The Bloodless Side of Civilization
With the last Civilization V expansion, Gods & Kings , Firaxis managed to adjust the gameplay on a deep level without changing the feel of the game or making it any less accessible. Remarkably, the famed developer has accomplished the same feat with Brave New World , the final expansion to one of the most revered–and controversial–strategy games of the last several years.
Once again, players who haven’t touched Civ V in a while might not even notice the difference at first. But as each game unfolds, it becomes clear that the expansion turns Civ V into a very different animal.
Like all strategy expansions, Civ V boasts a bunch of new units, playable societies, and other options. One of the more interesting units, for example, is the archaeologist, who can travel the world in search of interesting and influential finds. You’ll also choose an “ideology” when you hit the industrial age–freedom, autocracy, or order.
The nine new societies change the game in more dramatic ways. Venice, the most interesting addition, can generate tons of gold, but it can’t create or annex other cities. The Shoshone are built for rapid territory expansion; each new city comes with much more land than normal. And the Zulus are gifted warriors, especially in the earlier stages of the game.
All of that’s great, but it’s not what makes Brave New World worth the $30 asking price. Rather, a host of less-obvious adjustments can radically alter the way you approach the game.
I’ll be honest: I treat a game of Civilization the same way I treat a game of Risk. My goal is to crush opposing societies with everything from spears to advanced aircrafts, and while I’m happy to cooperate with other civilizations to some extent when I need to, my goal is always to take over the world. Until Brave New World , the non-violent routes to victory have been pretty much invisible to me. Those routes are a lot less fun, and frankly, they usually aren’t implemented well, either.
What’s fascinating about Brave New World is that it makes you pay more attention to the bloodless side of the game without sabotaging the military-based route to victory. There are a whole host of changes that make culture, trade, and diplomacy a lot more fun to work with–and they also make the later stages of the game much more interesting.
To pick just a few examples: Cultural victories have been overhauled–you now have many more options, in particular with archaeology and tourism, and you’ll need to have an influence over the majority of other civilizations to win. The idea is to come up with the best cultural achievements, from artworks on display in your museums to musicians touring the world, and then use them to expand your sway over other countries. There’s also a World Congress that begins after the advent of the printing press, in which delegates from civilizations and city-states vote on measures such as banning nuclear weapons and embargoing enemy societies.
You can now build international trade routes and service them with caravans and cargo ships, too, instead of just reaching agreements with other civilizations. Not only are these routes a gold mine, but they also spread your cultural influence–and they present a risk-reward scenario, because routes to faraway places are more lucrative but also harder to defend. And the various trees have undergone tweaks that make different paths to victory much more interesting and distinctive.
Rather than undermining the military aspects of the game, these updates put conquest in a new light. Trade routes with allies provide a target for enemies and barbarians, for example, and you’ll need to defend them–cooperation and violence go hand in hand. Basically, you’re still free to slaughter your way to victory, and pretty much every game will involve some military strategy, but the other options are actually tempting for a change.
There are two new scenarios as well, each of which lives up to the standards set by Civ V and the previous expansion. In one, you relive the American Civil War, starting just after the events at Fort Sumter. In the other, you reenact the “scramble for Africa,” the period in the late 1800s and early 1900s in which several European powers sought to conquer the continent to their south. Both of these simulations model events and nations in an amazing degree of detail while keeping the gameplay manageable and allowing your decisions to change the course of history.
And none of this hurts the accessibility that’s one of Civilization V’s most promising features. On an easier difficulty setting, new players can learn the ropes without facing a serious threat of annihilation. The adviser system guides you through the basic elements of strategy, and there are always prompts to keep you from forgetting basic tasks. Because you have so many choices, the game never seems to run on autopilot, but it certainly does shepherd you along whatever path you choose. Once you have the feel for the game, you can crank the difficulty or face human opponents online for far more challenging experience with no hand-holding.
The AI has been changed, too, not only to adjust to these other tweaks but also to work better in general. Its harshest critics still won’t be satisfied, but you’ll see less outright stupid behavior.
One last thing that’s worth noting: Civilization V’s expansions work on a toggle system; in the main menu, you can turn the new content from Gods & Kings and Brave New World on and off. This lets you customize the game to your liking, but it also allows Firaxis to offer both expansions separately. The upside is that you don’t need to have Gods & Kings before you install Brave New World , but the downside is that buying this expansion won’t give you access to the features included with the previous one, which would have been a nice bonus.
Essentially, if you love Civilization V , Brave New World will open up a world of possibilities. And if you haven’t yet picked up Civilization V , Brave New World is the best way to play.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
They haven’t changed much since the original game, but they’re still nice to look at. 4.5 Control
The interface is still amazingly simple to use. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The epic music will get you in a world-conquering mood. 4.0 Play Value
Diehard fans will get hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of this. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|