Appletell reviews Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword Expansion for Mac OS X

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Category: Strategy/Sim
Developer: 2k Games
Mac Port by: Aspyr Studios
Publisher: Aspyr
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.4.11 or v10.5.6, 1.8GHz PowerPC G5 or Intel, 512MB memory, 2.5GB disk space, Radeon 9600 or GeForce FX 6600 with 128MB VRAM, DVD-ROM Drive, full version of Civilization 4
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: LAN or Internet
Processor Compatibility: Universal
Price: $34.99
Availability: Out now

If you’re a Civilization addict (like me), you’ll be happy to know that the Beyond the Sword (BTS) expansion gives you exactly what you want: more of Civ 4. There are new civs, new leaders, and new technologies (most of which are just refinements of previous techs). In fact, refinements is a good word for what BTS brings to Civ 4, most of them focused in the post-gunpowder era.

There are a lot of subtle changes in game play: forts now function as mini-cities, able to base aircraft and harvest resources. There are mini-events scattered throughout the game, and how you’re able to handle them will affect your territory and how you interact with other civs. Do you empty your coffers to send aid to another city after a hurricane (and improve your relationship)? Do you execute the traitor who’s been providing info, or use it to embarrass your opponent?

space elevator civ 4

One of the larger changes is the addition of Corporations, which are handled like modern-day religions. After your civ has discovered the Corporation tech, you can consume resources to found a Corporation of the appropriate type (the Jewelry corp requires gems, the Oil corporation requires oil, etc.). Each corporation also requires a Great Person of the appropriate type (Engineers for mechanical-based corps, Merchants for the grain based corp). Once you’ve built the corporation’s headquarters, you can start franchises in other cities, which will bring your civ more gold as a “maintenance fee.” It’s an interesting tactic, draining your opponent’s gold reserves while providing additional benefits, but when I first heard of it I was expecting something more along the lines of the Economic Victory from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (a game desperately in need of revival). As it is, the Corporation comes into play so late in the game that it makes little difference in terms of the balance of power.

civ 4 corporations

Another big change is the addition of the Apostolic Palace as a Great Wonder. It’s sort of a proto-United Nations that’s tied to the religion that builds it. Everyone who’s part of that religion gets to vote on its edicts (stop wars, cut off trade, etc.) but it only binds civs with that religion, and even then, rather than simply vote yes or no, you can vow to defy the resolution, effectively vetoing it (though be prepared to face the consequences).

If you’re not interested in building a civ from scratch, BTS has a new Advanced Start where you choose an era and then buy cities and techs. So if your favorite part of the game is the discovery of artillery, you can start then.

I’ve never been a big fan of mods, but BTS contains a wide array of alternate realities, fantasy scenarios, and real-world-what-if’s that impressed me. Situations like a failed Soviet state where the only route to nuclear power is to capture them and hope to crack their launch codes before the other factions wipe you out. Or a world where the god of eternal winter sends waves of attackers as you try to find the three pieces of a sword that can kill him. The most familiar is the Next War mod, which expands the end game of Civilization into the near future of Mecha, super tanks, and armies of cloned soldiers fighting their way to domed cities. Perhaps the most unusual mod (and one I enjoyed the most) was the Afterworld mod—a mission based game of cyborg tanks fighting zombies, it featured almost nothing of the Civ 4 mechanics (other than unit upgrades), but was still an engaging turn-based strategy game in and of itself.

civ4 afterworld mod

If you’re a Civ addict, this is a no-brainer. You want, crave, need more Civ, with expanded technologies and new nations to conquer. Plus you get a slew of mods that amount to new games in and of themselves. If you’re not a Civ addict, the $35 price tag for a set of mods (some of which can be downloaded for free) and techs that are refinements of familiar ones might seem daunting.

But then, I’ve never met anyone who played Civilization who wasn’t an addict.

Appletell Rating:
rating five of five

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