Well the holidays have come to a close and this columnist is especially pleased with the swag she accumulated. However, I have not had a chance to thoroughly play most of my Christmas presents so you will have to wait a month for my rantings in regard to Mass Effect and all the rest. Prior to Christmas I did manage to procure Civilization 4’s latest expansion pack, Beyond the Sword as well as Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Now I’ve already reviewed Civ 4 and both Lego Star Wars games, but I thought you would be interested in learning about all the little extras Firaxis and Traveler’s Tales have added in order to separate the consumer from their money.
Let’s start with Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. For thirty dollars, you get a bunch of new content exclusive to this expansion and all the content of the previous expansion, Warlords. This is actually a pretty good deal, especially if you don’t already own Warlords. You get new tribes, new options like allowing Ghandi to rule the Americans or giving Queen Victoria reign over the Chinese, and new scenarios. I have always been a huge fan of this series and love the idea of more content. A more casual fan may not wish to shell out the money. But I have some words of warning to those who do. The first thing I noticed when I started up was that some new technologies had been added. In the normal version of the game, Leonard Nimoy, Spock himself, narrates and recites a suitable quote for each new tech. Sadly, they didn’t hire him for the ones recently added, and Nimoy’s voice is interspersed with someone else’s. It doesn’t happen often, but it is a bit of a bummer whenever I unlock those few technologies.
However, that is nothing compared to the problems in the game. Bearing in mind that I bought my last computer specifically so that I could play Civ 4 on it, Beyond the Sword manages to crash my computer every time I play it. It got so bad that there were times when I had to save every single turn because it was crashing every fifteen minutes. Even with the most recent patches, turning the graphics all the way down, and playing on a smaller map it still crashes. I love this game and I love playing it and it is so incredibly frustrating when I can’t! If you want to play the expansion, be sure that your computer is above and beyond the basic specs – way above and beyond. And even then I have no idea if you’ll be able to play without crashing. I just hold out hope that another patch will come out allowing me to play without interruption.
When it is working, this game is a great deal of fun. Espionage has been added as a major facet of the game. You can passively spy on your enemies and allies by building simple improvements. Corporations are also a new feature. You can spread influence through seven different companies built by the great people in the game. It’s also a great way to rake in money, but sadly there is not a victory scenario involving being able to buy and sell all the other civilizations in your game. If there had been such a scenario, I certainly could have won that way.
Another series that I am a great fan of is the Lego Star Wars series. There is nothing quite as much fun as blasting apart adorable little Lego stormtroopers. And my compulsive, perfectionist personality ensures that I thoroughly enjoy unlocking all the little extras in the game. So when I saw that they were re-releasing Lego Star Wars I and II combined, I knew I would eventually own it. But I saw no reason to pay full price for something I already had. I intended to wait until the price dropped to at least twenty bucks. However, there are certain benefits to marrying someone who is as big a video game nerd as myself. My husband bought the game for me as a gift. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. So I loaded the game into my brand new 360 and got to work. The game is effectively the last two mashed together. There are a few new characters and extras, one brand new level, but that’s about it. The best part is a trailer for the next Lego game: Lego Indiana Jones! You can even unlock Indy and he’ll help you battle the Sith. Despite the presence of Dr. Jones, this game is not worth the initial price, unless you don’t own the original pair of games. Wait until the price drops to something reasonable and snap it up then. After all, you can get basically the same effect by playing the two games already out back to back.
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