Review: Civilization V Gods & Kings (PC)

It’s been a while since game companies have used the word ‘expansion’. It’s always DLC, and we’ve all been gamers long enough to know that DLC is typically an extra skin, or a new weapon, or if you’re lucky – a whole new mission.

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Civilization V (Civ V) was getting its own expansion pack: Gods & Kings. It didn’t matter that I didn’t like the base game all that much: it was getting a beefy ex-pac!

Released late June, the ex-pac (aptly) brings religion and espionage to the table, along with 27 new units, 13 new buildings and nine more civilisations (on top of the ones added via DLC). Players also get new world wonders and three new scenarios to play through – a medieval era, the fall of Rome, or a Victorian-era steampunk world. “Empires of the Smokey Skies”, the steampunk scenario, even gives you exclusive leaders, units, and tech tree options!

While these scenarios offer a nice change of pace from your usual style of Civ V games, it’s the addition of religion and spy games that make the ex-pac worth its while.

Religion is no longer like it used to be. Instead of just choosing your faith, you now depend on the Faith resource for enlightenment. Building specific new structures increase your Faith, and gaining enough Faith lets you found a basic religion called a Pantheon.

Raise your level of faith even more and you can create a Great Prophet, who will let you cook up a religion of your own by choosing traits from a pool shared by all players. This means that once you select a particular trait, no one else in the game can, making you the first hipster of the world you’re playing in.

Traits can also influence and aid your playstyle, turning religion from the passive single-click attribute it was in the previous installment of the game into something that permeates every aspects of your civilisation. Talk about inspiring devoutness. It is, however, worth noting that religion doesn’t directly impact you from winning the game.

Espionage also changes the way you play Civ V now. As you progress through the game’s tech tree, you get to recruit spies. Kingdoms are ruled through politics and intrigue, and your spies are accessories to that. You can have them infiltrate enemy cities to gather intel that you can sell to other civilisations, or use them in your own cities to thwart enemies’ spies. You can also send them to city-states to do devious things, such as changing the city-state’s influence and attitude towards you.

Much like summoned imps, you can do little with spies except to direct them to tiles of your fancy; they wreak havoc nonetheless, though.

In line with this more ‘intelligent’ gameplay, the AI of Civ V has also been tweaked. Your computer enemies no longer attack blindly, though they can still be pretty aggressive. Sometimes, though, they actually choose to play the diplomat.

Combat has also been improved, with unit health and strength modified for longer and more realistic combat (read: you have to play with strategy in mind, now). Naval battles also have more clout, with choices of ranged and melee attacks.

Truthfully, while the additions of religion and spies are much welcomed improvements to the game, I do find that the change in combat actually makes for an even slower gameplay. My biggest gripe with Civ V was that the pace moved far too slowly when compared to its predecessor, and the enhanced combat only strengthens that opinion. This would be the greatest turn-off, except that it is saved by religion.

The more complicated religion aspect of Gods & Kings is what gives the game its replayability, especially for someone who enjoys the historical and political aspect of different faiths. The possibilities here, combined with the new units and tech, will give gamers endless hours of play – at least until they get bored.

Gods & Kings is definitely an expansion pack worth exploring, though I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it if you’re the impatient sort. Or if you’re not a fan of turn-based strategy games. In that case, why are you even reading this review in the first place?

The Good
  • Religion and spies add more depth to the game.
  • The marginally less-aggressive AI allow you to explore playing around with the new aspects of gameplay.
The Bad
  • Enhanced combat means battles last longer, means games last longer…
  • Spies can only be moved around? Really? More interactivity would have been nice. Spies are not spies till they slit someone’s throat on a night of intel-gathering!

Civilizaton V Gods & Kings is an expansion pack for Civilization V. It was developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games for Windows and Mac OSX, and released on June 22 2012.