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Civilization IV: Warlords

Cry havoc, and let slip the lords of war! Firaxis fills us in on the Civ IV expansion

But why do we need an expansion pack? "With Warlords we can add some new ideas, some new units some new leaders - really keep the play experience going," explains kindly gaming patriarch Sid Meier. "It's been six months since the original game came out, and it's really just a way of helping people who liked the game to play a little more and expand on some things that we couldn't put into the full game."

Now to me, Civilization IV is an eminently unexpandable game. I mean, it covers the entirety of human history - what could they have left out? "But there are few subjects as broad in scope as 'civilisation'," succinctly counter-argues Firaxis's Jesse Smith. "So it's not difficult to come up with ideas for an expansion. The biggest challenge we face when expanding the game is maintaining a strong gameplay balance. Each element of the game is intricately connected to the others, so if you change or adjust one feature even slightly, it can affect other parts of the game." Well yes, I suppose the man does have a point. But what's new?

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LORDS OF WAR
Well, for a start there's the eponymous Warlord unit. Generally seen as a 'bad thing' by modern society, committers of large-scale carnage being largely frowned upon unless they smile and assure us that it seemed a good idea at the time, Firaxis are sure that their Warlords are directing a laser-targeted missile of love direct to each of our individual hearts.

"The Warlord is available from the very beginning of the game, and works similarly to the other Great People," explains Smith. "As your units engage in combat, you build up your Warlord Great People points. Once you've engaged in enough combat, you're awarded a Warlord unit. Warlords make battle even more fun, not just because they're powerful, but also because they give players the opportunity to advance some of their units deeper into the promotion tree."

With the added bonus of being able to use Warlords as you would any other great person - creating military academies, discovering free technology and the like - there's no doubt they'll be a useful tool. Although quite whether they'll be named after famous real-world warlords hasn't yet been revealed. Pol Pot, anyone?

MIGHTY EMPIRE
Alongside these bringers of mayhem will stand six new civilisations (each with the expected unique unit), ten new leaders and three new wonders - although sadly no new religions, so those dour-looking people nailing a request for the advent of Protestantism to the oaken door of Firaxis's Baltimore digs will remain forsaken.

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Patriots will, however, be delighted to hear of our own Winston Churchill's accession to the Civilization hall of fame. "Churchill was the most requested leader in a poll we held on our website," states Smith. "He'll be the third English leader and we're extremely happy with how he's turned out. However, he won't be featured in any of the Warlords scenarios." Too right - he's above all that.

With six of these new scenarios, covering everything from Chinese Unification to the conquests of Alexander the Great, there won't be any lack of stuff to do even if the game mechanics themselves won't differ much - despite a spot of AI fine-tuning and the introduction of vassal states. (That's when you conquer somewhere, keep them in one piece but a bit downtrodden. Like we do with Wales.) If you've already lost countless hours to Civ IV, rest assured you're barely halfway through your joyful turn-based time of solitude. Thank you, Sid. We think we love you.

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