An expansion to the already burgeoning empire of the Civilization series, Beyond the Sword sprinkles plenty of late-game goodness for fans.
There is a staggering amount here for an expansion, where Warlords aimed to spruce up warfare for players to quench their bloodlust, Beyond the Sword is far more ambitious. 10 new civilizations including the Holy Roman Empire, Byzantium, Babylon, Portugal, the Netherlands and more. 16 new charismatic leaders make it into the fray, 12 new challenging scenarios, 5 new “eww, look at me” world wonders, 25 new units and 18 building types.
A more competitive Space Race for Alpha Centauri
The Apostolic Palace, an early UN
Diplomacy, corporations, and espionage – the tools on offer have just got better. This is fantastic news for players who really like a long haul game, starting from 4000BC and blasting away through time. I like to build with the ‘turtle’ philosophy in mind so these new enhancements to diplomacy are a huge aid. Where as before ‘co-operation’ amongst the empires was only officially possible through the United Nations later in the game, the Apostolic Palace now acts as a younger version. However I did notice though it can only apply to a continent and not the world at large.
The worlds alive …honest! Random events are back from the old days of the Civ universe. There are plenty of them to kick off whenever they feel like it; they can come as a blessing or a big jumbo curse ready to rip a city a new one. Benefits can range from melee units getting some bonuses to the complete obliteration of a city from something like a hurricane. Some also have multiple choices, they can offer you the chance to dampen a catastrophe if you could afford to spare some shiny gold coins.
Espionage has been rather weak but now you can recruit spies much earlier in the time periods by investing funds. This lets you get to the darker side of ‘politics’ quickly and so you can make better use of sabotage for instance. You’re no longer a slave to the Scotland Yard wonder in order to recruit your nefarious operatives.
Diplomacy can still be more potent than war
Plenty of new leaders to parade about
While not officially an offensive tactic, corporations can be a thorn in the side of empires as well as a great asset. Corporate ventures can be setup now to help profit and benefit from resources available. But the underhanded part comes when you decided to ‘invest’ in another empires city which can then grant you access to resources on their end. What’s more, the corporations cost the corresponding city additional maintenance so you could harness an enemy resource and make them pay for your privilege. Of course the way to counter this ruthless capitalism is to adopt State Ownership or Mercantilism to thwart this ‘free market’.
Going the full hog now as an empire can really pose a challenge, even if you’re looking to go the ‘safe’ diplomatic route. With random events, earlier spy antics, even more units and an improved space age race – Civilization IV is really beefing up on content. Though a concern did flag up in the back of my mind, if we have all this great barrel load of new stuff then exactly how will a players’ sanity cope with highly developed late-end games?
One method to ease that micromanagement headache of late big games is the option of colonies. If you’ve got territories off the mainland then you can surrender a certain level of authority so they can self govern but act in your name, but keep a close eye on them in case they get treasonous thoughts of independence.
More buildings and units mean a tougher time choosing projects
Territories off the mainland can be designated as colonies
There are two more “open secret” additions to Beyond the Sword but officially I’m not allowed to go into any real detail. In any case they certainly add a different perspective to the traditional styling of a Civ game. One concentrates more on the units themselves as it unfolds a story, and the other goes ‘Beyond the Planet’ – apparently these scenarios are already available as fan created material that has been now officially adopted by Firaxis.
Top Game Moment: Spreading my empire like a great plague across a whole continent, it’s what human development is all about.