Game Review: Civilization V: Brave New World
After spending nearly a century building a solid relationship with my Mayan neighbors it all pays off as they inform me that their spies have discovered that Napoleon and the French empire are planning on staging a surprise attack on my coastal city of Seoul. This bit of information couldn’t have come at a better time as I have been guiding my people down the path of culture and science commissioning the building many world wonders and using my funds to search out great scientists. My military is somewhat of a laughing-stock and as I have ignored the words of my military advisory telling me that the French wield an army that could wipe us off the planet. Luckily I have been following the path of rationalism and those wonderful rationalists have discovered that through commerce and building trading posts I can also enhance my scientific resources, so let’s just say, the Korean empire has a few coins to rub together. Which I do and build an instant modest army just strong enough to defend my land from a strong military push and then, since I have already denounced Napoleon a few times in the past for bullying my diplomatic buddies, declare war on the French. And they fall into my trap. Filled with the hubris that a massive army brings they go through with their set plan to attack Seoul seeing as that I have just a small defensive army. What they didn’t know was that I had timed the production in my cities to release a bevy of high-powered units to eradicate them even before they hit my shores. I wipe out more than a quarter of the French army on their first push taking minimal casualties due to my superior battle tactics and positioning and then push production to one more wave of military units composed of submarines and high-powered ballistas from my superior scientific advantage and then push back to the French shores accosting them of one of their major cultural cities and then south to liberate the French occupied city-state of Milan who will now provide me with and endless supply of cultural artifacts to keep my hard-working scientists happy as I move focus into winning the space race. Ya, I must be playing a Civilization game.
Needless to say I have been a rather big fan of Firaxis’ big picture turn based strategy game Civilization for many years now starting with my discovery of Civilization III and then becoming a super fan with the absolutely outstanding Civilization IV. Then came along Civilization V, and while I enjoyed the streamlining and some of the more user-friendly approaches, it really lacked the depth of its predecessor. Which is a good thing for me I guess because I actually started to play other games. Some months ago I ended up re-purchasing Civ V to replace my lost in limbo boxed copy and that deal came bundled with the Gods and Kings expansion and it made several improvements adding more depth to the core game, but while vastly superior, it didn’t equal the overall depth of Civ IV, yet I found myself addicted to the game once again. Good timing too as Firaxis was gearing up to release the second expansion pack to Civ V called Brave New World. This expansion promised to increase the depth of Civ V to levels unheard of. So, did it come through with its promise. Just one second please, I just need to take one more turn….
Not only does Brave New World live up to its promise of increased depth, the team at Firaxis have delivered on honing the Civ game to as close to perfection as a strategy game can get. Assuming you are familiar with the core vanilla game, the biggest changes comes in the way that you go about acquiring a cultural victory and the inclusion of the World Council (a UN type thing). Along with some interface tweaks, more Civs to play as, and new scenarios, Brave New World has easily become the be all end all Civ game that no armchair strategist should be without.
The changes of the cultural victory have rather made the overall strategy of the game so much deeper. In the past you could choose to not focus on building culture if you were aiming for a domination or to a less extent a scientific victory. Now to get the victory through culture you not only need to build culture points but also tourism. The higher your tourism the more cultural influence you have over another Civ and the higher your culture points the more resistance you have other Civs culture. Basically tourism is offense and culture is defense. You gain tourism points by building world wonders and filling them and your museums with great works which are created by great artists, great musicians, and artifacts found by your archeologists. This opens up the whole meta game of museum curation where you get bonuses based on which works you have and which museums you place them in with a goal of gaining a themeing bonus (eg. Louvre gains a +6 culture bonus if each work is from a different Civ and different era). You can swap great works and artifacts with other Civs, so remaining on everyone’s good side is always a plus.
The nice thing about this way of cultural victory is that you can no longer sit back and let everyone else duke it out while you work towards victory in peace. You now need to get your hands dirty. I have yet to win a cultural victory before my 500 turns are up but have discovered that if there is another Civ with exceedingly high culture points, you need to go attack their ass and shut down their culture producing cities. High culture Civs will also become aggressive towards you, so having a defensive army is a must. This really ramps up the rather dull mid-game as it becomes peppered with wars and races to get your archeologists to the dig sites peppered across the map.
The tweaking of the great people to accommodate this revamped culture system also really adds a noticeable use to those units I used to use just to expend for an instant golden age or grind science points. When you gain a great person they provide you with a couple of choices, and you damn well choose the right one. A great artist can still ring in a golden age, but now to add a great work of art to your museum you need to choose that instead of the golden age. Therefore you need to decide if a boost to your economy or culture points for the moment is what you need or if your tourism needs to start increasing. The other artistic great person is the new great musician who can either create a great work of music for your opera house or go on tour and ‘culture bomb’ another Civ giving you a huge tourism bonus from that Civ and reducing their culture, but also increasing the tourism in the city you ‘culture bombed’ for some turns. Some good choices on which cities to ‘culture bomb’ is a ton of fun and only enhanced with using your spies/diplomats to find which city is best to target.
Great scientists, great merchants, and great prophets mainly work the same as they always have. I have found that great scientists that appear early game are best used to create their unique science tile improvement and late game use them to give immediate boosts to your immediate tech researching so you can quickly reach that tech you need for the spaceship part you need. Great merchants can grant you a tile improvement for a gold boost or go on a trade mission to land you a ton of gold in one shot and increase you influence over a select city-state. Great prophets and missionaries are more powerful this time around as Civs that follow the same religion as you are also influenced by your culture more leading to an easier culture victory besides its regular benefits, so getting everyone to follow Dudeism is a must if you’re aiming for the culture victory.
Then theirs the great generals and great admirals which work largely the same. Generals give you military units in adjacent tiles a combat modifier and can create defensive tile improvements and great admirals give a boost to your navel military units.
The cultural policy tree has been revamped as well. It keeps the usual starting policy trees, and adds 2 new trees for the mid game. Aesthetics for those who want a culture boost and exploration which allows you to explore the rest of the world easier and uncovers hidden archeological dig sites which makes it a great compliment for Aesthetics should you choose. Instead of the late game trees you can now choose and ideology. Depending on whether you choose Freedom, Order, or Autocracy influences what bonuses you can use to create you custom end-game tree, but also has a big influence on how other Civs treat you or how you influence other Civs (all in diplomacy, trade, culture, and tourism). It is also possible to have other cities of another Civ rebel to join your nation to join your ideology if you have a strong enough cultural presence, which can also happen to you if you’re not careful.
The other big improvement is the inclusion of the world council (or as I have named it ‘The Hedonistic Clan of Amazonian Badgers’). After half of the Civs reach the Renaissance era the council is created and a host is voted upon. One gains votes by having more city-states as allies, being the host, or trading with/bribing other Civs to vote in your favor. All of this is easier said than done. Because city-states are now even more valuable to their allies other Civs will be more aggressive to gain their favor or wipe them off the face of the Earth so no one can gain their influence. Again, this makes the mid-game more interesting and the end-game nail-biting intense (especially if you’re playing against the city-state ass licker Greece and their city-state influence bonuses).
In the council you can vote on new world laws that can really benefit or hinder yourself and other Civs. A couple of examples: If you see that another Civ is getting lots of great trade from his cotton plantations you can make a declaration for a ban on happiness from cotton, reducing that resources impact to nothing. You can also embargo other Civs and trade routes (oh yeah! I still need to talk about them) or vote for a World’s Fair where the winner gets some massive economy bonuses. Declaring new laws and how you vote on them have major impact on other Civs, so if you don’t want a denouncement, you need to be wise or the rest of the world will gang up and shut you down without even having to rouse their military. As your reach the end-game a diplomatic victory can be achieved through the World Council by being voted for World Leader. To get voted in as World Leader you need 32 votes, which means having control of a lot of city-states or having very deep pockets to start bribing like mad. Add having to watch your back for someone going for a diplomatic victory to the long list of victories you need to defend against, and you have yourself a plate with a whole lot on it (and one you need to start preparing for waaaay in advance).
So ya, the other big addition I forgot about are trade routes. Now you can create caravan and cargo ship units to create money and science routes between you, other Civs, and city-states. If you manage these properly you can either get a big boost to your income or science. And since religion and culture can also be spread through trade, write in another layer of depth these units adds. A nice feature you can do the trade units is send food or production to your own cities with them so, for example, one of your poorer, less well fed cities needs to create a world wonder to get the ‘world wonder in every city grants a culture/science bonus’ and you need to complete it before another Civ builds the same world wonder (nothing is more infuriating than another Civ beating you to the next world wonder imo) you can ship spare food from your capital down to them and switch the citizen worker focus to a production one. You can also use them to boost production, so if said city is well off on food while in heavy production you can add even more production to them so they can create structures even faster. This kind of micro-management leads to, you guessed it, even more depth and things to worry about.
And lastly (I hope I’m not forgetting about any other major upgrades) are the new Civs you can play as, 9 in total. 8 of which are pretty standard yet add a nice amount of depth with their new bonuses and are fun to play as, especially as the defense focused Shoshoni Indians. But the biggest new Civ is Doge Dandolo and his city of Venice. Dandolo can not create settlers and therefore can’t found new cities making him more or less a glorified city-state. To compensate he gains 2 big advantages, the first being double the amount of trade routes Venice can support giving you a massive boost in commerce if managed properly. The second is the Merchant of Venice unit which replaces the great merchant. With that unit you can outright buy city-states and have them under your control as a puppet. Puppeted city-states still don’t allow you to choose what they build, but you can use your gold and faith to purchase buildings and units with them. With careful management and good choices on where to spent your money, Venice can become a financial powerhouse that if not kept in check will simply steamroll over everyone else. My second game of Brave New World I chose Venice and since I thought it would be rather difficult to play as them, I dropped the difficulty to normal level instead of my usual hard mode. Crikey! It was ridiculous insane how powerful they can get with a semi-skilled player like myself behind the helm. With next to no army but a tower filled with money that would make Scrooge McDuck jealous I just sat back and payed off other Civs to start wars with each other and wipe themselves off the map and destroy their economy in perpetual war and have them come to me to drive their economy making my pockets even deeper. That feeling of power is simply wonderful. Though as I tried them on a higher difficulty things were evened out much better.
So, in the end, if you’re a Civ fan and don’t have this expansion, you’re really missing out on the best experience that Civ has ever offered. The depth is incredible and each phase of the game has its own challenges to keep you on your toes offering little to no down time. If you haven’t bought Civ V yet I’d recommend skipping straight to Brave New World as its improvements absolutely trump those of Gods and Kings (though if you can get it cheap, Gods and Kings does have some fun Civs to play as and some great scenarios that are worth it). Brave New World is strategy gaming nirvana and for all its depth and complexities it is still incredibly accessible to both veterans and newcomers. Seriously, worth every single penny ($30 on Steam) and a very strong candidate for my personal game of the year. Be warned though, you will be saying ‘Just one more turn’ even more often now…. and your military adviser is still an idiot.
Also, the mod support for this game is amazing and add even more value to an already packed package. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan A Mod of Ice and Fire is a must play mod that reaches near professional quality in balance and presentation.
Can you guess what my choice gaming song is while play this is 😉
Posted on August 27, 2013, in Videogames and tagged Brave New World, Civilization V, Educational, Expansion, Game Review, History, Reviews, Sid Meier, Strategy Games, Video Games. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.