Impressions: Civ V – Brave New World

By Adam Smith on April 12th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

I’ve started more games of Civilization V than a hundred men could ever finish and that’s not only because I enjoy discovering new worlds more than I enjoy conquering them. Civilization doesn’t have a compelling end-game, lacking the peaks and troughs of grand strategy, and instead taking a predictable course once the pieces are in place. Brave New World attempts to fix that by overhauling culture, diplomacy and trade.

Civ V’s player-prompting interface is like a court of meddlesome advisors, never allowing an important matter to pass without comment. One advantage of this is that it allows new features to slot into the game and make their presence known when appropriate, rather than hiding in menus and waiting to be discovered. The game notifies the player whenever input is needed and thanks to the ease of flow, a couple of hours in an industrial era save sufficed to give me a working appreciation of Brave New World’s trade and culture systems. The significant alterations to mid- and late-game diplomacy didn’t have as much impact on the session but the intent is admirable and the implementation is promising.

The changes to culture and diplomacy only arise later in the game but not Brave New World isn’t only fleshing out the end-game, which sounds like a particularly grotesque activity. The earliest feature to be introduced is the trading system, which is the game’s first real concession to the complexities of mercantile happenings beyond diplomatic swap-meets. Research now unlocks a series of trading units, beginning with caravans that travel, vulnerable and packed with goods, across land to foreign cities. If this was simply a way to divert the flow of cash from cities, providing an alternate means of reaching the same end, it’d be little more than a distraction. However, the trade system impacts on other aspects of the game, old and new, and it does that via a method that I’m going to call ‘The Barnacle Effect’.

The Barnacle Effect describes the situation whereby a large new feature is a ship of state, while traces of existing features, and other additions, are like the barnacles clinging to its hull. Of course, these new vessels launch barnacle boarding parties of their own, which is where the metaphor either falls apart or becomes the greatest pirate cartoon that the world has ever seen. Essentially, Firaxis are expanding rather than replacing with these new features, not simply layering functionality on top of existing mechanics, but attempting cross-pollination of ideas so that everything new feeds into and from everything old.

Brave New World already seems a much finer example of this stitching effect than the previous expansion, Gods and Kings. While I was glad of the addition of religion and even the less substantial espionage, faith, as a new resource, became somewhat segregated. Separation of church and state isn’t complete in Civ V, but the integration is far from complete. Brave New World is attempting to avoid this by threading its new ideas through the old and layering sometimes unexpected knock-on effects onto player actions.

To that end, trade doesn’t simply generate money, although that’s its main purpose. Send a naval trade unit across an ocean to a distant civilization’s capital and it’ll rake in a great deal of gold as it moves back and forth across the map. As a physical object in the world, rather than a representative line drawn onto the map, it is vulnerable to attack while it travels. Once set on course, it remains true to its path until a number of turns have lapsed, at which point the owner can reassign them.

Decisions are complicated by the barnacles of trade. If your civ is a scientific powerhouse, trading with less advanced nations will see them suckling at the teat of knowledge. Exposure to your operations permits them to leech some of your science, not stealing it, but sharing it. This, cleverly, makes trade a foundation for expansionist and wealthy empires but also accommodates isolationist tendencies, permitting the lone wolf to keep to his/her own shores, trading internally and protecting what has been earned.

Trade is also affected by goods – arrange routes between yourself and civs or city states that have resources that aren’t already shared and there’s a hefty trade bonus. As the only new addition that becomes available early in the game’s first era, trade is set to have a large impact on the game, but it’s the changes to culture that I’m most pleased by.

I tend to play as a pacifist, accruing science and culture, trying to keep the hounds of war at bay. Unfortunately, and there’s deeper point to be made here, Civilization does not favour a passive approach and, as the renaissance dawns, without a war to fight the entire game can be reduced to a simple process: ‘pick a wonder, press end turn a few times, pick another wonder, press end turn a few times, choose a social policy, press end turn a few times’. The map becomes almost entirely redundant, the game now a series of city screens with rapidly diminishing build choices.

The late-game in Civ V (and the earlier entries are not excused) is often, quite literally, a case of pressing a button and watching numbers rise. This is why so many games go unfinished. Brave New World hopes to change that by encouraging culture-obsessed players to engage with the map through archaeology and tourism.

Tourism is, magnificently, the term used to designate ‘offensive culture’. Clearly, Firaxis are no strangers to Brits on tour. Rather than the border-chomping cultural push of Civilization IV, tourism is a resource collected by the host nation and the aim, for a new cultural victory, is to collect so much tourism that other civs fall at your feet in awe. They are a new type of vassal state, in thrall to your trinkets, many of which may be robbed from their own backyards. Archaeology, the stand-out feature of Brave New World, can be fantastically cruel.

Just as certain resources, such as horses and oil, are hidden on the map until the corresponding technology unveils them, the archaeology tech now reveals dig sites. These aren’t randomly seeded but instead, whenever a barbarian encampment or city is destroyed, or a big ruckus occurs, there’s a chance that an artefact will be deposited on that hex. When an archaeologist is built, naturally attired in the manner of Dr Jones, it has two options upon reaching a dig site – collect the contents or set up a memorial of sorts, which causes the tile to generate culture at the loss of some other resources.

You want to dig up the past though, right? I did. The game tells you not only when the object was deposited but what it is (broken spearheads, vases etc) and which culture it belongs to. It’s a little history of the world and once you’ve rediscovered it, with the possibility of annoying its original owner if it isn’t returned, Elgin Marbles-style, then it can be placed in an empty culture slot, from whence it will generate culture. These slots appear in museums, galleries and many cultural Wonders, including the Louvre, which has more than any other building.

Great Artists have also received a boost. Now, they not only have names but a specific profession, be it musician or writer, and each has a specific work of art associated with him/her. When they complete that work, details of it are shown – a snippet of music or a quote from a literary work or a picture of the painting/sculpture – and it must then be placed in an appropriate building, where it generates yet more tourism.

If the tourism generated by one civilization is greater than the base cultural output of another, the former is poised for a cultural victory over that nation. Outdo the rest and victory is yours. Of course, to protect against the tourism of other nations it’s necessary to build the old, traditional cultural points as well, now considered defensive. In its entirety the addition of tourism and archaeology not only makes the peaceful option more engaging, it also adds a great deal of flavour to the game.

The World Congress is the third major change to the game. It’s the aspect I’ve seen the least of but, in theory, it should make diplomacy more interesting and allow popular civs to implement game-changing rules. The congress is founded in the mid-game and the nation that builds it has a voting advantage from the outset, sending two delegates and proposing votes on matters as diverse as trading sanctions and nuclear proliferation. I managed to ban the export of whales, just because Paris was surrounded by them and I wanted to set fire to Napoleon. Cutting off his main source of income seemed like a start. It’ll be interesting to see how the AI handles both voting and putting forward propositions because I immediately think of the Congress as a perfect situation for some good old human treachery, the sort of thing that should be incorporated into multiplayer games more often.

There are also nine new civs, with their abilities, leaders, and unique buildings and units. Many are designed to take advantage of specific aspects of the expansion and the few that I saw have powerful and not entirely expected abilities. It’s in those unique abilities and units that Civ V has always shown its hand – it’s a game about winning rather than experiencing, a competitive race to the finish. The strength of Brave New World is that it aims to make the destination, as well as the journey, far more compelling.

Unlike Gods and Kings, this expansion might just convince a few non-believers that Civ V is capable of learning a few new tricks. The Congress may end up being the most significant addition, particularly during multiplayer games, but it’s the flavour and greater degree of interaction and engagement that the new culture abilities offer that I’m most intrigued by.

Brave New World is out July 9th in the US and on the 12th in the rest of the world. Those triremes struggle with the oceans, you see.

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65 Comments »

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  1. luukdeman111 says:

    Gods and Kings was a HUGE improvement of the main game for me so I have high hopes for this one….

    More things to do late game? Yes please!

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I totally agree. I was one of the first to condemn Civ 5. GameFly had a sale on Gods & Kings for about $7 so I made the plunge since I had heard good things. It addressed many of the problems I had with the vanilla version.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      It really wasn’t much of an improvement at all. It’s the same game except with an additional meter to fill up before you cash it in for buildings/bonuses/units.

      Faith in Civ 5 is really just a blend of Gold and Culture. It’s fundamentally not an interesting change to the game.

      • MrLebanon says:

        Faith and it’s related bonuses opened up the doors for numerous new strategies.

        Not to mention the changing scale of unit health/damage that made combat more realistic

        • Captain Joyless says:

          New strategies, same as the old strategies. There are no new strategies in G&K. I think what you really mean is that “you can now exploit the existing strategies using the new mechanics” which is obvious.

          Also, sorry, but there is no “realistic” combat within 10 miles of this game. It is ultra-abstracted combat. It has absolutely zero to do with realism. It is a board game. Which is fine, but don’t try to argue that certain changes are positive because they are “more realistic.” That’s total nonsense.

          • Ringwraith says:

            I think it was more aimed at the fact it helped reduce the old spearman vs tank problem by having everyone have health bars of 100 instead of 10, meaning the minimum damage inflicted is now much lower.

    • buxcador says:

      The game already is unplayable due to the large time it takes between each turn. Making it more complex, would worse all of it. The player would be forced to play only one turn each day.

  2. bigjig says:

    Ohh Shaka… so the Zulu are the fourth confirmed extra civ?

    • Squirly says:

      Looks like, probably with an Impi as a special unit and … a kraal as a special building. +1 food from cows and sheep or something.

  3. IshtarGate says:

    When I first heard about the whole art-and-paintings-in-game thing, the first thing I thought for India was Raja Ravi Verma and thought that there wouldn’t be a snowball’s chance of something like that happening.

    And here I am staring at a Raja Ravi Verma painting in a Civilization screenshot. Love you, Internet.

  4. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    Any improvements on the late-game huge map 10 minute wait between turns thing?

    • Toberoth_Syn says:

      I recommend a solid state drive. Sounds like a facetious thing to say, but honestly I got one recently and it’s cut my late-game loading times down to about three or four seconds.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Also try switching to strategic map mode before going for end turn, it speeds it up rather a lot.

  5. Gambit says:

    This might be a silly question, but will it be stand-alone? If not as an owner of vanilla Civ V should I buy God and Kings and then this, or will just this do?

    • zain3000 says:

      Nope, you’re outta luck. Following in the footsteps of traditional expansion packs, this one will require the original to run. Don’t worry, I’ve seen Civ V go on ridiculous sales pretty often (I got it as a pre-order bonus for XCOM). Just wait a bit and it’ll be on sale again for pence (pennies?)

      • Hahaha says:

        Got civ 5 in that sweet as getloaded deal a couple of weeks ago for 3 quid then upgraded to gold for a tenner. bargain.

      • lordcooper says:

        Gambit has Civ V already. You can tell because of the words.

    • Zaarin says:

      According to a Rev3Games Interview on Youtube you’ll be able to buy just Brave New World and get the religion and espionage systems with that. If you want the new Civs introduced in Gods and Kings, you’ll have to buy that too.

    • luukdeman111 says:

      not sure about whether or not this works without G&K but buying G&K is highly recommended anyway (by me). It makes civ V so much better

      EDIT: Ahhh… see post above me. in that case buying G&K is not really needed since the extra civs weren’t that interesting…

  6. GernauMorat says:

    So should i finally upgrade from civ 4 or is 5 still not as good?

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      If you want it for a mostly relaxed singleplayer experience, Civ V with G+K is easily the best Civ game ever. If you’re a hardcore minmaxer and/or in it only for the multiplayer, it may be a bit unsatisfactory.

      • x1501 says:

        No kidding. The fact that it’s still missing such fundamental features like multiplayer mod support, should tell you all you need to know about the quality of Civ 5’s multiplayer.

    • deaomen says:

      Civ5 is still not as deep as Civ4 was (with it’s expansions). However, Civ5 removed stack-of-dooms and added long range units which makes the war much more fun (some people might disagree). Diplomacy and AI still sucks tho, but it has got slightly better over the patches and expansions.

      • ScubaMonster says:

        I wasn’t really a big fan of the single unit hexes. Makes moving your army around more cumbersome than need be. Though it does make it easier to set up a blockade. Also, it’s extremely annoying setting up artillery around a city since the city’s bombardment can destroy your artillery in one shot a lot of times. So you have to send in a lot more artillery which is kind of annoying. Once you advance far enough to get bombers, it’s not so much of an issue though. But that’s later in game.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Eliminating stacks of doom is the biggest thing I can say it does that helps the game. Which also helps with other things like making smaller civs more viable when added to the other systems. The single-city challenge is no longer massively crippling and can be a completely valid tactic if you so choose (India is even built around a small number of cities, getting more unhappiness for cities past the third but getting half the unhappiness for population).

    • Sic says:

      I have the same question, only I’m still playing 2 and 3.

    • Rudel says:

      I stick with IV. I mean, it’s just perfect. Why switch? Civ V vanilla was so disappointing, I will nit give it a second chance. Besides, One Unit Per Tile was the worst design decision in Civ history.

  7. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Actually something *new* new, rather than just putting back in the stuff that was removed from BTS?

    Ok, intrigued. Mind opening, just a crack, they’ve trojan horsed me before.

  8. Gwilym says:

    There’d better be a mode to start with just a handful of men

    • Toberoth_Syn says:

      And in the game.

    • YogSo says:

      Doesn’t matter, we’ll get bored before finishing a game and we’ll start – we’ll start all over again.

  9. Reapy says:

    Did they ever add any end game charts to summarize? I remember that bothering me the one time I played through at release the most.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      There are rankings, some charts (definitely population and I think some others as well) and a map overview with replay.

      • Reapy says:

        Ahh nice, thank you… maybe worth a revisit with the expansion. I know it was totally irrational, but I hated not having a map replay of my civ game.

  10. Didden says:

    List should read Least Adam. Good read though, I’ll be picking this up at some point now.

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      Also, “impacts on” should read “affects” or “has an impact on”.

    • cptgone says:

      i think the word “fear” is missing here:
      “The changes to culture and diplomacy only arise later in the game but * not Brave New World isn’t only fleshing out the end-game”

  11. Universal Quitter says:

    This might be just what I need to get back into Civ V. I couldn’t have put the late-game fizzle any better, probably because I’m not a high falootin’ big city word-guy. Glad to see they addressed it, as that was my biggest complaint in an otherwise fantastic and under-appreciated game.

  12. Maxheadroom says:

    Cool, now all it needs is an always-on net connection and forced social features :)

  13. Zwa says:

    This all sounds really good and might actually get me back into the game. However did they ever fix the AI in combat? Outside of the dull late game this was my biggest problem, I could take on armies several times my size with good unit position where the AI would single file their units into a choke point. Was kind of amusing at first but grew old fast.
    (This is the base game by the way, maybe they did something in the first expansion? It kind of flew under my radar)

    • syndicatedragon says:

      Nope. It’s still pretty bad in G&K. It ruins the game for me, honestly.

  14. killias2 says:

    Does every state get one vote in the World Congress, or does population matter? I get that the initial builder gets an extra vote, but I mean beyond that. Also, like the UN, do the city-states get votes too?

    I just sort of hated city-state involvement in the UN, especially combined with the espionage system. I would do everything I could for these bastards, and I built the UN. What was my reward? Every single city-state backed my enemy, giving him the game. I tried replaying 10, 20 years, making completely different choices, spending thousands of dollars, etc. etc. Didn’t matter.

    I uninstalled and am hoping the World Congress works better.

    • man-eater chimp says:

      Easiest way I found to get round uncooperative city states in the UN is to 1) Bribe enough so no one else can win diplomatically, and win another way, 2) Blow up/Conquer/Liberate the less amiable ones or 3) Throw everything into the patronage tree, there is a particularly annoying one which makes other civs lose influence quicker which is incredibly frustrating if another civ gets it!

  15. derbefrier says:

    Looking forward to this. If they would just add mod support for multiplayer I would be an happy man.

  16. Moraven says:

    G&K got me into Civ again for a month. I expect this will also. Good times.

  17. SkittleDiddler says:

    As much as I love the Civ series, it frustrates me to no end that we’re expected to pay for positive changes that drastically alter the gameplay in the form of a late-life expansion pack. What’s next, a $20 expac that finally fixes the turn wait time?

    • Ciergan says:

      They’ve been doing this for three cycles now. I don’t mind it personally but it would be nice if they tried a base game that had as much detail as its predecessor + expansions.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Let me explain something to you you might not understand.

        Firaxis is a business, not a charity. It doesn’t exist for your benefit. Firaxis cares most about its owners, then its employees, then its business partners, and you are in the last position.

        Just like 99% of businesses.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          As if any of those little facts make it okay to rip off their customers.

  18. Captain Joyless says:

    “Civilization does not favour a passive approach”

    I mean, it’s a very strong approach, but as you point out, yes, it is rather boring.

  19. Lanfranc says:

    Between the trade, the culture/archaeology/museums and the international politics, it’s like they wrote this expansion specifically for me. Can’t wait to get it.

  20. mageta says:

    Every time I read that title I get a sudden urge to listen to Iron Maiden.

  21. leQuack says:

    Can’t wait for this one. Gods and Kings was a worthy addition but the late game is currently flawed indeed. Just finished a game where my empire was running strong. Trying to decide whether I go with science or cultural victory, I suddenly realized I only had to take Greek’s capitol for a domination victory and since he already declared war on me, that was an easy decision.

    War is forced upon you way too much on the higher difficulties (king+) in my humble opinion. Which is ok, if the AI wasn’t so suicidal.

  22. ZIGS says:

    Damn, about time they get Portugal in the game

  23. Beelzebud says:

    I’m really looking forward to this. Civ V has proven to be a great game.

  24. paranoidandroid42 says:

    So how much extra happiness will the Centrifugal Bumble-puppy give?

  25. Xyth says:

    I love this game. I can’t wait for the expansion.

    It’s really strange, though, because for as many hours as I put into Civ 5, you would think I might be good at it. I suck. But I still love it and can burn hours at it.

    And from that screen shot, I gather than I can be Portugal! That’s too much joy for me. I love Lisbon in RL!!

  26. garisson says:

    Fantastic title. Excellent graphics, engaging gameplay. Loved the depiction of past civilizations. But the more I got into it, the more I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling I was in fact playing a…smexist game.

    O_O

    • Niko says:

      Keep doing whatever it is you are doing. It is very important that you keep doing that what is it you are doing and nobody other than you can do that for the reason that you are doing that for.

  27. capitalistpigskin says:

    “The changes to culture and diplomacy only arise later in the game but not Brave New World isn’t only fleshing out the end-game, which sounds like a particularly grotesque activity.”

    Are you feeling okay? That burnt-toast smell might be a problem…

  28. Geen says:

    Brave New World? Where the hell are the newt-clones and shit, then?

  29. Daniel Klein says:

    I feel I’ve said this a hundred times, but Civ V will not have meaningful multiplayer until they bring back a non-simultaneous rounds option. As is, any form of PvP in Civ V is a contest of “who can click first”.