While the path of peace has always been a more noble and challenging route to take when playing Civilization, grinding through turns to win a cultural victory is crushingly dull when you could be whooping it up as a warlord and stomping all over your rivals. But while the pursuit of military might is still an option in this latest expansion, Brave New World also offers pacifists thrilling new ways to rule the world, all completely guilt-free.
To achieve world domination without bloodshed, Brave New World puts ingenious new spins on how trade and culture are handled.
For starters, after building mobile units to trade with other civilizations, players can move caravans and cargo ships to the cities they wish to do business with; but while your merchants are making money, they’re also spreading your cultural and religious messages far and wide, and allowing your nation to gain a foothold on the world stage.
The role of Great Artists has also been refined in Brave New World, and is now split into writers, artists and musicians who can each bring cultural fame to the city they work in, and can even go on tour to sing your civilization’s praises elsewhere. The new Archaeologist units that come into play later in the game can also build special landmarks to commemorate key events in your civilization’s history, or employ more risky tactics and plunder foreign lands for treasures to display in museums back home. Ideology, which comes into play in later stages, also has a profound effect on your global influence, and forces players to make tough choices between adopting creeds that can motivate their civilization or enrage its neighbours.
Using these new tactics to nurture your civilization’s cultural influence in turn boosts its ‘tourism’ score, which not only gives seasoned players a new way to enjoy the experience and edge towards victory, but also enlivens the closing episodes of the game that can traditionally be boring if you aren’t picking fights, and will keep aggressive fingers busy and safe from temptation.
As well as offering nine new civilizations – along with fresh wonders, buildings and units – Brave New World also hits the passive jackpot by introducing the World Congress, where developed nations meet to debate policies on a global scale. And while previous editions in the series often saw civilizations hitting the battlefield to settle scores, canny players can now lobby behind the scenes to convince other nations to help them enforce new legislation and cripple more powerful rivals, or even attempt to become elected as world leader and land a satisfying diplomatic victory.
More like a new game than an expansion, Brave New World is one of the most compelling outings for Sid Meier’s evergreen series and shows there’s plenty of life in the old game yet.
Reviewed by David McComb