So, here is the second expansion pack for Civilization 5, here is the Brave New World! And it really is; the political and cultural side of the game has truly gone above and beyond the vanilla game in great, bold strides. As far as this expansion pack goes, it’s safe to say that slapping a trade embargo on Gandhi never felt so good.
There is a solid body of content here, but the number of lesser changes and balances that have been made is truly astounding. It’s clear that the development team at Firaxis have used the expansion as an opportunity to plug the few remaining holes in the game. For example a slew of new units have been added, mainly to sort out any oddities in the military tech tree (such as the absence of ranged units after the Machine-gun). They’ve also added the XCOM Squad unit into the game as a nod to that other franchise that Firaxis have been working on, which is a nice touch.
As for the main content, they’ve really pushed the boat out on this one. While in the Gods and Kings Expansion, you could feasibly play through a whole game without paying any real attention to the main new features, Brave New World makes them more integral to the game. The social policy trees have been updated, with Autocracy, Order and Freedom graduating to become fully fledged Ideologies. Empires with different ideologies suffer a relationship penalty with one another and are more likely to go to war, and Ideologies can have destabilising effects off the battlefield too, for you less warmongering types. There are also 9 new civilisations, or ‘civs’ to choose from including Venice, which forces you to play a one city challenge.
What also helps to make culture relevant is the new and improved cultural victory. Before, culture had no real effect on other empires; cultural victory was just a case of getting enough culture to build the ‘Utopia Project’. Now you must use tourism, which is generated primarily by owning great works of art, music or writing and displaying them in certain ways to receive bonuses to your tourism output (gotta catch ‘em all). Tourism is a new concept in this expansion that represents how much people from other nations enjoy visiting yours and how much they like your culture. Once your tourism exceeds another Civ’s culture, you become influential. Reach this status with all of the other Civs in the game and you win. It does a great job of making culture more interactive; all the while you are trying to use your culture to influence others, they are using theirs to try and influence you.
The other path to victory that Brave New World tries to improve is the diplomatic victory, and I say ‘tries’ because it’s not entirely successful in this endeavour. In vanilla Civilization 5, diplomatic victory was very difficult to pull off. Leaders would only ever vote for themselves and nothing would really be achieved. Getting city states to vote for you was possible, but maintaining influence over enough of them to assure victory was problematic to say the least. Brave New World tries to remedy this by revamping the way the voting system works. Each empire now has a number of delegates in the World Congress (which later becomes the UN). The quantity of delegates you have is affected by a number of variables, such as whether you follow an established world religion. Delegates are essential to winning a diplomatic victory. However, these changes make it too trivial; it’s VERY easy to amass enough delegates to elect yourself leader of the world. In many ways, the diplomatic victory has always been like Sarah Jessica Parker in a stable full of Stallions; you would think it belonged there, but the reality of the situation is that things don’t really work that way.
Like tourism and the reworked UN, trade routes have been implemented to make the peaceful segments of the game more interactive and engaging. Terrain now has no base gold yield, so you are forced into trading to keep your economy afloat. This is irritating in the early game, where profitable trade isn’t possible, but it works like a charm later on. Trade not only provides you with money, but it also imparts other bonuses. For example, trading with a technologically superior empire gives you a research bonus and sending your caravans to a foreign land can help to spread religion. It’s an inspired and flavourful idea that adds a layer of strategy to trade routes beyond sending them from A to B for cash.
Despite a few flaws in execution, Civilization 5: Brave New World is a colossal expansion pack that does a good job of realising the full potential of the base game’s shell. It shows that a concerted effort has been made to make the non-military victory conditions in the game more enjoyable and rewarding to pursue, even if it isn’t entirely successful with the execution of one of two of its new ideas.