Of course, there are a lot of little things in the game that have changed too and the expansion pack is more than just a handful of new features. Though a lot of the minor improvements are implemented so well that I didn’t even notice them at first!
On the one hand, this means the game might feel a little worse in the value-for-money department, but it does reflect how well the expansion pack fits in with the original.
Firstly, there are several new units that have been introduced in Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword that give the game just that extra bit of depth. One of my favourites is the Airship, which can be created before other flight technologies, allowing earlier preparations for an air battle.
Another unit, the privateer, provides an interesting medium-powered, mid-game naval ship that sneakily doesn’t fly your flag of nationality. This allows you to attack other players during times of peace and also allows you to set up blockades, which leads me nicely onto the blockade function.
Blockading quite cleverly takes away from the bombardment strategy on land-intensive maps and makes the navy a much more essential aspect in the game.
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An influx of new leaders and Civs, such as the Babylonians, Byzantines and Ethiopians are included in the expansion as well. Although not fundamental to the gameplay, you can’t really argue with more variation. Accompanying the new leaders are advantageous traits such as military, economic and social, which may aid your play style if chosen correctly.
The introduction of The Apostolic Palace allows for a religious/diplomatic victory. The palace acts as a sort of religious UN that isn’t quite as intensive. Additionally, the option to defy the UN Resolutions is a much needed addition – playing without it provided some very frustrating times that left my keyboard legs a little squeakier. Apparently, there are meant to be some AI improvements and although I couldn’t put my finger on a single moment whereby the AI defied me somehow; I did find that overall, it appeared to use more variation in units and victory through war was more difficult because of it.
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Finally, the space race, which I must admit is my favourite route to victory, is no longer as linear as in the previous game. Now, not only do you get to build the space ship, you also have to get it to hit Alpha Centauri! I know, I know, pick those jaws up off the floor!
As you can already see, there is a lot of new content and aspects to get your head around and fiddle with in this expansion. However, what has already been covered is only a small part of what else the expansion offers and there are dozens of small, subtle tweaks which help the game hit an even higher note in RTS bliss.