Corporations, espionage, scenarios, mods, empires, leaders, units, and wonders - Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword is one impressive expansion
Corporations, espionage, scenarios, mods, empires, leaders, units, and wonders – Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword is one impressive expansion.
The series without this latest release was already packed tightly with goodies for almost any aspiring civ-builder. Now Firaxis has really set the bar high for what can be delivered with an expansion, there’s so much you almost wonder if it’s too much. One of the biggest alterations is espionage with it being available much earlier than previously possible; once your top minds have cracked the alphabet you can start churning out the operatives. The reason for this is probably the neglect spies would get during a game, by the time you could recruit them you may as well have just unleashed an armada and crushed your foe the more traditional way.
All new scenarios and mods, some good, some bad
A tactical squad-based mod, led by a comic-strip
Espionage points also build up over time and can be spent to really deal some hurt to others, poisoning a well or two may just help keep their expanding borders in better check. Perhaps you’d rather just fans the flames of rebellion instead and get them to jump ship to you.
Religion as a force is somewhat touch and go as a tactic and is more effective early on, so corporations have arrived to fill a sort of void. No they don’t make faith any more important but they do offer a late game strategy in exploiting resources. These can be rather sneaky and players who don’t pay them much heed could very well regret it. If you don’t have access to much of a resource you can dispatch an executive and setup the relating company that will funnel resources back to you. The added kick is the cost of maintenance is incurred by the target city, so effectively you could be charging your neighbour for your underhanded business deals. These can be countered of course; nationalisation or mercantilism can be adopted to stop these dirty foreigners ‘investing’ in industry.
With the arrival of the Apostolic Palace religion does get a makeover, so it has some of its weaknesses or mundane features addressed. Essentially the palace acts as an early UN and votes can be cast on a number of issues like forcing peace, a trade embargo or even launching a war of faith. The interesting part is the ‘bloc’ created by the palace as it is lead by religion. So those who are members are afforded that little bit extra security, feeling connected in a very loose alliance of sorts. Of course placing blind hope on the Apostolic Palace is not a good idea, when Mass Media rears its head it becomes just another aging ruin in the empire – much like in real life with the decline in influence of the Vatican and the Papacy.
New buildings, wonders and units have made their way through. Warlords saw a more beefed up military approach to empires’, but with so many refined things here in Beyond the Sword it feels as if diplomacy is top dog again. You can strike ‘offensively’ with spies so players who like to win through cultural influence can still get their hands rather dirty, just avoiding an open admittance of their dastardly plans for conquest.
‘Rule’ over an early UN through the Apostolic Palace
Do battle through conglomerate financial empires!
The double edge to all this new stuff is the shear volume of information players now wade through, the menus and selections for scenarios etc is becoming a maze of choice. Seriously if any more huge updates are sprung onto the scene then the UI is going to need a big makeover to cope with all this. The “what to do next?” list for settlements can be a real oppressive force with so much to sift through. Though I certainly would never label Beyond the Sword an “expansion too far” because it adds some needed spice to the mix.
The extra scenarios range from the more common to the absurd when thinking about traditional Civilization values. One lets you have a more futuristic empire when you’ve pushed your way through to the late periods, battling it out with sci-fi technologies. Then you come across the not so normal additions like turning Civ 4 from world conquest to the galactic frontier, conquering and expanding into space.
Two mods radically change the game into something completely out-of-the-box, “Age of Ice” warps the empire building into an RPG linear experience. A thoroughly odd concept when you first think about Civilization IV but it’s a great little diversion away from the more main stream scenarios. The other is a tactical squad-based mod, “Afterworld”, given the mechanics of how the game works the ‘tactical’ stand point won’t be standing up against much given its limitations and so offers simplified gameplay. Scenarios and mods on offer are a mix between officially developed goodies and those from the community.
New buildings, new units, more trouble for the UI
More civilizations and leaders, plus better all-round AI
Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword is one of the most cost effective expansions ever made. All the new features, the tweaking of others and the bonus scenarios and crazy mods thrown in make up a great package. While with the ever increasing load on the UI is beginning to show it in no way stands to mar the advantages and great work that’s been poured into Beyond the Sword from Firaxis Games. Fans should get their hands on a copy as it helps mix up the action and deals a blow to tried and true strategies, no empire can afford complacency - least of all now.
Top Game Moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
After an ‘unfortunate’ diplomatic breakdown between myself and the Vikings, I was the bigger man and sent forth a peacemaker …nuclear missile.