Filling Civilization V’s Brave New World with all sorts of pretty things

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The Moroccan Empire became a culturally dominant force sometime in the 16th century, following a lengthy campaign that saw Ahman al-Mansur allying with the neighboring Assyrians to remove the ever-troublesome Zulu nation from the continent. Traditionally a closed and inward-focused people, the Moroccan Empire burst forth from its shell following the end of the war and quickly spread its message of freedom across the world. Other nations stood in awe of al-Mansur’s continuing achievements, and the Moroccans ascended to the role of global superpower in the early 21st century. All without ever revisiting the bloody struggles that characterized its decades-long dispute with the Zulus.

Civilization 5 - Morocco tallThis is how our Civilization V: Brave New World preview played out. The game digs deep into the 2010 release, with an eye toward making the pace of the action – primarily non-combat action – in the late-game more appealing. Players who choose to vie for military or scientific dominance have a fairly robust experience already, as do faith-based players thanks to the advances introduced in the Gods & Kings expansion. Those who prefer to lean more heavily in the direction of culture and diplomacy play more of a waiting game, clicking End Turn repeatedly while long-term projects fall into place.

Many of the new features in Brave New World shake things up in that regard. The new World Congress is a sort of pre-United Nations organization of civs that sees a host civ putting various resolutions up to a vote, for both offensive and defensive purposes. You might, for example, want to smack down the uncultured religious nutjobs of Poland with a global trade embargo. The Poles will obviously vote against the motion, but if you can bring enough votes to bear – either on your own or by striking deals with other civs using diplomatic channels – you can make it happen.

Alternatively, you might pass a resolution to hold an International Games, at which point all civs can direct individual city production toward the project. It’s a bit of a race here to enjoy the benefits, as the three civs that lend the most production to the project win gold, silver, and bronze rewards. The top prize is a 100 percent boost to the new Tourism stat that lasts for 20 turns; this can make a huge difference in the endgame if you’re shooting to win a cultural victory.

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Tourism is the culture player’s principle “weapon,” while the existing Civ V culture rules are reimagined now as your “defense.” You no longer have a general-purpose Great Artist in Civ V. Instead, you’ve got Great Artists, Great Writers, and Great Musicians. Each of the three is capable of producing a Great Work in their given field, though these also need to be given a home. Certain buildings and Wonders are now outfitted with Artist/Writer/Musician-specific slots. The Louvre, for example, can be filled with priceless works of art thanks to its multiple slots. The more Great Works your civ possesses, the more rapidly Tourism builds. New elements, such as the late-game Hotel building, help push that growth even further.

Tourism grows in other ways as well. The Archaelogy tech gives a civ the ability to produce Archaeologists, a specialized Worker unit that can establish Archaeological Digs at Antiquity Sites. Players then have the option of either creating a permanent Landmark structure there, offering cultural benefits in the same way that farms, mines, and trading posts do for other stats, or extracting a valuable artifact that can be installed in one of your Great Works slots.

Additional boosts are possible for those who tailor their civ’s chosen Ideology in a particular way. Brave New World‘s Ideologies amount to an expansion of the social policies that you develop during the early and mid-game. Everyone chooses one from the three options – Autocracy, Freedom, and Order – once the Modern Era is reached or after three factories are built, whichever comes first. Each ideology is characterized by three tiers of player-selected tenets that, much like social policies, are unlocked by “spending” amassed culture when stat milestones are reached.

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The tenets all spill out onto a three-tier tree; purchasing one higher-tier tenet requires that two lower-tier tenets be unlocked already. For the Freedom ideology, tenets take the form of boosts like Capitalism, Universal Suffrage, Universal Healthcare, and the like. The effects of each are broken down in stat form, but the tenets themselves are based on real-world ideas that most players should easily grasp. Ideologies can then potentially feed into World Congress and UN resolutions, offering advantages to those that embrace an agreed-upon global ideology.

Like every other expansion pack that Firaxis has ever delivered for a Civilization game, Brave New World is better played than described. There are some very complex systems at work here that click instantly and make perfect sense once you sit down to play. The tutorial materials in the Civilopedia could use some more fleshing out prior to the July release, but the new systems bring an impressive level of added flexibility to Civ V‘s late game. Especially if you play it right.

In the case of the alt-history Moroccan Empire described at the start of this story, success in the late game depended heavily on focusing development efforts almost entirely on culture production and, to a slightly lesser extent, tech research. The early years of the preview’s Moroccan civ amounted to a slow start, with competing civs dominating much of the world’s infrastructure while flags were planted and inter-civ ties developed.

The fortuitous positioning of the weaker Assyrian Empire was key in keeping the Zulu forces occupied while the Moroccan army grew. Fostering positive relationships with militaristic city-states turned out to be the key here. The regular, unceasing flow of free military unit “gifts” from these non-civs formed the bulk of the early Moroccan army, and it was more than enough to lay siege to, and eventually roll through, the Zulus’ three cities.

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The alliances fostered with both the Assyrians and the city-states carried forth into the latter portion of the game as well, especially once the World Congress formed. Any allied city-states amount to extra delegate votes in the later eras, and the friendly Assyrians were easily swayed with wealth and resources to follow the Moroccan vote. We even used the neighboring civ as a puppet at one point, voting to appoint the Assyrians as the host nation for the World Congress, comfortable in the knowledge that the civ’s extra votes would turn in our own favor.

This is a top-level description, but any Civ V fan can get a sense of just how much added non-combat nuance there will soon be in the late game. Our Moroccan Empire was also further advantaged by establishing its own belief in Judaism as the world religion, something that didn’t sit well with the weaker foreign powers (not that they could do much about it). Like the pre-Brave New World version of the game, effective play continues to rely on juggling all of the various tools at your disposal while also pushing your development focus in one direction or another.

There’s still plenty of balancing to be done and additional details to be filled out, but Firaxis seems to have the right idea here. Civilization V was in no way a broken game at launch, and it only improved with the release of Gods & KingsBrave New World promises to continue that trend forward, as you’ll find out for yourself when the expansion ships on July 9, 2013.

For more on Civilization V: Brave New World be sure to check out our recent interview with lead programmer Ed Beach and senior producer Dennis Shirk of Firaxis.

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