Like many fans of 4X game Civilization VI, I was a little conflicted when I heard that Firaxis was going down the season pass route for the latest run of Civ 6 DLC. Both Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm are solid expansions and it was clear that Civilization VI was finally hitting its own golden age like Civilization V did before it.
But the allure of new content – including new civs and new special game modes – was too good to pass up, and I purchased the New Frontier Pass the moment it was available because I felt that Civilization VI could only get better. Now that the dust has settled and we get to look back through the the New Frontier Pass, was it worth it?
How many golden ages shone brighter, how many dark ages stifled excitement? Most importantly, was it worth paying the equivalent of a full expansion for (barring minor additions) six new game modes, eight new civilizations, and nine new leaders?
Just to be difficult, my answer is: it depends! To complicate matters, each pack from the New Frontier Pass can be purchased separately, so the frugal among us can grab the best packs and leave the others behind. But singling out the best or worst DLC from this run is a surprisingly tough ask.
The Maya & Gran Colombia Pack, for example, took an interesting feature from Gathering Storm and made it more engaging. The Apocalypse mode, which cranks up natural disasters and adds the apocalypse state when climate change reaches maximum, feels like a natural evolution of that concept. It added more things for me to take into consideration when building my civ, which is perfect for tackling that mid-late game malaise. Unfortunately, The Maya civilisation itself is in dire need of adjustment.
There is something to be said about having new content drop on your lap at regular intervals
By contrast, the Vietnam & Kublai Khan Pack not only addresses the undervalued economic side of Civ 6 in a new game mode, but also adds two very dynamic Civ 6 leaders in Lady Trieu and Kublai Khan. Some of the packs look considerably poorer by comparison. The Byzantium and Gaul Pack does little to ignite my passion for the game, but I will admit that the release got me playing again for a little while.
Neither civilisation is particularly interesting, with a generalist in Gaul and another military civ in Byzantium – the Dramatic Ages mode isn’t particularly enthralling either.
While the whole New Frontier Pass offers something for everyone, the specific pairing of civilisations with game modes (and other content) means that it can be difficult to recommend a la carte pack purchasing. Take the Ethiopia and Portugal packs for example, each offering only a single civ, and a mode that dramatically alters the base experience of Civilization VI.
The New Frontier Pass succeeded in doing one important thing: keeping the spark of Civ 6 alive
Individually, they might have been worth skipping for players keen on vanilla Civ, but even the specific mix in each pack presents a quandary. Personally, I’m a fan of mixing it up with Secret Societies here and there, but a zombies mode isn’t my cup of the proverbial. On the other hand, I wasn’t especially interested in Ethiopia – though it’s my most played civ in Civilization V – but I was very excited to see Portugal finally arrive.
Such dilemmas are less of an issue if you bought into the whole New Frontier Pass from the start – there is something to be said about having new content plopped on your lap at regular intervals.
Value for money
Season passes are a tricky proposition. While I believe what Civ VI offers is worth the cost, there are countless examples of games failing to deliver quality season passes.
It is best to take a hard look at a publisher’s track record, how much you enjoy the content that's currently available - season passes are essentially a gamble on future content.
I’m sure I’m not alone in that my interest in playing Civilization VI comes and goes in waves. After a few games it feels like it’s time to take a break and move on to something else for a while. But upon its release the New Frontier Pass acted as a catalyst to renew my interest every couple of months. Regardless of what each pack had to offer, you can bet I was firing up the Civ engines to give the latest additions a whirl.
Even if I was unsure about a specific game mode or civ, I was definitely trying everything fresh out as soon as it released. In doing so, I discovered how much I enjoy playing as Vietnam and Portugal, and that the Monopolies and Corporations game mode might be better than the main game. If the pass had been released as a single expansion, I doubt I would have actually explored everything in it, and this is the greatest strength of a season pass.
With new content comes a need for balance changes, and it has been fascinating to see civs rise and fall as new contenders enter the fray. Next week’s April balance patch promises sweeping reforms, and I hope this includes some of the newer additions as well. Yes, it’s great that Spain is finally getting the work it needs, but Maya seems underwhelming and Portugal’s gold yields are wonderfully horrific. That’s not even mentioning what’s going on with tile yields right now.
The April update means there’s still room for new experiences with Civilization VI and this season pass has made the impending reforms all the more exciting. As a collective there is plenty worth checking out, but the fact that the packs are still available individually means, if you can definitively say you don’t want certain civilisations or modes, that’s perfectly fine. Even as a complete package the pros outweigh the cons so, whichever way you decide to acquire the new content, it’s a win-win.
Buy now: It’s never too late to pick up Civilization 6
Regardless of the ups and downs, the New Frontier Pass succeeded in doing one very important thing: keeping the spark of Civilization VI alive for an entire year. There’s enough content there to keep many, including myself, playing far into the unknown future until Civilization 7 comes along.