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New Civ IV expansion to be decidedly modern

Civ IV fans rejoice! 2K Games has announced a major expansion to Civ IV that sounds quite compelling, as far as expansion packs go. Dubbed "Beyond the Sword," the expansion pack will be available in July, and 2K says that it's the largest expansion pack in the history of the Civ franchise. Let's hope then that it's not a steaming pile… HangZhou Night Net

The title of the expansion hints at what it's about: the modern period and beyond. 2K says that the update is focused on later stages of the game, after the invention of gunpowder.

The key features, pared down from the announcement, with handy-dandy emphasis added:

Expanded
Epic Game: massive increase in new units, buildings, and technologies to the epic
game, with focus on the late-game
time periods.New
Game Scenarios: The expansion will deliver 12
new scenariosNew
Civilizations: Ten new civilizations, such as Portugal, Babylon and
Netherlands. More
Civilization Leaders: Sixteen new leaders Corporations: Create corporations and spread them throughout the world. Each corporation provides
benefits in exchange for certain resources. Espionage: available
earlier in the game, this expanded
feature offers players many new ways to spy on opponents, stir
unrest and defend secrets. Events: New random
events such as natural disasters, pleas for help, or demands from
their citizens will challenge players to overcome obstacles. New
Wonders: Five new wonders await discovery including the Statue of Zeus,
Cristo Redentor, Shwedagon Paya, the Mausoleum of Maussollos, and the Moai
Statues. Advanced
Starts: A major fan request, this new
feature will enable players to
"buy" components of a custom-tailored empire and begin play in
the later part of the gameEnhanced
AI: generally tougher to beat on the higher
difficulty levels.

One of the things I really liked about Call to Power was the fact that you could play into the future with sci-fi-inspired future tech. As it stands, Civ IV's tech tree ends with the likes of "Fusion" and "Genetics". Will Civ IV get something a little more imaginative, or will they focus on filling out the tree with more examples from history? More complexity between Gunpowder and the current end of the tech tree would be welcome, but I'm really hoping for some truly awesome Future Tech.

And I think we might get it. 2K has posted a few samples of the artwork, and if I'm not mistaken, this image shows a giant city under a glass dome. It's… it's… the future!