There's a lot going on in the impending expansion for Civ V, so much so that the ninety minutes we got hands-on with the new content wasn't really enough to get a proper feel for what's going to be on offer. Rather, we get a chance to view the new additions to the UI, and manage to snatch a tantalising glimpse at the increased range of possibilities on offer.
The previous significant injection of content for the game came in the form of Gods & Kings, where the emphasis was firmly on spicing up the early game with the addition of religion. Espionage played its part later on in proceedings, but it perhaps didn't provide enough va-va-voom to V's endgame. Firaxis are looking to fix this, and Brave New World is their attempt to make the late game more compelling.
The changes don't all land late in the day. Trade routes - one of the more significant revisions - have gone international. As soon as you've unlocked animal husbandry, you can build your first caravan, which can be dispatched to a nearby neighbouring city. Doing so can be mutually beneficial for both nations, and later on in the game, when religions and science have been built up they can trickle between civs via these trade routes. The other thing that can pass between civs is culture, and this is the main thing that has been changed in Civilization V with Brave New World's new mechanics.
Culture now plays a significantly larger role in the game's later stages, as Firaxis were all too aware that some players, especially those who were aiming for a cultural victory, weren't having that much fun towards the end of each campaign, with players often having to play very defensively at the end of the game, avoiding the violent advances of aggressive neighbours. Brave New World attempts to address this issue by giving culturally enlightened players more room to manoeuvre. Now culture is your main defence, and tourism is your new secret weapon as you try and take over the world.
By creating a strong and vibrant culture, populated by great works (another new addition), players can attract envious glances from neighboring populations, causing unhappiness amongst the populous, and possibly forcing your opponents to change their tactics to compensate. By surpassing a neighboring country's culture levels with your tourism output, you can really give an opponent something to think about. It'll give players pushing for different victory conditions more to worry about, and it'll stop players aiming for a cultural victory from having to just keep hitting "end turn" repeatedly as they wait for their communication towers to become available.
You'll build your tourism up via the acquisition of the aforementioned great works. These works, created by the great people of the world (they can either kick off a golden age, or create an artistic masterpiece), will sit in museums and opera houses and whatnot, and will generate the kind of influence that'll persuade your opponents that you're the coolest kid on the block, so to speak. There's also a nice new feature where you'll be able to take a closer look at your collection of great works of art, be they pictures, songs or plays. For example, if Shakespeare writes you a tragedy, you'll be able to hear a short excerpt from it by looking at the building it's kept in.
In the playable demo we were able to take control Portugal, of one of the new civs to appear in the game (along with the so far announced trio of Poland, Brazil and the return of fan-favourite Shaka Zulu). Straight away there were decisions to be made regarding trade routes, where to send them, which route would be most beneficial, who did we want to deal with? If you're worried about being culturally overpowered by one nation, would it be wise to give them increased influence by dealing with them, even if it meant more gold than dealing with another? Caravans and cargo ships can be sent to nearby cities, and don't interfere with other units, they do their own thing. However, they are vulnerable to attack, and these routes must be carefully monitored if you want to make sure they end up where you want them.
It certainly gives us more to think about, and it means that established countries that are not interested in waging war with their neighbours are going to have more tools to use later on the game. One of these tools is going to be archeology, with players able to rediscover the feeling of early exploration by sending out teams of archeologists (who all have more than a passing resemblance to Indiana Jones) to investigate sites on the map. Past encounters are to going to yield new treasures, items that can be placed in museums, further increasing a civ's cultural standing.
The biggest new addition to Civ V though is the world congress, with players able to vote on resolutions, such as trade embargoes on specific countries, or the introduction of a global religion or an Olympics-like sporting event. The first player to discover all other civilisations gets to chair the congress, and wields two votes instead of the usual one (although the largest civ also gets two, or if that's tied then two votes are handed out randomly every time the congress convenes). Again, it promises to bring a new dimension of play to the latter stages of a campaign.
Sitting down with Firaxis, looking at the changes that they're proposing, has me convinced that Civilization V is going to improve as a result of the new content coming in Brave New World. I'm certainly one of those who loves the early game, but gets easily bored later on, and these new systems certainly look like they'll breathe much needed energy into the final rounds of each campaign. We can't say for sure, having only glimpsed at the possibilities during our short time spent with the new version of the game, but we're optimistic that Firaxis' Brave New World is one we're going to want to live in for many, many hours.
At the same event we sat down with producer Dennis Shirk, who talked us through some of the changes coming to Civ V. You can read what he had to say on the matter right here.