Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm

Great game expansion tackles climate, still crashes

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Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, Science, Social Studies

Price: Paid
Platforms: Mac, Windows

Pros: Additional systems add much-needed diplomacy and global warming features that are fun to explore.

Cons: Troubleshooting issues as they arise (and they will) makes implementing this for classrooms a daunting task.

Bottom Line: Use a different game about climate change if that's the lesson goal.

Teachers could plan lessons or units around climate change that incorporate Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, but it may be better to find another game that could demonstrate similar themes, such as CO2, the board game. To be sure, Gathering Storm does a good job of displaying global CO2 levels and includes a persistent sea-level meter. Unfortunately, getting to the late game where those panels actually detail any significant change is a chore, if that's all students need to get out of the game.

Instead, teachers should treat this how they would the base game, using it in units around history and the social sciences with just an added bonus of featuring effects from climate change at the end. Alternatively, it could be possible to find a save game or a mod for the game that lets students jump right in to the industrial era, but then the issue becomes whether students have had enough time with the game to understand how all its systems work and what caused the conditions that led up to human-caused climate change.

In Common Sense Education's review for the base game without expansions, a bug prevented continued play after a few dozen hours, which occurred seemingly randomly, leading to much frustration and the daunting task of starting over if the goal was to get to an ending. Thankfully, that bug no longer exists. Ironically, new issues now exist that have proven even worse, and this reviewer was unable to finish a single game after about 100 hours of play in three attempts using a beefed-up gaming computer.

Civilization VI: Gathering Storm is the second expansion to the popular series, and, true to previous patterns with the series, this version has become really good after two expansions. In fact, it's generally understood by Civ players that two expansions make for a Civ game that can be considered complete, incorporating features that really should have been in the base game to start with. Gathering Storm's main added features are a new political system and a system that keeps track of carbon emissions, climate change due to human activity, and sea-level rise. The political system allows for a diplomatic victory by accruing goodwill points, mostly through achieving certain milestones, sending aid to others when needed, not waging war, and receiving the most votes during periodic convening of a World Congress. The climate change system keeps track of total pollution and energy consumption across all civilizations, increasing the risk of extreme weather conditions and sea-level rise as pollution increases.

The general process where players settle their first city, expand their empire as they exploit resources and build city improvements, and invest in civic and scientific research is the same as in the base game. Players new to Civilization VI won't know what's different about it with or without the expansions. As before, the early part of the game where players are learning the systems and exploring the map is extremely engaging. It's also neat to see the new info panels on climate change and global effects, even though nothing in the info panel changes during the early parts of the game. It's tantalizing to anticipate what's to come.

Yes, Civilization VI is still a great game, and the latest expansion, Gathering Storm, along with the one before it, Rise and Fall, makes it even better than before. It's extremely difficult to recommend, however, as it may be a rare computer classroom that has machines that can run this reliably. To wit, it's unclear whether the issue is really about how beefed up the machines are or whether there are just odd compatibility issues or just really unfortunate persistent bugs due to how complex the game is. The game seems to crash randomly when trying to load a save game. 

Unfortunately, it's therefore extremely frustrating to try to get to those portions of the game where climate change and sea levels have a significant impact on play. It takes dozens of hours to get to the industrial age, and then who knows if the game will just randomly crash? After the game crashes repeatedly, players may want to start anew at a lower difficulty to just get through the early content quickly. When a game-ending goal is finally met at lower difficulties, though, it's possible that hardly any global effects will have actually taken place, since it's possible to reach an end goal faster than the rate of pollution when most of the rivals will be lagging behind in industry. Ramping the difficulty higher presents the opposite problem, where the game could end before players have progressed much. All this is to say that, while the diplomacy is a welcome addition, it's very difficult to fully experience the climate change additions to Gathering Storm.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

This expansion adds to an already engaging game that can take a hundred hours to play.


As with the base game, learning is best through trial and error; the systems are deep and complex. The climate system comes too late in the game and, therefore, has less impact.


Two years of updates have not improved the in-game help much, but online wikis provide much-needed details of specific mechanics.

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