Old World Review – A 4X game full of ambition

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I’m 100 years old and I’ve just made peace with a tribal group that lives in a camp near my country. After decades of increasing dissatisfaction, rebel groups are forming in my capital and looting the local farms. On the northern border of my country, Greek troops warn me to prepare for war, but neighboring Persia strikes first.

I have also learned that I am dying and my son, the first heir in the line of succession, is both wanton and insane. What will i do Nothing, because I don’t have enough jobs left.

Old World is the new 4X game from Soren Johnson, Senior Designer at Civilization IV and Offworld Trading Company, and his studio Mohawk Games. It combines 4X design with storytelling, similar to the Crusader Kings series, and every single choice counts. Commands – the game’s greatest innovation – act as the currency for actions; If you run out of time, you will not be able to repel military attacks, promote units, or conduct diplomatic missions. The number of orders a player receives each turn is determined by their ruler’s legitimacy, which is based on their success in protecting and growing the nation.

This system has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it limits the number of decisions a player can make per turn and forces them to prioritize their goals. On the other hand, my 100 year old family dynasty is on the verge of ending under the rule of my insane child and his pet monkey.

With over 1,000 unique events, the strategy game interweaves a narrative experience based on complicated diplomacy systems and schemes of influence. You play as one of seven different cultures, represented by a single leader and their family, with other important families acting as actors in your growing civilization. Players must expand their territory and secure their legacy by collecting the most points within 200 rounds. Along the way, they can also try to fulfill ambitions – challenging tasks that add legitimacy and offer alternative paths to victory.

Old World fixes some of the most disruptive aspects of Civilization’s design

It’s hard to ignore the influence of Old World civilization, but only because the game removes some of the most disruptive aspects of Civ’s design. There’s an undo motion option that I’ve used more times than I’d like to admit, and there are automation options for tedious tasks like tile improvements and religious activities. These are imperfect, but ultimately useful in preventing the player from wasting time on base decisions.

These automation tools seem necessary given the game’s complex approach to resource management. Except in certain cases, a player cannot buy military or civil units as an abbreviation as in Civilization. Everyone has to be trained in a city and uses a certain number of land resources like trees, iron or stones. The rate at which units are produced is determined by the city’s military strength, growth rate, dissatisfaction, and other factors.

Maintaining the health of every city while making sure you produce enough science to unlock new technologies, enough culture to build quality tile upgrades, and enough military strength to upgrade units is a challenge. Managing all of this on top of family relationships, international diplomacy, and legitimacy requires thorough analysis. Since you will only get a limited number of orders per round, it’s also important to reevaluate and prioritize your needs each time.

Old World passes the “One More Round” test and is a solid strategy game

Old World pegs down essential gameplay elements that make turn-based strategy games so addicting, but that strength is also its greatest weakness. There is a lot to follow, and the first few playthroughs are challenging. While the excellent user interface prevents gamers from becoming completely overwhelmed, some elements are not as clear as they could be.

For example, the anchoring system that allows land units to cross water tokens required consulting the Wise Men on Google. At higher levels of difficulty, Old World becomes a lesson in dealing with small things. Automation and other aspects such as the double win condition, which grants victory when a player doubles the score of the player with the highest AI, are designed to reduce endgame fatigue. Long waits between rounds, however, add to the slow pace of the game. Disabling animations doesn’t solve the problem either.

Nonetheless, despite its weaknesses, Old World is a solid strategy game. The most pressing questions are optimization and iteration questions. Future patches could allow the player to automatically prioritize city planning based on resource needs or could contain leader-specific decision trees.

As I sit here thinking about my next moves, it is evident that Old World passes the “One More Round” test. I’m excited to see what’s next so I’m going to the next train. My insane son takes the throne together with his wild monkey and I am once again grateful for this undo button.

Connected: The best turn-based strategy games

Old World is now available exclusively from the Epic Games Store. To find out more, read our interview with Soren Johnson.

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