Regular readers might have noticed a slight obsession with the Civilization series of games, so you can imagine how excited I was for the release of Civ5’s second expansion pack, Brave New World which dropped in Australia last night.
Perhaps ‘excited’ isn’t the best description of how I felt leading up to Brave New World’s release; it was more like trepidation. My mates and I had reached a point where our games of Civ had become painfully predictable. Egypt and Russia would battle for early production and more often than not, start a chain of obscene wonder-spam which could double or treble the scores of players with less lucky start rolls. Civilization for us had become a battle for the most production hammers and the game was starting to feel rather empty. This was coupled with my frustration at the piecemeal release of DLC Civilizations like Korea, that not only had to be purchased by the player who chose to lead them, but by your opponents as well. So while I was excited for some new DLC for my favorite game, I was also worried that something in the implementation was going to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Would trade unbalance the game even more? Could they actually make culture worth a damn?
Then I started a game.
Firstly, Brave New World has cut wonder-spamming Civs down to size with a new system that makes social policy trees prerequisites for certain wonders. Aside from just balancing the game, social policy wonders have the effect of encouraging development along leader specific lines, instead of an inexorable grind for hammers. Subsequently all the civilizations and their leaders feel more distinct, more characterful and vibrant than before. Additionally the victory system has been largely overhauled with a new diplomatic and culture victory. Diplomatic victories are perhaps the most exciting, a certain number of votes at a UN round table meeting can secure you immediate victory, but you’ll have to curry favor with the city states in order for it to happen. It’s great to see city states becoming a friend and valued ally for a change instead of just free workers or a juicy target. Even more excitingly though is the other element introduced with diplomacy, namely proposals. Any player is able to make a proposal to the UN to determine global policies. For example, if you have an annoying opponent with a lot of wine, you might propose to the UN to make wine illegal! Otherwise you might try to establish your religion as the world religion via political means, or perhaps just embargo your foes completely (if you can get the votes!) There’s a hell of a lot to like here, if you were a fan of some of the older Sid Meier games (Alpha Centuri springs to mind), then the system here is undoubtedly going to please you.
Next though is the new cultural victory which introduces the concept of tourism. Tourism essentially acts as offensive culture and has devastating implications for players in the game. A high ratio of your tourism to another player’s culture can destroy a player’s happiness, bringing expansionist but culturally bereft civilizations to their knees. Gain a certain ratio of dominance over a number of players simultaneously for victory.
The other major addition here has been the trade system. Players are now able to produce caravans and cargo ships to ferry aid in the form of food or hammers to friendly cities or trade with other civs, yielding impressive profits. It’s a great dynamic that allows for some quite daring play which is great fun to be a part of. There are some awesome nuances to the system too, a trade route with another player will yield you an amount of gold, but will also reward the other player with a fraction. Additionally if you create a trade route with a civ that has tech that you don’t, you’ll receive a small science bonus. You can even spread religion through trade routes, making the system a potent offensive weapon of sorts.
Gah, basically everything that’s been done here is great. Brave New World is a great damn game. Even when one of my friends crashed and had to rejoin the game we discovered that the multiplayer loading system has been overhauled. The game simply displays ‘game is paused, player joining’ and lets you at least look around your empire instead of brutally crashing you into a loading screen. Everything has been tightened here and seemingly not just for the sake of charging the player another $45 but because it make the game better. Brave New World just feels like it’s come from a place that loves it.
If you own a copy of Civ 5 or are a fan of the series, this is a no-brainer. There’s more here to love than ever before and there’s no better time to hop back in than now. Even if you’re not a seasoned strategy nut, give it a try, Civilization is a behemoth of the genre, and for good reason.
The final verdict; Civilization 5 Brave New World gets five nuclear-bomb-riding-Ghandis out of five.