When a game can survive year after year, after waves upon waves of competition across numerous genres bid for gamers’ time and money, it is a testament to its impeccable design and function to remain relevant. Civilization V: Brave New World is the second expansion for Civilization V, and despite a few minor hiccups, it is one of the best entries in the franchise’s long and storied history.
What makes Brave New World stand out is the level of detail that Firaxis carefully crafted into the game. Culture and diplomacy take center stage, and are the main focuses for players. Unlike Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword (which boasted cultural and diplomacy improvements but didn’t deliver on them entirely), this time Firaxis has got it right with the amount of changes and the way the player has to do rethink their strategy.
Culture has been greatly changed from Civilization V: Gods and Kings, adding a new “resource” called tourism. As your empire expands and reaches new eras, you’ll encounter great people (as in the other versions of the games), but this time with a few twists. A great artist, for example, can still start a golden age, but he/she can also create a Great Work that can be displayed in an appropriate building or wonder, which creates tourism and culture points for the empire. Think of tourism as an “offense” against other civilizations, with culture serving as a “defense” against their tourism. There are eight new wonders, and most of them (like the Globe Theater, Broadway, and Uffizi) directly help tourism and culture.
Great works and tourism don’t stop with Great People in the game, however. Upon researching archaeology, a completely new feature of the game opens up, with players gaining access to an Indiana Jones-like unit aptly called an archaeologist. After reaching that level, the terrain becomes littered with antiquity sites, primed for digging up valuable artifacts the archaeologist can recover. Although a neat idea, this feature is lacking in variety and depth.
Also new is the World Congress, which morphs into the United Nations later in the game (there is no longer a United Nations wonder). The World Congress is where all the leaders of the world come together and propose global issues, such as banning certain luxuries, enacting trade embargoes on warmongering nations, or even constructing the International Space Station. Player influence on the congress is controlled by delegates, which increase in number based on the size of your empire and how many city-state allies you have. Diplomacy is very important as players can find themselves without friends when the AI suddenly decides to ban your luxuries, sending your empire into a foul swoon which spawns barbarian units that wreck havoc on your infrastructure. This subtle yet drastic change forces players to re-think strategies on how best to deal with neighbors.
International trade is another new feature that greatly boosts the economy in the early years, and is a source of mutual beneficial resources for trade partners. Your civilization does not require treaties with a neighbor to trade with them and instead, trade caravans or ships can be sent to another city. It’s mostly automatic but becomes aggravating when playing as a city-state like Venice and have dozens upon dozens of trade routes that need to be renewed.
Social policies have been given a major overhaul, with many of the benefits being re-organized (and changed) into new categories like Exploration, Trade, and the expanded Ideologies (Freedom, Order, and Autocracy). Upon reaching the modern era, the player will have to pick an ideology they want to follow. If you’re a warmongering menace to the world, you’ll probably go with Autocracy, while a smaller civ focused on great people will likely choose Freedom. There are a lot of new benefits that can be unlocked in each branch, and it makes the entire process of selecting an ideology so much more rewarding than the previous versions of the game.
There are a lot of minor changes and tweaks to the game and, despite 30 hours of playing the expansion, some have yet to be encountered. Barbarians are a lot smarter and tougher on the surface, and, with the addition of the trade routes, it makes it all the more tedious to scout and protect your trade caravans from marauding barbarians. This became an exercise in tedium and greatly increased the micromanagement of the game to the point where players may want to turn the feature off.
The AI is much more aggressive in their expansion this time around and it highlights one of the major issues with the expansion that has much to do with starting locations. Neighboring capitals can be within close proximity and players may find themselves needing to wage war very early to give themselves room to grow their cities. For an expansion that has a primary focus on diplomacy, putting capitals a small amount hexes apart is a recipe for disaster.
There’s also a disturbing bug that the AI routinely takes advantage of. In Civilization V, players cannot build cities within 4 hexes of each other. The AI is under no such restriction as they will repeatedly build cities within three (and even two) hexes of another city. This can be frustrating when they do this in your territory early in the game, and you’re forced to eliminate the city just because the AI is exploiting a bug, and again, it diverts resources from culture to war.
There are two new scenarios: The American Civil War, and Scramble for Africa. Both scenarios offer unique gameplay elements not found in the core game, and like all the scenarios that came before them in previous versions, they are difficult to beat unless following a specific formula for victory. The scenarios are usually quite scripted and feel tacked on, and this is no exception, but this is only a minor portion of the overall game experience.
Despite these few minor hiccups, Civilization V: Brave New World is a wonderful expansion. For players still enjoying Civ V, it is a definite must-buy as it adds many rich elements to an already comprehensive game. The level of detail in the changes and additions show the tremendous effort that the Firaxis put into the expansion.
Civilization V: Brave New World releases for the PC on July 9, 2013 in North America, and July 12, 2013 for the rest of the world.
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