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On Site Review: Civilization IV Warlords

October 7th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Expansion packs for strategy games can be tough to evaluate. Most do little more than add a few new factions or units, maybe additional scenarios or maps. They, by definition, expand a core game – not reinvent it. Actually, the first expansion packs for the Civilization series, designed for Civ 2, were merely scenario packs, the Multiplayer edition excepted.

Warlords‘ best aspect is its scenario pack. Though a couple (the Roman and Peloponnesian ones) aren’t especially creative, and one (Omens) doesn’t really work at all. The remainder are crafted to make the most of the customizing potential of Civ IV. Take the Mongol scenario for example. Genghis Khan gets a special “camp” unit that spawns new units automatically. There is no way to choose what unit pops out, but you can change the odds a little by parking the camp on specific terrain types. Technological advancement comes through vassalizing your neighbors, each of whom has a specific tech you can grab once they in your orbit. Combat is promoted by the clock that ticks down your victory points and tocks up to the end of the game.

The other Asian themed scenario, the Unification of China, is also a keeper. Ideally it ends in a diplomatic victory with everyone bowing to your inheritance of the Mandate of Heaven. Mostly, it is a tight struggle to eliminate or vassalize the weak so you can focus on wearing down your rivals. Since everyone starts on an equal footing, recognizing who to pick on first is part of the challenge.

What about the additions to the core game? New traits, new buildings, new leaders, new Civs…nothing really amazing here. Though it’s always nice to see my old enemy Shaka, the Warlord unit and the new military traits (Protective, especially) seem like the afterthoughts that military expansion has tended to be in Civ IV. The Warlord theoretically encourages early aggression, but the Civ IV design really doesn’t mesh well with Bronze Age combat in most of the races. Sure, the Aztecs and Romans are given an even bigger reason to go nuts with the pillaging and annihilation. The Egyptians, even with their new leader Ramsses, are still better off pushing for a cultural war.

The reviews for Warlords have been mostly glowing. Raving even. I find it more than a little amusing that three of the four lowest scores (Gamespy, Computer Games Magazine and Eurogamer) come from three of the most reliable strategy game reviewers in the business. But it’s mostly eights and nines and talk about how cool all the scenarios are.

But so much of Warlords is great because Civ IV is great. This isn’t an expansion like Civilization III: Conquests, which took a very good game to an entirely different level. And any serious Civ fan already has Warlords.

If you like Civ IV but aren’t married to it, the question remains though. Is it worth shelling out thirty dollars for some new nations and scenarios? If we begin by accepting that the Great Wall wonder itself is worth five dollars – it is seriously cool – then I’d encourage people to pick this up if only to see what Civ IV‘s open architecture makes possible. Now, Conquests demonstrated you could do a hell of a lot with Civ III, but Civ IV’s design is exposed to the world of mod makers, many of whom are doing some really amazing stuff right now. Some people might doubt just how different it can possibly be and Warlords answers that.

(Disclosure Time Again.)


3 Comments so far ↓

  • baby arm

    Oh Troy, didn’t you learn anything from the Great Chick/Cirulis War of 2006?

  • Troy

    Only that I am apparently not allowed to review any more 4x games for the next five years.

    Besides, no one is paying me for my Warlords impressions and for them to do so would, in fact, be unethical this close to the conclusion of my contract. The fact that it was a Civ product I worked on makes my ethical issue fairly clearcut, a no brainer even.

  • Taranis

    “And any serious Civ fan already has Warlords.”

    I consider myself a semi-serious Civ’er and I still haven’t bought Warlords, mostly because I’m having so much fun with the (Fall From Heaven) mod.

    Its on my Santa list though!