Brave New World is the second expansion of Firaxis’s critically acclaimed strategy game Sid Meier’s Civilization V. Following Gods & Kings, the game’s first expansion, Brave New World brought 9 new civilizations, 8 new Wonders and dozens of units and buildings to play with. It also promised to focus on trade, culture, and diplomacy to make Civ V an even better game.

Update: If you’re looking for the ultimate Civilization experience and have a fast machine, you may want to check out Civilization 6 instead.

Developed by Firaxis, Civilization V and all its expansions were ported to the Mac by Aspyr. By the way, I’m amazed by the support Aspyr is able to deliver. For example, Brave New World for Mac was released on July 12th worldwide, same days as the Windows version!

But what does it add to Civilization V? Is it a worthy addition? Does it have what it takes to earn a spot among the best strategy games for Mac out there?

Enter Civilization V: Brave New World

Let’s get this out of the way: Civilization V is a great game, but one thing keeps it from being amazing: the end game is boring.

Once you reach the modern times, all you have to do is wait and see if the strategy you chose early on will work. Well, Brave New World is the game’s finest Expansion so far. Why? Because it solves this issue and gives you the end-game fun and excitement Civilization V deserved. How? They delivered on their promised and completely overhaul 3 key elements of Civ V’s gameplay: Trade, Culture, and Diplomacy.

Improved Trade mechanics

Pre-Brave New World, Trade was limited to specific diplomatic agreements between nations. I know you felt the same way I did, Trade just wasn’t exciting or fun. Enter Brave New World. With the introduction of Trade routes, Trade becomes not only exciting but also an extremely important part of your strategy, as it can simply make or break your entire economics. Most gold potential will come from it now.

As you advance through the ages, you will be able to have more and more trade routes. Each trade route can be exploited using either a caravan or a cargo ship. Once you have built either of them, you get to chose between which cities the trade route will be established. You can choose other nation’s cities, a city-state or even one of your own cities.

The farther the city and the more luxury resources they have, the more gold you will get. I find it much more interesting to trade with other nations, as you usually get more gold but also get Science! Trade between your own cities will not grant gold but Food and production, which can be useful in the early stages of your empire (I have used this strategy the boost the growth of new cities).

I personally focus on gold and science and let me tell you, the potential is huge. Beware of pirates and barbarians though, as they can block your trade routes! Also, be careful who you start a war with. If your income relies too much on Trade, a war against one of your commercial partners can be devastating to your finances. I learned this the hard way when I was attacked by the Russians. While doing my best to defend my empire, I suddenly realized a negative gold balance each turn. Before long, I had no more gold and my army started to disband! That was a painful way to go…

Brave New World Mac Review

Trade routes potential doesn’t stop with gold and science. They can also transfer Religion. Turns out, trade can be a very discreet and effective way to convert your neighbors and get all those nice religion bonuses. Overall, Trade routes add a well-deserved layer of complexity and decision making that will last throughout the whole game.

Overhauled Culture mechanics

Cultural victories used to feel slow and incomplete but Brave New World has taken care of that too with the introduction of Tourism. Forget about the Utopia project, Tourism can now get you that eluded (and previously hard as hell) Cultural victory. You still need to “farm” Culture to pay for new policies (and later, Ideologies, which we will talk about next) thanks to specific buildings, Wonders and Great persons.

But in order to win, you will need to have an imposing Tourism-generating machine, attracting and influencing all the other nations. You will have to accumulate works of art which are created by artists born in your nation. Each artist will give you a work of art which will represent an existing painting, book, song, etc.

The expansion also introduces archaeologists which will be needed to exploit randomly generated digging sites. Once you have exploited the site, you will have the choice between either bringing the artifacts back home as a work of art or keep it where it is, improving the tile. Overall, Culture mechanics feel so much more lifelike now. Paris is one of the top tourist destinations because of the monuments and museums after all. But how to win using Tourism? Each work of art will give you Tourism points per turn.

Brave New World 2

If you generate more than your neighbors, your “culture” will end up as being influential towards theirs, and later on, dominant. Once your culture becomes influential towards every other nation in the game, you win. Culture-related improvements don’t stop there. Later in the game, you will get access to Ideologies which work like policies but go even further. Ideologies will give bonuses too but above all, they will bring you closer to other Civs who share that same Ideology with you (or further apart if Ideologies are very different).

In that same spirit, if you chose an Ideology your population dislikes, you will get a lot of extra unhappiness to deal with.

Revamped diplomacy system

Civ V also got an improved diplomacy system which revamps the role of city-states, making them extremely important if you want to achieve a Diplomacy victory. The World Congress will meet every few turns and will vote on a number of different things such as starting international projects, embargoing a player, chose a world religion, etc.

Brave New World Mac Review

The thing is, Nations have a number of votes (with the host nation having an extra 2) but City-States have some too. If you want to become a true political powerhouse, you will have to have the most City-State allies (each ally giving you control of their votes). At one point, the World Leader resolution will be proposed and if you have enough votes in your favor, you can be elected and achieve the Diplomatic Victory.

Brave New World Mac Review

Most of these additions will be extremely important during the end game, making it a lot more fun and exciting than before. On the bad side, it’s a shame not all the features and additions from the previous Expansion, Gods & Kings, were not included in the game. For example, the specific Civs from Gods & Kings are missing here!

Brave New World Performance

Regarding both Graphics and Performance, there isn’t much to say. The game looks and performs the same as vanilla Civilization V does. Performance wise, I think Brave New World (and Civ V too) is a little too graphic-intensive (strategy games are usually forgiving in the Performance department). This is especially true near the end game when modern times arrive. Every turn will take forever (especially while waiting for the other nations turn).

Also, when a lot starts happening at once (during a war for example), you will notice the game will not run as smoothly anymore. Even so, Brave New World is a reliable port, with no noticeable bugs. I did experience 3 crashes during my many hours of play time.

They seemed very random but nothing dramatic (as the game will auto-save every 10 turns.) Still, it is frustrating to have to replay 8 turns because of a crash.

The VerdictBrave New World Mac Review

The Good

  • Makes Civ V a much better game
  • Improved gameplay
  • Refined and enhanced victory conditions
  • Lots of new Civs, Wonders, units, and buildings
  • End-game is finally fun

The Bad

  • Graphics intensive (especially during the end game)
  • Missing content from previous expansion
  • Occasional crashes

Final Word

Brave New World did everything it promised and more. It brought many genuine new ideas and improves Civilization V in so many ways that I just can’t see myself playing it without Brave New World anymore. It did what any worthy Expansion should: It took Civ V to the next level, making it a significantly better game.