Brave New World — First Impressions

In the two and a half days since Civilization V: Brave New World was released, I’ve already spent in the area of 12 hours with the game. The reasons for that logistical miracle in my life are not interesting, but needless to say that is a pretty unusual stretch of time for me to spend with a game in such a short span. To be honest, I hadn’t intended to spend nearly that long. I had not spent the previous weeks and months anxiously waiting for the expansion pack, and had a passing interest at best in what the Firaxis team was doing with the game. I figured my time with Civ V had probably come pretty close to its end, and I had moved on.

I was wrong.

Like a lot of people, when I think of great expansion to Civilization games, my immediate thought is of Civilization IV’s “Beyond the Sword” expansion. “BtS” did a lot of things to move the series forward when it was released in 2007, like adding Corporations, Espionage, additional win conditions and the requisite new civs, new buildings and new resources. On paper, “Beyond the Sword” isn’t automatically anything remarkably special, but its implementation into Civilization IV was so clean, so tonally on point, that everything about the game immediately felt like it should have been in the game the entire time. It was the puzzle piece that brought everything about Civ IV together into a coherent and exceptionally elegant game.

That is what “Brave New World” feels like for Civilization V. It is an expansion that looks pretty good on paper, but in execution feels like the game fully realized. In one fell swoop suddenly all the parts of Civilization V are working in unison consistently throughout the entire span of the game.

What “Brave New World” adds to the feature list is headlined by three key feature enhancements. The first is a revamped and dynamic trade system. The second is the addition of an ideological component onto its existing culture system. Both of these first two systems are wonderfully simple to understand — a statement that couldn’t have been as easily said about espionage and corporations in “Beyond the Sword” — and mesh smoothly into a game already dense with religion/faith, espionage, city-states, diplomacy and culture mechanics.

The third system, another culture offshoot built around a tourism mechanic, is a little more complex. If you can wrap your head around the idea that it was blue jeans and rock and roll that won the Cold War then you can wrap your head around the implementation of culture and tourism as a winning strategy in the game. The actual application generally has to do with using Great Artists, Musicians or Writers to create works of art that influence other civilizations.

Though hard to really explain without going into detail, the actual game implementation is surprisingly intuitive once you begin to think of tourism as an offensive resource you can use to impact other cultures and even eventually win the game. My first round of “Brave New World,” in fact, ended for me with a Culture victory, and once I had the basic concept down, getting there just made sense.

On the whole, though, what I like about “Brave New World” is that it is not safe. The mechanics, the way the new civilizations influence play, the way they’ve changed some of the basic concepts of the game, never feel like it was phoned in. Everything feels like it was added with purpose, and that the team didn’t shy away from taking chances. Tourism, ideologies and trade all feel like they fundamentally force you to make a shift in the way you approach the game, how you earn money, how you defend against other civilizations, how you influence your opponents, and how you ultimately build your civ. It expands the way you can play the game, rather than adding a few trappings onto the established framework. Particularly in the mid and late game, the way you interact with Civilization V feels both new and familiar.

The thing I always said about “Beyond the Sword” for Civilization IV is that you could never go back. The elements of that expansion slotted in so well that you almost can’t remember how to play the game without them. That holds true for “Brave New World,” and it’s just about the best thing I can say about any expansion pack.


Gads. I was going to hold off on getting 'Brave New World'. But probably not now.

Nice writeup..

Just one more turn....

I cannot wait to dive into this. If only summer grad class finals weren't in the way...

Excellent to hear. Really glad this turned out well. I'll look forward to diving back in.

Civ V is such a stunningly pretty game, it's great to think that it'll have the legs to still be enjoyable to play for a long time to come.

Yeah, that's all well and good, but what's the score? HOW MANY STARS IS IT?!

Certis wrote:

Yeah, that's all well and good, but what's the score? HOW MANY STARS IS IT?!

I give it 27.9 furlongs per hogshead. Tkyl, don't be afraid to put that quote on the GOTY box

Beyond the Sword is why I've never bought Civ V. I figured the ultimate expansion would come out and make Civ V the classic it will inevitably be and I held off. Looks like it's just as well, now for the 'Collected' version.

I'm trying to decide whether this will bring me back into the fold...

Civ 1: it was cool, played it quite a bit.

Civ 2: obviously

Civ 3: too distracting with details. Game length starting to border on ridiculously long

Civ 4: yup, they went down that path. No longer for me

Civ Revolution: holy crap. This is Civ reborn, a transcendence of gameplay principles above too many details. I have spent way, way, way too many hours on iPad (XBL version kind of crap) concluding 2-4- hour civ runs, the way it should be.

Civ 5: uh, I tried it briefly, and the revamped features were cool, but I still don't want a debilitatingly long game.

As I've read about Brave New World's features, I'm intrigued. The new trade, culture, and diplomacy features are tempting me to give it another chance. Is it possible to configure Civ V at all in a way that a game would take 2-6 hours to complete instead of 5-50 hours? I love Civ except when it feels like a slog, you know?

Love, love, love Civ 5. I just upgraded to Gods and Kings (gifted to me by a friend in the Steam Sale) and am looking forward to "just one more turn" being my mantra once again. I'll probably not play Brave New World until it is also on a steam sale, but it definitely sounds interesting.


I started a game with the new expansion last night and guess what? Yep, I played til the sun came up, as if I were back in college. Not because of the new expansion, just because it's Civ and my playthrough was going really well. The Shoshone are actually a very nice type to play with... Didn't really get the tourism part yet, but I'm loving the new trade system!


Absolutely! Civ V is one of the most accessible of the mainline Civ titles, and nearly as accessible as Civ I or Civ Rev. If you just want to cut down on turn length, you can simply adjust the game pacing to "Quick" and you'll be done really fast. My Normal pace games take something like 5-10 hours. It's never gone beyond 15. The only thing with a Quick Pace game is that it's really brutal on war since you could conceivably obsolete your entire army while they're on their way to where the battle is supposed to be, but if you're going for a peaceful VC, then Quick is your setting of choice.

Thank you Larry. I should have but didn't know about trying that setting, since I generally don't want to have to fiddle with games too much. I'll reinstall, fire it up, and give it a try. Maybe even get the DLC if I enjoy it.

yikes. Lots of new stuff to learn. Got my butt handed to me in 2 Emperor games. Need to give it a go with the difficulty scaled back so I can figure out how all the new stuff exactly works.

Well, this was enough to get me to reinstall Civ V and buy the DLC. I suck at Civ games as no man has ever sucked before. I think the only way I could be worse is if I randomly hit keys on the keyboard.

I've been travelling and actually just tried it on my ultrabook, running the game in the Win 8 touch mode (which it recommended). It certainly takes a bit of getting used to compared to the usual mouse-based commands, but I really like it. The game runs pretty well with high graphical settings, too. Will definitely be diving more into this!

Tried it again and won a cultural Victory as Venice. Like how they added a Civ that is actually fairly unique. Lots of Civ inflation but for the most part lots of them are fairly meh.

Had to play on an island map tho to make sure I wasn't getting accosted left and right by aggressive civs.

Love the idea of tying certain world wonders to your cultural choices. So much I wish they tied certain ones to groups of religions or even and even to groups of civs.

Like replacing the old cultural victory with tourism but at the same time its still clunky IMO. More micro managing thats not very intuitive at first.

New world congress is also a nice feature. Takes some time to learn to use also though and can have some serious consequences.