Civilization VI (Rise and Fall, Gathering Storm) – PC & Console Versions

The Game

There’s no way you haven’t heard of Sid Meier’s Civilization series (developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games). Civilization VI is the latest in the famous series and while the base game came out a few years ago, the developers have been rolling out a series of DLC and updates. They have also published the game on basically every console. I played both the PS4 version and the PC so I’ll cover some of the good and bad of both. Civilization V is one of my all time favourite games (I had over 1000hrs) so I had high hopes for this sequel, but I held off buying it until it came out at a more accessible price.

If you’ve never played Civ before then you have been missing out (and probably living under a rock). It’s a turn based 4x strategy game that takes you and your civilization through history and the ages. There are several ways you can win the game – domination, culture, science, religion, score (or in Gathering Storm – diplomatic). You play on a hex grid map and build up your cities and armies and take on rival civilizations, or build alliances and friendships if you prefer a diplomacy heavy game. You decide whether you want to be a peaceful and fun loving leader or a warmongering dictator that drops nukes those who oppose them. If you’re coming from Civ V some of the most notable additions are districts (specialised neighbourhoods) and a civics tech tree. It’s not until the expansion packs and DLCs where the game really starts to feel like something innovative and new, like the addition of Governors and Loyalty.

The game offers tons of civilizations to play as and each DLC adds more, there are also a variety of maps and game modes to chose from. This in itself will give you much to experiment with and keep you busy for hours on end. The base game in itself feels a bit limited, it’s not until Gathering Storm that the developers really made it something special and moved it on from Civilization V. Rise and Storm adds mechanics such as Dark and Golden Ages, loyalty and governors, while Gathering Storm builds and expands on that by adding climate change, disasters, electricity and a new victory mode. Each DLC also gives a bunch of World Wonders, new Civs, units and buildings.

Worth it?

On its own the base game really isn’t all that much – you’re better off playing Civilization V and all its DLC instead. You can get the Civ 6 base game (on sale) for around £8.50, and each of the main DLCs will set you back around £10, with some civ packs for around £5. The console versions will set you back a little bit more, but try and get them on sale if you can. When it comes to deciding the platform, the obvious benefit of PC (apart from cheap CD keys) is also mods – the Civ modding community is great and there are some really great ones out there – from UI improvements to entire civilizations, units and modes. On the other hand, the console version will let you play from the comfort of your sofa, a potentially very dangerous combination as you probably won’t leave that sofa all weekend.

It’s got to be said that the DLC method does feel like a bit of a rip off, there’s a lot of additional content which can amount to quite a serious sum. The base game on its own is quite basic, especially when you learn about all the great additions in each of the mods. The main one worth getting is Gathering Storm as it includes much of what’s in Rise & Fall, although you can often find the two on sale together. The console version I played (PS4) had some issues worth noting – there are issues with the UI, various highlights and selections are hard to see, issues with scrolling in certain menus, some of the functionality available on PC isn’t available and of course, no mods.

Another couple of the DLCs worth picking up as they add a good deal of new content (secret societies game mode and a civ) are the Ethiopia pack and the Babylon pack (heroes and legends game mode and a civ) – each of those will set you back about £3.99. With all the DLC and various packs you will have so much content to play that you will definitely get your money’s worth – there are potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay there.

Overall Civilization VI didn’t start out as the strongest game on its own, but through a few years of updates, DLCs, new modes and civs it has become a truly epic game that will keep you locked in for hours, thinking “just one more turn”. The console versions aren’t the greatest, but strategies on consoles have always been a bit of an odd combo and considering that – it does do an ok job. Aim to get as much of the DLC as possible (ideally on sale) and you will have yourself something to keep you busy for a very very very long time.

Tips

  • Enable the ribbon UI option so you can keep track of your opponents’ yields
  • Enable the yields UI option to get an accurate idea of the individual tile yields
  • Don’t accept demands from the AI
  • Selling diplomatic favour can help if you’ve got cashflow problems
  • Think about the positions of various districts and yields when placing cities
  • Placing a city on a luxury resource will still give you that resource
  • On harder difficulty there’s less point in getting a religion
  • Domination victory is generally easiest
  • Science matters – regardless what victory you are going for
  • Gold can solve a lot of your problems too
  • Use the “Join Ongoing War” option to help get other AIs involved if you feel you need support (and distractions for the AI) – sometimes they will willingly accept for 1 gold, other times a spare copy of a luxury is enough to convince them
  • Settling on fresh water gives you more housing, coastal cities start with less, which is why granaries and harbours with lighthouses are important
  • Read the wikis and learn as much as you can about your civilization’s bonuses, but don’t force them into your game if it’s not right
  • For tips for playing on Deity or general tips check out PotatoMcWhiskey on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PotatoMcWhiskey

Useful Links

Vampyr

The Game

Vampyr by Focus Home Interactive is a decision based action RPG, heavily focused on dialogue and decisions that will affect the world around you. The game is available on virtually every console and will see you take on 1918 London in the midst of the Spanish Flu epidemic – it’s actually quite amazing to observe the parallels with our 2020 pandemic. As the title suggests however, influenza isn’t the only thing going around London. You wake up as a newly born vampire on a mission to find out how and why you were turned. Being a vampire you can only go out at night, meaning the game is quite dark and grey but that works well to create a good atmosphere and really plunge you into the chaos of disease ridden 1918 London. Some of the public health posters and messaging in game are especially close to home in 2020.

The game’s core mechanic is your ability to prey on the civilians that still inhabit London. These are NPCs with side quests and stories that you can delve into through the plentiful dialogue options. The more you know about someone, the more XP they will give you if you feast on their blood. However, if you prey on too many civilians you will plunge the neighbourhood into chaos, killing all other civilians and causing it to be overrun by enemies. This in itself is an amazing take on a decisions matter type game. The importance of each character, the respective XP and their own personal story will all factor into your decision on whether to spare their life or take it – it makes for some really gripping story telling and some very critical decisions that will affect everything around you.

The combat is predominantly melee options between various weapon types, there are also ranged weapons but I found I only needed them in the more challenging boss fights. The combat starts out feeling a bit clunky, but as you level up and improve your skills it becomes more fast paced and exciting, but you still need to have your wits about you and make sure you dodge out the way in time. You’ll find yourself fighting all sorts of vampiric creatures as well as vampire hunters while you explore the various London boroughs.

Worth it?

Generally speaking the game will set you back £34.99, however it’s frequently on sale – you can get it for under a tenner. It was also free in October’s PS Plus games, so if you haven’t downloaded it yet – I would definitely recommend you do. The game offers a good deal of game play especially if you fully engage with dialogue options and characters, there are times when all you will be doing is talking to people (for a considerable amount of time). To a degree the basic dialogue options are similar, but the more you find out about other citizens the more dialogue options you get. Depending on what fate you choose for people in London the game also offers a good deal of replay value. Each major boss will offer you a choice and there are actually 4 different endings to the story depending on the choices you make. These choices will also affect dialogue with NPCs and even your ability to complete quests or purchase items. In that regard the game does an amazing job of really making every decision impactful. However, I would note that most of the key plot points will remain the same, but dialogue, district status and ending scene will be affected.

Overall I would recommend getting the game on sale when possible, being a couple years old I am not sure I can justify the full price. Personally I am not really one for replaying something so story driven, but for a completionist there is some replay value. At times the game does feel like a conversation simulator, but the dialogue is well written and well acted, it can just get a bit tedious trying to find out as much as you can about everyone. One weird design decision is that there’s no fast travel, which most of the time is ok, but there are times when it would have been a great feature, especially considering you have “safe houses” around the city that act as bases. The music and atmosphere of the game are great and give it a great cinematic feel and the aesthetics are great despite the fact that the colour palette consists of mainly greys and red. The game will definitely keep you busy for a few days and maybe even give you a bit of insight into how bad things were in one of the worst pandemics man kind has experienced.

Tips

  • Buy handle parts whenever you can, especially the rarer ones
  • Curing people of their illnesses will help stabilise your district – it’s always worth carrying a few spare medicines around
  • Certain dialogue options will mean you fail to discover a clue about someone, so be careful what you say
  • If you plunge a district into chaos all remaining civilians will be killed, so if things aren’t looking too good – make sure to harvest their XP before resting
  • A good tactic for big XP gains is to complete everyone’s side quests in a district and learn as much as you can about them before feeding on them, probably best to do this once your Mesmerise Level is high enough to get most civilians in the area

Useful Links