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Civilization V: Brave New World for OS X review

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I’ve been playing Sid Meier’s Civilization since the original PC version, annoying my roommate by hogging his computer so much he attempted to password lock the game. It didn’t work.

As each new version of the game is released, the game gets deeper: techs are more defined, combat becomes more complex, and game imbalances are corrected. Civ V was a new direction in certain ways (no religions, no stacking of military units), but with the release of the Brave New World expansion (which includes the Gods and Kings rules), Civ V has managed to become the perfect blend of the current game and what came before.

Civilization V: Brave New World - Venice

Brave New World introduces several new civilizations, of course (I’m pretty sure as the development progresses that “Kentucky” and “Park Slope” will eventually get their own historical analogues), but the focus of this expansion is away from military victories and into ideologies, diplomacy, trade, and tourism, all of which can lead to victory.

Ideologies are an advanced form of the core game’s social policies, unlocked in the Industrial era. Your civ can develop Freedom, Order, or Autocracy, with the player selecting from a list of initial benefits, which in turn will unlock deeper benefits on the Ideology Tree. However, unlike social policies, your Ideologies are competing with those of the other civilizations, and your population can pressure you (through unrest) to change to a more popular form (causing you to lose progress).

Diplomacy becomes deeper as the World Congress unlocks once all the civs in a game have been discovered by one player. Each player (and later, allied City States) gets to vote on a variety of issues, including issues like hosting the World Games—sort of a collaborative World Wonder where the one who contributes the most production gets bigger benefits—to outright aggressive ones like banning the use of luxury items or halting trade with a country. Depending on what issues you submit (and how you vote) you can make friends and enemies among the other players.

Which brings us to Trade. In earlier games, cities would just establish connections based on their size, but in BNW you must actively court trade by constructing caravans and cargo ships. You have a limited number of trade routes, and the cities you connect to are limited by distance (which can be extended by building additional facilities). The most obvious benefit of trade is gold, but civs will also trade scientific knowledge; if you’ve discovered a technology that another civ doesn’t have, you’ll send them science, and vice versa. This works both ways; if you’ve discovered a tech but the other civ has one you don’t, you’ll each transmit one point of science. The other thing that can be transmitted? Religion, which was reintroduced in Gods and Kings.

Brave New World also introduces tourism, as an aggressive counterpoint to Culture. If you can build up your Tourism to overcome another civ’s culture, you can become influential and win a nonviolent victory. You build tourism by creating and displaying Great Works (created by musicians, writers, and artists), as well as digging up artifacts.

Civ V Brave new World

Artifacts are a new kind of resource which are unveiled late in the game. Once revealed, you construct an archaeologist to dig them up (destroying any improvements) and then deciding to either put them on display (giving you a one-time boost to culture and tourism) or make the site a landmark (giving you an ongoing boost to culture only).

So how does it play? I have to admit that when I first started playing Civ V, the game seemed heavily weighted towards military victories. You could win a diplomatic victory (largely by bribing city states), but it felt like the game was missing a trick (especially after the alternate victories that came up in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri).

Civ V Brave New World

But now, with the addition of newer, more complex, and earlier  diplomacy, the game moves away from strictly military might as a determinant of who gets to rule the roost. It’s a much more nuanced game that allows trade-based Civs (like the Moroccans, and even the Venetians, who cannot build new settlers at all but only acquire cities through trade or war) to have a shot at dominance.

While the heart of the game remains the same—build cities, research techs, improve your army—a greater level of flavor has been added that enhances the gameplay without distracting from what makes Civ V Civilization game. With the addition of the new expansion rules, it finally feels like Civ has become the game it’s been trying to be all along. There’s a multitude of nations with a wide variety of benefits, and now, finally a route to different kinds of victories that are accessible by every kind of player.

If you are playing Civ V, you must own Brave New World. It enhances an already incredibly addictive game, giving it new levels of play.

Developer: Firaxis
Publisher: Aspyr
System Requirements:
 Full version of Civilzation V, 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard), 10.7.5 (Lion), 10.8.4 (Mountain Lion), Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz, 4 GB RAM, 8 GB Hard disk space, 256 MB VRAM
Network Feature: Yes
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $29.99
Availability: Out now

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