Sid Meier's Civilization V - Gods and Kings |
When Sid Meyer's Civilization V came out a couple years ago, I loved it. Over time, certainly, some flaws became apparent: Diplomacy was a little rough, the removal of religion and non-conventional conflict from the game's system left things feeling flat, and the AI opponents were just dumb as the day is long. Gods and Kings managed to fix all of that. While the game's still Civilization V and people who objected to the basic concepts of its design like global happiness won't be satisfied, fans of the games who are looking for something to round out the game and provide a more reasonable challenge.
To start with the gods’ angle, religion in Civilization V manages to beat out its incarnation in the previous game by a long shot. Early in the life of your civilization, you get to found a pantheon, with a core belief that helps you better leverage your surroundings or prepare for the future. When you start near the desert, rather than just heading away to better lands, you can set up your religion to be based around Desert Folklore, raking in further faith and setting yourself up to be a religious powerhouse.
Later, when great prophets arrive, you can found a full religion, declaring benefits for yourself as the founder, and for anyone who follows it. While religion can't win the game for you, you can craft the benefits it provides for your civilization to help push you towards a victory condition. A religion looking for global dominance would be wise to take Holy Warriors and Just War, letting them spread their religion to neighbors, and then use their faith to produce soldiers to take the newly converted cities, while someone looking to win by science, culture and diplomacy all have their own methods. Even without these strategic elements of faith, making a religion is still fun, on grounds of just imagining, say, what a version of Judaism with papal supremacy, pagodas and holy warriors might be like.
On the kings’ side, there's no return to the old systems of governments, but the addition of spies adds a new wrinkle to diplomacy. Your spies can either sit in your own cities to defend them from enemy espionage, head to city states to influence elections toward you or start coups to realign their governments more dramatically, or head to enemy cities to steal technologies and watch their plans. While I can't say how the reporting of enemy plans works in multiplayer, it definitely adds a new layer to your dealings with other nations. It does make being every city state's best friend a little more tedious, if not much harder on the difficulty I played, but overall, it's a strong set of new options, and managing them via menu is much easier than the previous method of moving spies around via map.
Aside from gods and kings, though, there's a wide raft of other new additions. New cultures, some of which take advantage of religion, others bringing new elements into the game, each having its own wrinkle, are all exciting. The Celts stood out as a favorite, with bonus faith for forests, and a unique unit that gained even more for killing enemies, though the Ethiopians, Mayans, Swedish, and the rest are all terrific.
Aside from the new civilizations; the new techs, units, and wonders round out the game. While a fair number of these won't be noticeable to all but the most hardcore fans, some of the standout new options, like Neuschwanstein Castle, a mountaintop wonder that turns castles from defensive structures to happiness, culture, and gold-producing buildings, or the Hidden City of Petra, which turns desert tiles from near-useless to among the best in the game will change the way the game is played.
New city-state mechanics make playing the diplomacy game that much better. Instead of bribing your way to friendship, a new variety of quests help you align yourself with city-states much more easily over the course of play. The new mercantile and religious city states also add a new element to this, with the ability to get faith or unique resources by virtue of being friendly with the minor civilizations. Dealing with other countries is greatly improved as well, thanks to their AI actually having any idea of the general situation. You'll very rarely have to deal with the loser of a war demanding all your luxury resources for a ceasefire, which was a common occurrence in the base game. Even better, when diplomacy breaks down, wars are much more challenging, with enemies using balanced forces intelligently, and even knowing to retreat when their lines are broken.
Even the scenarios manage to be well-made. While the Steampunk and Rome scenarios are both interesting, if somewhat quick to play through, the medieval scenario is a treat for players that want to play around with religion. While faith becomes somewhat irrelevant in the base game after the medieval period, the scenario, almost the length of a full game, revolves around it, making for a great change of pace.
Gods and Kings was exactly what Civilization needed. While there are still some small issues with the game, it's managed to revitalize the game just when it needed it. Civilization has always been a tribute to human achievement and history, and Gods and Kings manages to make things grander, more dramatic, and more celebratory than ever before, while expanding strategic options and giving more toys for players. If you were interested in what Civilization V did, but put off by some of its shortcomings, or if you were a die-hard fan from the start, this is the expansion for you.