Sid Meier had to have known he was working on creating generations of gaming addicts with his first release, Civilization, back in 1991. That game was the first PC game I ever played, and the series remains to this day one of my all-time favorites. Here we are, 21 years later, and the games are still drawing accolades.
Gods and Kings is an expansion pack for Civilization V, released in September of 2010, and so thoroughly changes the game as to make it qualify as something new.
Civ V itself is a turn based strategy game, in which the player takes the role of one of several world leaders, and guides a civilization based on historical cultures from its earliest beginnings to the golden years. Along the way, you vie for resources, defend yourself against hostilities, build cities and wonders, engage in trade and work to outshine every other civilization out there on the map.
The game consists of randomly generated maps, each of different sizes and terrain based on your choices. Optionally you can customize the map by selecting and deselecting certain features, choosing items such as amount of rainfall, map size, number of competing civilizations, barbarian activity and so forth.
That’s pretty much all I will say about the main game, if you have not played it yet, it is good and you will spend hours upon hours playing it, and keep coming back for more.
In Gods and Kings, the game expanded to include twenty-seven new units, thirteen city improvements, nine new wonders and nine new playable civilizations. Religion is introduced as s new concept complete with a faith rating, and aids you by providing bonuses to your civilization under certain circumstances. Espionage is brought back, although this current version does not work as well as previous versions, in my opinion.
The core graphics remain the same, showing an amazing level of detail on the world map, even when zoomed out. This includes animation of wildlife, sea creatures, and of course the player and non-player units as they move on the map.
One of the immediate changes with the expansion pack becomes apparent as soon as you start playing the game. Even on higher end systems, the game would bog down, and lag at times, sometimes creating long load times as the AI players completed their turns. The game would turn from something that would occupy you for an exceptionally long time to an exercise in learning how not to scream. With the improvements, load times are faster and the game runs smoother than it did at release. I certainly won’t complain about the improvements, but I think these “under the hood” core changes should also be included in a patch or update to the main game as well.
The cinematic opening sequence for Civilization V: Gods and Kings is every bit as impressive as the main game, with new animations that are striking. Best yet, you can select to skip the opening sequences altogether after the first time, and it is far easier to bypass it by hitting ESC than it was in the main title. That may sound like a minor point, but to anyone who has had to sit through the same opening sequence, and tried to get out of hit by jabbing their keyboard like a woodpecker, you will know what I am talking about.
No real changes are made to the sound effects that I can gather. The music remains unchanged, and although nice, really serves as a distraction that I often disable as soon as possible. It might be different if the music were somehow adaptive to either the current events or time period, but gets monotonous as it is. Voice acting is almost nil, with only the occasional adviser and a voice providing quotes when you complete science research cropping up. You can hear the voice of the other world leaders you meet, but that interaction is actually determined by responses appearing at the bottom.
Other sound effects for units, combat, and construction are present, and are really where this category shines through. Along with the fully animated combat come all the sounds you would expect to hear. Early mechanized units sound clunky, and advanced aircraft sound remarkably well portrayed. Though I can’t say the sound effects are one hundred percent spot on when compared to what they represent, they are one hundred percent spot on for this game.
Build, improve, explore, plot, research and conquer. Civilization V: Gods and Kings takes the core concepts of Civ and expands upon them. With the new Religion mechanic, you can found a Pantheon, and later a Religion, based on historical and modern factions of faith. With the initial founding, and later improvements, each player gains certain advantages. These advantages are chosen from a list, and once they are selected, are no longer available as options for other civilizations to choose. This further enhances gameplay in ways similar to adopting Social Policies within the game, and you may maximize both mechanics for optimal effect. Furthermore, as you found a religion, it begins exerting influence across the map, sometimes converting a rival’s city to your religion, while at times placing you at risk of having yours converted. Religion plays an important role in the first portions of the game, affecting diplomacy and international relations, but begins to dwindle as the game progresses into the modern era.
Espionage, as stated earlier, returns to Civilization V in Gods and Kings, but not quite as good as it used to be. Rather than in previous releases in the series, this time you do not choose to build spies and move them about the map yourself. Now, the game determines when you have a spy available. I have not yet nailed down what factors have to come into play for you to have a spy ready for work, but you can accrue more than one. These spies can be shipped out to any country you have an embassy with, and begin spying on the nation. From there you can choose to steal a technology, and will often uncover plans and insights into that nation’s activities. Until you build up your legal and security network however, it might be best to focus your spies on counter intelligence work, placing them in your most vulnerable cities. Once a rival nation attempts to steal technology, your spy will activate, and may terminate the enemy spy. This will open a little bit of dialogue between you and the rival nation, and net your spy some experience so that they may increase in rank and ability as well.
Additional playable civilizations include the Netherlands, Celtica, the Maya, Carthage, Byzantium, the Huns, Austria, Ethiopia, and Sweden. Previous civilizations which were included as part of previous DLC, Spain and Mongolia, are also included.
Each civilization has its own unique characteristics and units. Playing as George Washington, for example, grants all land units a plus one visibility range, and allows for the construction of Minutemen (a unique form of Musketeer) and B-17 Bombers when the appropriate technologies are researched. Again, these bonuses can be stacked with other bonuses from religion and social policies, to create a true powerhouse of military, technological, economical, or social might.
Not only will Gods and King bring you back for even more Civilization V goodness, it will hold you there for hours and hours on end. Long-term scenarios can last days, weeks or longer if you drag them out. Any Civilization game is more akin to chess against a good opponent, than anything else, making it extremely unlikely you will complete any session of gameplay in less time that it takes to aggravate your spouse. Building your trade networks, getting those important resources, and invading the hell out of every other nation on the map take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Empire of Rickanistan took even longer…
The inclusion of multiplayer is something I have not touched on yet, but is certainly worth mention. Removing the computer and placing a human mind as your main opponent, is something that keeps the game fresh and interesting, while avoiding many of the pitfalls of other online games. I would just suggest you keep a hot plate and jug of water handy. Similarly, Civilization V has been added to the Steam Workshop, so not only can you download Gods and Kings, but also view and download many of the wonderful and creative mods offered up by the community.
The current price for the main title is $29.99 USD, while Gods and Kings will cost $29.99 as well. Together this makes the overall price tag about $60.00, if you have not already purchased the game. The sheer amount of content provided makes the expansion pack a worthy investment. I can’t help but think that some of the gameplay mechanics that were fixed should be shuffled over to the main title as well, however. Perhaps this is something that is being worked on, or maybe it has already been done, but I have found no mention of it.
Those of you who already had the main game, well your price tag in the end will be something higher. Still, when you consider the price of DLC for other games, and the shockingly small amount of extra content we sometimes get, Gods and Kings still comes out smelling like a rose.
Gods and Kings takes the already wonderful Civilization to a higher tier. With the inclusion of new civilizations, improvements and units, plus Religion and Espionage, your gameplay experience just got a whole lot more involved. There are some changes I would still like to see, but overall Firaxis and 2K Games took an already good release, and made it even better.
Now that Civilization V is in the Steam Workshop, we can also look to many great mods from the community in the near future; quite a few are already there.