|Genre: Strategy & War Expansion For: |
|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: G5 @ 1800 MHz RAM: 512 MB Hard Disk: 2500 MB DVD-ROM Graphics: 128 MB VRAM|
Ever since the days of MS-DOS, Sid Meier has been producing episodes of his main strategy franchise, Civilization. The basic gameplay hasn't changed much over the years, but he somehow manages to add something significantly new with each release. Today's release is the latest expansion for Civilization IV, Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. The question is, will it be another triumph in Sid Meier's chain of successes or will it become the weakest link?
In order to solve this question, you'll need to take a look at the new additions brought in by the expansion. The largest of these additions is the new espionage mechanics. You can now store up a large number of espionage points in each nation which end up playing two roles. The first is to make it harder for other nations to perform espionage operations. You can do this by simply having a large ratio of your points versus their points, or even by performing espionage actions that decrease it over a short period of time. The second is to disrupt, destroy, and disable enemy nations' cities and units. The most annoying of these removes all progress towards a current project, which can take a wonder from being finished in one turn to being finished in sixty.
Needless to say, this is a significant addition to the gameplay. So much so in fact, that you can easily dominate computer opponents by going pure-espionage in the longer games. If you have the points and enough spies pumping, you can easily render your opponents' cities unable to produce a single thing while simultaneously causing revolts and a large number of other penalties for them. On the defensive side, if you don't want your opponent to do that to you, it's a simple matter to line your borders with spies and destroy all spies that attempt to cross your border. So long as you're pumping enough espionage points, it can turn the tide of battle.
The other main addition is the new corporation system. It essentially gives you a second religion you can spread across the world, only this religion increases maintenance costs and gives you a larger benefit. As a plus, you can gain bonuses for having it operate in a foreign nation, but the foreign nation appears to get the maintenance penalty. Sometimes the corporation can even give you a resource on top of the bonuses, so they're generally worth the extra cost for their operation.
However, it's pretty much impossible to access the corporations early on in the game. You not only need to research a mid-level technology or two, but you also need to get the right type of great person to activate it. On top of that, you could be spending the time it took to create the corporation on massing up an additional army, so it doesn't tend to be a significant factor in determining the winner of the game.
Even ignoring those two, there are now a wide variety of random events that offer you different choices. For instance, you could be picking how to perform the trials of a new developed drug. Do you offer a large chunk of your population, do you only test on animals and a small portion of your population, or do you throw it out as too dangerous? Each can lead to a vastly different outcome. It doesn't seem like much at first, but it greatly reduces the tedium from the early portion of the game when you're essentially just hitting return over and over again while your technologies research and your settlers are built.
If you don't want to play the ordinary game, there are also a large number of new mods. These range from a mod where you control a squad of ranged units as they move through a station, to a complete visual redesign for Civ IV that places you in space. There are also quite a few historic scenarios you can play, as well as a couple mods that redesign the rules for the game. Overall, a pretty fair spread of new content.