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Hands On: Civilization V -- Brave New World expansion

updated 06:12 pm EST, Sun February 2, 2014

Add-on gives added depth, choices for endgame

Ever since the first Civilization title shipped on a pair of floppy disks in the early '90s, the series has been a staple on the PC and Macintosh. Late in 2013, Firaxis helmed by Sid Meier pushed out the second major expansion to Civilization V, called Brave New World. With the game itself a few years old and the expansion costing more than the base game itself now does, is the expansion a worthwhile addition to the series, or more of the same?

As with the two other Civilization IV packs and the first Civilization V expansion, Brave New World does radically alter gameplay. The first major change is an overhaul of the late-game "policy tree" game mechanic. As gameplay advances in the unexpanded Civilization V, culture points are accumulated. These points are spent in eight policy trees, essentially dictating what your culture excels at -- for instance, patronage gives boosts to relations with computer-run city-states, and Honor enhances the military aspects of a nation.

In Brave New World, Freedom, Autocracy, and Order have been split out into three seperate tenets, giving additional advantages as opposed to their less-important roles in the unexpanded title. The break-out and growth of the three major tenets adds a great deal of end-game variety to the game, an area that the Civilization series sometimes needs boosting to not feel like a grind to hit the finish line.

Additionally, the "Culture" system has seen an overhaul. Culture points are still accumulated by construction of city improvements and wonders of the world, but buildings now have the ability to load great works into them, which generate "Tourism." Tourism can be considered offensive culture -- the player's tourism count is compared to opposing Civilizations culture score, and when all Civilizations have a ratio favoring the player, the culture victory is awarded.

While the base Civilization V game has a United Nations, it pales in comparison to Brave New World's version. The "World Congress" meets much earlier in the game, and votes on more varied worldwide proposals than the previous UN would allow. Changes include tweaks in the rate of production of "great people," additional taxation on military units, trade embargoes, and more. The choices given for voting can seriously constrain the leading civilization, to the detriment or benefit of the player. Properly leveraged, the World Congress can lead to victory or defeat, and even a come-from-(way)-behind victory.

Civilization V has never grown stale, per se. However, in the early phases of the game, well before the modern era, the path to victory for the player was either set, or hopelessly out of sight. The new additions, coupled with those in the earlier Gods and Kings expansion, make the entire game -- not just the first half -- full of tactical decisions, and chances for the player's or AI's wayward Civilization to catch up to the pack, without unfair "rubber banding" cheating implemented in some titles for AI players.

While fairly recent patches to Civilization V have decreased the late-game processing demand, the game is still charitably described as processor-crushing. The addition of the new calculations for the expansion have not lessened this. If you have a relatively modern computer, we recommend Civilization V with both expansions to strategy gamers of all flavors, but the experience is a bit painful on anything not a Core i5 or i7.

While you can purchase Brave New World on its own, the synergy between it and the previous expansion Gods and Kings cannot be ignored. In the next year, we expect an omnibus title set that includes the base game, Gods and Kings, and Brave New World in one package, but this isn't it yet.

The retail for Civilization combined with the pair of expansions is $80, assuming no sales are utilized, and the user purchases the Gold Edition, which includes the first expansion. The core Civilization V and both expansions have been seen on sale on Steam, and has also been discounted on the Mac App Store, so getting the three for $50 now, digitally delivered, isn't out of the question. Regardless of price, the complete package is a great entertainment value for fans of strategy. Button thumpers need not apply.

Who is Civilization V: Brave New World for?
Strategy fans looking for a rich addition to Civilization V's endgame.

Who is Civilization V: Brave New World not for?
Action-oriented gamers or those with a major aversion to the turn-based strategy genre.

by MacNN Staff



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