Tobold's Blog
Saturday, May 28, 2022
Old World

*Disclaimer* I received a Steam key for this from the developer.

Do you like big, "one more turn", historical 4X games like Civilization or Humankind? Then Old World might be a good game for you. It combines the 4X elements of Civilization with the political and dynastic gameplay of Crusader Kings. This addition, and some major changes to the formula prevent Old World from feeling like a rehash, and instead result in a game that plays familiar, but somewhat differently.

There is a theory from the 16th century, based on the works of Aristotle, that a theater play should have three unities: Unity of action, time, and place. In other words, a play gets better if concentrates on fewer different actions, a shorter time span, and fewer locations. I had to think of that when looking at Old World, because that game at least implements this idea for time and place: Old World covers a much shorter time and smaller geographic area than Civilization. Gone are the games where Ghandi with his tanks rolls over American phalanxes. Old World covers history only from the first cultures to Roman times, basically bronze and iron age. And thus the map isn't global, but Mediterranean and Middle east. And honestly, I do think that makes the game better.

Personally, in this kind of games, I tend to like the earlier part more than the end game. The part where you don't have too many units to move every turn, and too many cities to micro-manage. Apparently the devs of Old World felt the same, and changed some important features of the game to prevent that end game bloat Civilization is suffering from. First of all is the order system: You have a limited number of orders to give every turn, which is independent from the number of units you have. If you have 10 military units that you would want to move once and then attack, you need 20 orders. If you have only 20 orders, but 30 military units, you still won't be able to do more. However, if you have few units, you might be able to give them several movement orders, and advance a smaller group of units very far over the map, which has huge implications on warfare.

The second big change is that you can't build cities wherever you like, but only on specific "city sites". That prevents some of the cheesy strategies that pack cities as densely as possible. It also turns barbarians and tribes into something far more important, because they tend to sit on those city sites that you would need to build more cities. Furthermore it solves another eternal Civilization problem, leading to more balanced random starting positions, and thus less need to restart X times until you got a good start.

The big addition to the genre is the character-driven dynastic and political game. A game takes 200 turns, which depending on your settings (1 turn = 1 semester or 1 year) could be either 100 or 200 years. That gives you enough time to necessitate careful succession and dynasty planning, but allows each ruler to remain in office for a decent number of turns. Early in the game you choose 3 out of the 4 possible major families in your empire, and then you need to keep those families happy, as well as possibly religious leaders, tribal leaders, and the leaders of other nations. So there are a bunch of characters in the game, and besides trying to influence or marry them, there are also a number of events that can happen, which will need you to make decisions. I liked this part of the game more in Old World than I liked it in Crusader Kings 3, where having several children could completely ruin your kingdom. In Old World you only ever have one ruler, and you can fiddle with succession laws to get the "right" one, although that might lead to consequences. My Romulus ended up getting killed by his brother Remus, who wasn't happy that I had put my son as heir instead of him.

Old World also has a campaign mode, where you play through the history of Carthage through a series of scenarios with modified rules. There are more scenarios in the base game and the DLC. There is also a number of mods available on the Steam workshop, for example if you would like to play more than 200 turns.

Getting that Steam key sent by the developer got me playing this game. But actually I had already bought Old World on the Epic Games Store two years ago, when it was still "Epic exclusive", and hadn't gotten around to playing it. Now this "Epic exclusive" is an interesting strategy worth talking about. Do you know what the Epic Games Store prominently doesn't have? A player review system! Many games are a bit rough around the edges on release. Old World, two years later and now released on Steam, is 90 updates further developed. The "Epic exclusive" time was basically a variation of an "Early Access" release, but without the danger of some bug on release ruining your Steam review score. Of course I don't know whether that was intentional, but I do think that a smaller release first before coming to Steam did the game good.

I am 20 hours into Old World, and I want to play more, so I can certainly say that I like the game. However, one needs to consider that different people play these games in different ways. If for example you play Civilization like a war game and always go for the military victory, Old World might not be the best alternative for you. But if you are open to innovation and changes to the formula, Open World is certainly something I would recommend.

Looks interesting. When you mentioned Crusader Kings I thought it was going to be like Europa Universalis, but it seems like a real crossover with Civ. I'd be tempted, but right now I have a bunch of games I'm actually playing through, not just left sitting in my library!
It is quiote interesting indeed. I got it on Good old Games. First evening got me to 3 am...
During the tutorial when you do not have a spy master yet, you are kinda screwed if the religious head does not like you. You _need_ one person with influence (, family head/ religion head) to intercede at your behalf to get the influence chain going
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