Thursday, May 24, 2007

Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword - Preview

Civilization 4 is one of my favourite games of all time. I recently posted my review of it. In July, the game will be receiving its second expansion pack, Beyond the Sword. This time it is making some major changes to the gameplay, particularly, as the name suggests, beyond the sword.

The first of these features is something called "Corporation." Basically, these are companies that you can found in one of your cities. You then, based on what the company is, assign it resources. From these resources, the company provides you with huge bonuses. An example Firaxis gave was one company that takes grain, and can provide you with Oil. This could be very useful in the late game if you don't have oil. Furthermore, the more of the same resource you have, the bigger the bonus. This I think is very good as it means there is an advantage to gather many resources, something I do quite often and end up having to trade them for minimal prices. So what is the drawback? The city you found the company in must pay it a small maintenance fee for its services. I am looking forward to this feature and it could change the game dynamics, allowing for more peaceful players to hold out until beyond the sword, and then produce units very quickly.

Another main change is that espionage has been made more important. You will now be able to funnel some of your income in to spying in much the same way you can with research and culture. Once you have done this, passive spying will start occurring, allowing you to see your enemies demographics, cities and stop their spies entering your territory. Also, the Spy unit has been given more abilities and now can conduct various tasks in a city. On top of this, there will be Great Spies to compliment your forces. No details have been released as to what they will be able to do. This could potentially have a very big effect with veteran players who will know how to use this information to their advantage.

There are of course many new wonders for the game but one of the more noticeable ones is one that will be tied with your religion. Basically, it will give you more influence over people following the same religion as you and also helps to spread your religion. Some of the powers it gives you include being able to start Holy Wars (awesome!) and win diplomatically before the UN is built. This will deffinitly encourage me to try and get a religion before everyone else.

One of my favourite changes is actually one I thought of quite a while back. The idea is that, some of your far flung cities may start their own civilization, much like America did. I think this is a very good because before, if your economy was sturdy, there wasn't much of a punishment for having cities miles away from your capitol. Also, it will prove very interesting to see what the AIs opinion of you is and it will be another person to keep on your side. Combine this with the vassalage update in Warlords will create a much more dynamic and interesting diplomatic game.

Furthermore, the game will come packed with many additional scenarios. Some of these will just be your standard recreation of a historical event, but some of them a re-writing the Civilization game as we know it. One such example is Afterworld. It has been created by the guy who did Omens for Warlords. Omens changed the game greatly, in Afterworld, he wants to demonstrate what can be done with Notepad and Civ 4 Mods. It is set in the future on a distant planet. I will not go in to detail about the story, but it ends up with you controlling 5 elite men against a planet full of mutated alien things. There are no cities or technologies in this game. Another one is actually set in space. Not much information has been revealed, but it looks like it will be set across multiple planets. See this image.

On top of all this the game will be packed with the usual extra units, civs, leaders and technologies. This time with a particular focus on the later half of the game. One of the most noticeable units is paratroopers that can parachute somewhere. This expansion pack is looking fantastic. There is far more than in Warlords, some of the scenarios looking incredible and will give people online ideas that will spawn in to more Mods. This game with hit stores July 23rd and I can't wait.

Read the two IGN interviews here and here. You can also read about Afterworld here

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