Civilization 5: Gods And Kings Review
Just how many hours have you lost to Civilization 5? If the answer is 40 or more, you may be looking to Gods And Kings with more than a little intrigue.
Espionage is back, and so is religion. The former is an oft-requested feature, the latter… well, let’s just say that after Civ 4’s attempts at piety, we need to be proven the system can work in a Civilization game.
The good news is that both features have made their way into Civilization 5 smoothly; the bad news is that their impact isn’t really as broad – mechanically speaking, anyway – as they should be.
Religion takes the form of a new resource, Faith, which is accumulated in much the same way as Culture or Science. Early buildings such as Shrines and Temples will add to your total, while later you can receive bonuses from a variety of sources.
It’s very much an early-game feature, though. The first civilisation to reach a Faith of 10 can pick a Pantheon, which attributes a deity to provide an eternal reward to your nation – ranging from boosts to production and culture to better resources from the surrounding area.
Once a Pantheon has been selected, the next cannot be unlocked until a new civ reaches 15, a third at 20, fourth at 25 and so on until all the Civilization’s have a Pantheon, turning the early-game into a mad dash for the pick of the crop.
Religion is customisable: if you’re quick enough with Faith you can tailor its benefits to you.
Religions can then be founded once you’ve earned a substantial amount of Faith, bringing additional benefits of worship to your cities up to a maximum of five attributes.
This is a considerable improvement over Civilization 4’s religion; wars aren’t caused, each religion is tailored to its nation of believers and you’re rewarded for spreading it through your cities. It’s almost utopian.
The problem is religion never really feels like a major part of Gods And Kings. It’s almost too passive, with Firaxis keeping religion a peripheral feature that never feels like a key part of your strategy.
Missionaries and Inquisitors can be built to facilitate your religion’s growth (and halt the spread of others), but the reason for doing so never really feels worthwhile. It is, of course, but the non-descript menu behind it all just makes it feel like hardwork for very little payoff.
This isn’t the case with Espionage, however. Once again spies return to Civilization, but here they’re no longer units to be manoeuvred and planted; it’s all handled within a separate Espionage menu.
Initially you’re given a single unit at the turn of the Renaissance era, then another each time you reach a new epoch. As you might expect, a spy’s abilities focus on recon as you send them to cities to dig up details or add defensive measures to your own secret network.
Combat has been tweaked too: now each unit has 100HP. It’s a minor change, but an important one.
At their most basic, spies can view any city screen, steal technology or rig elections in city-states to bolster your nation’s favour. Doesn’t sound like much, but the beauty of the system comes in the form of regular updates on your enemies movements.
Pick the right city and a spy might offer you details on a civilisation’s plans – telling you who they’re plotting against and, in some cases, even how they plan to attack.
It rewards you for clever use of your spies, and the information you gain can then be handed over to any relevant parties. Want to get the Celts on your side? Tell them Attila the Hun is sending an army for them and, later on down the line, they might reciprocate the good deed.
There are still problems with diplomacy, however, and despite how much you might want to help a weaker civilisation survive its impending doom, they’ll still refuse defensive pacts and beneficial trade if they fear your army. And since they’re a puny nation, that’s not exactly an opinion that is about to change.
Frustratingly espionage doesn’t feature in multiplayer either. Understandable, considering its heavy reliance on AI thought patterns, but a bizarre omission nonetheless – especially since it is genuinely well implemented.
All this ties into the use of city-states. Mostly regarded as a nuisance in vanilla Civilization 5, these can now be better managed, though there’s still an element of babysitting involved – especially when locked into a subterfuge war of with another civ.
Spies can level up. It means they’re better at their jobs, naturally, but it’s most arbitrary.
The addition of multiple and more-varied city-state missions – such as a race to produce the most Culture, Faith or Science – means it’s easier to stay on top of friendships without worrying about it degrading every other turn.
There are other wider-reaching additions to the game, too, in the form of nine new civilisations and a wealth of new units, buildings and special traits.
Most interesting is the fleshing out of early-modern units, such as the Gatling Gun, Landship or Great War Infantry. It adds a new phase of technology in-between more modern units, which is particularly noticeable on long-term games.
But let’s bring this down to brass tacks: is this an expansion pack worth buying? There’s no denying a lot of the new additions have been well-implemented, the systems underpinning religion and espionage are well thought out.
They’re just a bit… lacking. Espionage offers information, but is limited in how you use that power – it’d be nice to pit nations against each other with the right situation – while religion doesn’t really have the impact it could.
If you’re a diehard Civilization player you’ll most definitely appreciate the new additions, while the tweaks through new and existing units means regular Civ 5 players will have a few new strategies to look into.
But the inclusions just aren’t severe enough to make Civilization 5: Gods And Kings a worthwhile purchase for every range of Civ player.
These new features fit so smoothly into Civilization 5 it’s almost the game Civ 5 always should have been, but at £20 is it too much to want things mixed up a bit?