Review

Civilization V: Gods & Kings Review (PC)

It’s good to see an old fashioned PC expansion again. Whilst I’d be the first to admit that digital distribution has done wonders for post-release content and PC gaming in general, there’s certainly a nice sense of nostalgia from getting a big, beefy (and boxed) update. Gods & Kings is the first major update to Civilization V since its release back in 2010, and is a mixture between enhancing and overhauling existing elements, as well as adding new gameplay mechanics to help expand what you can do in a game.

Gods & Kings does several things: it overhauls the City-State mechanics by adding a larger variety of quests and new behaviour, it modifies combat slightly (both land and sea) to make engagements last longer and be less reliant on the background ‘dice-rolling’, and it adds new Religion and Espionage mechanics. Add to that new scenarios, units, technologies and other miscellanea, there’s no denying that this is a meaty expansion, to say the least. We can’t help but raise a question mark for the value aspect - £20 is a lot to ask these days, especially compared to the current DLC trends. Still there’s no sense that Firaxis have skimped out in terms of content, so there should be something for everyone here.

The 'beliefs' allow you to choose modifiers for your religion, and are unlocked over time. Note: another Civ can enhance a religion you founded

The Religion and Espionage mechanics are meant to work in tandem – Religion comes first, but as you progress through the eras it becomes less and less important, before finally Espionage first gets introduced and then that ‘takes-over’ in effect, although the two systems are quite different in what they do. Religions are customizable, and are related to a new ‘resource’ called faith. You start off by founding a ‘pantheon’, which is meant to replicate classical polytheistic religions, and from there you go on to found one of six ‘major’ religions available in the game: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. However, these names can be changed, and when you ‘found’ a pantheon and major religion you get to choose what bonuses they convey as well. Religions are founded, and further enhanced with the new ‘Great Prophet’ Great Person. You can also recruit Missionaries and Inquisitors (using faith) to further spread or root out other religions.

There’s a lot of similarity with Civilization IV – Civs of the same religion will have better relations diplomatically, and as far as Civ V specifically is concerned, this applies to city-states as well. There’s a new ‘Religious’ City type as well, and as part of the quest overhaul some neutral cities may ask you to spread your religion to their lands. The ‘faith’ resource seems a bit superfluous at the moment – there’s not a lot you can actually do with ‘Faith’ aside from saving up for Great Prophets, Missionaries or Inquisitors. Certain things will allow you to expand this, for example some Religion bonuses grant you a unique building, and you can even use faith to get other Great People in certain circumstances, but aside from that it doesn’t have much use. It’s also a shame that Firaxis have avoided touching on the other side of the coin – religious persecution, holy wars... whilst these aren’t things you want to promote too much, they would make the mechanic more rounded, to say the least.

At this stage of the game, Religion is less of a thing, and less likely to prevent another Civ from attacking you

Espionage kicks in during the Renaissance Era, and has more practical use. You start off with one spy (more are awarded to you as you progress through the eras and research certain techs), and you can use him to steal technologies from other civilizations, spy on other cities, even perform counter-espionage in your home territories. Their most interesting use is connected to City-states, where you use them to help artificially enhance your influence, by rigging elections and staging coups. Again, it’s a bit of a tame feature at the moment – you don’t spend much time with the Espionage interface, especially when you only have the one spy, and it’s the only new feature which isn’t available in Multiplayer. A shame, but a step in the right direction we suppose.

As you may have noticed, the two new gameplay features connect quite heavily with the City-state area of the game, and arguably this area is the one which has received the biggest overhaul. Before, it was usually a matter of how much gold you could pour into a city-state which determined how friendly they were towards you – no more. An expanded and overhauled quest system means that you’ll be doing things for independent cities more often, with a wider variety of quests. Some even have unique resources not found on the main map, which means the struggle for dominance, literal or otherwise, of these cities are more important. They’re not any more aggressive, in fact the ‘take out so and so quests’ have been removed, but they do prove to have more strategic value.

Me trying out the new Celtic Civilization. It’s good to be on top for once

Last but not least – Combat. The changes here are more subtle than what’s been done in the rest of the game. In general, everything has more health and is harder to kill, even if you have a blatant advantage or superiority over your enemy. New units have been added, and the AI is certainly smarter than before, so all in all wars are more challenging. The naval side of combat has received the most love, with ships now divided into ‘melee’ and ranged, with melee ships able to raid and take over coastal cities all by themselves. There’s also a new ‘Great Admiral’ Great Person, so naval combat really does hold as much meaning as land engagements.

The real question is though – is this expansion worth your money? We’d say yes. A lot of these improvements were needed to make long protracted games more interesting, and there’s less of a sense of leaping through the eras (especially the pre and early industrial eras) without really getting a taste of them. Some areas still need more fleshing out, and there’s some things that haven’t been touched on at all here that could do with some work, but Civilization V is certainly better with Gods & Kings, and there is plenty of new content here to justify the cost. We hope they don’t wait so long before releasing another meaningful update, but so far, so good.

Top Game Moment: Becoming a dominant force for once is kind of a nice feeling. It’s not often people are sucking up to you.

Videos

Comments

By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 18, 2012
herodotus
Lends itself to a slower, more methodical approach in working toward victory howver neither Religion nor Espionage are enough to bring me back to the table (get enough of that in "TW" games). Naval combat needed to be better implemented from the start and it's disappointing it's taken this long to fully realise it's potential and use. Basically too expensive (even at $22 from GetGames.com) and too late for me. Probably what "Civ V", in many ways should have been when released or at the very least have this expansion come out a lot sooner rather than the dribble of DLC over the past twelve months.
Thanks for the review, Joe - solid and informative as always. However, this is one megalomaniac that won't be returning for another go.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 19, 2012
SirRoderick
I think I stated my position on this game earlier ^^

I'm playing a game of Civ IV with some mods now.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jun 19, 2012
JustCommunication
I liked Civ IV, but to be honest the stacking armies broke it for me. I just prefer Civ V as a game, and that's probably due to the fact that I'm a newcomer more than anything - I haven't been there since the early days.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 19, 2012
herodotus
Well I preferred "Civ II" to "Civ IV" so I'm well behind. Funny, the one thing I don't like about "Civ V", aside from the crashing when you meet new civilizations and the video tries to play is the inability to stack armies. Makes taking down a city very, very costly and far more time consuming than it should. Sometimes lose all my units on a fortified city and then spend 4-6 turns getting a new army across the sea to take this one darned island. It was tedious and boring. Just my take on it.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
Kres
Yeah I'm so not into going back to it with extra micromanagement of religion, espionage... not my 2 cents sorry SI :p

Though, I'm still playing Civ 5 here and there. Like once a month or so. Though slowed that down...
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jun 20, 2012
JustCommunication
@Hero: Don't blame the game for your lack of tactical prowess :P

Yeah I had the crashing thing with new Civs - best way to deal with it is to go into the advanced video options. There's a setting there specifically for the 'leader screens', which is what shows up whenever you first meet them, and whenever you want to do diplomacy with them. Change it to it's lowest setting, and all you get is still (but still hi-res) images of the leaders, instead of them moving. Suits me just fine and eliminates the crashing.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
SirRoderick
Honestly I liked Civ III the best. I should recover it from somewhere. Civ II is too far back for me really.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
Kres
I had the same idea Roderick. And I bought Civ 3 Complete a few weeks back. Played it only once this time. Was too far back for me... Graphics... Dunno... Got used to Civ 5.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
SirRoderick
Graphics? I have a game of Dwarf Fortress going ^_^
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 20, 2012
herodotus
Hey JC, I love strategy games....never said I was actually very good at them though:)
As for graphics, hey I was playing "Harpoon III" until the release of "Arctic War Naval Circle" and it's basically wireframe, but I know what you mean Kres. Once you've experienced the splendour of "Civ V", and it is a good looking game it IS hard to go back beyond "Civ IV". The crashes though, too much.
I re-played the Battle of Waterloo in "NTW" on the 18th (on a different and entirely irrelevant note), staring it at 11am which was the time the French began their barrage, but mine didn't last nine hours....more like 19 minutes.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
SirRoderick
A strategy game in real-time...as in actually fighting a single battle over multiple days. Now there's a dream for ya ^^
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 20, 2012
herodotus
Did that with John Tiller's "Waterloo", "Gettysburg" and "Shiloh" to a large degree. Being turn-based it was virtually equivalent to real time. By the time all moves and actions were carried out for that 'turn' the timing was almost spot-on. "Waterloo", though is a bloody big game so it will actually take a lot longer than the real thing. Might play The Battle for South Mountain in the wee hours...always an interesting, while small scenario.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 23, 2012
Kres
Well that's one of the reasons why we got press scores as well. Keeps things balanced and in check.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 25, 2012
SirRoderick
Hey, this site to me seems to have the most accurate ratings and the most balanced reviews if you ask me. It's only natural there's going to be a few outliers, but in general I trus this site much more than say IGN or Gamespot.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 25, 2012
herodotus
Well I was going to say something along the lines that Roderick has said, but I might be called out as being biased. In fact I read as many reviews from as many different sources as I can, but SI always has the last say for me.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 25, 2012
herodotus
I know what you're saying Chosen, and I've had my doubts a few times and expressed them. That's all we can do, aside from giving a counter perspective review of your own here in the comments, not just under User Reviews.
Jonah stated recently that no review is objective, and I heartily disagree. It must be objective otherwise it's going to be biased. Hence my ongoing and persistent request for a secondary review, perhaps written by a member giving a different perspective.
If you're a fan of "Civ V", as JC has stated he is, then this EP is going to get a good review. At least, though we know the review hasn't been bought and paid for by 2K.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 25, 2012
herodotus
Yes, well it has been raised a few times and may be a future feature. Just a lot going on under the bonnet (hood) of SI at the moment....which all will see in good time:)
For the time being, write your "Second Opinion" reviews guys. Give it a name of it's own: "Counter Point" or whatever.

PS. GamesSpot scored it a 9.0, though as one member commented:
"Bought it and been playing it for the past few days. I have to say it isn't worth the $30. Religion is completely insignificant to the gameplay, in fact they emphasize that religion is completely optional. Espionage is laughably shallow, the espionage mechanic in CIV IV was much deeper and varied. All that's left of the expansion are the new civs. Are a couple new civs worth $30?Hell no. Buy this when it's on sale for $15 or less."

Not very expansive, but you get the idea of a counter-point.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 25, 2012
SirRoderick
See what happened to the overall score? Combining user scores and other press scores into the SI rating has produced quite a decent number I think. It's a good system.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 26, 2012
herodotus
It's never the score I go by anyway, it's what's explained in the body of the review. I never go by a score, it just drives me to delve deeper into the "why's".
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 25, 2012
SirRoderick
Oh absolutely, but you can't deny the result tagged at the end is important. I perticularly like how the site gives the average score the more prominent spot.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 26, 2012
herodotus
A lot more accurate than MetaCritic as well.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 27, 2012
Kres
Can't really tell the reviewer how to score games in such a way. It's their own perspective and they have a guideline to score it the way they think it should be scored. There will always be 1 person with one opinion, and 50 others with a different one. So we try to keep it fair and leave it to the reviewers to make the best judgement. It's good to complain if you don't think we're doing good at it. But how would we explain the reviewer to give the game worse score if he thinks it should get the higher one.

I would've scored DoW2 at around 6 personally... don't like getting in the way of the reviewing process though as that is often sensitive ground. So I agree things tend to be illogical at times. But if the reviewer liked the game, what can we do... It's not like I get $100 at the bank to get the game a higher score. So it's just different opinions with different people. Hence, yeah we give greater emphasis to the AVG score (and bigger fonts), and go along with that. I personally am more interested in avg score then any specific publications review.

Solution could be to have a few people to review the game. And to somehow glue it together. But not many sites have resources to think about something like that. Not to mention that publishers wouldn't want to send a few copies of the game...