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Civilization V: Brave New World Review

Civilization V Brave New World Box Art

Date: August 5, 2013
Author(s): Rob Williams

Firaxis impressed us last summer when it released the excellent Gods & Kings expansion pack for Civilization V, so leading up to the launch of Brave New World, the game’s second expansion, expectations were sky-high. Did the company deliver yet again? Let’s find out, and get cultured in the process.



Introduction, Revamped Culture, Tourism, & World Congress

When Firaxis pushed Sid Meier’s Civilization V out the door in 2010 (our review), fan reactions were quite varied. As someone who used the game as a gateway into the series, I found it to be truly amazing, and couldn’t quite appreciate the arguments from long-time fans about where the game went wrong. A common complaint was that it was “dumbed-down”, catering more to new players than the series’ biggest fans. It wasn’t until Gods & Kings‘ (our review) release in 2012 that I began to better understand the root of those complaints.

Simply put, G&K was an absolute “must have” expansion pack. For the most part, it brought back most of what fans believed should have shipped with the original game, such as religion and espionage, and while it remained accessible for new players, it added more complexity for old-schoolers, resulting in a richer experience overall. A couple of matches with G&K is all it took to make sure you never disabled it.

The same thing can be said about the game’s second expansion, Brave New World. Be prepared to cough up $30, or I’d recommend you to stop reading!

Civilization V Brave New World - Title Screen

Brave New World adds 9 rulers (and one carried over from G&K), 8 units, 4 buildings, 13 wonders, and 2 scenarios, along with a couple of new mechanics: global trade routes, World Congress, revamped social policies and new ideologies, an adjusted diplomatic victory and a completely revamped cultural victory.

The biggest change of them all is one that I consider to be long overdue: an overhauling of the cultural victory. Pre-BNW, cultural victories were arguably pretty boring. The game basically forced you to a rigid path, and as long as you were left alone most of the match by other civs, you were likely to secure a win if you didn’t mess up some detail. The problem: to go for second culture win, you’d be playing the game in the exact same way. While still challenging, the biggest strategy was making sure you were the first to secure certain world wonders and were quick to adopt the correct social policies.

Achieving a culture win in Brave New World requires you to become more effective at spreading your culture through the world than your competition. Like before, one of your goals will be to generate as much culture as possible through a combination of worked tiles, wonders, buildings and social policies.

Another goal comes in the form of a new mechanic: tourism. Like culture, tourism has a value, and the higher that value is, the more effective your spread of culture becomes. You can increase tourism by adopting certain social policies, tenets (we’ll get into that soon), choosing a ruler that supports it and building airports and hotels. Seems simple, right? Not so fast – we’re just getting started.

Building something like a museum, opera or some world wonder to generate extra culture (or tourism) is just half of the equation here. Each one of these buildings will include one or two slots that can be filled with Great Works that are produced through Great People; these include Great Writers, Great Artists and Great Musicians. Whenever one of these Great People are born, you can choose an option that automatically fills in an available slot in the nearest city that has one.

Civilization V Brave New World - Culture Overview

Paying attention to the Culture Overview screen is imperative when you’re hoping for a culture win, as it allows you to easily see which buildings have been built in each city and also which slots have been filled with a Great Work. In this particular example, I had a couple of wonders that had no slots filled at all, but my museums and operas were complete.

“Complete” is a relative term, though, because for an even greater chance of a culture win, you must pay attention to the potential bonuses that some of these buildings or wonders offer, if works are arranged accordingly. For example, one wonder might want you to place a work of art from two different eras but by the same civilization; another might ask you to place two works from the same era but two different civilizations. In the shot above, the +2 and +1s under the museum are applied bonuses.

This brings us to another Brave New World addition: archaeology. Once Archaeology is learned during the Industrial Era, Archaeological Digs will be revealed around the map; in a small map, there were about 30 of these in total.

Civilization V Brave New World - Archaeological Dig

If one of your cities has a University, you’ll be able to create an Archaeologist that can go work at any Archaeological Dig to either create a landmark improvement, or extract an artifact. If you go the artifact route, you’ll be able to choose between two, and because of how the bonuses mentioned above work, you’ll likely want to refer to the Cultural Overview screen before settling on one.

Civilization V Brave New World - Archaeological Find

To ultimately score a culture victory, you must become “Influential” with every civilization still in the game. With the Culture Overview screen, you can easily see where you stand with each one (the order is Exotic, Familiar, Popular, Influential and Dominant). If you’re at war with someone, expect it to become very difficult to keep tourism up.

Civilization V Brave New World - Culture Influence

While you must pay close attention to all of these factors to secure a culture win, those who are striving for another win can still earn social policies a lot quicker if they work at it also – so really, these mechanics shouldn’t be ignored by anyone.

Another victory type that’s been affected in Brave New World is diplomatic. No longer will a player be able to build a United Nations and trigger a voting; instead, a World Congress will automatically build one if someone reaches the Information Era or at least half reach the Atomic Era. As before, the better you’re getting along with other civs and city-states (more so city-states), the better your chance of winning a diplomatic victory.

Civilization V Brave New World - World Congress

There’s a lot more to the World Congress than simple occasional voting, however. Based on your overall favor, you’ll get a certain number of votes each session, with the proposals being anything from a banning of exports to the agreed building of a project. If a luxury you rely on for happiness is proposed to be banned, you better hope that it isn’t. Vice versa though, if one is banned that doesn’t affect you, feel free to smirk towards the opposing civ that it does. To help sway a vote in your favor, your spies can become diplomats in opponent cities.

Civilization V Brave New World - International Games

Sometimes, the World Congress can kick-off a project that’s well worth contributing to because the rewards could greatly help you. The International Games, for example, could grant you at minimum +3 happiness, and moving on up, you could gain bonuses to city-state relationships and Tourism. If you happen to be the leading production donor by the time the project is built, you’ll earn every reward offered. Yes, that’s “1337″ production I donated, and yes, that was luck.

Social Policies, Ideologies, Trade Routes & Final Thoughts

As mentioned before, the social policy mechanic has been tweaked quite heavily in Brave New World, and if you’re a regular Civ V player, you’ll notice the differences right away.

Once a Factory is built in three of your cities, or you reach the Modern Era, you’ll be able to adopt an ideology: Autocracy (Fascism), Freedom (Democracy) or Order (Socialism). Whichever ideology is best for you depends mostly on your victory condition, and / or whether or not you want to become chummy with other civilizations that have chosen a certain one (you’ll get along easier with a Freedom civilization if you choose Freedom for yourself).

Civilization V Brave New World - Social Policies

As with virtually everything else in the game, choosing a certain ideology may not go down too well with your people, and for that reason, you have the option to switch it later on. However, that comes with some serious penalties, such as the total loss of culture that you’ve spend into the tenets. And speaking of tenets:

Civilization V Brave New World - Idealogies

Once enough Culture is earned, you have the option of spending it on a tenet instead of a regular Social Policy. Like Social Policies and other perks strewn throughout the game, effects gained here vary wildly, from increased Great Person generation to improved Tourism from cities with a Broadcast Tower to cheaper military units and so forth.

Also new and very important in Brave New World are international trade routes, which allow you to easier spread your religion and culture while gaining science and gold. If you ever find yourself really struggling on the gold front, you might need to build more Caravans to work as many routes as you’re allowed, because it can definitely help keep you afloat.

Civilization V Brave New World - International Trade Routes

In the shot above, you can see my trade route options for my primary city, along with my max allowed seen at the top of the screen (5/5). As the game progresses, the gold and science you earn from your routes will grow, and as you’d expect, a war with another civ will automatically cancel out every single one of your routes with them. That can put you from the positive to the negative very quickly.

If you don’t need gold or science, but might need some help with your own cities’ populations, you can create internal routes that can increase food or production. This could potentially be very useful with brand-new cities since the more food a city has access to, the faster it will grow and the quicker it will become more efficient.

At some point, you’ll be able to build a Caravansary to increase the range for your land-based routes, and also a Cargo Ship for routes spanning over the ocean.

In addition to everything mentioned in the review so far, a couple of new units are worth looking out for (Bazooka, which is fun, and XCOM Squad – yes, based off of the Firaxis’ other series), as well as new world and natural wonders. While I didn’t touch them, this expansion also adds two scenarios, “American Civil War” and “Scramble for Africa”.

Final Thoughts

When I reviewed Gods & Kings at its release, I had no idea that I was going to end up loving it a lot, and that I’d consider it a major improvement to an already great game. With Brave New World, Firaxis has done it again. The added mechanics are fun, as is the strategy.

I’ve yet to win a match with Brave New World (granted, I’ve tried just 2x Standard / Small matches), but I ain’t even mad. I’ve been sticking to a cultural victory since it’s the new hotness, and even though I explained a lot about it earlier in this review, I’m still learning more each time I play, hopefully to one day finally secure a win. As with any base Civilization game or expansion pack, it can take many hours before you begin to become really comfortable with the new mechanics, and understand how to exploit them well. I’ve put 20 hours into Brave New World and I still feel like I have a lot to figure out.

Civilization V Brave New World - Zulu

For those who like to conquer a match with each ruler, there’s 9 more of them to play here, with Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie being carried over from Gods & Kings, and as you’d expect, some of the new ones are quite interesting. The Shoshone, for example, give you additional territory when a new city is founded, Brazil gives a 100% bonus to Tourism during a Golden Age, and Indonesia gives you two free (and unique) luxury resources for each city (up to three) that are built on continents other than your original.

Of course, it’s really the new mechanics that are well worth the price of admission here. They add a good complexity to the formula, and really force you to keep on top of things in order to succeed. As someone who always manages to run out of gold, I love the international trade routes mechanic – at least until someone I have five routes with decides to declare war on me (then it gets scary). I’ve always been a fan of accruing mad amounts of Culture as well, so the revamping of Social Policies and the addition of ideologies definitely strikes me as a great improvement.

It probably goes without saying, but if you’re a Civ V fan, Brave New World is worth your cash, and the countless number of hours you’re sure to sink into it.

Pros

Cons

Civilization V: Brave New World - Techgage Editor's Choice
Civilization V: Brave New World

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