The original Capitalism was definitely an acquired taste: complex, deep, and dry as a bone unless you liked economic sims. If you did, it was undoubtedly the big daddy of them all. It was low-chrome, bare bones gaming, but humming under the hood were complex financial models and interrelationships that drove an incredible game.
Capitalism Plus is an overall improvement to the original system, not a complete rewrite. The first noticeable change is the polished graphics. They dress the basic engine up a bit, but still fall short of adding any meaningful embellishments like animation and sharper visual elements, which would go a long way towards making C+ less dry. Maps now have a finer resolution and more detail, resulting in larger game worlds. Cities seem about the same size, but they're spaced a little differently.
The biggest improvement for many will be the custom map and scenario builder. When you start a new game, you can choose to raise and lower landforms and add cities to the map. For each new custom game, you can set the goals, starting status, competitors, products, and industries. The new format allows for a great deal of control over all aspects of gameplay, meaning there's a strong replay factor.
Two new product sets add a number of new items for people who have already made everything for the original. The "alternative" set adds over 50 items such as contact lenses, headache pills, and hair gel, in addition to new crops like lemon, palm, flax, and ostrich. An all food product set offers just that: a world in which you and your competitors only make things like toasted peanuts and milk shakes. The alternative game set seems moderately simplified from the original, requiring fewer items to make most of the products, which gives factories greater flexibility. Future-tech items, such as VR and wrist computers, can also be developed through research.
Gameplay has been improved in most categories, with more accurate economic modeling (in loans, for instance) and a generally enhanced AI. Multiplay is still only e-mail enabled, with no spawning (two copies of the game are required). A number of new scenarios have been added (including rebuilding Japan after WWII), as well as real-world maps. In a nod to SimCity, random events can be turned on to throw you the occasional curve: natural disasters, riots, disease. All in all, Trevor Chan and his team have refined an already good game and slightly expanded its horizons. The $20 rebate for owners of the original brings the price down under $30, making it reasonable for most dedicated Capitalism players who want some new twists. If you haven't yet played it, of course, now is the time to try.