Saturday, 13 July 2013

Brave New Expansion

Civilization V – Brave New World

Available on PC. Requires Civilization V to play.

If you follow me on Twitter or know me personally you may have known that over the last few days I’ve been lost in the world of Civilization. I've managed to, wilfully, spend hours upon hours on this iconic franchise. You can't help but think... just... one... more... turn. You really can't!

Civilization V, when released a few years ago, was met with mixed reactions. Many called it's predecessor, Civilization IV, a better game and up until the recent expansion I would have agreed. Brave New World manages to elevate Civilization V to heights beyond the games that came before with the introduction of Tourism, World Congress, Archaeology, several new civilizations to choose from, enhanced trading, revamped social policy trees and the introduction of an ideology tree.

These new features, combined with features introduced in the first expansion Gods and Kings (FYI – the Faith and Espionage systems introduced in Gods and Kings come with Brave New World – the additional Civilizations from this expansion, however, do not), help shape every section of a typical play through into something engaging, dynamic and devilishly captivating.

Before this expansion, I often found late game to be about the acquisition of whichever currency lead to your desired victory. Science, Culture, Gold or Units for military dominance. Gods and Kings introduced Faith to make the early game a little more dynamic with the ability to slightly enhance and buff your civilization to tailor your needs. The espionage mechanic allowed for trickery and spying, stealing peoples technology or setting civilizations against each other which made the mid-game more intriguing. Brave New World seeks to make the end game a lot of interesting and one of the key mechanics to do so is the World Congress.

Once the Industrial Era has been reached by a majority of the Civs in the game, the first Civ to have encountered every other player in the game earlier becomes the host nation for World Congress. This congress can vote on various policies and rules that change the rule set of the game going forward. Congress can vote to embargo certain players or civilizations. They can outlaw certain luxury resources (say Ivory or Sugar) deeming them immoral and worthless. Congress can impose larger restrictions like a World Religion with the Civilization that founded said religion gaining huge benefits or eventually meeting to elect a World Leader. Being elected World Leader is a key stage in attaining a diplomatic victory and the pursuit of such a victory creates for fantastic political intrigue, backstabbing and drama.

In a recent game, as the USA, I put all my focus into controlling the political stage. I did this through my economy. With the wealth I was able to amass I was able to buy tiles with the resources I would later need for trade, I was able to buy the influence of the City States within the game granting me their votes at Congress and I was able to keep certain opposing players in check with bribes of gold. Everything was going swimmingly. I was able to wrest control of World Congress and name myself the Host Nation with a majority vote. I was on track to becoming World Leader and winning the game. Twenty Five turns to turns to victory. The United Nations was about to convene for the Fourth Congress of Washington and then war broke out. A massive global war, lead by the treacherous Spanish who had been my allies for the entire game. The rest of my opponents declared war against me and my City State allies. They even went as far as to invade and capture the City States I was using to vote for me. They invaded every city I owned and pillaged my network of trading posts and factories.

I came so close. As frustrating as it was, I would have done the same if another player was close to becoming World Leader. I should have dealt with some of them earlier and this really is the beautiful thing about Civilization V. The constant feeling of “I can do better!” and the ability to tell your own sweeping stories that span the entire globe and through era upon era of time. There are no story lines, there are no cut scenes. This is a game about exploration of mechanics which provides you with the beautiful ability to create a story around your play time – like I just did above.

This inherent history is taken advantage of through the games Archaeology system. At the very start of the game, as you set the founding blocks of your first city, barbarian camps and ancient ruins frequently spawn. As you clear these camps and ruins to protect your new nation or to make room the game keeps note of what battle took place where. When Archaeology is discovered thousands of years later, those same camps and ruins return as dig sites where you can discover great works of art and ancient artifacts to increase your Tourism rating.

Tourism is another new addition to the game and the best way I can describe its use is by referring to Tourism as an offensive statistic and Culture as a defensive statistic. Tourism is how appealing you are to other nations and Culture is a currency that you can spend to further augment your overall persona. Some are happy to follow your ways of life, others not so much. Manage to be the most influential Civilization and you'll win. The buildings that you produce in your cities also come with Great Work “slots”. These slots are filled by the artifacts and great works produced by your Civilization, or through trade, increasing your Tourism. Additionally, these buildings can be themed and if you manage to match the theme for a specific building (for example, great works of art from the same time period and civilization) it increases that bonus even further. This create quite an addictive little mini game as you barter with your enemies or allies for certain pieces of art from a certain age, or scour the world for dig sites before you opponents can snap them up.

Nothing is perfect though and sometimes the AI can really be rather dumb. A few times AI controlled players have been utterly unreasonable about trade. Demanding obscene amounts of resources or heavily stacking trades in their favour. Sometimes decades of peace can lead to political strife for no apparent reason. Their voting can sometimes be questionable at the World Congress table, with smaller Nations just “going with the flow” rather than banding together to make a more viable difference.

Still, these minor quirks a side, the additions brought on by Brave New World manage to create a game that will grab a hold of you and only let go when you are crawling away suffering from starvation and fatigue. All with a smile on your face about the deal you made for Sugar with Portugal that one time in the 1300's

Still not convinced I hear you say?!

It seems like a difficult game to get into?

Well how would you like to try out Civilization IV? Because I have not one but TWO free copies to give away on Steam!

All you need to do is share/retweet the relevant link that brought you here and leave me a comment telling me something funny! (This part is optional but it might increase your chances of winning! :P). I'll randomly pick two lucky winners on Friday 19th July 2013. Obviously, you need some form of a Steam account and a PC to play the game.