I love the Civilization franchise – before starting on Brave New World, I had sunk 100 hours into my Civ 5. I think my favourite thing about the game is that no matter how you play (militaristic, cultured, etc), there is a way to win that will be satisfying. Brave New World is an expansion with a focus on culture and diplomacy, which is a lot more realistic, but not necessarily suited to everyone.
In general, I prefer to strive for cultural or scientific victories. It’s not that I’m against violence, but I just don’t enjoy early game battles – there is no joy in seeing my puny archers and warriors go up against other pre-historic units. If I’m going to get a military victory, I wait until I have helicopters and nukes and take over the world quickly and efficiently. So, for me, Brave New World added a whole new level of interest to the game.
Unlike vanilla Civ 5, Brave New World has a more realistic cultural victory. Rather than adopting policies and then eventually building the Utopia project, this cultural victory happens when you spread your culture around the world, eventually becoming the dominant influence in all other civilizations. As your civilization advances, your tourism will also grow – this helps to spread your influence. Your influence grows from cultural buildings, masterpieces created by great artists, writers or musicians (and later in the game, archaeologists), as well as trade routes.
Trade has a new approach in this expansion. In addition to the usual swap meets between leaders, you can now set up trade routes between cities. You can send food between cities in your civilization, or trade with foreign cities in the hope of getting more money, as well as possibly spreading your religion or getting more science. International trade also spreads culture and influence, making it a powerful tool towards cultural dominance.
Before going on to look at the change in policies and ideologies, I need to stop here and just look at all the aspects that went into the change in cultural victory. As you might imagine, this was a lot of fun – I was able to found a religion (as added with the Gods and Kings expansion), spread it around the world and eventually become the most culturally dominant force in the world. However, I find the game to now be overly focused on culture. It is almost by default that you will achieve a cultural victory – in previous play-throughs, I really didn’t know if I’d manage a cultural, a scientific or a diplomatic victory. With this expansion, as long as you build all the normal buildings and wonders, as well as use your great artists to build masterpieces (and not start a golden age), it can actually be difficult to get a scientific or military victory before winning by cultural or diplomatic victory.
Speaking of diplomatic victories, there is a much stronger focus on diplomacy in Brave New World. The World Congress gets established relatively early in the game, allowing voting on a variety of proposals – everything from establishing a World’s Fair to adopting trade embargoes. City-State alliances become more important considering the voting, and your decisions about proposals can affect relationships with other civilizations. This provides a longer build-up of diplomatic ties (especially when combined with embassies and espionage as added in the Gods and Kings expansion), making a diplomatic victory seem less contrived.
Policies and ideologies have been revamped – new policies have been added and the ideologies only become available in the Industrial Age. Whether you adopt Freedom, Order or Autocracy will open a variety of abilities, as well as wonders, and change your relationships with other civilizations.
I found the ‘normal’ games to have some added elements of enjoyment, yet the inherent weaknesses of the game are still apparent. The early game is dynamic and interesting as you explore, grow and meet new civilizations. However, the mid to late game is still rather uneventful. If you manage to survive the early game, by later in the game you are probably so far superior that you can research and buy any unit or building that you might need in order to dominate the others. It becomes a matter of getting through the turns until you win. Otherwise, if you are playing on a harder difficulty, you will probably be destroyed before you even have a chance to grow into a threat.
As for the scenarios, I thought the Scramble for Africa was a lot of fun. You explore and plunder the Dark Continent in a race for dominance. I found it particularly striking that you can’t declare war on other European powers if you play as a European power yourself, or other African nations if you are playing as an African nation. This led to my inevitable war against the Boer nation – what else was I to do when playing as England? Just by having this small restriction, you end up only considering war against the African nations, while opening embassies and borders with your European neighbours. Definitely worth a play through.
On the whole, I thought that Brave New World added some interesting new aspects to Civ 5. I like the organic approach to cultural victory, as well as the added realism in trade and diplomacy. The game can still stretch on a bit long, especially when you know you will reach victory in 27 more turns but just getting there seems to take ages. If you’ve played through Civ 5 more times than you care to admit, this expansion definitely freshens things up and adds a whole new level of game play. Just be prepared for some accidental cultural victories along the way!