I’ve always been candid in my experience with the Civilization series. I’ve known them in passing, but never really jumped into them until I had a chance to review Civilization V when it came out. Outside of its turn-based nature and computer combusting programming, it turned into a game that I would recommend to anyone. To this day, I still let people know to pick it up on Steam whenever it goes on sale. It was the game, for me anyway, that broke the stigma behind the turn-based strategy. When I learned that a real expansion was being added in Gods and Kings, I took a moment to ponder what could possibly be added to the game to make it any better. I apparently didn’t hear the faithful Civ fans screaming, “Religion and spies, you idiot!” behind me.
On the surface, I’m sure that it isn’t thought that Gods and Kings would be much different from the standard DLC fare that is available for Civilization V. After all, different factions, leaders, scenarios and map packs have been added to the title since it launched in 2010. But be assured, this isn’t the same sort of download you could have picked up for a couple of bucks off of Steam. While I don’t think that it is as fleshed out as a true expansion should be, there is something important to remember. Both the AI and the combat have been reworked in Gods and Kings. Doing an overhaul of the two most important aspects of the game is far from a little touch up here and there. Tie in new units, new city-states, new wonders and just about something new in every category in Civilization V and you can see why this is indeed something worth adding on.
The list of things added to the game is by no means a short list. Among the most important is the return of religion and espionage. To accommodate the return of these fan favorite units, the team added in embassies for improved diplomatic relation building and new city-states. A religion-based city-state was brought in, as was a merchant-based one, to give players new options in courting those fringe cities on the map. If instead you just want to decimate them in order to grow your empire, 27 new units have been added to the game to help you do just that. As a bonus, the naval units have changed to being a melee type unit or ranged. Some units will need to be adjusted in your build order to compensate for this, but it is a much-needed change. Embarked units may also take a defensive stance on naval units for more protection. To round out the remaining additions, nine new civilizations and leaders, 13 more buildings and more scenarios were added to the roster. The scenarios add another fun play style to the game, ranging from the fall of the Roman Empire, the emergence from the Dark Ages and the “what if” of Steampunk society. Overall, a nice heaping spoonful of more Civilization was added to your plate.
Gods and Kings did little to alter the dynamic of Civilization V. How you play, win or wage war at your own peril still holds true to the original release of the game. Only now, there are a few different ways to win, or at least a different approach in doing so. The path of diplomacy has become more intricate with the return of espionage. Spies can be tasked with rigging elections, stealing technology, and even inciting the populace against their leaders. Rather than just waiting it out when going for the long win, spies give you a little leg up in the area. Religion brings back a popular method removed since Civilization IV. Now a form of currency, it is used to spread throughout the world through missionaries and building types. Once the player establishes one, perks can be selected to fit their needs. Both of these new additions really add more depth to an already deep gameplay.
The change in combat was something I had been looking forward to for some time. Gone are the instant crushing blows to military units. No longer will an enemy up and decide to roll everything over to your newly settled city and just take it over. The combat turns have been leveled out to be more user friendly. Which is good, because it was something that could turn a massive army into a pitiful group with pointy sticks in a matter of turns. It was something frustrating in Civilization V to say the least. It allows more planning, rather than unit stacking to battle the oncoming waves.
It isn’t a review of Civilization for me unless something bad happens while I’m playing it. Thankfully, there wasn’t a hardware failure this time around. I did have some instances of the game bogging down when too many things were going on, but there are numerous things that can be attributed to – most likely on my PC. In any case, it wasn’t a big deal. I was a bit irritated that I had the game crash a few times on me. Apparently, it still doesn’t like Alt-Tabbing to other things. In my first game, it crashed randomly at 252 turns without anything else going on. Annoying, but I can’t say it was unexpected. Then I discovered an annoying bit that happened whenever AI combat occurred. If I moved my mouse at all, it would scroll across the map in whichever direction I had moved it. I couldn’t stop it either. It would end once all computer turns were over. Attempts were made to navigate with the mini map, but once clicked it would just start moving again. Strange thing to happen, but it wasn’t game breaking.
As for actual game mechanic issues, I’m happy to report that there wasn’t any. The change in combat makes games at higher difficulty levels easier. That was the intent of changing the combat system though. No longer will the game try to steamroll you at Prince or Warlord difficulty settings. It feels more balanced. The addition of religion units, to me, was a little less than optimal experience. While I like that they were added into the game, I didn’t like that they felt like they needed to be managed more than normal units. I disliked having to set units to build up religions in other cities or creating units to stop the spread of another player’s religion to my domain.
Civilization V needed to have the additions from Gods and Kings. Playing with the expansion, I can see what was lost from the previous iteration of the series. Spies and religion bring back a variable to the game that will add another layer of strategy without causing a distraction. Add on the revamped, non-instant-killing changes to the combat system, and you’ll find yourself with a much more friendly game to those who were still shy about playing a turn based strategy. I urge you: if you still haven’t bought Civilization V, you need to correct this immediately. Gods and Kings takes away any excuse you had previously to turn your nose away. On a title that is approaching two years old, to be able to say that it is still a must-have title in your collection, an expansion that adds to it only sweetens the deal.