It took Civilization V to become the classic it’s regarded as today. Civilization VI is halfway there.

While my 2016 review of Civ VI was glowing, it did come with the historical reservation that Civilization games are so big, and their design process so ever-evolving, that they’re rarely a masterpiece from the get-go. So while Civ VIshould be lauded for some of its positive steps, like the intricate district system and more flexible policies design, it also shipped with (relative to the series) poor diplomacy and some terrible AI.

Rise & Fall addresses some of these issues. But for the most part, the things it introduces aren’t interested in fixes; they’re instead looking at shaping your experience into something more intimate than you may be used to with a Civilization game.

There’s lots of new stuff on offer in this expansion, from UI tweaks to new factions, but I’m not here to rattle off bullet points. I’m instead going to be talking about R&F’s three main additions, and how they all work together to change the way each game of Civ VI feels.


civilization vi: rise and fall review

The use of actual characters, complete with portraits and names, brings some personality back to the periphery of the game that’s been missing since the colouful advisors of older games went away.

Governors are a new addition to the series. Players are able to choose from eight of them over the course of a game, and each one specialises in something. If you take a look at the image above you’ll see that there are governors devoted to matters like the military, production, religion and diplomacy.

You appoint a governor to one of your cities, and once there any of the abilities they’ve unlocked will apply to that settlement. So if you’ve got a frontier city that’s your bulwark against invasion, it might be a good idea to place Victor, the militaristic governor, there. And as the game goes on, you’ll earn points you can spend on either unlocking more governors or adding new powers to the ones you’ve got.

They’re important, not just for the benefits their powers provide, but also for the boost they offer to a city’s loyalty. See, in R&F, there’s a new loyalty system that blends old series ideas on border influence and happiness and turns them into something better. Cities close to the borders of a rival may see their allegiance to your empire slowly drained away, which makes border interplay more interesting.

These influence powers also have the wonderful side-effect of neutering the old Civ dick move of founding a tiny new city right in the middle of another empire, because doing this now will see the fresh settlement eaten up by the cultural forces of its surroundings in a heartbeat (the ebb and flow between larger, more established cities is far less drastic).

Governors give Civ VI a much more satisfying feeling of, well, governing. Each one is so specialised, and so powerful, that their deployment and training help remove a lot of the sense of helplessness some aspects of Civ (like loyalty and borders) could previously leave the player with.

Ages & Eras

civilization vi: rise and fall review

Nice touch: if you trigger a Golden Age (left), the entire screen becomes oversaturated for the remainder of the era. If you slide into a Dark Age (right), meanwhile, the colour is drained from the map.

The idea of a “golden age” is nothing new in Civ. Nor is a codified progression through eras, like “medieval” and “industrial”. But the way they’re implemented in R&F is new, and it’s maybe my favourite part of expansion.

Previously, the player would do these things alone. A golden age would be triggered by something you did, and your progression through ages was determined solely by how many techs you’d discovered.

Now, the world is united. Everyone moves through the ages together, regardless of their level of technological advancement, and every time they do, R&F takes stock of how you did over the last few centuries. Players doing some good Civstuff are rewarded with a golden age, which increases their loyalty. Players who are lagging behind get stuck with a dark age, which decreases their influence on the map around them.

Most times, you’ll end up in the middle in a “normal” age, which means business as usual, and whichever age you end up in, you’ll be able to assign perks that either help you get closer to a golden age or, if you’re in one, giving you powerful advantages over your rivals.

Which sounds unfair, and for a little while, it is! But the ages are designed to be rubber-banded. It’s easy to propel yourself into a golden age from the dark ages, and it’s just as easy to find yourself sliding in the opposite direction (though R&F doesn’t go crazy with it….I found that I’d usually go through one of each age per game).

This swinging pendulum adds a little bit of urgency and compulsion to act in parts of the game that might otherwise have become a bit of a “click next turn” drag.


civilization vi: rise and fall review

This is what happened shortly after one of my cities was nuked by China. It feels heavily inspired by Paradox’s war systems from games like Crusader Kings, which is fine, because they add a huge amount of togetherness to a game where everyone is normally working to their own ends.

The scope and scripting of your relations with other leaders was one of the most disappointing things about Civ VI at launch. Your rivals were erratic, and alliances seemed almost pointless since you could never trust the AI from turn to turn.

You…still can’t trust them, for the most part, but one area things have been changed for the better are alliances. Instead of simply forming an alliance with another player and have it mean you are now just best buds in general, you can now choose from several different types of alliance, ranging from military to research, with each one tailored towards a specific shared bonus.

And the longer you maintain alliances, the stronger they become. I played a game as Scotland and (sorry) formed an alliance with England during the Medieval era. This endured for the rest of the game, taking in all kinds of deals, and renewals of our oaths were offered as much by the AI as were driven by myself.

We researched together, we traded, we fought in countless wars, England sometimes coming to my aid against the dominant Chinese, I sometimes coming to hers against her pesky neighbouring Poles.

This sounds minor, but it really helps draw you out of a sense of loneliness that Civ VI could sometimes leave you stuck with. It’s now in your interest to reach out to your neighbours for more than just the uranium you don’t have, and the relationships you form over the years really help form strong bonds.

The three new features above, as separate as they seem divided on the page like this, are all working together towards a common goal: drawing you closer to the world, making you feel like you’re a part of it, instead of just a distant observer.

civilization vi: rise and fall review

The governors add a dash of personality to your own Civilization, where previously the only other charm in the game could be found in your opponents. The new ages system breaks up everyone’s isolated paths and binds the world together. And alliances now let you generate a game-long feeling of friendship with another Civ, where previously you could only loathe.

Civ VI’s Lead designer Ed Beach has a ton of board game design experience, and that was one of the enduring feelings I took away from the game when I first played it: how Civilization had become more tactile, both in terms of how you interacted with it and how it looked.

Rise & Fall continues this good work. Sure, there are still rough edges across the game—trade routes and spy networks are tedious and poorly signposted, and naval AI remains a disaster—but this isn’t a patch, or a seasonal upgrade designed to fix things.

It’s a substantial expansion to Civ VI, and it’s main objective has been to drag you down from the distant heavens and put you to work amongst your people, rather than somewhere a few thousand feet above them.

Back in November, I said because Civilization VI had grown stale, with thousands of players preferring its 2010 predecessor over the more recent—and many fans would argue incomplete—effort.

Well, if you go by the rule that games in this series need two expansions, then Civilization VI is now a much more complete game. Rise & Fall gets its hooks in deep, showing that the enlarged game’s greatest strength may not be its scale or its history, but the sense of togetherness it inspires, and the way it drags the player down to the surface of its gorgeous world.

If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing.

  • Ad-free TechSpot experience while supporting our work
  • Our promise: All reader contributions will go toward funding more content
  • That means: More tech features, more benchmarks and analysis


When is the release date of Sifu’s Summer Update?

Image via Sloclap Earlier this year, Slowcap’s Sifu took the world by storm, selling over one million copies in its first three weeks on the market. Close to launch, the team revealed that the game would get several free content updates over the course of the year. In the ...

View more: When is the release date of Sifu’s Summer Update?

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty gameplay trailer shows fast-paced, high-flying action

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a slow burning title that’s slowly heating up and bringing the hype to fans of third person action titles. One of next year’s most dynamic and aggressive titles has just gotten a new gameplay trailer, giving us a brief glimpse of what we have to ...

View more: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty gameplay trailer shows fast-paced, high-flying action

New Minecraft Legends Trailer Gives A First Look At Fiery Foes

Gungrave GORE - Release Date Trailer - IGN

A series making its return after many years, Gungrave GORE promises bloody mayhem, a killer team, and a fall release date in this new Gamescom trailer. A mix of CG and gameplay gives it a good taste of the carnage to come. This new Gungrave game will launch on ...

View more: Gungrave GORE - Release Date Trailer - IGN

Heavy Metal's first YA story Starward concludes with an all-out celestial brawl

This is not your grandfather's Heavy Metal

View more: Heavy Metal's first YA story Starward concludes with an all-out celestial brawl

Nexa and flameZ help OG upset FaZe in BLAST Premier Fall Groups

Photo via PGL OG beat FaZe Clan 2-1 today in the knockout stage of the BLAST Premier Fall Groups, which is their best result since adding Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar, Maciej “F1KU” Miklas, and Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov halfway through 2022. The victory allows OG to move further in the CS:GO ...

View more: Nexa and flameZ help OG upset FaZe in BLAST Premier Fall Groups

Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed Review

In the first Destroy All Humans!, Crypto evidently didn’t manage to successfully carry out his objective to destroy all of the humans – as per the title’s remit – necessitating the existence of a 2006 sequel, which forms the basis for this remake, playfully titled Destroy All Humans! 2 – ...

View more: Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed Review

Hearthstone Patch 24.2: Full notes and updates

Battlegrounds. Battlegrounds everywhere Miscellaneous Mercs, Brawliseum, and more Image via Blizzard Entertainment The latest update to Blizzard’s popular card game is bringing along the new separate seasonal pass for Battlegrounds and Runestones, Hearthstone’s new virtual currency. Heroic Brawliseum is also making a return, plus in-game reporting is finally being ...

View more: Hearthstone Patch 24.2: Full notes and updates

Metal Gear and Silent Hill fans hope Konami's announcement could revive classic games

Age of Darkness: Final Stand - Edwin Hero Spotlight - IGN

Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed Video Review - IGN

The First 13 Minutes of Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed PS5 Gameplay - IGN

Destroy All Humans 2 - Reprobed

Team Liquid officially exits PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds eSports

‘The Ghost Lights’ VOD Review

Official PC system requirements for Hogwarts Legacy

Review Destroy all Humans! 2 – Reprobed

Aliens: Dark Descent is more than an XCOM clone - and feels surprisingly true to the movies

Destiny 2's New Craftable Taipan-4FR Linear Fusion Rifle Is A Must-Have, Here's How To Get It

Volunteer As A Subject In THE OUTLAST TRIALS Closed Beta