Sid Meier’s Civilization or Civ as it’s called by fans of the series has been around since 1991, when Sid Meier took what he had done successfully with Pirates! in 1987 and Railroad Tycoon in 1990 and made the first Civilization game. Surprisingly, the comparatively simple Sim City is what got Sid Meier onto his simulation binge. Since that first game however, others have taken over design duties for Sid Meier’s flagship franchise. Ironically, the current game, Civilization V and the new Gods and Kings expansion were headed by Jon Schaefer who got his start making user mods for Civilization III.
First off, let me tell you about the stiff system requirements for playing Civilization V. If you think you’re going to be able to run this turn-based strategy game on your netbook or an older laptop or PC, you’re sadly mistaken. The game requires a dual-core processor but really needs a quad core to run well. You will also need a gaming video card and a good bit of RAM. For something that mostly runs asynchronously, it’s hard to believe it needs so much from your computer. That being said, Civilization V looks and sounds great and is what a strategy game should be.
Gods and Kings is the first expansion pack for 2010 PC Game of the Year and it’s not a small one. It spans all of the game’s time periods, from the dawn of man to the space age. As the title implies, the first addition is religion and allows you to pick, customize, and spread that religion across the world. Though a little less obvious, from the title is the introduction of spies, who can steal information and technology. That alone is quite a bit for an expansion but, the expansion is heftily priced. Gods and Kings does however, also include nine new civilizations; new wonders; a couple more scenarios; and dozens of new units, buildings, and technologies.
Civilization V brings a lot of new gameplay elements into the iconic series but, I will try to focus mainly on what the new expansion offers, starting with religion. Religion in the game starts off with founding a pantheon of the Gods and as you develop faith in your empire, you can cultivate prophets. These prophets, along with missionaries and inquisitors, can help you spread your empire’s religion to other civilizations and the newly introduced city states. The payoff of spreading your religion is, of course, the influence it helps spread across your rivals.
The first civilization to research religion will get their pick of the dozen or so religions from Christianity to the much more obscure Zoroastrianism. Once you choose the name and symbol of your empire’s faith, you will also choose the tenets of the belief. These particular beliefs will give various perks in production, money making or benefits for your military. They can even unlock custom buildings that only your religion can construct. Beyond that, converting other regions to your religion will garner influence for alliances or the end game result of controlling the United Nations.
The second gameplay addition Gods and Kings adds is a covert aspect to your quest for world domination. Players can now establish embassies in foreign capitals for closer ties and clandestine operations. Once your civilization reaches the Renaissance, you unlock your first spy. You can then send them out to survey foreign capitals to steal advanced technologies or get insight into their strategies. Once you have an agency of spies you will want to use them to rig elections in the city states to cheaply keep influence. I would advise keeping one in your capital too as others will try to steal your technologies as well, and if you have a counter agent, they can often kill foreign spies before they can make off with your hard work. If discovered, these covert actions will affect your relationships and often times are acted out in cutscenes. I must confess though, after watching about six apologies for me catching her spies from Catherine the Great, once someone wanted to attack her, half way across the world, I was all in.
The auxiliary additions to Civilization V include some new technologies, like Combined Arms and 27 new units. The game now features a bomb shelter and 12 other new buildings in addition to nine more world wonders and the Hubble Telescope has now been added. More importantly, the expansion delivers the additional civilizations of the Celts, Carthaginians, and the date appropriate Mayans with the new leaders like Boudicca and Dido. In one marathon playthrough, I had Catherine, Dido, and Theodora of Byzantium all right next to each other. The beautiful but deadly trio found a common enemy in my America and seemed to enjoy publicly denouncing me to the rest of the world.
Those that love playing out the included scenarios of Civilization V will find three more with Gods and Kings. A medieval scenario allows you to grow your kingdom into one of the great nations of Renaissance Europe where you must fend off outside invasions from Mongols and Ottoman Turks and fight the wars of the Crusades and Reformation. “The Fall of Rome” lets you play as either Eastern or Western Rome and try to fend off the barbarians, or you can even play as the barbarians themselves. The final and best scenario, “Empires of the Smoky Skies,” is a steampunk visage of flying airships and huge tanks from a unique Victorian science-fiction technology tree.
The updates included in Gods and Kings are substantial and after playing it, it’s hard to imagine them not in the game. The unprecedented level of polish in Civilization V doesn’t drop off with this expansion either. So the real question on buying Gods and Kings is not if, but how soon do you want these additions. Eventually there will undoubtedly be a complete edition of the game but the new dynamics add so much to Civilization V that it almost makes it a new game. Less of an improvement has certainly been offered elsewhere as sequel before. Now, if only your new spies could help those rival prophets meet an unfortunate accident.
Sid Meier’s Civilization V: Gods and Kings is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Drug Reference, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence.