pillage is a very big Noisance. Admittedly, I'm not a Fan of them, not because of the Penalties (their Bonuses make up for that), but because they are too random, take too long and they trigger too often. I would rather have them as 1 Turn Game Events like in Old World/Humankind where a Pop-up tells me what happened (in Beauteful strory telling) and gives me 2-3 Options on how to react to it.

Global Warming: My main Issue with this is that it triggers too early. I'm ok with it triggering a bit earlier than IRL, but in Industrial or Modern Era? The Issue with it is nothing that has to do with it but with the Game's Balance and Pacing. Before you even get to experience the Consequences of Global Warming you will already have won the Game by then, or be very close to it. And it doesn't prevent that.

Grievances: This one is actually great, and even the implementation is good. BUT, it needed lots of refinement, and be more impactful on diplomatic relationships, but this latter has Issues on its own tbh, so we can't expect Grievances to add on something that is already broken (it wasn't meant to fix it).

Future Era: It seems to me that the Devs were planning to add to this later on (with a DLC), because it's mostly empty and didn't serve any reasonable purpose.

Rock Bands: Yes, it's Rock Concerts that makes my Culture dominate others and attract most Tourists. No doubt about that. (But I get why they (and GDR) are in the Game)

All of that makes me feel that GS was mainly meant to improve the Late Game (like BNW did with Civ5), but failed massively at that. Which is very dissapointing, because it had a lot of good Ideas in it, but a lot of that potential was underutilised. Most things aren't impactful as they should be, and I think one reason why they aren't is because they would have impaired the AI.

Re. NFP fixing GS problems; I too thought that it would solve some of the Game Issues, and fill its empty gaps (like connecting some mechanics with each other), which is something that you would expect from the last DLC of a Game (especially Civ), but instead we got ZOMBIES!! NFP for me is just lots of wasted Resources in halfbaked, uninteresting, but shiny Ideas, with a terrible QA (no offense to the people involved, I'm sure they have encountered most Issues that we have with NFP, but the Dev Team might not have had the Time to fix all of them, and this is why I don't like the Game Modes, they just took too much time and resources from the devs from working on the more important parts of the game). Overall, NFP for me did more damage to the Game than good, and I agree, the Game before NFP was more stable and balanced, and even uniform to a degree.
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NFP felt like the stuff that got left on the cutting room floor of a film. And, much as when you get the "Super Extended director's cut" of a film, you quickly realize why it wasn't included in the first place. I'm not sure any element of it could reasonably claim to be complete, balanced, and with the AI able to cope with it. Take the dramatic ages for example. When I tried that, at Immortal difficulty, all but one of the AIs was literally rebelled out of existence, without me ever declaring a war. Other elements like corporations, you could see the beginnings of an idea, but to work properly it blatantly required adjustments to other systems like great merchants, which had not been done - it was quite literally an unfinished idea. This puts NFP in a weird place for me as sort of a "non-canonical" expansion pack. With the other Civ games I think of the "definitive version" as including all the expansion packs, but not with Civ 6 and NFP due to all the half finished and generally out of place mechanics.

I don't have as many objections to Gathering Storm, but it does have its issues. The World Congress is one of those ideas that sounds good, but the devs have struggled to come up with something useful for it to do. This becomes very blatant when playing for a diplomatic victory. Since you get points simply for being on the winning side of a vote, it becomes less a question of which outcome I want, and instead just making educated guesses how the AI will vote. And once you do that, you realize how irrelevant most of the actual decisions are. It doesn't really matter if one random luxury is banned or one unit type gets a fairly trivial modifier, compared to getting the victory point.
Well my experience was just base game and then full DLC.
The base game worked fine but the full DLC adds so much that however clunky some of the features get I still get back to CIV VI on a regular basis. It's like play X game, CIV VI (1/2 sessions) play Y game, again CIV VI...the addiction got to the point where I paused a Zelda game for a few days just to try Warrior Monks on CIV VI. CIV VI is always on the back of mind...i love it, can't play without heroes, corporations and secret societies though. And while I've seen the AI badly using these modes features often, some times they get how to play them. It's sad dramatic ages it's too hard on the AI, and that bug on a policy card...but still...there's so much. I reckon i came very late to the party on this CIV though...so I understand the complains the olders fanatics make, i share them too...but i haven't even played all of the DLC civs.

I just don't really like the late game music! Give me an option to change the tunes and I am a happier camper!
I agree to do much of this-the issues are really all in gathering storm! For me, I have ignored the WC (Never gone for DV In hundreds of hours), rarely utilized power (you can easily win without polluting for production), and ignore climate change. If I’m subconsciously trying to play without the features from an entire expansion pack then you know something’s wrong…BNW tied everything together and really improved Civ V but GS did nothing like for Civ VI.

I would also add that inter-Civ diplomacy was also made even worse in GS. Alliances are stupidly designed as you are powerless as your Allies sack CSs, attack your rivals or forward settle you. I’m sure Stalin was all like “oh damn I guess I have to wait 50 turns until my alliance is over with the US before I can send a spy over to them”. It’s not fun nor realistic.

I also just don’t get the weird restrictions on trading cities (Lol we can’t give back capitals? Especially in a loyalty-centric world this is ass), or casus belli usage for joint wars. It makes diplomacy or any kind of interaction impossible unless VERY specific situations arise in the game. I think CB can be a effective tool for reducing grievances, but denouncing and waiting 5 turns should not be a thing. Surprise war should be something any Civ could do anyone and you should be able to goad/convince Civs into war. Sure it may abused you mess with the AI but it’s another way to take the tactics out of the tactical strategy game…which is largely what these diplomatic restrictions do.

Sorry a bit of a disjointed rant there…but in general I agree and am looking forward to Civ VII.
Well turn it off and fire up Spotify, or put on a CD.
Not really an option playing on the Nintendo Switch...also i want to hear the game music, just not the late eras tunes.
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