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Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World Review

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"Brave" isn't the right word for this last Civ V expansion, but it sure does offer up a lot of smart changes and upgrades.

Calling Civilization V's latest (and last) expansion Brave New World was an interesting, if not wholly accurate choice. We're now three years removed from Civ V's initial release, and a year from the last big expansion to overhaul this world-dominating strategy game. Brave New World is a bigger expansion than the last, and a more targeted one. It aims to revamp the sometimes tepid and mundane late-game elements with reworked culture mechanics, additional monetary resources, and a whole new method of diplomacy between civilizations. These are all changes that make perfect sense, and mostly manage to achieve Firaxis' goal of a better, less predictable late-game push, without making any major fundamental changes to the way Civ V is generally played. In this regard, Brave New World is perhaps less a brave step forward for this aging title, and more a sensible one. Then again, Sensible New World doesn't have quite the same ring to it, I suppose.

New civs, new mechanics, and new scenarios make up the content of Civilization V's latest expansion.

The most significant change to the core game is the addition of trade routes. Maybe it's just because I'm terrible at resource management, but I often found myself running into financial trouble in previous iterations of this game, especially once I started expanding further and further, building more roads, and so on. Trade routes make for an exceptional boon to players that tend to find themselves financially strapped, without just making it overtly easy to gain gold at all times. With these trade routes, you'll build either a land caravan or cargo ship to travel to other civs, city states, or even your own cities. You won't get gold if you travel to your own cities, but you can create food or production bonuses. Outside of your own empire, you'll receive nice gold bonuses (especially after you've built a caravansary in your originating city), apply religious pressure, and even gain some small science boosts from certain empires. The risk is that trade routes are easily plundered. Going to war all but assures your trade routes will get swallowed up, and early on, when barbarians are still a frequent risk, you'll have to make sure your routes are regularly clear.

These trade routes are extremely important for every civ in the game, but several of the nine new civs added for this expansion, which include Morocco, Portugal, and Venice, focus largely on wealth acquiring and trade bonuses. Unfortunately, few of the new Civs feel particularly creative or unique within the greater scope of the dozens of other civs already present in the game. The Zulus and Assyrians, for instance, are both traditionally warlike cultures to add to the already lengthy list of those, while the Polish do little of note except collect extra social policies at the beginning of each new era. Not all of them are this way, of course. Morocco probably makes the best use of the new trade elements, while Venice has the distinction of being the only playable city state. With Venice, you cannot create settlers nor annex cities, but you can use a Merchant of Venice unit to "buy out" city states and make them puppets. Unlike other puppet states in the game, you can purchase buildings and units for them, which gives you a bit more control than you'd otherwise have, while still preventing you from traditional expansion.

Cultural victories are much easier to achieve now, thanks to the new diversity of great artists, writers, and musicians.

Still, while not all the new civs are especially great, nearly all the mechanical changes made are to the game's benefit. Cultural victory, for instance, is no longer tied to the nebulous "utopia project," but rather through cultural influence that can only be earned through copious amounts of earned culture and tourism. You earn both those by spawning great artists, writers, and musicians, who each can create great works that will display in the museums, opera houses, amphitheaters, and great wonders you build in your cities. Each great work provides a culture boost, as well as a tourism boost. Tourism is essentially just a new metric that determines how desirable your empire is to visit. Early on, you won't get much tourism at all, but as you get past the industrial era, you'll start building tourism in large chunks. You can actually win through tourism by dominating that category, at which point you'll see a menu start ticking off civs that have become influenced by your culture. You'll even get some world leaders coming to you complaining that their citizens are wearing your blue jeans and listening to your pop music all the time.

The only problem with the tourism victory is that you really don't get the bonuses needed to gain that kind of influence until the very end of the game. By that point, you'll probably have already achieved some major progress toward scientific or diplomatic victory. That diplomatic victory, by the way, comes via the new world congress, which eventually evolves into the United Nations. Long before you can win the game, all still-active civs will be able to start voting on worldwide measures and laws that can have huge impact on the late game. If you're feeling friendly, you can simply suggest civs put resources toward a world's fair, or international games, which will afford the winners policy and tourism bonuses. If you're looking for more targeted measures, you can propose measures that will increase great scientists, or great artists, depending on which victory you're working toward. And if you're feeling antagonistic, you can vote to ban certain luxury resources that are key to other civs' survival, or even vote to embargo all trade with them.

Maintaining a number of active trade routes is key to keeping your civ's financial coffers full.

All that diplomacy and cultural influence also plays into the game's new ideologies, which are expansions from the previous cultural policies. Once a civ has either entered the modern era, or built three factories, you'll be able to choose an ideology from the options of freedom, autocracy, or order. Those obviously existed in the previous versions of the game, but here they've been split out into their own, much larger branches and tiers of policies. One of the key elements to ideologies is making sure your ideology is the dominant one in the world. If you choose, say, autocracy, but multiple other civs choose freedom, you'll have to ensure that your culture is the strongest of the world, otherwise your citizens will begin to revolt and unhappiness in the empire will spread quickly. You can change your ideology later if you like, though that comes with its own set of penalties. If you opt not to change and your citizenry become too unhappy, cities may actually revolt and join another civ. It's an exceptionally careful balance to maintain, but if you play smartly, you'll dominate your opponents.

All of these changes serve to make Civ V's late-game a much more enjoyable endeavor. The inevitability of victory is greatly lessened, and it's entirely possible to totally throw the established order of things into disarray if you happen to get some big tourism and/or culture boosts later on. For those reasons, Brave New World is easy to recommend to anyone who still has an active interest in the game. The new civs and added scenarios (which include the mostly throwaway Scramble for Africa and Civil War additions) might not bowl anyone over, but from a purely mechanical perspective, Brave New World's additions make this the ideal version of Civilization V.

Alex Navarro on Google+
55 Comments
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Posted by kardon16

cool! ill get it soon

Posted by BaconAndWaffles

I have had a real hard time getting into this version of Civ. hopefully this DLC will do the trick...

Edited by Lanechanger

This expansion isn't as brave as Vinny Caravella.

Posted by FreakAche

I could be misremembering, but wasn't there already a concept in vanilla Civ V called "trade routes"?

Posted by The_Reflection

Civ V TNT, all the dudes in one room play one big long game. BOOK IT!

Posted by personz

I was going to get it with Civ 5 when it went on sale for steam but money is a little low right now. Plus I know if I wait a year I can get it for some weird crazy cheap price.

Posted by Sil3n7

I've found this expansion more difficult, Barbarians seems more agressive and even on normal the Ai seems to be so much quicker at advancing than I am.

Edited by PistolPackinPoet

Dunno if this can salvage Civ V for me

Edited by GS_Dan

@freakache: Trade routes were previously just roads connecting your own cities. Provided the connected city was large enough, they made a profit over each road tile's upkeep.

Now it's an actual caravan/cargo ship system which can be sent to cities both locally and abroad. In my game as Venice, who can build twice the normal number of trade routes, I got up to 1000 gold per turn.

This is a fantastic expansion and improves the game no end. The new culture mechanic operates like some crazy trading card game, with players exchanging works of art in order to collects sets for bonus points.

Posted by neckface

Great review, glad to see they're experimenting more with the endgame.

Can't wait to pick this up and get back into some Civ!

Posted by myketuna

@the_reflection: I really hope they do this one day. Along with that tabletop roleplaying game session. I'm just curious how the crew would play their civs and characters respectively.

Posted by EchoEcho

Civ V TNT, all the dudes in one room play one big long game. BOOK IT!

That sounds like the kind of nonsense I'd be down for. Have a feeling most would consider it far too slow paced to be properly entertaining, though.

Posted by GS_Dan

Civ V TNT, all the dudes in one room play one big long game. BOOK IT!

The game even has a spectator mode for multiplayer now. :D

Posted by Deathpooky

@sil3n7 said:

I've found this expansion more difficult, Barbarians seems more agressive and even on normal the Ai seems to be so much quicker at advancing than I am.

Barbarians do seem kind of on steroids if you don't wipe them out early. I played an ocean-dominated map as Venice and there was almost zero trade or war because pirates ruled the seas and nobody wanted to build up a strong enough navy to do anything but defend their island. And with trade units, patrolling outside your immediate area becomes more crucial. Lose a trade unit to a barbarian and you thrown away a ton of resources.

Other than that I really like the changes. Trade/tourism/ideologies all are interesting and add new strategic wrinkles, though the AI doesn't seem that adept at defending against cultural victories. Get a couple of the big tourism wonders and buildings up in your big culture cities, and you'll have almost all of civs under your influence pretty quickly since most don't prioritize culture.

Generally, it's easier to switch strategies late game now, and the new UN raises the importance of diplomacy and city-states, which the AI is good at handling. But it still seems like if I survive the early game and get defenses up I'm going to out-culture or science the AI if I want.

Edited by conmulligan

Both vanilla Civ V and Gods & Kings failed to grab me for any extended period of time, but maybe this will. Looking forward to checking it out.

Edited by Sanity

Still in my first game with the new expansion but i really like it so far, the trade routes can bring in some crazy gold at times.

Posted by MichaelBach

I would love to get into some Civ, but it's just to darn hard for people who just want to sit and relax building up a nice empire.

Edited by Enai

I am really enjoying this expansion! Bringing me back to a Civ IV level of addiction.

Posted by MikkaQ

I don't know if I'm gonna grab this... on one hand I play cultural civs all the time, so it's exciting to see new mechanics, but on the other hand I kinda feel like my Civ V strategy is pretty entrenched and it would be tough to change so dramatically.

Posted by AuthenticM

Civ V TNT, all the dudes in one room play one big long game. BOOK IT!

YES

Posted by Y2Ken

Glad to hear this offers some neat features. I'm looking forward to picking it up sometime after the Summer Sale ends (presuming that it won't be in that as a new release). If I get even one or two full games from it, as I did with G&K, that's more than enough playtime to warrant the cost.

Also, Civ V TNT would be fantastic, if the guys were down for it. Might have to be less of a "Thursday Night Throwdown" though and more just a "Thursday Throwdown" so we can see it through.

Posted by juanvaldes

Great expansion. Been having a blast with it for the past week+.

Posted by Captain_Insano

I got Civ V since launch, but for some reason never got into it like I had with previous iterations. I think I only played one game to completion. Picked up Gods and Kings a while ago which was good but didn't draw me in. Thus far, I've sunk about 20 hours into Civ V with the Brave New World expansion. I think in terms of value adding for the game it does a really good job.

Posted by ThePickle

@the_reflection said:

Civ V TNT, all the dudes in one room play one big long game. BOOK IT!

Ryan seemed like the only one of the group who really liked the game.

Posted by HalfDane1975

Nice review Alex, good to see a couple of strategy gems getting attention on giant bomb !

Posted by Ben_H

I bought this day one after hearing about how it changed the game. It made Civ V significantly better. Vanilla Civ V was kinda dull but with this and the previous expansion it is now easily on par with Civ IV.

Posted by Waffles13

@mikkaq said:

I don't know if I'm gonna grab this... on one hand I play cultural civs all the time, so it's exciting to see new mechanics, but on the other hand I kinda feel like my Civ V strategy is pretty entrenched and it would be tough to change so dramatically.

I went into Brave New World having played a ton of Gods and Kings but not reading anything about the new expansion, and my usual culture/gold strategies still worked just fine. Granted, I play on Prince/Warlord, so I basically always end up with a dramatic lead versus the AI, but it seems like BNW does a decent job of expanding on and deepening the existing systems and strategies rather than overhauling them completely.

Posted by Fattony12000

Posted by hollitz

This expansion definitely added more than the previous. Faith and Spies were nice modifications, but Brave New World is completely different game.

Posted by buemba

The only problem with the tourism victory is that you really don't get the bonuses needed to gain that kind of influence until the very end of the game.

That actually sounds like a good thing. For the most part the late game in Civ is all about cementing the victory condition you've been building towards through most of the match, by which point you pretty much already know if you've got a shot at winning or not, but if tourism gives the back of the pack a chance at a hail Mary that could be pretty interesting.

Posted by Divina_Rex

The only issue I have is the removal of gold from sea and river tiles. This really limits early military action to small skirmishes and it has a distinct lack of sieges. It forces people (who play at slower game speeds) to set up an economy then worry about conquering in later eras; Which, I feel, really negates some of the early game units and unique early game units.

Posted by Forderz

Alright Navarro, you reviewed Civ 5, now it's time to enter the deep, dark hole that is Paradox Interactive's catalougue of historical strategy games. The new Victoria 2 expansion is, by all accounts, superdope. I'd love to see a video thing of that.

Edited by Viking_Funeral

As a longtime fan of the Civ series, Civ 5 seriously disappointed me. The first expansion gave me a bit of hope, but after another number of games, I found it to only be marginally better. I'm glad that they continue to improve it, and that so many people seem to be enjoying this iteration, but there just isn't enough here for me to pay & hope this next expansion finally does the trick.

Posted by hanktherapper

I want to love this series, but I suck at it. I could barely master Civ Rev on easy. :(

Posted by OriginalYellow

Wouldn't have pinned Alex as a Civ guy, nice read.

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Edited by Avatar

Solid review, but Alex needs to get some art for the stars.

Edited by l3illyl3ob

I've had a lot of fun with Brave New World. I still don't think they've done enough to fix core issues with the game like the often abysmal AI, but the mechanical changes are very smart.

Just curious, Alex, how much experience do you have with Civ V in general? Just honestly curious if you stick to the middle difficulties or if you play on the higher ones. I was surprised when you reviewed G&K last year because I never thought of you as a strategy gamer. :)

Posted by Branthog

I was so excited about CIV V, but only played a few games after launch and then stopped. I was put off by the AI which was worse than ever and the total lack of pretty much any winning options except "build armies and blow the shit out of everyone else".


I'd played a ton of CIV IV and I don't remember ever having all the other nations be such dicks. No matter what you did, you'd end up having Ghandi or someone just turn on a time and decide it was time to take you out for no reason . . . then the game was over.


So I have been buying expansions (Gods and Kings, Brave New World, etc) but haven't touched them. From the last two expansions, it sounded like it was finally at the point where someone who wante dto do more than just build huge armies and steamroll everyone else could enjoy it . . . but then the whole Ryan thing happened, and I haven't been able to play deep games, since. In fact, Rogue Legacy is the only thing I could get myself into for the last week or so.

Posted by Example1013

What I really like are the trade route additions, because I can pick Dido and not get totally fucked because one of my two unique traits are sea-based. Ocean control was pretty useless in vanilla and G&K because all the major battles happened on land. That's still the case, mostly, but maritime trade routes give me an incentive to build a fleet, if only to protect from barbarians.

I really want an ancient-era only mode to be honest, because I love all the classical era tech and units, but all the modern stuff bores me pretty thoroughly. Maybe if I played on high difficulty it'd be more of a challenge, but I'm not sold on it actually being more fun just because it'd be more challenging, although I admit a lot of my boredom from the past stems from the fact that I would always be like almost an era ahead of everyone else because Normal difficulty is a joke.

Posted by Example1013

@sil3n7 said:

I've found this expansion more difficult, Barbarians seems more agressive and even on normal the Ai seems to be so much quicker at advancing than I am.

Barbarians do seem kind of on steroids if you don't wipe them out early. I played an ocean-dominated map as Venice and there was almost zero trade or war because pirates ruled the seas and nobody wanted to build up a strong enough navy to do anything but defend their island. And with trade units, patrolling outside your immediate area becomes more crucial. Lose a trade unit to a barbarian and you thrown away a ton of resources.

Other than that I really like the changes. Trade/tourism/ideologies all are interesting and add new strategic wrinkles, though the AI doesn't seem that adept at defending against cultural victories. Get a couple of the big tourism wonders and buildings up in your big culture cities, and you'll have almost all of civs under your influence pretty quickly since most don't prioritize culture.

Generally, it's easier to switch strategies late game now, and the new UN raises the importance of diplomacy and city-states, which the AI is good at handling. But it still seems like if I survive the early game and get defenses up I'm going to out-culture or science the AI if I want.

Going one point into honor is ridiculous. The amount of barbarians I usually kill actually ends up at least making up for the spent culture, if not surpassing it. Although I always go Liberty, so I can't say how this works with a Tradition-based early game.

Posted by l3illyl3ob

Taking the honor opener is smart on more spacious maps if you're doing lots of international trade no matter who you are, just so you know where the barbs are and whether or not certain distant trade routes are worth it.

And yes, the barbarians are a bit stronger now. They have a new unique unit, the hand axe which is a one-range ranged unit that will annoy the hell out of you and they can now get horsemen, which will doubly annoy you when one comes in from the fog of war and snipes a worker.

Posted by Baal_Sagoth

Very nice that the expansion got a review. I fall into the camp that already enjoyed Civ5 quite a bit despite the massive changes from the mother of all turn-based strategy games that Civ4 is for me. That said, I really enjoy BNW a lot so far (having played a Polish Freedom Culture game and a Chinese Order Science one so far). Great additions to the game all around, slightly more adaptable AI and more powerful civilian options to challenge warmongering opponents.

I'm not entirely sure I'd agree that culture victory is slower (than before or even other strategies). Purely anecdotally my culture victory has been the quickest so far (turn 370-380 or so). Culture certainly can be achieved now without bee-lining towards it for the entire game while hoping not to get crushed by an aggressive scumback. But if you're playing it smart you don't even always need all those ridiculous endgame boosts to seal the deal.

Excellent review though, I'm very happy with the expansion so far!

Edited by Etryus

Once I manage to farm some extra gold in real life I'll buy it. This franchise is excellent!

Posted by dutchbear10

Will get this when it is $8 during Steam's Winter Sale.

Posted by sear

I would love to get into some Civ, but it's just to darn hard for people who just want to sit and relax building up a nice empire.

It's called easy difficulty. On the easiest the AI doesn't even declare war on you.

Posted by sear

I normally like Alex's reviews but this reads more like a feature list for the game and has hardly any critique in it. The downside of reviewing Civ fairly is that you a) need to be an experienced strategy gamer to even know what the game does well or not, and b) you have to put a good hundred hours or more into a Civ game to even begin to form a really meaningful opinion about it.

I feel like Civ is just like sports games in the mainstream - focus on the new features, the graphics and presentation, etc. but without actually discussing the mechanics that the hardcore fans actually play the game for to begin with. Nobody actually writing game reviews for a living has the time, and rarely the niche interest, to give an opinion beyond that.

Posted by MightyMayorMike

Picked the expansion up while it was briefly on sale and I've been really enjoying it. This review is pretty close to my own experience so far. I'm in the middle of a late game match and it's far more engaging than previous iterations of Civ 5.

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