PC Review: Civilization V: Gods & Kings Expansion

The prevalence of the sequel has become commonplace and pervasive in the video game industry. Nearly every successful blockbuster game is an addition to a series of previously successful games, making developers reach back again and again into the same container, to see if they can again pull another content rabbit out of the idea hat. This has worked for franchises like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, but in other genres, rehashing the same principles has not been as successful. In the case of Civilization, each re-release introduces additional layers of complexity and depth. When the series reached Civilization IV, the game had evolved to the point where it was an absolute treat to long time series fans who were finally seeing the game reach the pinnacle of which they had long dreamed. But it was unassailable to newer players, who found it difficult to enjoy without a solid grounding in the fundamentals laid down in previous efforts. This lead Firaxis to make Civilization V a reboot of sorts, toning down those complexities and making the game accessible to both old conquerors and rookie empire builders alike. The new effort was a very solid and playable game, but one that turned off many long time series fans as it seemed to cut long desires features out of their beloved game. This brings us to the new Gods and Kings expansion, an effort to add to the series fifth release the complexity and strategic depth that longtime fans have clamored for.

Dido, in the game to promote her newest album.

Gods and Kings offers a large amount of new content: 3 new scenarios (including a particularly delightful steam punk variant), 9 new civilizations, and a host of new units and techs. Some of the new units are devastating (the Hunnic siege engines were a personal favorite, though the Carthaginian elephants were a close second), and some of the civilizations’ special abilities were game changing. I imagine my enemies felt safe behind their mountain shield, until my Carthaginian forces marched straight over the impassable terrain. It’s nice to see some truly game altering abilities ascribed to each empire, giving them their own unique feel (something that a simple unit and passive bonus would not achieve).

Religion is conceived completely differently from the canned (and frankly, unimportant) religions in Civ 4. As your people gain faith, you establish tenets (like faith bonuses in the desert, or for founding cities near rivers). Gain enough faith, and you can build your own religion, ascribing to it whatever beliefs you desire. As religion spreads through your empire, you gain faith, which can be used to construct powerful and important buildings. Religion, in effect, directly supports your ability to win the game. Prophets and missionaries convert more people to the cause, but you must take care, as your citizens can adopt other religions, thus reducing the amount of faith you have to spend. The give and take adds an interesting strategic layer, deepening the game and broadening the experience.

Tonyism is a much more creative name for a religion, don’t you think?

The spying and diplomatic options have returned. One of the most disturbing developments in Civilization V was the complete absence of spying and embassies, as that would seem to be a key component of any civilization simulator. Fortunately, they have returned, and you are able to sabotage your opponents, observe their forces, and foment rebellion to your heart’s content. Civilization behavior has also been altered, making civilizations more friendly to those with similar social policy. It’s a subtle change (as no one seems friendly for long… especially me), and certainly not one everyone will notice. Frankly, the return of these options only reminded me of how little I cared about them in the first place.

I see you…

There are now two classifications of land units- melee and ranged. Melee units are able to attack and raid coastal cities, necessitating the need for additional naval forces for defense.  Gods and Kings encourages the construction of naval forces, something which in previous games was a bit of an afterthought. Massive armies can’t defend your coastal cities- you’ll need ships to hold off the enemy flotillas.

Land combat has been reworked to give all units 100 hit points. This seems to have created greater variance in the results, giving units more staying power. Only in very rare circumstances are units destroyed all at once, giving you the opportunity to cycle in other units, a factor which adds a lot to how you consider your armies. The enemy AI has also been reworked, and you’ll note that it will now deploy its armies en masse. It’s not the brightest opponent in the world- direct action seems to be the watchword of the day. Deploy your soldiers well, and watch as the enemy will smash themselves against you. Still, as an opponent the AI is much tougher this time around.  The combat alterations are welcome, but they’re not game changing. If you wanted to travel back to the fast moving monster stacks of previous Civ games, you’ll be disappointed. Units will fight on broad fronts, capturing strategic points, and besieging and reducing cities (ironically how warfare works in the real world).

Civilization V: Gods and Kings adds significant strategic depth to the accessible framework of Civilization V. If you were looking for an expansion that made the game into Civ IV 2.0, this effort is no game changer. It’s still Civilization V, simply filled out a little. The minutia of arranging your individual city dweller amongst your resources may be gone, but take heart. Civilization V: Gods and Kings still provides that same “just one more turn” magic that Civ has always had, and still provides a satisfying strategic experience,in a manner that’s not foreboding to series newcomers.

Suck it, barbarian scum (apologies if you or any relatives happen to be barbarians)!

Pros:

  • Lots of new content
  • Better combat and AI
  • Religious options are fantastic
  • As addicting as ever

Cons:

  • A lot of the alterations should have been in the original
  • Diplomacy and spying seems less useful
  • My wife hates that I don’t sleep anymore

5 / 5

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Author: Tony Odett View all posts by
A member of the Perfectly Sane Show crew and Vagary.tv's Features Editor, Tony brings the smart and funny (and the rapine and pillage...). Also known as The Strategy Gamer, Tony declares it his duty to get as much coverage as possible for what should be everyone's most loved genre.