For the ages.
The first major expansion for Civilization VI, called Rise and Fall, has been unveiled. In addition to nine new leaders and eight new civs, the expansion adds a number of features designed to level out the playing field later in the game. While we there's a lot we still don't know about it, one thing is very clear: Rise and Fall is about comebacks.
In an interview, Rise and Fall lead designer Anton Strenger explained the thought process behind the new systems. "I noticed in Civilization VI [vanilla] that it became very powerful to have a large empire, and it became really hard to challenge the civ in the lead." Each of the main additions in Rise and Fall--the Great Ages system, Loyalty, and Governors--seems to work toward improving the base game's perceived pitfalls.
Great Ages are the most substantial of the upcoming changes. Based on how successful you are as a leader, your civilization can enter either a Golden Age or a Dark Age, with special bonuses, challenges, and modifiers to go with it. If you navigate a Dark Age carefully and complete the challenges posed to you, your next Golden Age will be a much stronger Heroic Age, giving you the edge even after you've slipped behind. Learn from your mistakes, and you won't have to suffer for them through the entire game.
"Of course, [Dark Ages give] us another challenge: how do you keep someone from quitting the game because they just reached a Dark Age?" Strenger said. "Our answer to that were Heroic Ages. They're like Advanced Golden Ages, or Triple Golden Ages. They give unique bonuses when you crawl out of a Dark Age. You'll also get unique policies during Dark Ages, so it's not always necessarily a bad thing to enter one."
Loyalty, which is specific to each individual city, adds to this later-game balancing. If you let a city's Loyalty fall too low, it will potentially declare independence, leaving room for another civ to swoop in, gain the city's loyalty, and expand its borders. The new Governors--seven minor characters that allow for more specialization in cities via bonuses and promotion trees--can be used to reinforce Loyalty. They also add another layer of customization to existing civs.
Rise and Fall's changes both aim to move Civ VI forward while also ironing out criticisms of the vanilla game. Great Ages, Loyalty, and Governors are only a few of a slew of changes big and small coming in the expansion, and if it's done wrong, it could be too much to try all at once. But if it's done right, Rise and Fall could be a seriously interesting addition to the long-running franchise.