The earth is shaking, volcanoes are erupting raining fiery death and brimstone on the landscape, rivers are flooding taking millions of lives in their wake, as mother Earth strongly voices her furious protests against humanities’ many crimes and misconducts against her. The storm which has been gathering since the last November has finally arrived with a vengeance. Don’t be fooled to think that this extract from some militant eco manifest, it’s all about the latest and final expansion pack for Civilization VI, which is fittingly named Gathering Storm.
That being said, the strong eco-conscious message isn’t just a superficial marketing trick designed to attract the attention of potential purchasers, but an essential and most interesting part of the gameplay. As we mentioned way back in our Civilization VI: Gathering Storm announcement, the crew from Firaxis had clearly made exhaustive research on the topic of pollution, greenhouse gasses and different scenarios of environmental catastrophes that can ensue, including the underlying ethical moment of the whole story.
Although the Civilization franchise had come a long way from its beginnings, its basic concepts haven’t much changed, and that also goes for the way they design their expansion packs. Add some new civilizations, throw in a few new charismatic world leaders, enable new technologies and wonders, and, for the most part, that’s basically it. Civilization VI: Gathering Storm has its own share of similar improvements, and it’s a good thing that it has – this raises its value and makes everything even more complex and engaging. However, the greatest achievement of Civilization VI: Gathering Storm is that it reminds us through the medium of video game that the lonesome blue-green planet on which we’re living on isn’t just a numb, insensitive space rock capable of taking the beating forever – it’s a living, breathing organism which can and will retaliate when cornered. And cornered it we have.
Of course, there are two kinds of environmental catastrophes in the game – natural (meaning that they could set off at any moment, such as volcanoes, for instance) and those that are directly correlated with the activities of your civilizations, such as floods and other things connected with climate changes. Like most things in the Civilization franchise, environmental catastrophes are a sword with two edges. For example, volcanoes are massively destructive, but after their eruptions, you’ll be left out with extremely nourished and fertile soil. Also, the effects of most catastrophes can be mitigated, either by working on it after it had occurred or with a number of preemptive actions, opting for eco-friendly and clean sources of energy on time.
With all that nuanced approach, the title Civilization is starting to have subtly ironical overtones, as if they wanted to make us clear what will happen if we continue on our current path and what will be the ultimate effect of our “civilization”. Of course, Civilization VI: Gathering Storm is “just” a video game, which is primarily designed to afford you with engaging fun, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t have more serious connotations, because it has. The Civilization franchise is a complex one, with many different historical and culturological aspects that merit deeper analysis. However, although some mild eco moments have been included into the franchise from the very start, Civilization VI: Gathering Storm spreads a strong and unequivocal eco-friendly message, which makes it the most socio-politically committed installment in the whole series. It is, perhaps, a pity that environmental catastrophes aren’t as harsh and destructive as could be expected (that would make their manifesto even more convincing), but that’s also possibly a conscious decision made by the game designers. Perhaps Firaxis is trying to tell us that there’s still time to atone for our crimes against the planet and that even the effects of the worst calamities, whether natural or manmade, can be reversed with unity and hard work?