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A Look at Civilization V: Gods & Kings

Firaxis' full-on expansion to its 2010 strategy game brings about religion, espionage, and...airships?

Generally speaking, preview builds of games are not meant to be played for long stretches of time. They're unfinished code, and often don't have all the pieces in place, meaning it can be difficult to even progress, let alone have much fun. Normally, my rule is to not spend more than a few hours, at absolute most, with preview games, especially if it's a game I'm excited to play when it eventually hits retail, since I don't necessarily want to see too much before it's done.

As with all rules, there are exceptions. In my case, apparently those exceptions involve anything with the words "Civilization V" in the title.

Gods & Kings most certainly has those two things, but it's got a lot more than that, too.

Gods & Kings is Firaxis' full-fledged expansion to the hit 2010 strategy game, which hits stores next month. I don't know why Firaxis chose to create an expansion and release it nearly two years after the original hit shelves, and I don't especially care, either. I've been far too busy sinking way too many hours into this thing over the last week to worry about the hows and whys of it all. After 16 hours of playing Gods & Kings, frankly, I'm just glad it exists at all.

Having not really played much Civ V since it ate up most of my winter 2010, it was disturbing to me how easily I fell back down this terribly time-consuming rabbit hole. Firaxis has been sporadically supporting the game via various DLC packs over the last couple of years, but Gods & Kings is the first major functional addition to the game since its release. That new functionality comes in the form of espionage and religion, two things that slide so easily into the old Civ V gameplay, you'll be amazed they weren't there all along.

Religion is by far the biggest change, overall. As with all things in Civ V, religion is simply a tool you, the master of your particular civilization, can use to help expand, evolve, and conquer. You use faith as you would culture or gold. It's a resource you accumulate by building religious structures and a variety of other things as the game goes along.

Initially you'll just found a pantheon, which is a non-specific religion that provides you a single benefit of your choosing, ranging from additional gold via tithing to rapid expansion via "religious settlements" (which are not actually a buildable unit, but rather a rapidity increase to your existing border expansion rate). Over time, as you accumulate more and more faith, eventually a religious prophet unit will appear in your main city. Like the great artists, engineers and the like, you can use this unit in a variety of ways, though the first time, you'll probably want to use him to found your religion.

You can choose from several different religions, from Christianity to Sikhism, though in truth, the religions have nothing to do with the real life ones. Christianity, for instance, doesn't suddenly earn you a Crusade army. The names are just there for familiarity's sake, and you can even rename your religion, if you like.

Religion is no more complicated than any of the other strategic elements in Civ V. It's just way more sacrilegious. In a fun way, of course.

Founding a religion provides multiple new boosts to whatever categories you're looking to focus on. Again, the options run the gamut from resource building to increased conversion rates. Yes, you can use your prophets, when they appear, to help convert other cities and city states to your particular faith. Depending on your friendliness with the cities in question, this can either be viewed as an act of friendship, or an act of war. Bringing religious followers to city states can help keep them under your wing, while doing so to other major civilizations tends to come with more dire consequences.

As is generally the case in recorded history, forcibly converting citizens of another civilization tends to lead to unhappiness from the leader of that civilization. Fortunately, there are other ways to deal with those pesky rival Civs besides religion bombing them.

One such method would be the newly-designed espionage system. You don't get espionage until a good chunk of the way through a given game, but once you do you'll be afforded spies. Spies are not on-the-board units. Instead, they're largely dealt with via a menu on the main game screen. Going to this screen allows you to move spies between cities you've made contact with in order to learn things like which leader is plotting against which other leader, who is building what, and what technologies are being developed elsewhere. If your spy happens upon a tech that you don't have, you can steal it from your rival.

This, of course, does come with a few caveats. Spies can be caught, and when they are, they die. This also damages diplomatic relations with the rival you're spying on, which may or not even matter in the end, but could be a prelude to war. Also, rivals can spy on you as well. You can build police stations and assign spies to your own city to provide counter intelligence, but odds are at least one or two things will slip through your fingers over time.

These two systems add a nice chunk of additional strategy to the already content-rich gameplay systems of Civ V. They don't completely alter the structure of the game, but rather simply provide new road maps to victory using the same types of strategies one would use in the original game.

There's more here, too. Gods & Kings also comes with nine new civilizations (including Sweden, The Netherlands, and The Celts, among others), a gaggle of new units, and some new scenarios to play through. Including one especially strange one. While just about everything in the Civilization series has had its roots in some whimsical version of our world history and reality, the new Empires of the Smokey Skies scenario is pure steampunk fantasy.

Yup, steampunk. Airships, steam-powered tanks, old white guys with mechanical monocles, the whole nine yards. You play the game as you would any other scenario, but every unit is newly built to fit a steampunk aesthetic. Even the tech tree is wholly its own, allowing you to research everything from galvanomagnetism to the more nebulous concept of "The Great Idea" (which is pretty much just a culture boost).

Did Civilization V really need a steampunk mode? Based on the fact that now you can build military grade blimps, yes. Yes it did.

Like other scenarios, this one features its own set of win conditions. Specifically, you have to capture and hold at least three of five different titles. These titles include greatest wealth, highest producing city, number of policies enacted, number of state-of-the-art units built, and the number of great buildings owned. You have to hold those titles for at least five turns, and once you do, you're the King of Steampunk Land.

The whole thing feels like an extremely elaborate mod, but it's also kind of great. It has a whole other feel to it from the rest of the game that I frankly kind of wish could cross over into the main one. I don't know why, but the idea of commanding an army of steam-powered dirigibles as the lord of the Aztecs just sounds awesome to me.

Look, I realize that as great as all this sounds, it's still an expansion to a game that you likely put down in favor of other things long ago. If you didn't, you wouldn't even need this preview, because you've probably already pre-ordered it. For those who did put aside Civ V some time ago, all I can say is that Gods & Kings is as valid a reason to pick the game back up again as you're likely to ever get. The game itself as as fun as ever, and the new additions feel significant enough to justify not just releasing them as piecemeal DLC. I can't say I'm exactly happy about the fact that Gods & Kings has given me the Civ shakes all over again, but considering I've been having a lot of fun playing through it, I guess I can't complain too hard.

I'll remind myself of that the next time I'm sitting bleary-eyed in my boxers at 3am desperately trying to muster enough coherent thought to decide on my next policy upgrade while my girlfriend is screaming at me to come to bed.

Alex Navarro on Google+
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Posted by Alex

Generally speaking, preview builds of games are not meant to be played for long stretches of time. They're unfinished code, and often don't have all the pieces in place, meaning it can be difficult to even progress, let alone have much fun. Normally, my rule is to not spend more than a few hours, at absolute most, with preview games, especially if it's a game I'm excited to play when it eventually hits retail, since I don't necessarily want to see too much before it's done.

As with all rules, there are exceptions. In my case, apparently those exceptions involve anything with the words "Civilization V" in the title.

Gods & Kings most certainly has those two things, but it's got a lot more than that, too.

Gods & Kings is Firaxis' full-fledged expansion to the hit 2010 strategy game, which hits stores next month. I don't know why Firaxis chose to create an expansion and release it nearly two years after the original hit shelves, and I don't especially care, either. I've been far too busy sinking way too many hours into this thing over the last week to worry about the hows and whys of it all. After 16 hours of playing Gods & Kings, frankly, I'm just glad it exists at all.

Having not really played much Civ V since it ate up most of my winter 2010, it was disturbing to me how easily I fell back down this terribly time-consuming rabbit hole. Firaxis has been sporadically supporting the game via various DLC packs over the last couple of years, but Gods & Kings is the first major functional addition to the game since its release. That new functionality comes in the form of espionage and religion, two things that slide so easily into the old Civ V gameplay, you'll be amazed they weren't there all along.

Religion is by far the biggest change, overall. As with all things in Civ V, religion is simply a tool you, the master of your particular civilization, can use to help expand, evolve, and conquer. You use faith as you would culture or gold. It's a resource you accumulate by building religious structures and a variety of other things as the game goes along.

Initially you'll just found a pantheon, which is a non-specific religion that provides you a single benefit of your choosing, ranging from additional gold via tithing to rapid expansion via "religious settlements" (which are not actually a buildable unit, but rather a rapidity increase to your existing border expansion rate). Over time, as you accumulate more and more faith, eventually a religious prophet unit will appear in your main city. Like the great artists, engineers and the like, you can use this unit in a variety of ways, though the first time, you'll probably want to use him to found your religion.

You can choose from several different religions, from Christianity to Sikhism, though in truth, the religions have nothing to do with the real life ones. Christianity, for instance, doesn't suddenly earn you a Crusade army. The names are just there for familiarity's sake, and you can even rename your religion, if you like.

Religion is no more complicated than any of the other strategic elements in Civ V. It's just way more sacrilegious. In a fun way, of course.

Founding a religion provides multiple new boosts to whatever categories you're looking to focus on. Again, the options run the gamut from resource building to increased conversion rates. Yes, you can use your prophets, when they appear, to help convert other cities and city states to your particular faith. Depending on your friendliness with the cities in question, this can either be viewed as an act of friendship, or an act of war. Bringing religious followers to city states can help keep them under your wing, while doing so to other major civilizations tends to come with more dire consequences.

As is generally the case in recorded history, forcibly converting citizens of another civilization tends to lead to unhappiness from the leader of that civilization. Fortunately, there are other ways to deal with those pesky rival Civs besides religion bombing them.

One such method would be the newly-designed espionage system. You don't get espionage until a good chunk of the way through a given game, but once you do you'll be afforded spies. Spies are not on-the-board units. Instead, they're largely dealt with via a menu on the main game screen. Going to this screen allows you to move spies between cities you've made contact with in order to learn things like which leader is plotting against which other leader, who is building what, and what technologies are being developed elsewhere. If your spy happens upon a tech that you don't have, you can steal it from your rival.

This, of course, does come with a few caveats. Spies can be caught, and when they are, they die. This also damages diplomatic relations with the rival you're spying on, which may or not even matter in the end, but could be a prelude to war. Also, rivals can spy on you as well. You can build police stations and assign spies to your own city to provide counter intelligence, but odds are at least one or two things will slip through your fingers over time.

These two systems add a nice chunk of additional strategy to the already content-rich gameplay systems of Civ V. They don't completely alter the structure of the game, but rather simply provide new road maps to victory using the same types of strategies one would use in the original game.

There's more here, too. Gods & Kings also comes with nine new civilizations (including Sweden, The Netherlands, and The Celts, among others), a gaggle of new units, and some new scenarios to play through. Including one especially strange one. While just about everything in the Civilization series has had its roots in some whimsical version of our world history and reality, the new Empires of the Smokey Skies scenario is pure steampunk fantasy.

Yup, steampunk. Airships, steam-powered tanks, old white guys with mechanical monocles, the whole nine yards. You play the game as you would any other scenario, but every unit is newly built to fit a steampunk aesthetic. Even the tech tree is wholly its own, allowing you to research everything from galvanomagnetism to the more nebulous concept of "The Great Idea" (which is pretty much just a culture boost).

Did Civilization V really need a steampunk mode? Based on the fact that now you can build military grade blimps, yes. Yes it did.

Like other scenarios, this one features its own set of win conditions. Specifically, you have to capture and hold at least three of five different titles. These titles include greatest wealth, highest producing city, number of policies enacted, number of state-of-the-art units built, and the number of great buildings owned. You have to hold those titles for at least five turns, and once you do, you're the King of Steampunk Land.

The whole thing feels like an extremely elaborate mod, but it's also kind of great. It has a whole other feel to it from the rest of the game that I frankly kind of wish could cross over into the main one. I don't know why, but the idea of commanding an army of steam-powered dirigibles as the lord of the Aztecs just sounds awesome to me.

Look, I realize that as great as all this sounds, it's still an expansion to a game that you likely put down in favor of other things long ago. If you didn't, you wouldn't even need this preview, because you've probably already pre-ordered it. For those who did put aside Civ V some time ago, all I can say is that Gods & Kings is as valid a reason to pick the game back up again as you're likely to ever get. The game itself as as fun as ever, and the new additions feel significant enough to justify not just releasing them as piecemeal DLC. I can't say I'm exactly happy about the fact that Gods & Kings has given me the Civ shakes all over again, but considering I've been having a lot of fun playing through it, I guess I can't complain too hard.

I'll remind myself of that the next time I'm sitting bleary-eyed in my boxers at 3am desperately trying to muster enough coherent thought to decide on my next policy upgrade while my girlfriend is screaming at me to come to bed.

Staff
Posted by Deoxsys

How cool!

Edited by wibby

Sounds interesting!

Posted by warxsnake

sick

Posted by Aas

How about a new Colonization using Civ 5 technology? Do it!

Posted by Corvak

Civ is a game I frequently put down, then frequently pick it back up again months later, regardless of how long it is since release.

Posted by Xeirus

I really liked Civ even though I'm not big into the whole "Risk" type of games, but the multiplayer sucked :(

Posted by dvorak

Military Grade Blimps. Done. Just sold a copy, Firaxis.

(Totally would have bought it anyway.)

Posted by BaconGames

I just finished a scenario yesterday making this news all the more enticing. GODDAMNIT I WANTS IT.

Posted by BrockNRolla

Crazy to release it so long after the game came out, but I guess Civ players are a pretty dedicated audience. I for one spent far too many hours on the last Civ. Looking forward to this.

Posted by Undeadpool

Sounds amazing. Just when I thought I was out, Civ PULLED me back in!!!

Posted by Marz

haven't played Civ 5 in awhile.. but i'll definitely get back into it when the expansion hits.  

Posted by tds418

Word! I put in close to 150 hours into Civ V last summer and this sounds like just the thing to get me back into the game.

Posted by fishmicmuffin

I'll definitely pick this up once I've had my fill of Diablo 3.

Posted by RockinKemosabe

Finally, I can build as many airships as I want! My old strategy from Red Alert 2 with the Kirov airships is coming back in style!

Posted by DorianOtten

anyone seen warlocks master of the arcane? its really good and, while pretty similar in alot of respects, does enough new stuff to be worth the ... well it's €20 any way. dont know about dollars

Posted by WhoopAssRambo3

@Undeadpool said:

Sounds amazing. Just when I thought I was out, Civ PULLED me back in!!!

Goddamned Firaxis..

Posted by Sorla10

wait, its not a quick look?

Posted by Clonedzero

awesome, i'll pick this up.

i loved those lazy sundays i'd fire up civ and just end up playing all damn day. and still not be done with the match. great fun, its really fun to just have a game going while you do other stuff. playing civ 5 while cleaning your house works pretty damn well actually. great multitasking game! i highly recommend it!

Posted by emilknievel

Steampunk! ARYADHGDGSJK AS

Posted by R3DT1D3

Looks great but we really need a new Alpha Centauri.

Posted by fox01313

Sounds good & was always wondering why they had the spies in Civilization Revolution & took them out for Civ5. Was always fun way to steal tech on the smaller civs when there was not a lot going on especially on the large island maps where the civs tend to not have a big navy to do much against you once you have a good foothold.

Posted by Divina_Rex

Can't wait. I've sunk 300 hours into Civ V and it's shortcomings are really apparent, mainly diplomacy. I wish Alex would've talked more about the revamped combat though. I want to know how different a 100 grade scale is to a 10 and how it affects my military.

Posted by Axiomatic

I'm very excited for this and have high hopes that this brings Civ V up to the level everyone who played Civ IV to death hoped all along.

Posted by Alex

@Divina_Rex: To be honest, I didn't really get a great sense of how different the combat was in the one game from the other. I actually played original Civ and the expansion back-to-back a couple of times, and combat didn't feel radically different to me. I know the developers have talked up this new combat system, but just me personally, I had a hard time differentiating.

Staff
Posted by Arc209

The more I hear about this expansion, the more I cannot wait until it comes out. I have played 181 hours of the Civ V including the DLC that has already come out and I can't wait for more. Thank you for the sweet preview Alex! *hug*

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Yep. Was already going to buy it. I could use an excuse to play more Civ V.

Posted by jonano

I just bought Civ 5 on steam and this expansion sounds great

Edited by Scarabus

Gustav Vasa is ready to build some worker boats.

Posted by Mr_Skeleton

Stop it! I don't have time for this *sobs*

Posted by Veektarius

I was on the fence until the Steampunk part, but now I'm strongly considering it.

Posted by mbr2

Fuck yeah Gustavus Adolphus!

Posted by QuistisTrepe

Maybe this will get me to play Civ V and actually enjoy it this time around. This game really turned out to be quite a disappointing shitpile. How many patches and major updates has Civ V received again? It's nice to see Firaxis all but admit that tinkering too heavily with the old formula was a really bad idea. Diplomacy alone made me want to punch my computer screen.

Posted by NicksCorner

@R3DT1D3 said:

Looks great but we really need a new Alpha Centauri.

Hear hear!

Posted by chrispti

Take my money.

Posted by Ariketh

@Alex said:

I'll remind myself of that the next time I'm sitting bleary-eyed in my boxers at 3am desperately trying to muster enough coherent thought to decide on my next policy upgrade while my girlfriend is screaming at me to come to bed.

I know the feeling.

Posted by Xymox

Wierd. Was just youtubing for this because there had been no new stuff .........................

Posted by tactis

This is pretty cool, I have been a big fan of the Civ games for a long time so I am sure I will get this. I wish they would go back and add in underwater cities, man that was sweet.

Online
Posted by RVonE

My body is ready but I don't think my mind can handle it.

Posted by Xymox

@R3DT1D3 said:

Looks great but we really need a new Alpha Centauri.

Yes. This.

What do I need to throw metal circles and paper at to make this happen? I need to make planetfall again.

Posted by Box3ru13

Goddamnit, considering how CIv 5 was such a huge time sink for me, I'm displeased to hear that it will soon again become one.

But at the same time I can't wait, because Civ 5 was like crack in video game form.

Posted by CoolYetiDance

Really exited for this :D !

Posted by Nephrahim

Glad to see Region coming back, it's defiently one of the features I missed in V. Not a huge deal, but when you're building a socitity it's hard to ignore it!

Posted by granderojo

This is my most anticipated release of 2012. This faith feature is something I thought of loosely myself while playing the game on release, I wondered why they left out that sort of thing in vanilla, but it seems like they had broader plans for it in the first expansion pack.

I really hope they release better mod tools, specifically tools designed around making custom Civs. If I had the ability to tinker with my own civs in terms of their special abilities, even if it meant no cinematics or unique looking units I probably would never sleep because I'd constantly be wanting to try a different a way to play the game.

Posted by mandude

Time to get my woad on.

Posted by Crispy

I would have never, in a million years, pegged Alex for a Civ guy.

Posted by ThePickle

You had me at "Civilization V:"

Posted by rocketboot

@Ariketh said:

@Alex said:

I'll remind myself of that the next time I'm sitting bleary-eyed in my boxers at 3am desperately trying to muster enough coherent thought to decide on my next policy upgrade while my girlfriend is screaming at me to come to bed.

I know the feeling.

Just...one...more.....turn.............

Posted by DukesT3

I NEED A PC SO I CAN PLAY THIS GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME

Online
Posted by FollowSmoke

This should've been in the original Civ5 build. It's the exact same stuff Civ4:BTS had. They stripped it away for Civ5 and are re-selling it.

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