Civilization V: Brave New World Review (PC)

Slow, steady, and unrelenting: the progression of the Civilization franchise is mirrored in the technological advancement that forms a core part of the game’s make-up. From release-to-release, the series is always moving forward, always improving itself, and players have to try and keep up or be left behind. Brave New World is the third expansion for the franchises’ fifth iteration – its key concepts are Culture, Diplomacy, Trading and an attempt to make the late-middle/early-late game more interesting.

There’s enough information out there at the moment that you should already know most of the changes that make this expansion unique, but here’s a quick recap: New Culture Victory in the form of Tourism – you have to build up your ‘Tourism’ Culture so that it dominates other civilizations. The Diplomatic Victory is essentially the same, but a new ‘World Congress’ mechanic gives Global Politics some real weight, and adds new interactions for Spies. Gold that you would normally get from River or Coastal tiles has now been removed – instead, you need to set up International Trade Routes with other civilisations or city-states. Food/Production can also be sent to your own cities for a boost. Wonders have been re-worked slightly, tied to technologies AND Social Policies. Social Policies have also been reworked for the second time, with a new Ideology option that kicks in the Industrial/Modern Era – civs of similar ideologies will be friendlier towards one another, and more against opposing ideologies. There’s also the usual round of new civs, buildings, units etc...

Great Artists, Writers & Musicians can create great works, which you can store or trade for boosts to culture and tourism

The hardest thing about playing a game of civilization is accepting the fact that sometimes you’re not the biggest fish in the pond. There are many individual areas in which you can fall behind, and if you’re unlucky you could lag in all of them. The new Tourism and Diplomacy mechanic simply give you yet more areas where you could possibly fail, but they are ones you need to keep an eye on, even if you’re not a Diplomacy or Culture player. To be fair, turning off these two victory options does still solve the problem if you don’t want to deal with these playstyles, however they’re at a point now where leaving them on provides a genuine challenge. You have to compete more against other nations (particularly Greece) for control of city-states more, lest they get enough votes to be named World Leader and thus win the game. Or even more basic than that, so you can get the resolutions you want enacted. Similarly, whilst you don’t have to worry so much about your own tourism output, making sure you have enough defensive culture can keep an AI or another player from dominating that way too easily as well.

The early game is a lot harder as well. Financing your empire has always been a bit of a precarious challenge in the early game, but now that there’s fewer ‘natural’ gold to be found on tiles, you have to manage your finances a lot more closely until you can set up profitable trade routes. Building Caravans and Cargo Ships is suitably expensive as well, so you have to make sure the routes are protected from barbarians, and as the game progresses, enemy empires. Still, with careful management of your maintenance, and making sure you secure the right luxury resources early on, you can afford most things. As you progress through the ages and can trade further and further afield, the routes become more profitable as well, so gold ceases to become an issue.

Worth noting in this particular release is some of the new extra content. The Scramble for Africa Scenario is one of the more interesting ones we’ve tried out so far. Every time you start that scenario anew, the interior of Africa changes completely, although it’s a shame European powers can’t fight against each other directly. Also of note are some of the new civilizations – fan favourites like the Zulu’s make a return, and the other civilizations cater to various playstyles, although the most unique of all of them is Venice. With Venice, you’re not allowed to found new cities, or Annex conquered cities. If you ally yourself with a city-state, you can purchase that city-state so that it becomes a puppet under your control with the Merchant of Venice unique unit. Civilization V has always had a ‘Single-City’ Challenge option in the advance settings, but seeing a Civilization designed around this concept is really interesting.

Fan favourite make a return – Zulu’s are very capable early game. Although now I just want to go and watch Zulu, though...

Despite the name though, there’s nothing particularly ‘brave’ about the new features or overhauls featured in this expansion – the Culture Victory track has always been in dire need of an overhaul, and everything else simply makes the base mechanics more interesting, or more difficult. Or both. This is not a lack of enthusiasm, simply keeping things plain – everything in this release is both well implemented, and very much a welcome sight. There’s still scope for improvement though in many areas – Religion, for example, is still as useless (possibly even more so, it’s hard to tell), and doesn’t really do what it’s intended. Technology, regarding the technology victory specifically, also hasn’t really been altered. You could argue there’s not really a need to, but if they managed to make Culture Victories more active, they can do the same there as well.

This is a better expansion than Gods & Kings, broadly speaking, but it’s also an evolution of foundations laid in that earlier iteration – we suspect some aspects probably wouldn’t work as well without G&K either. Ultimately, it makes Civilization V a much better game, which is the key thing here. The base product has come a long way since its release in 2010, and we can’t help but wonder where Firaxis will go next. A lot of areas that still could be worked on, a lot of ideas and channels left untapped, but for now, Brave New World will do more than enough to hold our peace.

Top Game Moment: The new World Congress interface, with all its choices, is surprisingly compelling. Really makes you try to win those votes.

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By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jul 23, 2013
I forgot to talk about the price: At £19.99/$29.99 (on Steam anyway), it's still a tad pricey for what it is, but it's worth getting if you're still a fan of this game.

The only instance I'd advise against getting it is if you really don't care about the Culture/Diplomatic victories.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jul 23, 2013
Honestly, with the trading system and improved cultural aspects, I finally feel like the game can live up to Civ IV now. The AI seems to be far more reasonable as well, not just defaulting to aggression unless you crank up the difficulty.
By Chris_Spray (SI Member) on Jul 23, 2013
Still playing Civ4.

Civ5 is the only Civilization where I did not abandon immediately the previous iteration.
By leowaud (SI Veteran Newbie) on Jul 27, 2013
Looking forward to picking this up at a reduced price
By Mindrax (SI Core) on Aug 01, 2013
I agree SirRoderick, Civ 5 is getting pretty decent now after all this time and a couple of expansions.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Aug 02, 2013
Didn't played Civ in a while. Hmmm wont get this right away but plan to play it down the road.