Here’s a scenario that I’m sure plenty of you, my dear readers, will be familiar with. “Oh, I’ll just play half an hour of Civilization before starting that ultra super important busy work that I have to do.” Know where this is going? Yep, it’s two in the morning and I’m starting this review, all because a half-hour session with the sole purpose of taking some screenshots turned into a six-hour marathon. But this situation has cursed many a Civ fan since each of us started our first journey through history, so what, exactly, does Gods & Kings offer that justifies its relatively large price tag? In Australia, we’re expected to fork out a whopping $50 for what is, essentially, DLC. Is it worth it?
I’ll start off with the assumption that you have at least part of a working knowledge of the base game, Civilization V, or at least of the series as a whole. That way I can save time outlining the concept and focus on the expansion pack itself. As Civ fans, we’ve been treated to some pretty amazing expansions over the years, which has led us to expect a hell of a lot whenever new content is announced. Since its release in 2010, the fifth installment has been supported with a huge amount of DLC, adding additional maps, scenarios, buildings, and, most importantly of all, civilizations. Gods & Kings is the first serious, full-featured expansion pack – to clarify this, previous DLC has included a total of 7 new civilizations, but G&K features 9 unique civs, as well as one from the older DLC.
But in this expansion, despite being highly anticipated by fans, the civilizations are in no way the most important addition to the base game. Two game-changing, highly-requested features are reintroduced after their omission from the original game – religion and espionage. These additions have a huge, inherent impact on the base game, both directly and indirectly. Get ready, folks – I’m not that good a Civ player (actually, I’m fairly shit), but I’ll try to describe these changes as best I can.
First of all, a new city-produced resource is introduced – faith. Once your civ produces 10 faith points, you can found a Pantheon, which is a primitive religion that, as far as I could tell, remains in the city in which it was founded. With the help of a Great Prophet, you can upgrade the Pantheon into a full-fledged religion, of which you can choose the name, symbol, and bonuses. As is the norm, you can spread your religion by means of missionaries (which can only be obtained by spending 300 faith points), Great Prophets, or natural spreading to neighbours. Great Prophets can also be used to upgrade your religion further by adding more beneficial perks.
Religion is designed to wane in importance in the late-mid game – around the start of the Renaissance era, the religion mechanism is gradually replaced by the introduction of espionage, essentially losing all its power by approximately 1930. It’s fitting, then, that you are provided with your first spy when the fastest civilization makes its way into the Renaissance era. Unlike religion, espionage is completely different to its previous iteration in Civ IV. You only have a few spies, and you can’t just churn them out as you would workers. Spies also have levels, from Recruit to Secret Agent, which impact their speed and likelihood of being captured. They can be assigned to any city in the game – assignment to other civilizations allows information (such as secret plots and production information) and technologies to be stolen, assignment to your own cities will defend them from opposing spies, and assignment to city states allows you to influence elections in your own favour, increasing your influence over them.
The addition of this mechanism as the game approaches the later stages makes the endgame feel much more like a cut-throat, dog-eat-dog, politically-charged environment and seems to assist in shying away from all-out nuclear warfare, which seems to be the endgame of most of the games that I’m involved in. For example, you can discover that Hiawatha is building up a large navy to surprise attack Isabella via a spy located in an Iroquois city; you can then inform Isabella of Hiawatha’s sneaky plans, for which she will thank you – and, knowing my luck, send her own huge navy to attack you. The entire last 300 years becomes more like a name-calling, finger-pointing tattling-fest. This is a definite improvement on the fairly shallow politics behind the endgame in the base game – I just wish it was available in multiplayer as well as singleplayer. I mean, I can see why it isn’t – there’s no way an AI spy could know who a human was plotting against – but I can’t help but drool at the potential of such an awesome feature implemented against real, human opponents.
As well as these two key features, Gods & Kings also sees the addition of Great Admiral units as well as 26 other unique units, 13 buildings, 9 wonders, 3 scenarios, much improved naval combat, and 9 new civilizations, as I mentioned earlier. This includes Attila leading the Huns. Attila is awesome. Despite all this, it really is the reintroduction of espionage and religion that makes Gods & Kings a true expansion pack rather than more simple DLC. On behalf of Australian gamers, I’m a little taken aback by the ridiculous $50 price point for the Aussie Steam store, but Gods & Kings changes the game to such an extent that, in all honesty, I can’t even imagine going back to the vanilla game. I played as Attila the Hun, conquered China and the Roman Empire, developed a world-leading civilization, founded Kagaism (named after the one and only Chairman Kaga), stole technology off of Napoleon Bonaparte, and backstabbed Elizabeth. Civilization is awesome, and its awesomeness is only enhanced by Gods & Kings. Here we have a fantastic expansion of the base game, truly worthy of the Civilization title.
Okay, back to the game.
Select Start Media were provided with a review copy of Civilization V: Gods & Kings by 2K Games.