Civilization IV is arguably the best recent strategy game we’ve had to sink our teeth into. It’s already had one solid expansion pack in Warlords, but Beyond the Sword adds so much new content that it could almost be a sequel.
As the name implies, Beyond the Sword focuses on economic and diplomatic improvements, as opposed to the conquest and war orientated Warlords. The two primary systems of Beyond the Sword are the ability to found corporations and a new espionage system.
The biggest of these is definitely the new espionage system. Each turn you can set aside part of your budget for espionage spending. The more you spend, the more you find out and the more opportunities that will be presented for your spies to perform intelligence missions. Beyond just finding out what your opponents are researching, spies can also cause rife within enemy territories. Spies can incite rebellion, destroy improvements, steal from the treasury or even poison water supplies.
Corporations are like a modern day religious system for your civilizations. They can spread from city to city and provide significant advantages for your civilization, the counter to this however is that they consume a significant amount of resources. Corporations can provide huge advantages, but at the same time can completely cripple a player’s economy.
In addition to these there are also a multitude of new civilisations and leaders. There are also eleven new scenarios. Each of the new scenarios relies on a separate skill, whether it is military expertise, economic skill or diplomatic dexterity.
Another useful feature is the advanced start option for players who can’t be fussed with the initial time spent founding a first city; instead players are inserted about 10 turns into a game.
Connectivity improvements and simultaneous turns speed up multiplayer games. Firaxis has included some interesting mods both internally and community created. These include a World War II recreation, Civilizations version of defender, and just for good measure, a human versus zombie’s game.
Beyond the Sword brings many new aspects to the game. Espionage adds a new dimension and the calculated gamble of corporations can be greatly beneficial to your civilization.