Civilization V was a crowning achievement for 2K Games, Fireaxis and Aspyr. The franchise had seen it’s ups and downs in the past, but usually just as a game was hitting its stride, a new version of the series would come out all together. Civilization V on the other hand launched with fantastic reviews, it was one of the best games of 2010 and considered by many (myself included) to be one of the best strategy games of the decade.
The game made its rounds with extras and DLC expansions, the latest of which is called ‘A Brave New World.” It’s an interesting title to choose, because that’s exactly what FireAxis needed to make for the game, which launched back in September 2010. Through no fault of its own the game can get repetitive, how quickly depends on the player’s use of each of the game-modes, the challenges and the many branches of winning the game. If you normally prefer the same approach to winning, in the same maps, in the same fashion, then the game will become dull because frankly, you’re not applying yourself.
The graphics on Civ V were amazing, and the new user-interface was one of the best yet to control the endless amount information concerning your cities, units, policies, research and the global positioning that you were expected to control while playing. There were some critics that were hoping that Civ V would bring more layers to the political climate, allow more maneuvers for taking over cities and more unique ways of winning a battle culturally than what was initially offered. A Brave New World answers all of those pleas.
At its heart, ABNW is a cultural-warfare gem, one that is so perfectly executed that it is remarkable that it wasn’t a standard already. So much has been implemented to create new challenges, strategies and counter-strategies that it may take a few games before you can really appreciate the subtle nuances that are now available to you. Tourism points, brilliantly crafted archaeology sites, a very much improved trade-routes and a restructured faith-based and ideology-centric system is now in place to improve gameplay. These are just the broad strokes of what has been added. The title has been totally reworked, and it changes how anyone would play the game.
Understanding the basic principle of each of the new systems is easy enough, the game-mechanics are based on simple structures and ideals that allow the player to start digging in and taking advantage of how the systems might work to their advantage (and protect against other’s advantage) almost immediately. This is only the surface, the initial understanding is something so generic, so simple, that you could easily take the many intricate details of each new-mechanic for granted. As my favorite Shoshone leader would say, “a poor decision”.
Culture victories prior to ABNW were just a little too basic, getting the right policies and racking up culture points as quickly as possible was really your only goal. It was mostly a defense-only victory, one that worked best by keeping yourself at arms-length from everyone else playing. In a sense, culture in the game is far more realistic. It isn’t something that just grows, it’s something that can be forced into (and out of) neighboring civilizations. It’s a veil, a lightly flowered force that you mask your dark-hearted aspirations of world domination behind, that is something that I think is far more realistic anyway.
Now you can prepare great works, you get them from important people that are born into your city. These include artists, writers, painters, or musicians. By hosting these cultural marvels in your city, you attract your neighboring rivals, building up tourism for your city. You can’t just make the most ‘culture’ anymore, you have to outdo, outshine and produce more tourism than other civilizations have made culturally. Tourism is now your attacking force, you’re stealing from others to help your city and you’re doing it by culturally improving your own city. This is also happening to you, while you are building culture from other cities through tourism, and making it with temples, theaters, museums and other structures, others are syphoning it away from you though their own Tourism. It’s simple to see that tourism is a deadly two-way street in the game, and you are now building culture to have enough to lose, and to advance. The power of tourism is allowing others to defect to your culturally superior civilization. This isn’t just with great works, there are the artifacts. These are found with your Archaeologist unit. Finding these sites will grant you the ability to find precious artifacts obviously, that you can place in buildings to gain tourism, or set the site as a cultural landmark to accrue your much needed pool of culture points. It’ a wonderful feeling to win culturally now, you are not only taking over their people, their country, their civilization, but you are battling for it (even if it’s not directly).
I mentioned trade-routes earlier in the review, and I wanted to circle back. These are elaborate, perfect additions to the game that almost anyone can start using right away. With caravans and cargo ships, you can create trade-routs not only to other cities and city-states, but within your own cities as well. This adds unique changes to the gameplay, and not just in culture. Attacking a city can disrupt your trade-route, and they make gold to and from their travels (as well in some incidences gain and suffer from religious influences). You can also gain food with these routs, so they are immensely important to your society. Domination suffers from this, as you are limiting your trade, but can gain more once you take over a city (the ol’ back and forth). Gaining gold of course is one of the easiest way to win in any form of the game, buying research agreements, buying armed forces, buying land, buildings or tech is just as perilous to others that oppose you as it is in the real-world.
This is only the beginning eras of the game, as you progress things get much more dastardly and much harder to control alone. Ideologies are chosen in the modern era, they form skill-trees that you will have to start to unlock. They are rooted in your earlier policy choices, but are much more expanded, giving you more of a challenge in an area that you thought may have been locked down by now. Ideologies are (Freedom, Order and Autocracy). Of course each is unique and offers different bonuses and setbacks, but choosing one will greatly affect your relationship with other leaders. So should you fear the wrath of the Royal Fleet at this time, then choose wisely based on that player’s decision.
World Congress is also something that pops-up at the end of the game, right when things were going so well or turning so terribly. After one leader has met all other civilizations and creates the printing-press, the World Congress begins. The bonus for being this player? You become the leader of the World Congress, which allows players to vote on issues that will impact all other players.
The player with the most delegates (gained with allied city states) can simply propose laws and have them be put to a vote. These are wonderfully terrible, crippling laws that you can instate. Like banning a resource that one-player seems to have ample supply of (or needs) from play, increasing taxes, enforcing a world religion and other laws have tragic ends to certain players. Gold can help you bribe leaders, going back to those precious trade caravans I talked about earlier.
Religion has always been my favorite driving factor in this series, even though it wasn’t exactly implemented early on in the franchise. I have always felt that the religious views of a civilization define their allegiances and patterns and I’m glad that some of that was worked into the game. Most of the political and religious changes are minor so I won’t detail them as much, but It’s nice to see that Faith is a more driving factor in how you can vanquish your enemies and take over cities in the game.
In the end ABNW is easily the best expansion in the game, I personally think it’s the greatest expansion that they have made for the franchise to date. It adds so much to an already fantastic game. The new leaders, tech and wonders are just a spec compared to the new ways you can win culturally. The new strategies you will have to make when having to defend against it will throw some wrenches into your current plans, even if you prefer other means of domination.
Since Mac users are a secluded bunch often times left out of these reviews I wanted to play the game completely separate on a Mac and give some insight in to the game on the Mac OS X system. Aspyr did an amazing job already bringing the game to Mac OS X and ABNW is simply astonishing to play on either system. The minimal requirements are low-enough that almost any new(ish) Mac can play the game on medium settings (which are amazing looking still) and still have a perfect time playing. If you enjoyed the game I couldn’t recommend playing the DLC enough, it’s simply brilliant and another example of why this series has lasted so long.
more info: steam, amazon, aspyr, gameagent