Seize the game.
Strategy fans, not to put too fine a point on things, like to geek out. We get off on units (shut up, Beavis!) and special skills and new maps, making the expansion pack a gold mine. No matter that we’ve already paid full retail for a cool game; offer us a bunch of extra toys to use with it and we’ll trip over our feet to throw down another $30.
When the original game is as good as Civilization IV
, the geeking becomes almost oppressive. And when the expansion is as good as Civilization IV: Warlords
, it turns positively fervent
[image1]The mark of a truly great game is a simple and flexible core rule set. Dungeons and Dragons hasn’t endured for decades on geek love alone; the basic game can be torn, spindled and manipulated into exactly the sort of experience you want. But as long as you’re rolling a 20-sided die to save against poison, it’s still D&D. The Civilization games have been like that, with Civilization IV standing as a particular high water mark.
Which is a long winded way of saying that what Warlords adds is exactly what Civ IV needs: more, more, more. Characters, history, options, scenarios, units – you name it, it’s in here. Warlords does almost everything possible to the core Civ IV game short of rewriting it entirely. Some additions are basic, while others are quite complex. If all you want for thirty bucks is a bunch of new societies and their accompanying units and wonders, consider this money well spent.
After all, what other expansion lets you research and build the Great Wall of China so that you can use it as a protective barrier around your entire society? Awesome.
Along the same lines are the titular Warlords, essentially upgraded Great Generals in the style of older Civ releases. The Warlords will grant military bonuses or extra experience, and can run riot over most of the combative opposition. You might use one to construct a military academy in a city, leading to faster unit building and extra experience for each, or stack a bunch of units on the same tile as a General, then use his buffing power to cut a swath of destruction across another country. If you like to play Civ IV with a bloody-minded bent, Warlords has you covered.
Six brand new civilizations are here: Carthaginians, Celts, Koreans, Ottomans, Vikings, and Zulus, each with its own unique units and leaders. These can all be played in the original game as well, adding cool new layers to the initial content.
[image2]However, all that pales next to the eight new scenarios, which are as variable, entertaining and replayable as the best old-school D&D module. (The Keep on the Borderlands
? I scoff.) Take the Chinese scenario, which asks you to unify the Warring States, with seven different families to choose from. Diplomacy and Treachery are emphasized while Religion is recast as Family Lineage, which you can spread for a non-violent victory. You might be surrounded by enemies on all sides, or off to the map edge with barbarians to contend with. It’s challenging stuff and enough for hours of play alone.
There’s also a supernatural sort of scenario: Omens. You’ll play as either the English or French trying to spread religion (Protestantism or Catholicism, respectively) among the Native Americans. Every few dozen turns a supernatural Rider tears across the map, ripping apart the force with the lowest religious penetration. (I’ve waited years to type that phrase.) You’ll be tempted to devote all resources to spreading the good word, but get caught without any military units when the Rider comes to take you, and you’re toast.
Other scenarios give you a small number of turns to conquer East Asia as Alexander the Great, or to win the Peloponnesian War, using sea power to navigate and conquer the Greek Isles. For the military-minded, there are even options to play as marauding Vikings, fast-spawning Mongols or even the pesky Barbarians that have bugged you in every Civ release since 1991. The latter inverts the typical Civ approach by asking you to destroy rather than build. It’s the least exciting of the new options, but every long-time player will want to try it at least once.
Constant in all the new scenarios is the need for speed, ingenuity and plain old daring. While the original Civ IV allowed nearly any play style, here you’ll be challenged to think on your feet and adapt to rapidly changing conditions, especially in the Chinese Unification storyline. Several of the real-world scenario maps are small enough to allow modest (by Civ standards) play times while maintaining a high degree of replayability.
[image3]The overall presentation hasn’t changed at all, which is mostly a good thing. Loading a scenario still results in an ugly dump back to the desktop while a bunch of XML is processed, but otherwise you’ll see the same intuitive menus as in the original game. There’s a lot of new music specific to the new societies, all of which is solid, and a main menu theme that’s a lot more satisfying than that cotton-candy David Byrne world beat tune in Civ IV.
New players lured to the series by this expansion would be forgiven for waiting until the inevitable Gold Edition drops, hopefully containing the original Civ IV and Warlords. But to the hordes who have already stayed up countless nights playing just one more turn, the cost of expansion is a pittance, and the sleepless nights merely part of the price of victory.