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Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword Review
publisher: 2K Games
developer: Firaxis Games
PIV 1800, 512MB RAM, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Jul 23, 07
|» All About Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword on ActionTrip|
Okay, I'll be honest with you guys. I never got around to playing Civilization IV as much as I would like (LYNCH HIM!!! - Ed). I watched 2lions play the game for quite a while, as we discussed the improvements over the previous installments. But I could never find the time to dig into the game myself. Tell you what though, I really loved playing the original Civilization, as well as Civilization II. In short, it's been a while since I've been immersed into Sid Meier's inventive virtual world of history, politics, economics and warfare.
To this day, as I think most of you will agree, Civilization stands as one of the most powerful and complex strategy games on the market (Not to mention one of the biggest time thieves the gaming world has ever seen - Ed). In its long history, the Civilization franchise brought plenty of new elements to the strategy genre. With Civilization IV, things also moved up a notch and the series finally made the transition to full 3D graphics. Anyways, in order to understand the benefits of the new expansion pack, Beyond the Sword, I decided to play the original first, and I've spent several weeks with the game.
Now, before I get into the meat of the game, let me explain what you can expect in terms of new stuff in the add-on. After installing and playing Beyond the Sword for a few days, I soon discovered how many cool new additions were thrown in by the people at Firaxis. First off, the add-on implements a new espionage system, on top of seasoning the game's religion system with political elements. More specifically, they've added Corporations, which represent some welcome aspects and advantages during gameplay (more on that later). Moreover, there are new opportunities for colonies and the enhanced AI behavior patterns definitely show.
In relation to actual content, there's more than enough on offer. Fans should be particularly pleased. Beyond the Sword features more combat options, coupled with several new mods and scenarios. That's not all. This add-on offers additional structures, units, technologies and wonders as well as 16 new world leaders for players to try out. More leaders means more traits, which in turn means more combinations available as you play. Granted, all these new elements don't make any radical changes, but they do make fine additions to the overall gameplay. For example, when playing the original Civilization IV, it was impossible to rely on espionage until your nation discovers Communism. This time around you can use Spy units immediately after you've developed Writing, which happens to be a good bonus and gives you a chance to employ them early on (Sweet - Ed).
Judging solely from what I've written so far, you'd think this is a flawless game that delivers everything players would expect from an expansion pack. Not so, I'm afraid. Beyond the Sword is not without its faults although to be fair, these flaws come from the developer's attempt to sort of tamper with the basic gameplay mechanics. The content, like I've said before, brings a number of new scenarios, set in various periods of human history. Some of them seem okay and offer a fairly decent variety of challenges. On the other hand, certain scenarios, like the "Afterworld," which, incidentally, is the first I've played, don't work too well. Surprisingly, the scenario starts out with a comic-like introduction, with a decent narrative and some nice-looking artwork on display, which is nice. However, the moment the game itself begins, a strong feeling comes that the gameplay was pushed far away from what we're used to. It, basically, messes with the Civ IV concept way too much and turns it into a kind of tactical game, featuring squad-based combat, which is pretty much flimsy and unoriginal. Seems like they were all out of ideas at this point. It was just my bad luck that I tried this one first I guess. Well, it was first on the scenario list, anyway.
Also, it turns out that the new-fangled espionage system doesn't fit all to well into the familiar gameplay routine of Civilization IV, even though it does have its strong points (as mentioned earlier). It was announced as an exciting addition to the game. In reality, you'll find that most of your Spy units will get into trouble before they've even reached their designated goals. Most of your precious turns may be wasted on account of spy missions, so it's probably best to invest that time into developing other aspects of your civilization like establishing stronger military presence or the researching new technologies.
Regardless, things improve when you get a chance to enjoy more new elements, like the new option to customize your games, for instance. One of the most commendable additions here is the possibility of trying out the game's new events system. Random events are triggered as you play and they add a more dynamic pace to the standard turn-based routine of your average Civ IV scenario. Although these events don't have much on an effect on the gameplay, they can severely influence your productivity and how other competing nations look upon you. Another cool new option is the Advanced Start, which is sure to please gamers who aren't into sluggish beginnings. Players can simply acquire anything they want (techs, cities, units, structures, etc.) via the handy point system, thus making it easier to advance the nation very early on.
A nice polished addition to the original, enough new content for fans to enjoy, the audio is good as before;
Certain aspects of the add-on just don't fit right with the Civ IV gameplay mechanics.