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Five Out of Five But…

July 24th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 9 Comments · Firaxis

Fellow Civ Fanatic Tom Chick’s review of Beyond the Sword is up at Yahoo Games. It gets top marks even though he agrees with me that the espionage stuff is “a mess” and corporations are “a crap shoot.” (I disagree that all the new naval stuff makes the sea matter; in my opinion, it’s still two-thirds of the earth covered with Who Gives A Damn.)

This review, probably more than any in recent memory, underlines the difference between a top score and a perfect game. Chick can’t recommend Beyond the Sword more highly, in spite of his many criticisms. This is far from a perfect expansion.

But Final Frontier, the Rhye’s mod and it being more Civ 4 are enough for him. Can’t say that I object too strongly.

I, of course, can’t review BtS in any real way because of my tainted love. I will have more comments next week, many in response to the inevitable flurry of reviews. Just because I can’t review it without being completely in the clear from accusations of teh bias doesn’t mean that I can’t reply to other people’s comments.

For now, the espionage is just too annoying for me to give it top marks, but people who miss the scenarios are missing some truly wonderful game moments. (I just started the Future War scenario, which has four super-states squabbling over the Earth with biological weapons, arcologies, and mechs.)


9 Comments so far ↓

  • Eumel

    This does not sound good at all. I don’t have the game yet, but when reading forum posts about the espionage features, it gave me a bad feeling.

    The chief mistake seems to be not to intertwine it with diplomacy, which would be a shame.

    The release date is this weekend and I’m debating whether to buy it or to wait for the patches.

  • JonathanStrange

    Great expansion! I’m already trying two of the scenarios – even though I’m more a fan of sandbox skirmish games – and finding the space setting and the Fall From Heaven world rather amusing. I’d already been playing the mods (like FFH2) which are free mods from CivFanatics, but I like their graphical upgrades. I’ve only touched upon the Civ IV and just had to start out with the new Mayan civ but next game I’ve got to be the Byzantines. There’s an enormous amount of gaming for the money in this expansion, so I better get to it…

  • Troy


    I’m not sure what you mean about diplomacy and espionage not being intertwined, and I’m not sure that would matter.

    Tom elaborates on his review over here with a second elaboration to come.

  • Eumel

    This is only second-hand knowledge, as I said, but:

    Apparently the “terrorist”-style spy missions are a major concern of many players. Essentially, your AI allies can sabotage you left and right without any serious disadvantages for them. If nation A blows up a building of nation B, that should pretty much be a declaration of war. Also, after catching the umpteenth spy of your allies, you should be able to declare war without taking diplomacy hits, IMO. I’ve read reports of vassals poisoning water supplies of their overlords, which concerns me a bit. Now, if there was a diplomacy option along the lines of “stop sending terrorists our way or we interpret it as a declaration of war”, then I would be happy.

    But what do I know — thanks to the slow publishing process here, I could not even play the expansion yet.

  • thk123

    What is it exactly you don’t like about the espionage system. It isn’t just you, Gamespot also critizied it. I personally thought that why it might not effect the game too dramatically it is something to do in the early game. Also, to Eumel, it does have some diplomatic effect if they get caught. However, the biger problems lies in that you will get messages saying a spy has been found, but it dosen’t tell you whose spy it is if they weren’t doing anything.

  • Troy

    My big problem with the espionage system is that if you don’t commit yourself to the micromanagement it entails (shifting emphasis of spy points, counterespionage, etc.) then you end up getting all your stuff destroyed – the AI had no problem running amok in your cities. Investing in espionage, unlike, say, culture, is not is only good as a targeted benefit.

    Espionage has also taken away one of the big bonuses of having a Holy City. It used to be that you could get a line of sight to any state religion city if you founded that religion. No more.

    Mostly, though, it’s the interface. One more menu that I have to look at and shift things in that takes me out of the main screen. There’s a new ratio for me to track (Is Lincoln investing more spy points on me now?) and the only way to do it is to hover over the civ name.

    I haven’t decided if it is underpowered or overpowered. They are more useful in the early game when a culture push or poisoned city can make a difference, and their low cost makes them cheap expendables. By the late game, though, the costs associated with any useful activity make them a waste of time, but enough of a nuisance to be constantly distracted by messages that your theatre just got burned down.


  • Krupo

    Wait, wait, they took away the “view city” with religion feature? That sucks! :(

    I figured getting the expansion it was a matter of inevitability, but after the SM Railroads debacle and what I’ve heard so far, that’s definitely not the case.

  • Troy

    It’s a very good expansion, Krupo, in spite of my misgivings about the espionage stuff. Plus, it’s more Civ. How can you go wrong?

  • Krupo

    … I can only go wrong by thinking that I can, for once, get more fresh air and sleep for an extended period of time. :p