by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Another year, another expansion
It took me a while to get used to the Civilization IV when it was first released back in 2005. Not only did the game finally utilize a full-blown 3D engine, it also tinkered with some of the oldest gameplay mechanics in gaming history, and like most longtime fans I was fearful of these changes. From my perspective, the age old wisdom 'never change a winning team' had always worked well for the series so why fix that which wasn't broken? Yet it worked out positively in most areas, and refreshed the Civilization franchise. Nearly two years have passed since then, and the game's second expansion has just been released. A whole host of new content has been crammed into the game, but the question remains; is it actually worth the $30 price tag?
Any expansion for Civ would not be complete without adding a handful of new 'civilizations' (10), a dash of new 'leaders' (16) and a spoonful of new 'world wonders' (5). Sprinkle a few new buildings into the mix, shake, stir and spread evenly over 11 new scenarios and you are ready to box it up and ship it overseas. It is standard fare, and for that reason I am going to skip over it entirely. Most of you will have played a Civ expansion pack before, and Beyond the Sword offers few surprises in this area. But wait, there’s more! Yes, before you start wondering, the expansion does deliver some other, more interesting ingredients. Several gameplay mechanics have been refined, and a few completely new additions, creating new ways to play the game.
Those who know how to employ religion to strengthen their power base and bolster their treasury will be delighted to learn that the new 'Corporation' feature works in a very similar way. After you have completed the research for the prerequisite technology -and have access to a particular trade good- you can use a ‘great person’ to build a Corporation. Once built, you can then recruit 'Corporate Executives' to help spread the word about your Corporation. Doing so in your own cities will usually merely swap one thing for another. The ‘Mining Co.’ for instance, will cost gold but produce hammers. The real fun begins as soon as you start sending your executives out to play in someone else’s city. A ‘Mining Co.’ executive in foreign territory will instead ship hammers back home and lumber the financial losses on the owner of the city. It must be said, however, that it is not as much fun to have it done to you. Some of the available ‘Civics’ will help protect you from the negative effects of enemy corporations, but… they will also render your own efforts futile.
Spying was always a bit of a lame duck in Civilization IV. By the time you had access to spies, you would be more worried about surviving an all out attack by half your neighbors, or partaking in such an attack on someone yourself. Spies are now available almost from the beginning of the game, and they have a wider variety of tasks available. The ability to cause revolts has been restored, and so is stealing technology. To illustrate just how powerful espionage can be; It is now possible to force other countries to change their Civics or Religion.
You have more influence over your success rate this time around. In the same fashion that you allocate economy to research and culture, you can now allocate economy to espionage points. In addition, you can assign espionage points towards a particular country; the game checks your own points against that of the country you are trying to spy on to calculate the success of your mission.
No Pros and Cons at this time