Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword Impressions - First Look, New Factions, Espionage, End Game

This expansion for Civilization IV is packed with new scenarios, a revamped space race, better espionage, new civilizations, and much more.

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The title of Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword has a couple of meanings. The most obvious is that the second expansion for GameSpot's 2005 PC Game of the Year will feature more modern scenarios, whereas the first expansion centered on ancient ones. However, Beyond the Sword will also put more focus on diplomacy and less on warfare. This expansion looks to bring a lot of fundamental changes and enhancements to the core game of Civ IV. So while the goal will be, once again, to guide your civilization through history, you'll have a bunch of new tools with which to do so.

Beyond the Sword offers new scenarios and a revamped Stone Age-to-Space Age game.

First, some numbers. Beyond the Sword will introduce 12 scenarios, 10 civilizations, 16 leaders, 5 wonders of the world, 18 building types, and 25 new units. The new civilizations include Native American tribes, as well as Portugal, Babylon, the Netherlands, and Byzantium. The new scenarios are both historical and fanciful. On one end of the spectrum, there are Charlemagne's wars of conquest and at the other there's Final Frontier, a space-based scenario where you build space stations and colonize planets. New units include mobile artillery, mobile surface-to-air missile launchers, tactical nukes that are not as powerful but a lot quicker to make than ICBMs, and paratroops.

That alone would constitute enough for most expansion packs, but Beyond the Sword goes a lot further. If you're the kind of Civ player that likes to enjoy the regular Stone Age-to-Space Age game, the good news is that there are a lot of major improvements and enhancements to the existing formula. This feels like a more fleshed-out version of Civ IV, thanks to the attention to diplomacy and espionage. For instance, there's more help to those players who like to "turtle," or basically play defensively, content to advance their civilizations peacefully rather than through conquest. To that effect, the new Apostolic Palace wonder serves as an early game United Nations. Let's say that you're trying to avoid war. One way to do that is to build the Apostolic Palace and then convert everyone around you to your state religion. You can then use the Apostolic Palace to bring votes on decrees that could basically prevent anyone with your religion from waging war on you.

Espionage has been overhauled drastically, and for the better. One of the complaints about Civ IV is that you can only build spy units after you've built the Scotland Yard wonder, but that happens so relatively late in the game that it makes espionage useless. In Beyond the Sword, you can now invest into espionage each turn, just like you invest in science and culture. All of your espionage points go into a pool, and you can then open up the new espionage screen to use those points to spy or conduct sabotage on rival civilizations. This can range from sabotaging buildings, poisoning water, or fomenting unhappiness. There are still spy units (including ninjas, which are the early-game spies), but their role is a bit different from before. Spies are now invisible to all units, save for other spies. But there's also a new "great spy" unit, which has abilities just like the other great leaders, and these are totally invisible, even to other spies.

The designers also thought about the way religion tapers out in the middle of the game. The fix is a new focus on corporations, which work like religions in that you spread your corporations by dispatching "suits" to other cities. The advantage of a corporation is that if you're short of a critical resource, like oil, there's a way to gain access to it through corporations.

We'll get civilized again in July.

And the space race and end game have also been changed considerably. In Civ IV, you won the game the moment that you could launch your spaceship to Alpha Centauri. The problem was that made the space race seem rather anticlimactic and rushed. So the designers turned to the old space-race system from earlier Civs. In Beyond the Sword, it's not launching first that wins the game; rather, it's getting to Alpha Centauri first. The difference is that the spaceship can now be custom designed, so you can launch as soon as you have the minimum number of components built. However, if you take more time and add extra components, you could construct a better spaceship. If someone launches a spaceship ahead of you, but you know that it's a slow ship, you can build a faster ship and overtake it on the long voyage. Game over.

Finally, fans of the original Civilization may be happy to know that random events are back in the core game, and there are more than 100 of them, so natural disasters such as earthquakes can destroy buildings or diplomatic marriages might suddenly turn two rivals into friends.

There's enough in Beyond the Sword to please the wide range of Civ fans out there. Those who like scenarios that offer new gameplay have plenty to choose from, but those who like the regular game can toy around with the new strategic options. This looks like a must-have expansion for a top-of-the-line strategy game. Beyond the Sword is shipping in July.

Discussion

53 comments
ellinaras86
ellinaras86

Byzantium for EVER!!!! Greeks everywhere!!!!! :) :D ;)

ellinaras86
ellinaras86

Everyone wants CIV on the top all of turn-based strategy. Because it is the top all of them!!! :)

Arokh_Valdrez
Arokh_Valdrez

Oh wow, Sid did a FANTASTIC job on this expansion, he's actually adding a lot of new material. Warlords was good, but this is quite amazing...i want a ninja right now :)

MysticDynamite
MysticDynamite

Nice! I've always wanted to return to Civ IV. :)

sdozer
sdozer

Nice one Latetender. New World Order means Police State and controlling the world. That's possible in this game. But they should add the Mysteries/Free Masonry religion. I hate the nuke game in this. Build some fall out shelters and you're fine? What, they expect everyone to stay in a shelter for 30 years? And the anti-nuke blows them out of the sky, at least have radiation traveling around the world. And I so hated the 75% chance of the anti-nuke program. it was like in Rise of Nations. They always make nukes the worst investment. You're better off with 30 Mech Infantry than with 75 Nukes.

latetender
latetender

It would be great if they included a NWO (new world order) victory condition or/and aliens.. Also false-flag diplomacy. A full interplanetary space combat sim with the great Civ engine would own! ala Masters of Orion. Civ has started to concentrate on graphics too much. Reason: Graphics = sales = money. I have always liked the game play of mega-lo-mania, when it come to nukes. The balance of nukes vs anti-nuke tech was addictive. Bless

Mam00th
Mam00th

Dont like new space phase, they should have sticked to planetary combat in my opinion.

Illscrewyoubig
Illscrewyoubig

if this new expansion is what everyone says it is, it'll be bigger than the original game! It sure rocks!

nystchan
nystchan

I just hope spies get the Steal Tech ability back... it rocked so much my world on previous Civs... And I gotta agree with previous comments... Civ 4's expansions are amazing. There are only a few games which have expansions that build the game up like that... Warlords' was a good exp, but this one... Can't wait for it!

sens_rocks_40
sens_rocks_40

sick. this new expansion looks sweet. civ 4 owns, and this should make it own more

evilmonkey_clou
evilmonkey_clou

All I have to say about this is... DEFCON 1 ! LAUNCH THE NUKES TO STOP THE SPIES!

drusik92
drusik92

kinda hope that there will be space wars or sometihng that would be awesome

mrbass208
mrbass208

This looks like far more than just a cosmetic upgrade. Kudos to Sid for boldly taking the initiative and building upon the game itself. I can't wait to see and hear more about this. By the way, pow1149, even if Warlords was a disappointment to you, it was still more substantive than 90% of the expansion packs out there.

gooeymanse
gooeymanse

it looks like galciv2. but i expect to be COLOR of CIV4...

chris_yz80
chris_yz80

hmmm may be i should read what i type before i post

chris_yz80
chris_yz80

I think that this expansion is ripping off galactic civilizations, because its espionage system is like what civ 4 is going to implement and galciv already has random events that pop up throughout the game. It seems to me that Galciv is being ripped off

buljas_si_ti
buljas_si_ti

this exp. makes me want spore even more!

pow1149
pow1149

after the slight disapointment of warlords (for £25, its just not worth it) i'm hoping that good old sid won't repeat the past by making a few small additions and calling them 'large improvements', but from what I can see, it seems that Sid may be keeping somthing up his sleeves, or maybe it's just me. Fingars crossed that it will be all its cracked up to be (and not a complete rip-off...)

Nuclear_Kernel
Nuclear_Kernel

On papper the improvements sound great: early espionage, tactical nukes, mobile SAM. I like the new ideea for the space victory.

mobomasterguru
mobomasterguru

Cool maybe I will start playing Civ 4 again if I get this xpack

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

Yay! I always wished there was space in Civ IV, I definitely will be getting this.

b_wingflyer
b_wingflyer

What they really need is the water and space areas from Call to Power and Call to Power II

Hell3ent
Hell3ent

Sounds interesting, but I really wish they'd make an Alpha Centauri 2.

Whermacht02
Whermacht02

Wow, I cant wait to see those Civ I like improvements!!!

LikeReD
LikeReD

This is the best turn-based game I've ever played. Go Sid!

ntnimara
ntnimara

I'm still waiting for Spore...

juzelino
juzelino

GANGSTA287: read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Portugal You will see that Portugal once was one of the biggest civilisations in the world ("During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal eclipsed most other nations in terms of economic, political, and cultural influence and it had an extensive empire throughout the world."). :D Civilization is cool! yeah.

bhazlewood
bhazlewood

New Civs are nice, but the enhanced game play options, new buildings, and new wonders make this a must-have for Civ fans. And call it imitation if you want, but at least they listen to fans and respond.

CookiesCream
CookiesCream

wa wee...this will be fun. More Civs the merrier

thebubbleprince
thebubbleprince

i never used spy's anyway, I prefer a straight fight! :D

uberjannie
uberjannie

i want it and i wants it now! When is civ 5 coming out? give it to me already! ;)

PrezKennedy
PrezKennedy

So basically... this is a combination of older ideas exhibited in Civ I and Civ II as well as Galactic Civ 2. I guess imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

rafaronie
rafaronie

cool...now how bout those future techs maybe like going all the way to space ? or at least to the year 2200?? just a thought.

LorenaLarue
LorenaLarue

The espionage is exactly the same as Galactic Civilizations 2: Dark Avatar now.

GANGSTA287
GANGSTA287

:) , but I think they're running out of Civs... Sorry Portugal, you had a good run, but a world power?

chaos_13037
chaos_13037

Nice, I haven't played Civ4 in awhile but this will probably have me staying up late playing again. Looks awesome.

trickazzmark
trickazzmark

i love the Civ games. fun and educational.

Darth_Homer
Darth_Homer

Sweet. Can't wait to get back into Civ again...

moyaboybruce
moyaboybruce

This is a great idea. For any Civ 4 fans with warlords, tye ViSa expansion pack. It'll blow you away.

mikelblom
mikelblom

I hope you can actually play the expansions "on top" of eachother, with all the additions combined. It'll be fun to play as the dutch :)

Elkoman
Elkoman

great, civ4 will consume my life once again!!!