Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Warlords
There Are Two different sorts of Civ player, and for the sake of international dispute I'll label them as falling into the categories of the United States outlook and the British outlook. I'm not about to go off on one about foreign policy either, we're talking mindset here.
Those who play in the mindset of Americana are confident and out to win: they're either right in there taking over the world from the off, or running up the techtree full-pelt in pursuit of interstellar travel. They're forthright they're righteous and they're unstoppable. Remember, I'm still talking mindset. I know reality sometimes begs to differ. The Brit outlook, meanwhile, thinks all the fuss is faintly silly - they play Civ to pass the time in an amusing fashion. If they come to the close of the game and have kicked enough shit out of their neighbours to think themselves noteworthy in the annals of history, then they're quietly satisfied. After all, it's the taking part that counts - and half the fun was calling their capital city a silly name don't you know? As you can probably tell, however, Warlords is geared to the former.
In terms of core gameplay fiddling, Firaxis haven't pushed the template too much, but the small tweaks they have introduced are excellent The ability to keep a subdued race as a vassal state, for example, occurs rarely, but is a lovely touch.
Welcome To My World
Once you've played with the eponymous Warlord units, meanwhile, it's hard to go back to vanilla warmongering. Acting as a Great Person unit would usually do (being able to build military academies, bond with cities and perform other such tasks), the chief and most exciting abilities of a Warlord are to tie him to a military unit (giving a 25XP boost to the experience of all those gathered on its tile). It's then time to watch him galumph around the map, being victorious with his free upgrades and special promotions until he inevitably meets his Waterloo and you chew the carpet in despair. It's a great new system superbly integrated - so hooray for large-scale carnage in that department. And a double hoorah for new units like the nifty naval battle-bitch that is the Trireme and the trusty Trebuchet The lion's share of Warlords isn't simple gameplay tucks though - it comes in the form of six individual campaigns; mods that have been soldered together in the very heart of the Firaxis furnace. Why create such things when there's tons of good fanboy material available on the Net?
Well perhaps because, despite their wide span, I'd argue that very little Civ fan-made content feels entirely solid. This is a game, after all, in which the tiniest of stat-fiddles can bring about great disturbance in the force - and more importantly, there's never any guarantee that multiplayer competitors can be found running the same add-ons. With Warlords then, comes some excellent non-fan fare that's not only preened to perfection, but also genuinely provides novel spins on the Civ format.
Blond And Beautiful
My own personal favourite, perhaps due to over-exposure to the meaty/poo-ey gas that hangs heavy over York's Jorvik Viking Centre as a child, covers the age of Vikings. Here, you're encouraged to form hairy raiding parties in your Scandinavian bases, pile them into longboats and send them across the sea. This covers the expanse of the North Sea in eight-turn bursts, with an avowed intent to rack up 45,750 nuggets of pilfered gold before your allotted turns dry out. This creates a brilliant back-and-forth system as you ferry units to aid your raping and pillaging (let's face it, the Vikings didn't come here to visit Legoland Windsor), and genuinely channels your accustomed Civ play-style into something new, warm and barbaric. In fact, each is so stuffed with new technologies, units and research topics (Barbarian Assimilation II and Wedge Assault anyone?), that each scenario at first feels alien - an entirely new game to discover piled into the Civ framework. As Jarvis Cocker once opined: this is hardcore.
Its in these scenarios, more than ever, that you start to realise the value of your chosen civilisation's unique units (aforementioned Vikings have Beserker axemen, Celts get Gallic Warriors and so on) - which can often be upgraded through various levels via each scenario's epochspecific research tree. Also available, meanwhile, are more goal-led research possibilities - my new friends the Vikings, for example, being able to dedicate a few turns to learn which areas of the map hide huge stockpiles o' treasure.
So you can unify China, destroy Asia as Genghis Khan, engage in the Grecian tussles that were the Peloponnesian wars, promote or defy the rise of Rome or parade through the world willy-nilly as famed hero and ladyboy Alexander. What's more, all the expected Civ IV gloss remains; as well as each scenario being cleverly mapped and really quite demanding, challenges come with their own characteristic music and attentive soldier noises - although the nature of the beast means that the beautiful tones of Leonard Nimoy are generally absent.
But is it worth it? It just depends on how you play Civ. If you play it as a sandbox diplomacy factory to while away the hours and get your fun through the joy of creation then, despite the allure of the Warlord unit, society will not crumble if you don't buy this. If, however, you love the mechanics of Meier's creation and its complicated war-waging systems, then Warlords conjures up some imaginative and unique spins on the traditional template way beyond anything you'd ever find elsewhere.
In all honesty, in six month's time when I sit down to a Civ session, it's unlikely that it'll be a Warlords scenario - I'm too entrenched in the bread-and-butter 'settle and expand' game I've been playing since I was 13 for that. For the next little while though, Firaxis have crafted some clever nuggets of Civ that have forced me out of my cave, and into a remarkable number of new tactical directions. Not so much an expansion - more six little intricate waterfalls of complexity that siphon hours of gameplay from the vast Civ reservoir. It's a success, but one that runs far deeper than some might like.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode