OK, so I made a short comment about this game a while ago, stating that I hardly used any of the new features. That's as maybe, but a game with the sheer genre-defining magnitude of the Civster (as it's known by more than none old-school Civ players) deserves a little more than that.


My gripe with this game was the Apostolic Palace. I played as Spain, beelines religious techs, spread all religiouns to the outside world and focused entirely on building what I liked to think of as the Pope-mageddon. Somehow, though, it just didn't work. All we'd do is sit around admiring each other's cardinal robes and repeatedly voting ourselves in as the boss. Not like in the UN, where you get to roll out all of those great policies. No, I'm sure there's more in there but I couldn't for the life of me figure it out, and BTS's manual is less legible than a Babylonian cave painting.


So I stand by my original statement. However, there's more to it than just the Apostolic Palace (or, as I like to call it, the Vatican't). Those weird little random events and quests that pop up are loads of fun - although their appeal is kind of limited, and when you've seen the same thing happen to three different civilizations (sic) in one game, the novelty wears off.


Now, anyone who's read any of my articles will know that NOTHING ANNOYS ME LIKE GAME BALANCE. It's a tricky monkey to be sure, and so many games spadge it up woefully. See, it's just so difficult to get right, and computer game programmers are rarely blessed with the twin skills of C++ (or whatever) and game design. I mean TRUE game design. So often in an RPG there'll be one weapon, or one spell, or one skill that it would just be insane for you NOT to take, or a tactic in an RTS that allows you to just walk through the game ignoring everything else (ah, the tank rush. How I loathe you). To get a game that works without having a downfall such as this takes more than just an analytical mindset. It takes genius, and - dare I say it? Yes! I dare! - a glimpse of the divine.


This, ladies and gentleman, is Sid Meier. See, Civ 4 is ridiculously balanced. You'll sit there, tearing out your hair because there are four different 'right' choices for you to make in each city. And they are all the right choice, so long as you modify your strategy a little to accommodate. Now this is a great feat in and of itself, but really belongs in a review of the core game, not the second add-on pack. What is really astonoshing though, is when you can take a perfectly balanced game and MUCK ABOUT WITH IT without destroying that sublime balance.


That's what's really, truly incredible about BTS. I apologise for not talking about graphics, or new techs, or any of the mods and conversions that come bundled with BTS. For me, it's the way this add-on pack can mess with some of the core ideas (such as the addition of a new commerce slider - espionage), creating new strategies and tactics without causing the whole thing to come crashing down.


Thanks, Sid.