Let’s cast our minds back to 2010, Civilisation V is released and hardcore Civ fans are in uproar. It was a bitter-sweet moment for Firaxis. The studio urgently had to modernise the rapidly aging mechanics of the game, and as a result controversially refined the core game and tore out much of the content fans had come to expect (which sceptical fans saw as a crude attempt by Firaxis to milk the game for additional profit). It was somewhat overrated title, but still quite enjoyable. We have had Gods and Kings expansion set and little DLC (for example the Viking collection) packs flesh out the game with new mechanics and civilisations, but now we finally have gotten the ALL of the complexity and depth we have been seeking with the Brave New World set.
Even hardcore fans could find cultural victories in Gods and Kings (the first expansion set) to be a monumental grind. Imagine you are a slave building the Pyramids. OK, that metaphor was probably a little laboured but you get the gist. That was basically it; an endless grind towards what could seem to be an infeasible goal. Besides, many players that maintained small civilisations just went for the Diplomatic Victory anyway. So, Cultural Victories weren’t really all there at all.
Consequently, then, Firaxis have redefined Cultural Victory. It is now predicated on the Tourism mechanic. Back in the day, as many of you will (hopefully) know, Tourism was a small source of cash for your bustling empire. But now, however, it is generated by the production of Great Works (like paintings, songs and writings). These can be placed in your cities – or even captured through war and conquest. It adds an interesting and engaging layer to the game, and is an engaging improvement to the old system.
Someone should tell Firaxis that nobody gives a shit about scenarios in Civilization, as they went ahead and produced two: Scramble for Africa and the American Civil War. While they include a trove of new units exclusive to these maps and can provide interesting interactions between Civs; these scenarios are boring compared to regular matches. Even if you’re looking for a scenario, there is dozens of vastly superior simulations (including a better version of the American Civil War made by a fan) of the Steam Workshop anyway.
Undoubtedly, the most prevalent change to the game is the inclusion of trade routes, manned by ships or caravans. The primary advantage of these trade routes is increased financial gain, but they also provide a broad range of benefits. Trade routes can also generate science, the amount dependent on how much technological process you and your trading partner have made. Later, you can even also use your trade routes to influence religions (don’t worry if your still on Vanilla Civ 5, the systems of Gods and Kings are included!) among other civilisations.
If some twat declares war on you and you acquire some cities (by diplomatic settlement or conquest), trade routes can even be used to bolster your metropolis’ by transferring additional production points and food. Or maybe you are racing to construct a World Wonder, don’t worry trade routes have your back! Any Civilization veteran will find trade routes are a great addition and significantly enhance the economical aspects of the game. Those who aren’t that keen on obsessive micromanagement may find the constant governance tedious but everyone knows that more money is good. Even if you don’t like money (?) you can still poach trade ships and caravans to cause trouble for rivals.
Brave New World introduces nine new Civs, each with their own abilities and leaders: Poland, Brazil, the Shoshone, Morocco, Portugal, Venice (which will be explained in detail later), Indonesia, the Zulus and Assyria. While these Civs are all well and good, they don’t REALLY do that much to distinguish themselves from Civs already included. I mean, yeah, they have unique units, buildings and are each focused on specific methods of victory, but the other included Civilisations (both from Vanilla Civ 5, other DLC and Gods and Kings) already present similar gameplay styles. This is disappointing, although Brave New World will be the last major pack, and I would strongly encourage Firaxis to produce more unique civilisations in smaller digital only packs.
The omission to this is the Venetian civilisation. Only able to found one city, the only way Venice can obtain further influence is by using periodically generated ‘Merchants of Venice’ to purchase (read: puppetise) City States. Additionally, Venice is granted twice the number of trade routes. As a result, you can get some crazy money coming in. By the time I reached the Industrial Age, I was generating 1000 gold per turn – awarding my empire much greater influence than its sheer numbers would appear to allow. Venice is easily the most unique civilisation in the game, and as a result, one of the best.
My favourite addition to the game is the World Congress. Evolving from the bare-bone United Nations (although the World Congress later develops into the expanded UN) into a device for global communication, it actually has significant relevance to not only national society but the international community. A good way to explain it is like the television program Survivor’s Tribal Council (Civ Edition); nations meet to discuss issues. It has many purposes; including the ability to conduct trade embargoes and implement a world ideology or religion.
Your power on the global scale is determined by amount of Delegates you have to the Congress. Delegates are some of the most valuable resources in the game, more so than things like the in-game resources aluminium and uranium. You actually really want to get as many as possible and as a result diplomacy becomes a lot more engaging, because you can elect yourself as world leader (thus winning the diplomatic victory) or shift the Congress to your capital city. Another good thing about the World Congress is that it places extra emphasis on City-State friendship, as they will eventually grant extra Delegates.
Another nice little change – although comparatively minor – is the ability to assign your spies as diplomats. These diplomats can stick to your friends’ cities like barnacles stick to boats and improve relations with that nation. Although they are unable to steal technology like regular spies (but can still provide intrigue as to planned invasions or military actions) and they open much deeper diplomatic communication. If you want to have a ‘special friend’ use your diplomats to suck up to them.
Lastly, Firaxis have revamped the culture tree with ideologies. Allowing you to choose from Autocracy (for the warmongers among you), Order (for the expansionists among you) and Freedom (for the artists among you); these policies are insanely deep with many different options for you to choose from. These have copious amounts of advantages and benefits and significantly improve a civilisation and will make you lasting friends (and often, enemies).
Although the expansion set is hardly ‘Brave’ and hardly a ‘New World’ and the pricing is a little excessive (they tried to charge $50 in Australia!), it presents great new changes. While maybe the scenarios and the new civilisations aren’t quite what they could have been, the treasure trove of awesome new mechanics justify play and make the game even more addictive. I look forward to spending another few hundred hours with Brave New World.
Beware though: Assyria is the new Greece!
– Rory Mullan. Follow him on Twitter @thenomandprophet
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