Civilization 5’s Brave New World explored

By Stace Harman
12 April 2013 13:04 GMT

Brave New World features a raft of new additions and changes to one of the most compelling formulas in all of video games. The intrepid Stace Harman readies his mouse-clicking finger once more.

Civ 5: Brave New World

Sid Meier’s Civilization series stretches back to 1991 and has been responsible for sleepless nights, lost days and many missed appointments. Probably.

Civilization is described as a 4X game: Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate (surely 4E would make more sense?).

Brave New World features nine new leaders and civilisations, including Casmir of Poland , Ashurbanipal of Assyria, Pedro of Brazil, Maria of Portugal and the ever popular Shaka of the Zulus.

Civilization’s lead producer Dennis Shirk wants Brave New World to round-out Civilization 5’s expansion in the same way Beyond the Sword did for Civ 4.

Brave New World will launch in the US on July 9 and in other territories on July 12.

It was William Congreve who noted that the fury of Hell’s denizens is nought to that of a woman scorned. I bet dollars to donuts that he never witnessed the apoplectic rage of a lady who’s just had her hexagons raided. Of the many lessons I’ve learnt throughout the 511 hours that I’ve sunk into Civilization 5, the dire consequence of goading my fiancée during hot-seat multiplayer games is amongst the most enduring.

That I have learned such lessons in diplomacy and yet still frequently return to push my luck with both my AI neighbours and, foolishly, my fiancée is a testament to the longevity offered by Sid Meier’s Civilization series. Certainly, it’s not for everyone but those that it ensnares tend to stay rapt for an awfully long time as hours upon hours are clicked away and games span virtual millennia and real-world days.

Brave New World is the second major expansion for Civilization 5 and Firaxis intends for it to be the last. Lead producer Dennis Shirk tells me that it’s aimed at further filling out the mid to late game to bolster the additional content that Gods and Kings added to the campaigns early to mid stages. That said, the first of its new concepts is one that’s introduced very early on (for those to whom this will mean something, it opens up as soon as you’ve researched Animal Husbandry), so let’s have a look at what it entails and what else Brave New World is bringing to the table.

Trade routes
Initially, trade routes can be established between your capital and any city belonging to another player or city-state. Trade routes last for 30 turns before being eligible for renewal and unlike the more formal trade agreements that often involve negotiation (or flat-out refusal from certain sullen AI opponents) it is not necessary to obtain consent from another player to establish a trade route between your city and theirs. A small amount of gold, science, resources and, later, religious influence will be funnelled both ways depending on the particular strengths of each side of the trade.

Watch on YouTube

Brave New World PAX East 2013 demo

To begin with, trade routes are limited in both the number that can be established and the distance over which the caravans can operate. Later on, cargo ships become available that can travel further and reap bigger benefits for both parties, but with the greater distance comes the danger that they might be intercepted. Perhaps the most useful element of trade routes is that they can also be directed internally, within your own empire. This allows for newly formed cities that so often struggle to get up and running due to the relative dearth of food and construction material to be given a helping hand by your larger, more established cities.

One of my favourite things to do in Civilization is strike out to explore the land around me, rolling back the fog and stumbling upon ruins. Of course, as we move out of the dark ages those ruins dry up and take with them some of the excitement of exploration. This is where the new role of archaeology and sites of antiquity come in. Opened-up around the early mid-game period, you have the option to train archaeologists archaeologists (whose units look more like this than this team) in order to uncover sites of antiquity, which are revealed dotted around the map in a similar way to resources such as oil and uranium.

Excavating antiquity sites reveals lost trinkets that can be used to create a landmark that provides a small but permanent stat bonus or they can instead be assigned to the new Great Work slots of many Wonders. This latter is important for generating tourism, which is the new culture-based stat that’s required in abundance to secure a long-term Cultural Victory. As a neat touch, antiquity sites leverage the game’s stat-tracking ability and so the trinkets might consist of weapon shards from a battle fought many hundred of in-game years prior and thus lend a further note of authenticity and consistency to games.

Furthermore, because Firaxis know it’s fun to stir things up, it’s also possible to conduct archaeological digs inside the borders of any civilisation with whom you have an open borders agreement, just don’t expect them to be happy about it.

World Congress

Currently, unless you’re eyeing-up a Domination or Diplomatic-based victory, there’s little reason to trouble yourself with making contact with every other civilisation in the game. Well, that’s set to change. Be the first to make contact with all other leaders and then research printing press to establish the World Congress, which allows you to propose resolutions for all leaders to vote on.

Resolutions won’t win you the game, but they will facilitate the opportunity to instigate collaborative projects that can aid the many or punitive measures that will burden the few, such as a standing army tax to help deter an aggressive. World Congress resolutions also instigate periods of tough negotiation as there are 30 turns between the proposal of the resolution and voting on it, which gives you time to make promises in exchange for votes from fellow leaders

Resolutions can also be useful for making up short-falls in your own game, so if you find yourself lagging behind in the science department, you can propose a resolution that makes researching technologies that others have already discovered quicker for those that have not. Other options include proposals that nations desist their nuclear weapons programme (though it does not disarm those already stockpiled) or to ban city-state trade. Each resolution also highlights those leaders that will be happy with you for proposing it and those that will be peeved by your meddling.

Keep on clicking
From a few hours spent with Brave New World these three components appear to be the most game-changing but they are far from the only additions. There’s also nine new civilisations and leaders (see box-out for a partial list), eight new World Wonders, a raft of new units and buildings, two new scenarios, the chance to adopt an ideology, and the opportunity to stake a claim for a cultural victory by generating crazy levels of tourism.

AI is also undergoing refinement, which is of utmost importance for those that prefer not to engage in online play or be browbeaten in Hotseat. Dennis Shirk highlights the work that the team is doing to fix things like war-mongering, which the lead producer acknowledges is currently “a little out of whack”.

Brave New World looks set to add a host of new features while tweaking others. Shirk and team will continue to work post-launch on balancing all of the new components based on feedback from Civilization’s invested fan base. With Brave New World set for release in mid-July, those fans will be drawn back into Civ’s hypnotic click-cycle, but not me. I’ll be trying to give it a wide berth until at least mid-August because it’s probably best that I’m safely married before I risk once again testing the patience of my long-suffering hot-seat partner.

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