Civilization V: Gods & Kings review
"An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come."
- Victor Hugo
Civilization V: Gods & Kings is finally upon us, and as someone who plays Civ5 regularly, I felt its’ impending release last week with the pre-launch update on Steam, which added in Steam Workshop features and broke most of my mods. Great, thanks.
I had been using one of the unofficial gameplay mods that fixed a lot of the balance problems and added gameplay tweaks to the game to give Civ5 a better experience overall; and it was. It was totally better. Could the Firaxis team look at the game through unbiased eyes like the modding community and make some good improvements? Time will tell, I suppose, but that’s why we do playthroughs!
So it was with a fresh slate and reinvigorated mentality that I loaded up Gods & Kings for my first foray into the new world order of religion and espionage.
Over the course of the game (having picked the Celts to get a nice faith lead), I discovered that this expansion adds and fixes quite a bit. Let’s go over some of those, shall we?
Trading posts moved down the tech tree into the Medieval era. This will be a big one. Whole economic strategies will be changed by this terrain improvement being moved into a different era. Expect a higher focus on food early on, and the unique issues that will accompany that.
The AI conducts war in a more sane fashion. Expect more real-world combat, like sneak attacks and tactical retreats. Even at Prince difficulty, some of the leaders would make decisions that mirrored more what a player would do than what scripting would process. It's not perfect, but it is much more enjoyable. Making the computer retreat back into his own empire after sneak attacking you is a great feeling. On that same token, combat mechanics have become more granular. Instead of 10 hit point units from before, they have been expanded by a factor of 10 to 100 hit points. So instead of a unit dealing 1 damage, it would deal 10 in the new scale. This makes combat more nuanced and a bit more captivating. Sneaking out of battle with 3 hit points left gives you that brow-wiping moment.
Religion has been added as a new bucket to fill. Enjoy lots of early era bonuses if you can manage. If you miss out on picking a certain bonus, you're out of luck; they're only available once to the first person to unlock it. Rushing a religion can give you a significant advantage in the early eras, but wanes quite a bit after the Renaissance.
Espionage, which is located in a menu and starts during the Renaissance is a godsend since moving spies across the map in IV was a royal pain. It's a nice extra game mechanic to complicate diplomacy during the later years.
There are some graphical fixes as well. The red dot memory issues were Improved from vanilla (before the expansion). This should help those with older video cards. Testing the game on a machine with an old 8800 GT, the graphic imperfections present in vanilla practically disappeared. Loading times are still a little long even with six cores.
Also available are new civilizations with specific bonuses. Choose wisely however. Want religion? Pick the Celts. Want to be crazy militarily right out the door? Pick the Huns. However, some civs have way too specific of bonuses, which work in only certain circumstances. It's definitely important to learn your civs before you play.
City states are vastly upgraded. More missions, more types, and definitely more fun. I enjoy the new religious and mercantile city states. The new missions they give you, like creating the most culture in 20 turns, should appeal to more diverse playstyles. Rio De Janeiro doesn't just constantly want you to eliminate Florence anymore.
One thing I’ve noticed so far that will change how you play, is that gold seems a little harder to come by towards the beginning of the game, with trading posts moved so far down the tech tree. It will take a little more specialization to get massive gold producing cities like before. With religions, you can expand pretty hard and keep happiness high, so making a faith-focused empire is very viable and powerful before the massive happiness buildings of the industrial era.
Graphics-wise, the interface has changed from art deco to a more vitruvian scroll-type style. That was a sad discovery for me, as I had enjoyed the art deco feel of the game. But little details like this abound, showing that every aspect of the game was given a look-over.
Unfortunately, the review version did not have a multiplayer component that was compatible with the standard Gods & Kings game, so I couldn't check out any of the multiplayer changes.
Overall, this expansion makes Civ5 playable again, giving enough new features to be intriguing and fixing enough of the old features to be satisfying. Playing a vanilla game afterwards will seem downright dull and broken (which I did, and had to stop after a couple of hours. The AI was just plain nutty). New players should pick this up with the standalone copy of Civ5 on Steam, and veteran players will, as I’m sure you already have, need to purchase this expansion right away.
It's time to conquer the world all over again.