Sid Meier’s Civilization V: Brave New World – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: Adds cultural victories to Civ V, plus more wonders, nine new playable powers, plus a new Scramble for Africa scenario
Failed Basic: Reuses old art in a bad way.
While this second expansion for 2K Games’ epic Civilization V is titled Brave New World, it has nothing to do with the novel by Aldous Huxley—or Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, which is likely the origin of the phrase in popular culture. The title actually refers to the changes that players will find, especially in the latter part of the game, and addresses the biggest flaw in Civilization V-mainly that end game. But first some backstory on what it adds.
Every Civilization game since the original follows the same standard gameplay; players explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. This is the “4X” formula of games, in which you begin with a sole city and much carve out a massive empire over the course of many long, yet fun-filled nights.
With each new version of Civilization the designers added, reworked and tweaked the gameplay. Civilization V was clearly the most refined, and explains why the game has been such a hit. The first expansion, Gods & Kings, added religion along with a few new powers, wonders and a couple of scenarios. It made a good game even better.
New Playable Powers
Now with Brave New World the designers have done it again, and this time they added nine new civilizations including Poland, Brazil, Assyria, Zulu, Portugal, Indonesia, Morocco, Venice and the Shoshone. While Ethiopia was included in the previous expansion it is also included here for those who opted not to buy Gods & Kings but were interested in this one.
As with the original game, and expansion (plus those powers included as downloadable content) these powers come with their own unique abilities, units and to some extent quirks. Some are a joy to play and a nightmare to play against. The Zulus, for example, can be extremely tough to fight—which can be good or bad depending on how much of a challenge you might want.
The game also now features eight more “Wonders of the World,” including the Globe Theater, the Parthenon, Borobudur, Uffizi, the Red Fort, Prora, Broadway and the International Space Station. These are more heavily aimed at cultural impact on a civilization—but culture is also far more important in this expansion.
Civilization players know that as a typical game winds down, they likely have 20+ cities and hundreds of units on the map, which means there is a lot of stuff to do but the “fun” stuff of exploring and expanding is already over. Unless a war with another power is still unresolved, players might continue playing just to see the game completed. Brave New World focuses on the three modern ideologies of Freedom, Autocracy and Order, which adds cultural impacts of tourism, archeology and great works to the game—musicians, writers and architects can help generate tourism, for example—and that emphasis on culture can be used as a victory option. The game may be winding down, but there are still great artists and engineers that can be spawned within a player’s empire.
While there were options for cultural victories previously, Civilization was still a 4X game that relied heavily on the exploiting and even more on the exterminating. Brave New World‘s expanded cultural focus means that if you can generate enough culture, then the other civilizations begin to fall under your influence and—should all appreciate your culture—you get the cultural victory. Conquering the world may be more fun (for some, anyway), but this could be a far greater challenge.
This is further enhanced by the fact that Brave New World has increased the role of trade. You can go beyond just building road/railroads to various independent city states or rival powers now by sending caravans and cargo ships, which spread culture and religion. This generates gold and extra research—but xenophobic powers may see it as outside influence, which can lead to war. While the United Nations can still be created later in the game, there is now the addition of a World Congress that implements trade sanctions, limits resource usage and can lead to Diplomatic Victory.
When played with the prior expansions, which this reviewer recommends, the religious part of the game has also been refined. Christianity for example isn’t a sole religion but can be split off into its three parts of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism.
Playing from the Stone Age to the Space Age is fun, but sometimes the game could stand to be mixed up a bit. Gods & Kings added a couple of interesting twists, including a fall of the Roman Empire scenario, but Brave New World adds two other options–one is for the American Civil War and the other is for the Scramble for Africa.
The former is decent but will by no means serve as a solid American Civil War simulation. Maybe there haven’t really been enough strategic level games that focus on this conflict, but this is hardly going to make up for that fact. There are no diplomatic options and no exploration or expansion options, as this is purely a military scenario.
The Scramble for Africa is far more interesting. In 100 turns players must try to build a colonial empire that outpaces the others. It is a serious challenge and it also requires the player to control either a European or African power and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The British, for example, start at the southern tip of Africa with Cape Colony, a few colonial outposts on the west coast and Gibraltar, while Italy has no colonies—but Italy is on the map and Africa is just a short hop across the sea.
Where this one comes up short is that the designers didn’t bother to update the art, so don’t expect British troops in pith helmets and red coats. As a result, the various powers feature leadership diplomacy screens that aren’t the least bit correct for the era. To represent Paul Kruger, the president of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal, the game uses George Washington—while Queen Victoria of Great Britain still appears as Queen Elizabeth. Would it really have been that difficult to redo the videos? A small nit but it does detract from the game a bit.
In this reviewer’s tests multiplayer worked smoothly, but there are still some issues in trying to load a saved game with more than two players. With three players (the most I was able to test), the game at times simply fails to load all three. It took a couple of tries and that can be frustrating. However, when it does work it is nice to save and start—especially as games can last 15+ hours, and who has friends who can spend all day playing a single game?
Unfortunately the scenarios are single player only.
For those who didn’t buy Gods & Kings this latest release is still worth considering, and could be a way to get those “must have” elements from that previous expansion. It adds the game mechanics of G&K including religion and espionage as well as the improved combat mechanics. However, other than Ethiopia, BNW doesn’t include those civilizations that were part of the G&K expansion—a pity if you like playing as Byzantine or Carthage. Moreover BNW also doesn’t include the three scenarios from G&K, but for many this game is really just about the 4X experience from the Stone Age to the Space Age, and this new expansion offers the best parts that players won’t want to miss.
While the ultimate fans will still want both expansions for the full package, BNW is the true must-have add-on that makes a great game a truly excellent game. Many will no doubt play just one more turn well into the night.
Armchair General Score: 90%
About the Author
Peter Suciu has been collecting militaria and playing military simulations since he was a child. He’s been reviewing computer games for nearly 20 years, and when he’s not waging battle from his desktop he is a business reporter for several magazines and websites. His work has appeared on CNBC.com, Fortune.com and Forbes. He also collects military helmets and runs the MilitarySunHelmets.com website.