Back in April 2020 I watched a game called Old WorldAt the time, both were exclusive to the Epic Games Store and also in Early Access. Back then, it was a promising game if clearly still uncooked. Now, two years later, it’s so much more.
The game actually made it out of Early Access in July 2021, but with it just launching on Steam, I think this is the perfect time to revisit and see what’s going on. This is how I introduced the game a few years ago:
Civ IV Designer Soren Johnson get some old ideas about strategy with Offworld Trading Companyand his Mohawk Game is still turning with the next game, Old Worldwhich you will see in the next few months incessantly (and inevitably) described as “Civilization meeting Crusader Kings.”
It’s a crude comparison, but it’s also the easiest way to see what Old World trying to complete. In many ways, it’s a traditional 4X experience, taking place on a hexagonal-based map as you take on the role of leader one of the ancient world’s more prominent civilizations, then guide them through the formative (or defining) years.
You’ll build farms, establish new cities, explore maps, battle barbarians, research technology, and engage in diplomacy (and war) with rival factions. So far very Civ. Where Old World trying something new is everything in between those major genres.
The “Civ x Crusader Kings“It’s still inevitable that comparisons are made, because when you first start playing, that’s all you can see. It’s a traditional 4X experience, with all the build and combat and expansion and exploration that requirebut instead of just managing the roads and cities of the empire, you also need to keep track leaders.
In Old World you’re not playing a faction, you’re playing someone with a name and family, and like Crusader Kings you go from there, have children, make friends, form relationships and guide the destinies of everyone around you. When you die, you start playing as your heir, and so on and so forth until the game is over.
It’s nowhere near as complicated as Crusader King interpersonal system, which forms the basis of that whole game, but it is not supposed to be. 4Xth is what we are here with Old Worldand the character building here is just some very well implemented icing on the cake, as there’s just enough to make it feel like you’re running a royal family (the way it impacts diplomacy is very cool), but not so much that it feels like it’s stopping you from the main action of moving units or building a city.
In Civilization In the game, your relationships with immortal faction leaders can feel arbitrary. Crusader Kingsmeanwhile, there are incredibly complex statistics that govern every relationship and conversation in the game, but it rarely feels like the tangible, authentic results that come from your interactions with every people, because a lot of that game’s diplomacy is locked behind slower, sometimes immobile systems.
In Old World, diplomacy and imperial administration are driven by people, and when you talk to them, you will see direct results. War, friendship, alliance, marriage proposal, trade deal, secret mission, there are more instant consequences from your chats in Old World compared to what we get from a Paradox game, making it feel like you’re shaping an entire empire not just through buildings but through relationships.
Get rid of things controlled by the character, The old world of The meat and potato 4X experience is pretty solid. Of course, it will look familiar to settlers, workers, cities, explore the map, and build improvements on tiles around your settlement. If you have played Civilization or Endless Legend in the past five years, you’ll know about the maneuver. That’s okay, it ticks all the boxes, although what’s interesting is how you arrange the units around treating the commands more like a resource.
This is me in 2020 (it doesn’t really change):
However, more interesting than this, and this is unexpected, is a major overhaul of how turns work Old World. This is a turn based strategy game and like every other game (it’s in the name!), you just assume that the turn works by moving all of your units then hitting one big END button. But in Old World, the number of orders you can supply per turn is limited. It is no longer an expectation, but a resource.
It’s a fascinating exercise in turning an essential in-game item into a commodity. Once the game starts and your central authority is limited, you only have a handful of commands you can assign to your units. You may find that you have a small army of workers building roads, some scouts exploring new lands, and some warriors besieging barbarian camps, all at once.
But you don’t have enough orders to move them all. So you need to prioritize. And then prioritize even more, because multiple units let you move them more than once per turn, because you’re spending that action from a central group of orders, not from each individuals can only do something once. So sure, you can move most of the units at once, which is fine and a traditional strategy, but you can also move some units if needed, and that’s cool too.
This is easily the most fun I’ve had with the game, as it is asking questions about me that I can’t remember in a game like this when it comes to making decisions about my movements and actions. my force. Particularly interesting is how it is not only a refreshing challenge, but also meaningful thematically. Of course the ancient empires would have difficulty communicating with their units over long distances or by mass!
There are several other small innovations in the 4X space that I am working on. The way cities have to be built on specified tiles, but can be claimed before actually being built, is interesting, and units like scouts can gather resources directly from tiles make the early hours of the game feel busier and more interactive.
I’m not completely sold in battle, though, which thanks to the hex-based map and one-unit-per-square design means battles fall into the same traps they fall into. in the last two games Civ game, where depending on the terrain, things can quickly get cramped and awkward and become more of a cannibal than an exercise in tactics.
I would simply say call this “Civilization x Crusader Kings“It’s unfair not because it’s technically wrong — five minutes with this game will show you that’s the case — but because this game short sells the final product. Old World It’s more than just taking the popular system of a game into another genre and hoping for the best.
Old World actually feels pretty close to the older ones, almost perfect Civ spin-off like Colonization and Alpha Centauri. The games take the base 4X formula and repackage it into a shorter, more focused setting, which swaps out the passing era for some more interesting mechanics. In Colonization that means turning cigarettes into cigars and sending them back to Europe. In Old World It manages an ancient empire not only through roads and farms, but also family ties.
A lot of what I wrote here in 2022 is also in the Early Access build I played in 2020, so I’ve only had to repeat myself a few times, but in the two years since I played it last time. final Old World has tweaked and polished pretty much everything it can. It looks better, the splash art is gorgeous, the quests are better written, there are more units, the interface is nicer, and the list of playable units is about to expand dramatically.
We’ve seen some big 4X releases in recent years. Civilization VI, Endless Legend and Humanjust to name a few of the highlights. Old World better than any of them. It’s focused, it’s confident, it’s smart, and it builds on the 4X genre in ways that are some of the most exciting I’ve seen in years.