Civilization V: Brave New World
Just one more turn. It’s a sentence familiar to almost anyone who has ever played one of Firaxis’ Civilization games. But what happens when that one more turn is in the late game, and your empire is practically on autopilot? Through the rapid clicks of the “Next Turn” button, many players turn their thoughts back to the early days of their reign.
Every game of Civilization is different, but the early part of any playthrough is filled with exploration and discovery. According to producer Dennis Shirk, the Brave New World team has worked to bring that sense of wonder to the late game in what is likely the title’s final expansion. “Ever since Civ 2, we’ve been trying to crack the nut of the end game,” Shirk told me. To that end, the latest add-on brings new systems and a completely revamped approach to cultural victories.
Instead of simply filling up five of the policy trees, being the dominant trendsetter in the world is a now a process that takes into account the work of rivals. In the base Civilization V experience, and through Gods and Kings (the first major expansion), culture was used as currency to purchase new policies. Now it has a second, defensive purpose: to combat the tourism power of other nations. The new cultural victory requires players to fully dominate every other leader with overwhelming tourism.
The new mechanic is fueled by the addition of “Great Works” slots to buildings like museums and opera houses. Great artists have now been divided into three categories (artists, musicians, and writers), and each can be consumed to add a piece of historically accurate visual art, music, or literature to one of your cities (provided you have room). Each building will provide a theme bonus when filled with the appropriate combination of works from different civilizations and eras. Building sets is facilitated by trading on the world market, creating a metagame that feels a bit like gin.
In the late game, archaeologists (who are completely coincidentally portrayed by a rugged, fedora-wearing gentleman) can be produced in cities with universities. At the same time, antiquity sites appear on the map. These emerge in places where important things happened in the early game. Did you lose a unit to a barbarian incursion? You might find a new artifact for one of your museums. These clever callbacks create an endearing thread that links the beginning days of players’ empires to the otherwise static endgame, infusing the sense of wonder in a period typically devoid of it.
Throughout the game, international trade provides a new mechanism to spread tourism and religion (while making money) to other empires. Starting with the discovery of animal husbandry, the caravan can deliver goods to neighboring civilizations, providing a boon to both parties. These exist on a different layer than other units, so there is no concern about blocking your military maneuvers. Cargo ships, which become available after sailing is discovered, yield twice the resources and can travel farther. Once granaries or workshops are built in cities, intra-empire trade becomes possible. This clever adjustment allows players to funnel food or building resources to cities in speed growth or production.
Ideologies, the new companion to policies, are fueled by tourism. An extensive, empty tree allows players to create a profile that suits different types of victories. Each of the many options is clearly marked with the win conditions it best supports. It’s important to keep an eye on what your neighbors are doing, though, as a rival with high tourism and a different set of ideologies could cause cities to flip. Unlike in the past, players can defend against traitorous metropolises by succumbing to the will of the people. Civilization IV was the last time that cities could be “culture flipped,” but unlike with that title, the ideology system provides a way for leaders to react. In the past, there wasn’t much that could be done to avoid cities leaving.
Diplomacy also sees a significant refinement in Brave New World. The World Congress appears in the first empire to have met all other nations, provided it already has researched the printing press. “The World Congress offers more options to players who prefer to be builders rather than dominators,” Shirk said. “There are now peaceful alternatives to dealing with aggressive neighbors.”
The World Congress (which automatically turns into the U.N. mid-way through the atomic age) offers players a way to suppress militant empires. The nations with the two largest numbers of delegates (typically the host, who receives double representation, and one other) may propose one action per cycle. These include cultural boons like the World’s Fair, the International Space Station for a science boost, and the International Games for improved happiness. Other proposals can impose a standing army tax, which increases troop maintenance costs, and cutting off trade with bullies.
There is a deliberation period before votes take place, which enables players to use a new kind of spy to influence the outcome. Diplomats can be placed in other civilizations to “schmooze” (yes, that’s the technical term) and provide information on upcoming votes. Bribes can be used to build support with leaders considering unfavorable votes. Over time, the voting cycle speeds up, addressing one of the major complaints about pursuing a diplomatic win. Toward the end of the game, votes take place every 10 turns, with world leader elections taking place every other cycle.
Brave New World will include nine new leaders, two of which we saw for the first time this week. Shaka of the Zulu is aggressive and, interestingly, does not take advantage of the new systems when played by the AI. He’s an enormous threat in the early game, and continues to be a thorn in the side of other residents throughout play. Maria I of Portugal brings a unique caravel replacement and one of the most interesting trade-based unique improvements. Her Feitoria can be built in any civilization[Update: we received clarification that the Feitoria can be built only in city-states], regardless of relationship. The improvement's presence provides a copy of any resource in the opposing empire to Maria. If the target is an ally, she will receive two of each luxury.
Shaka and Maria join Casimir III of Poland, Ashurbanipal of Assyria, and Pedro II of Brazil. Four more leaders who will expand the roster have yet to be revealed, one of which is linked to the expansion’s only new resource. We’ll have to wait to learn who they are, though. Two new scenarios, the American Civil War and Scramble for Africa, are also included.
For those coming in late, Brave New World will include all of the balancing and systems present in Gods and Kings (espionage and religion). It is possible to play with just the base game and Brave New World, though that option will rob you of some interesting civilizations that came with the first expansion. There is a “gold” version of the game available on Steam for $50 (a big saving over purchasing all the content individually) that includes Gods and Kings and all of the civilizations previously sold separately. When asked if this would be the final expansion to Civilization V, Shirk said, "We approached it that way. This is the quintessential Civ V experience."
Brave New World arrives on July 9 in North America and July 12 everywhere else.