by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Making great even greater
Sid Meier's Civilization series is something that I feel that I've practically grown up with, although it is relatively recently that the first game in the series was released in 1991. But even if I was almost a grown-up at the time I played it on my Amiga, I must have played the game a lot more than I had played any game before that. It is the game that I think of when I think of gaming.
With each sequel to the original title, the Civilization games became even better (although some may say that Civ III was a step backwards). When Civilization IV was announced in 2005, I pre-ordered it as soon as the stores accepted pre-orders. And I loved it almost as much as I imagined I would. But, as with all the previous Civ titles, Civ IV still carried with itself the burden of the late game boredom ? namely the fact that once you've reached the modern era and explored all of the world, the game becomes more boring. Now, an expansion pack has been announced that should make a good effort of making the endgame more exciting!
Beyond the sword
Like its name implies, Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword focusses on the time period after the sword, or, in other words, the time period after the invention of gunpowder (which doesn't exactly co-occur with the end of the era of the sword, if we are feeling nitpicky). This is achieved by the addition of new units, buildings and technologies, as well as new leaders and civilizations and some actual changes to the gameplay. And what's more exciting, the expansion pack concentrates on making the Epic game option more interesting as many of the new additions are aimed at it, rather than being for scenarios only. Of course, there will also be new scenarios included. The 12 new scenarios are designed by both Firaxis and the fan community.
New civilizations and leaders
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword will introduce 10 new civilizations and sixteen new leaders. The new civilizations include Portugal, Babylonians and Netherlands, as well as Native Americans (which seems a bit strange choice for a civilization name). All the new civilizations will come with their associated unique units and buildings, as well as leaders. Sitting Bull will be one of the possible leaders for Native Americans, while good old Hammurabi makes a return as a leader of the Babylonians. There are 16 new leaders in total, however, and some of them are designated to old civilizations as well, such as Abraham Lincoln for the US.
It also seems that Firaxis is making an attempt to move away from the US-centric wonders that plaque the unexpanded game. The five new wonders are the Statue of Zeus, Cristo Redentor, Shwedagon Paya, the Mausoleum of Maussollos, and the Moai Statues.
International corporations and espionage
I'm not quite sure if I like the addition of international corporations to the game - especially if it means that we'll be seeing the names of certain real world companies making an appearance in Civilization IV (in the manner of religions). Let's hope that's not the case, though, and concentrate on the gameplay aspect instead. Like religions, international corporations can be founded by various civilizations and they spread in a manner similar to religions (simulating the real world to an alarming extent). The corporations provide benefits in exchange for various resources.
One concept in Civilization IV that fell behind from my expectations was espionage. Whereas you could do real damage to the enemy with your spies in the earlier incarnations, the only real use I ever found for spies in Civ IV was to use them to destroy the enemy's production of their space ship. And even this didn't come up that often, since I preferred to finish my enemies off at a much earlier stage ? the spies simply appeared too late into the game. Now, with the coming expansion the civilizations can develop their espionage capabilities at an earlier stage, allowing them to gain intelligence, sabotage structures, poison water supplies, cause rebellions, and, as the fellows at Firaxis say: much more.