With the arrival of the 20th century, I can sometimes get a bit bored in Civilization V. It continues to engage me enough so that I power through to achieve whatever victory path I had chosen, but therein lies the issue. I end up feeling restricted, locked into a particular objective like global conquest or scientific superiority.
Brave New World is set to change all of that, adding a much-needed coat of dynamism to the Civilization V late game. A generous helping of new features changes the modern age entirely, making victory choices more flexible and interactions between civilizations more interesting. For six hours I played through a small four-player map until I earned my hard-fought victory, and it might have been the most enjoyable six hours I've spent with the game.
Civilization V (PC)
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: July 9, 2013
Although Brave New World's focus is ostensibly on the late game, there are a number of additions that players will have access to right from the get-go, while others appear a wee bit down the line. In some cases, their impact won't be fully appreciated at the start, but they slowly build up to have a meaningful impact.
International trade is one of the most notable new features, and can be dabbled in extremely early on. Trade routes can be set between player cities and those of other powers or even city states, moving goods via fragile caravans and cargo vessels, vulnerable to attack from barbarians or foreign aggressors.
Appropriately, I played as Morocco, one of the new civilizations with a penchant for trade. With the "Gateway to Africa" bonus, Morocco gets three gold and one culture for every international trade route. It may seem like small potatoes, but with multiple routes weaving throughout the world for thousands of years, it adds up to a tidy sum.
Trade isn't just about lining one's pockets, either. There's a give and take between trading powers, as gold, culture, religion, and science is exchanged. Trade is integral to those looking to spread their culture abroad, but it can be a double-edged sword, as foreign ways of thinking might find their way into your civilization.
So what at first seems like an economic boon quickly reveals itself to benefit culture-focused civilizations. It's flexible, though, providing good reasons for any empire to take advantage of it.
The system amounts to bugger all if you don't have much culture to begin with, however. Luckily, Brave New World has a fair few new cultural wonders just waiting to be built as well as expanded great artists. These special units have now been split into three, with writers, artists and musicians all potentially appearing should you encourage them through social policies and other decisions.
Not only can these new great people be spent to give an instant boost to culture, they can be commissioned to create important works of art. Musical compositions, paintings, and pieces of literature can be put together, and then attached to slots provided by certain buildings and wonders. Ultimately, this generates tourism.
Foreign civilizations will be influenced by the tourist attractions of other civilizations, and the greater the rating, the more awestruck they will become. If you've wasted your time trying to get a peek at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, or the Tutankhamun exhibit in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, then you'll know first-hand how big the crowds can get and the impact these pieces have on people.
In Brave New World these tourists get so impressed that they start wishing their own civilization was even half as awesome. They might even go so far as to start demanding their leader make some drastic changes.
Tourism and culture can be further augmented with the advent of archaeology. Cities can start producing archaeologists and sending them out to start digs. Once something is unearthed, the dig can either become a cultural landmark, or the artifact discovered can be brought back and put on show, generating more tourism.
A really wonderful touch is how these artifacts relate to each individual game. While digging up sites in my Moroccan empire, archaeologists discovered ancient Polish weapons, dropped by my enemies when I conquered their lands and removed them from the continent. There's still an element of randomization, but it's all connected to the unique history of your civilization and your experiences with it.
By the 20th century, there's a very good chance that players will have exhausted the social policy trees, with the only remaining options being ones that they've avoided due to them not providing appropriate or desired bonuses. Brave New World expands social policies by adding ideologies: Freedom, Order, and Autocracy.
Once selected, instead of unlocking new social policies, players can start spending culture on their chosen ideology. There's a long list of bonuses split into three tiers, so even if there are, say, three civilizations following the freedom ideology, there's a good chance that they will have quite different boons.
This way, one can customize their civilization well into the 21st century, and these changes will have a tangible impact on the society, unlocking new wonders and drastically changing how a civilization functions. Through tourism and trade, the citizens of other civilizations might end up favoring your ideology, pestering their government to switch.
Fanning the flames of dissent in such a way can be extremely beneficial to a sneaky civilization. If the opposing leader refuses to capitulate, then they may have a full-blown rebellion on their hands, and if they choose to change their ideology, they must sacrifice a lot of previously held benefits.
As civilizations become more advanced, the World Congress (and later the United Nations) is founded, bringing empires together to dictate the fate of the entire world. It's extremely reminiscent of the council in Alpha Centauri, but is far greater in scope.
Leaders can vote on global decisions from putting on a World Fair or a global athletic competition, to embargoing nations and states or banning certain luxuries. The list of possible actions is absolutely vast, and while the goal of this body is to create peace (and eventually leads to a diplomatic victory), there are plenty of ways to completely screw over the opposition.
In my game, I managed to make my ideology and religion global, ban the luxuries used by my enemies, and further enhance my own culture. One's ability to dictate what's on the agenda and what passes or fails depends on how many delegates that can have voting, and I ended up having more delegates than all other civilizations combined. Not only did this mean I was the host of the World Congress, it meant that I had complete control over it.
It might need some tweaking, because at no point from the moment the body popped into existence did any of the other civilizations have a hope in hell of outvoting me. I had money, lots of culture, and all of the city states in my pocket, and so I dominated the Congress right up until the end of the game, where I was proclaimed leader of the world.
Although I ended up getting a diplomatic victory, it would have been perfectly possible for me to switch to another victory path. These new features are all intertwined, so while my initial goal was to take over the world thanks to my superior culture, that culture also gave me the political clout to go for a diplomatic victory.
Likewise, thanks to my expansive international trade network, I had every city state at my beck and call -- paid off with funds from my caravans and cargo ships or in awe of me thanks to cultural and religious exchange -- so it would have been quite easy for me to declare war and wipe my opponents off the map.
Brave New World will contain nine new civilizations, of which I saw the Zulu, Assyrian, Polish, and Moroccan civilizations; eight new wonders such as the Parthenon and Broadway; and two new scenarios: The Scramble for Africa and The American Civil War. Only the latter was playable, and I can't say I was particularly enamored with it. All war and no empire building makes Fraser a dull boy. For those looking to flex their military might, it will likely appeal more.
Civilization V: Brave New World launches on July 9 in North America and July 12 in the rest of the world. I'm rather looking forward to it.
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