Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword PC DVD
Published by: 2K Games
Developed by: Firaxis Games
Release Date: Out Now
Requires: Sid Meier's Civilization IV
Creating an expansion for a game like Sid Meier's Civilization IV can't be easy. It's always easy to improve a game that has several elements that just don't work well enough but there wasn't much wrong with Civilization IV to begin with. The first expansion, Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Warlords, added a fair amount of content including a good collection of scenarios, new nations to play as, new leaders and the Warlord unit amongst other things. In short it was a great expansion. Fans of the Civilization series know that you usually have two expansions for each game (both Civilization II and Civilization III had two expansions) and the second expansion is usually the better one. Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword is not only a better expansion than Warlords, it's also quite possibly the best expansion ever made for a Civilization game.
Beyond the Sword adds the customary new civilizations and a nice collection of scenarios but it's the new features that have been added to the main game that really make the expansion something special. Getting a game up and running is now easier than ever thanks to the new advanced start feature. Playing with an advanced start essentially allows you to get past the slow beginning of a standard Civilization game by giving you an amount of gold to spend (you can set the amount). You can purchase cities, technologies, units, structures etc. Naturally when purchasing units, structures and technologies you'll need to own or purchase all of the prerequisite technologies first so if you want to purchase some advanced units, structures and technologies, it's going to work out pretty expensive. You'll begin playing the game with any gold that you didn't spend during the purchasing phase.
Espionage was always present in Civilization IV but it wasn't available in the early part of the game and as such is now a much more important aspect of the game. The Spy unit can be used to carry out all kinds of activities such as causing unrest in foreign cities, poisoning the water supply and stealing technologies. Any espionage activities you carry out need to be funded by espionage points. You'll need to allot some of your civilizations gold to espionage in order to generate espionage points. You can then choose which of your rivals to spend these espionage points on. Naturally your rivals will be doing the same to your civilization so you'll have to employ counter-espionage methods too, to make sure your civilization doesn't suffer as a result of their sinister activities.
Corporations have been added in Beyond the Sword and they add a whole new strategic layer to the game. Obtaining a corporation can be fiddly however and you'll have to meet several requirements before you can found one of the game's seven corporations. Once you've got the required technologies (the Corporation technology plus one other) you'll have to move a Great Person into a city that has access to one or more of the resources that the corporation requires. The Great Person can then be used to found the corporation's headquarters. Corporations have both advantages and disadvantages. Maintaining a corporation can be expensive but the bonuses you get from them can make the expense worthwhile. Corporations can be spread through the use of the Corporate Executive unit. You'll receive extra gold for each city you send a Corporate Executive to but the target city must have one or more of the resources that the corporation requires. Foreign corporations can be blocked if you have, and employ, the Mercantilism Civic.
The Civilization games have always had unlimited replay value but the addition of random events adds additional variation to the random games. These events usually give you a choice of how to proceed. In one of my games I had a message stating that a gladiator in one of my cities had survived many battles and had begun to attract a lot of fans. I had the choice of choosing whether to 'Cash in on the phenomenon before he meets his inevitable end,' or 'Arrange for him to be matched against easy opponents and see that his legend increases.' I went with the second choice and later received a message that the gladiator had become a local hero and an inspiration to my people. Some random events will throw down a challenge. I received a message asking me to build libraries in all of my cities within a certain time limit and for successfully completing the challenge I had a choice of rewards, which was a nice touch. Of course random events can be a bad thing too, and you can lose buildings and resources as a result of a natural disaster. You can choose to disable random events before playing a custom game so if you aren't too enthralled by the idea of them, you don't have to play the game with them enabled, although I personally like them and probably wouldn't choose to disable them.
Beyond the Sword also offers new technologies, new units, new promotions, new improvements, new buildings and new wonders. New technologies include Advanced Flight, Aesthetics, Military Science and Superconductors. New units include the Airship, Cuirassier, Great Spy and Paratrooper. There are some new buildings that are specific to the new civilizations but there are also some buildings that can be built by all of the civilizations and these are the Customs House, Industrial Park, Intelligence Agency, Levee, Public Transport and the Security Bureau. There are seven new wonders such as the National Park, Mausoleum of Maussollos and the Shwedagon Paya. Probably the most important new wonder is the Apostolic Palace which is a Medieval era wonder similar in nature to the United Nations. It triggers global elections and guarantees eligibility for diplomatic votes. The city who has the Apostolic Palace is also more likely to generate a Great Prophet. The Statue of Zeus wonder is also rather pleasing as it causes any civilization that wages war on its owner to have +100% war weariness. All of these new inclusions appear to work really well and fit into the general flow of the game in a pleasing fashion.
Of course every Civilization fan loves to see new civilizations and there are ten new civilizations to bring the total (including those in the Warlords expansion) to 34. The new ones, which all have their own unique unit and building, are Babylonian Empire, Byzantine Empire, Ethiopian Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Khmer Empire, Mayan Empire, Native American Empire, Netherlands, Portugal and Sumerian Empire. In addition to the new civilizations, there are also six new leaders for the existing civilizations. The new leaders are Abraham Lincoln (USA), Boudica (Celts), Charles de Gaulle (France), Darius I (Persia), Pericles (Greece) and Suleiman (Ottoman Empire). The expansion also features twelve scenarios (six of which are fan created) and three mods, which essentially provide you with very different experiences. For instance, Final Frontier is set in space and looks closer to Galactic Civilizations II than Civilization IV.
Beyond the Sword doesn’t offer any graphical or presentation improvements and it doesn't do anything to change the deaf gamer friendliness of Civilization IV. However, in every other respect the expansion offers a whole host of new features that manage to improve every aspect of the game. The new civilizations, leaders, scenarios and mods are, for the most part, really good but it's the additional features, quite a few of which we haven't covered in this review, that make changes to the core Civilization IV experience that really make this expansion a must own for all those who enjoy playing Civilization IV. It's quite simply one of the best expansions you'll ever buy for a strategy game.
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword is an excellent expansion that is simply a must have purchase for all those who enjoy Civilization IV.