It won’t surprise anyone to know that many people we sorely disappointed by the removal of religion between Civilization IV and V. Whilst Civ V managed to be the most approachable and friendly Civ to date I yearned to give my peoples a god. In Civ 4 it opened up a whole trove of gameplay other than the standard battling and diplomacy.
As if somehow my whispered prayers and rants on podcasts were heard, developer Firaxis and legendary game designer Sid Meier have released Civilization V: Gods and Kings. The core of the Civilization V experience remains intact, but new additions like religion, espionage and a host of smaller items and tweaks revamp what was already a fantastic game. Prepare to lose sleep as you fall in love with V all over again.
The core gamplay of Civilization V isn’t changed in this expansion. You still start off by selecting the type of map that you want to play (tiny islands for example) type of civilization and seeing if you can develop them into a superpower reminiscent of the history books. The advisors make a return too, ensuring that even vast empires never feel overwhelming to play. Even if you have played hours of the game, it still gives you a guiding hand which always seems suited t your playing style and experience. Likewise Civ V’s excellent tool-tips persist, quickly showing you relevant information like whether or not you’ll win in combat and why, as well as offering in-depth explanations of how key game systems work, such as happiness and resource gathering.
Much of the content in Gods and Kings is what you would expect from a Civ game. More leaders, map types and scenarios. New leaders arise such as Gustavus of the Swedes, some interesting new units, and new buildings also. City-States are much more interactive too. You can now persuade and bully them into giving you tributes, even thought you will be at a loss of favor. Units also have their hit points put on a 100 point scale instead of a 10 point, allowing the designers to make combat last a bit longer, and give time for more exciting and strategic fights to develop. Having more content to experiment with, more variables to toss in when you’re randomly generating maps, is fun, but that’s not exactly what you pay any considerable amount of cash for.
What you do pay £15 for are the substantial changes and additions, such as the surprisingly fun scenarios. Normally I always play a specific type of game with islands and large land masses, but the included scenarios are a great change of pace from a standard Civ V game. They are not only are they shorter, but they all offer unique victory conditions, forcing you to change up your strategy. Even cooler still, the Empires of the Smokey Skies scenario takes you into a world of steampunk fantasy, complete with exclusive leaders, units and tech tree options. You could easily spend hours playing these scenarios over and over with a variety of different leaders.
The most substantial addition by far, the very reason to get Gods and Kings, comes from the addition of espionage and religion. Diplomacy has been rehauled in quite a few ways, but the most obvious is in espionage. Once you get to the Renaissance era, spies open up to everyone and you can enter into the spy tab and send them to any location. In City-States, you can rig elections to keep your influence high with them. You can set up counter-intelligence in your city to stop enemy spies, and you can send them to other places to steal their techs, keep track of international intrigue, and find out if they’re working on any wonders (to keep the other Civs from getting angry at you). I believe you can also steal their intelligence on other places, as I’ve had my spies tell me about people I’m not actually checking out. They’re a great addition, and it does a lot to change how you spec your Civ in response to other leaders, and add a new wrinkle to the diplomacy.
You’ll run into religion early enough, first founding a pantheon, and then establishing an actual religion (which can be improved later). It’s a whole new resource, and some things have been geared towards giving faith instead of culture, and the Piety tree is now a split between culture AND faith. Religion works basically as a giant buff- a new way to really focus your empire towards a specific victory condition. So the beliefs you choose can do things like give you the ability to buy units with faith, or give boosts to culture based on pastures owned, etc. The beliefs are shared by all religions, but only one religion can have each at a time, i.e. if Shinto has a belief, then Hinduism can’t choose that belief. You can also rename your religion (Dudeism is the best religion), and prophets, inquisitors, and Great Prophets are there to help you spread and shape your religion as you see fit. These new units and the way the beliefs work are fun because they make religions dynamic and competitive- your religion probably won’t be the same every time, and it’s a fun race to get your religion first to make sure someone else can’t get your favorite belief. Or you can always just screw someone else out of what you know is their favorite!
For all the things Gods and Kings adds, including additional options for diplomacy, there still doesn’t feel like there’s much you can do against the hyper-aggressive AI. When you first meet a rival they’ll likely be nice, but as soon as your borders come close they’ll start denouncing you and escalating tensions towards war. No amount of appeasement seemed to matter when it came to slowing down an enemy advance. The bottom line is this: if you’re weaker than them and close to their border, they’re going to attack. Meaning that, just like in vanilla Civ V, you need to maintain a sizable military if you want to survive. It feels contradictory to my goals when I’m going to a cultural, political or science victory, and makes the AI feel a bit binary. Either you’re a military might and they’re complacent, or your nation of brilliant scientists or philosophers better prepare for a beat down no matter how good they are to their neighbors.
Multiplayer alleviates many of the AI issues, and is a lot of fun as long as you are patient enough to wait for turns to be calculated. Each person’s turn takes place simultaneously, but this also means, just like singleplayer, turns take longer to calculate as the game goes on. You also have to wait on other players, and while there is a timer to keep anyone from taking too long, it means you can’t play at your own pace. It’s a trade-off, really; sometimes I love the social aspect of multiplayer, but other times I just want to zone out for hours on end and take things nice and slow.
All of these little changes go a long way to help make the game feel different. It’s still that same great Civ experience, but it adds a lot more and does some smart things to change up the balance. This is a highly polished package that goes a long way to add a lot more lasting strategy concepts to Civ V, making it more of the experience people wish it was- a deep, more rewarding game. The hardest part of this review truly is fighting the temptation to fire up another game of Civ V and wasting away a whole day slowly dominating the planet.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.