Let's come clean. In spite of playing hundreds of hours of Civilization V I've never played a session to its final conclusion. No matter how much I adore this massively successful series of turn-based strategy games I just cannot play though those final turns - and I know just why. I'm sure you do as well. The final two eras as simply extremely boring. And Firaxis seems to have realised this at long last as Brave New World is their attempt to turn Civilization V into the game we would have wanted. It's a brave, fresh and worthy expansion and the title could not have been more appropriate.
Rarely have I played such a daring expansion as Brave New World. It's not a mere expansion pack, even if that's what we've come to expect from DLC, but a proper reworked version of the game with one singular vision. Add more dynamics, greater options, and an improved end game. At first sight it's everything I've longed for. And first impressions last in this case.
It's one of the more modest changes in Brave New World that proves the most revolutionary. Bid farewell to extra gold from rivers and coast tiles - profit is now earned through trade routes with other civilisations. Co-operation used to be a rare sight, but now you're practically forced to co-operate with friends and future foes alike if you want to earn any gold whatsoever. Trade routes are established by caravans or later on ships. You pick a city to trade with and depending on distance, technological progress and resources both you and the owner of the city gain bonuses.
The trade routes are what largely drives the game forward. As the most significant source of income it's in your best interest to protect caravans and build a navy to safeguard your ships as enemy will look to plunder them. But you can also use them to spread your influence and religion. The result is a realistic simulation of fundamental international relations and a depth I've previously never seen in Civilization V.
I opted to try and exploit this new mechanic as much as possible in my first new campaign with Brave New World. Choosing Poland, one of nine new civilisations, and with the bonus of "social policies" my plan was to spread my culture and religion all over the map. Noone would be able to resist my ultimate version of orthodox Christianity. 3000 years and countless trade routes later my continent was almost entirely orthodox, and I felt like the world was neatly placed in the palm of my hand. Noone expects the Portuguese Inquisition.
In spite of this massive backlash (I was left without army of religious advantage) I was fascinated by how thorougly not only the new and reworked mechanics, but also the new civilisations had changed the flow of the game. From the city state and trade focus Venice to the aggressive Assyrians and Carnival loving Brazilians they offer new playstyles, perfectly suited to the new mechanics.
A short depression later I noticed one of the new features of Brave New World - tourism. There was still hope for Polans! Tourism is the reworked and heavily modified new version of what used to be the most boring and passive way to achieve victory - culture. Similar to how economy forces the player to be more active, we're now given the opportunity to partake in what can only be described as cultural warfare through tourism.
The effect of this influence is revealed with the last major new feature of Brave New World - "World Congress". This simplified simulation of the United Nations transforms the final third of a session into the most exciting stage. Embargoes can completely ruin a civilisation noone likes and with enough influence you can put forward motions to ban nuclear weapons, adapt world religions, and finally achieve a diplomatic victory by being appointed world ruler.
That's what I'm trying to achieve at some point after the year 2000, when I'm rudely interrupted by a fly landing on my hand. I peek out the window. The sun is shining, so it cannot be that late in the day. Turns out I've played from four in the afternoon until four in the morning and the sun has just risen again.
It felt like I'd only been playing for a few hours, but instead twelve hours had past. The microwave pizza meant as dinner had disappeared in front of me. I've come to the realisation that I've fallen head over heels in love with Brave New World. The victory is mine after a 20 hour long cmapaign. I've fought, begged, researched, traded and bribed my way to world ruler and there was a wonderful sense of accomplishment. At long last Civilization V has reached its potential and for the first time I prefer Civilization V to its predecessor. With a vastly improved (albeit not perfect) AI, newfound interactivity, and immense depth Brave New World has transformed Civilization V to everything I could have wished for. Capable of turning minutes into hours - this is Civilization V at its best!