I had it pre-ordered on Steam and downloaded the update as soon as I got home last night. MMO gaming was out the window as I tried out the new expansion.
There was the usual spate of items included in the expansion. New civilizations are included, though I cannot see that as a big thrill unless you are looking for some more “Win a game as…” achievements or want to see what the city names are. Some new scenarios were added on, though I must admit I rarely play those, preferring the traditional long game. And, of course, there were some new wonders thrown in.
As always, you must remember I look at this through the lens of Civilization II, which remains one of my favorite games ever. So I used to create new civilizations by editing the game data, which was stored in a text file. Notepad is ever the most basic tool in software development. Achievements were barely a thing, and only if you count the high score list. Wonders were much less numerous, and many of those that were there had a much bigger impact on the game. And…well… I still preferred the long game back then as opposed to scenarios.
But it is that bias towards Civ II that made this expansion a must have for me, as the Firaxis team brought back two aspects of early versions of the game and integrated them into Civ V; ideology and trade routes. Eager to see those in action, I started a standard game on a big map. I played as Morocco, which I only noted was one of the new civilizations a ways into the game, showing how much I pay attention to those sorts of things.
Ideology used to be an incredibly important aspect of the game in the Civ II days. Of course, it used to be a bit of an exploit as well. If you could research democracy early in the game and build the Statue of Liberty wonder, which was a mid-game wonder that gave you access to all of the various government ideologies, and then swapped to communism, you gained a pretty steep advantage. And it also eliminate the period of anarchy when changing ideologies.
In Civ V, ideology is now an aspect of the game, but it is limited to the modern age or after you build factories in a certain percentage of your cities. So you can not longer have a pre-industrial dictatorship of the proletariat. Unfortunately I did not make it to the modern age in my first game out with the expansion. Instead I got involved with a bloody little three-way war with the Celts and Portugal, who both came at me at once, with the Greeks weighing in now and again, in one corner of the map that left us all poking each other with spears and lances well into the 19th century. Of course, that was plenty of fun, despite not being a winning game, but I wasn’t building many universities in the middle of the war. So that aspect is left to be explored.
And then there was trade routes. I like what they did with this. In Civ II trade routes were pretty simple. You built a trade caravan unit that represented one of the items your city had to offer and, ideally, sent it off to a city that wanted that item and which, in turn, offered up something your city desired. When the caravan arrived, the trade route was established, and that was that pretty much. And even if neither city had the right items, some sort of trade would be established and would still be better than no trade at all.
In Brave New World, trade routes are also established by building a caravan or, for sea trade, a trading ship. Once built, you are given a pretty detailed list of the places with which you can trade and the benefits they will give. You select one and off your caravan goes. But once it arrives, the unit then returns and then goes back again, and so on, actually representing the trade route in game. And the unit is vulnerable to attack. If it is destroyed, the trade route is broken. So you have to actually protect your trade routes.
In my dirty little war with Portugal and the Celts, I had cavalry in their back field expressly going after their caravans as well as triremes afloat to intercept their trade on the high seas. And during a period of peace when I was trying to annex a captured city and was facing a lot of unrest due to unhappy citizens, the uprisings managed to destroy almost all of my own trade routes, putting me in the red on both happiness and finances.
There are also some enhancements to the cultural victory aspect of the game, including tourism and great works which, in the midst of a war, were largely left unexplored by me. But it looks interesting.
One of the downsides of the expansion is that Firaxis did not seem to spend much time on performance enhancements this time around. That was one of the things that the Gods & Kings expansion offered, a boots to performance. So as the game progressed, I again found myself spending a lot of time waiting for the game. Of course, it doesn’t help that I like big maps and the marathon pace, but I still contend that my system is beefy enough on the processing front that anything that bogs it down has to be pretty fearsome code-wise.
And the team did not appear to spend any time on some of the minor annoyances. The game still seems to delight in showing me messages out of order order. And it always seems to jump straight to the “Next Turn” button before allowing that, just maybe, I might still have some units that need orders. I suspect that the code has been written to show “Next Turn” right away because it is prone to getting stuck elsewhere and that button at least sends things on their way.
All in all though, I am happy with the expansion so far. It will no doubt keep me busy for some time and make it less likely that I will buy a bunch of games when the Steam Summer Sale finally shows up this year. Rumor has it that the sale starts tomorrow.