Opening Turn: Civilization V: Gods and Kings

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So, it’s something I don’t really do that often, but this time I’m going to be reviewing an expansion pack. Granted, in the process I’ll also be giving my thoughts related to the main game a bit, but I’ll try to keep it focused on the things that are new and different from the original release of Civilization V. Which is, in itself, a pretty good (though not the best) iteration of one of the greatest game series ever made. So how does it improve upon Civ 5? Does it improve at all? Well…

What is it?: Gods and Kings, as stated above, is the first expansion to Civilization V. In reality, it adds in a whole bunch of stuff that was missing in the base game, things that were present in Civ 4 and that a whole bunch of people missed. I’d like to think that the Civ 5 team had this big list of complaints from the players and went through and systematically tried to address each one of them.

Did it succeed?: Yes. And yes. And a million times yes. 

In what regard? What were the ‘missing features’ that were added in, anyway?: Religion and espionage. Religion in Civ 4 wasn’t implemented the greatest way, and it was a pretty divisive feature, so much so that it was just left out of Civ 5 originally. Espionage was one of the most strategic features in Civ 4, and was probably dropped originally in an attempt to simplify things. Having both of these features in is a very good thing. Espionage is quite a bit like it was in Civ 4: you can get advance warnings that people are about to screw you over, you can steal their technologies, and you can use your spies as counterintelligence agents in your own city. Additionally, you can use your spies in city-states to rig elections in your favor to gain influence there, or plot a coup in order to wrest control of them from other sovereign nations. All in all, this feature was the least changed when it was re-implemented. It just fills in something that was really missing in the base game.

And religion? How’s that?: Different. In Civ 4, you changed religions the same way you changed government styles, so it was really just an extension of that. In Civ 5, government styles don’t exist, and the ‘policy’ system is a bit more freeform than the government system in Civ 4 was, so the need to do something different with religion also existed. So they let you create your own.

Wait, what?: Yep, there aren’t pre-defined religions. Sure, when you first found an actual religion, you get a list of symbols that correspond to the major world religions, and the default names of them, but you can change those. And the religions don’t give any set bonuses; rather, you pick them from a list. It’s basically the Subway of religions. You get to build your own, so you can have it your way, every time. Similarly, your prophets aren’t named, but this was probably done in a desire to not offend anyone. Which is fine by me, really.

So what else is different? Anything?: A few things. There are a whole bunch of tweaks behind the scenes, that are the culmination of what would have been a whole lot of patching. Civ 5, when it was released, was a buggy mess, and while a whole lot of that was fixed with post-release patching, the expansion just makes things a whole lot cleaner. There are fewer crashes with maps that are too big, the game just feels like it runs smoother. The AI got what feels like a serious intelligence boost: no longer will they just sit around and let you do whatever. The AI, especially with certain nations, is a whole lot more aggressive. But at the same time, grudges, which used to last millennia, now are forgotten after a sufficient amount of time has passed for a country to logically forget that you placed a village too near their explorers. Finally, there are new technologies, new units, and new civilizations (FINALLY SOME GODDAMN CELTS). Oh, and there’s a steampunk scenario.

STEAMPUNK ALL THE THINGS?: Yeah, I’m not a fan of most steampunk either, but this is actually pretty well done. It completely converts the technology tree and victory conditions. I can honestly say I’m glad it’s there. Plus, airships. 

It’s a PC game, how was the install process?: I got it on Steam, so the install process was nonexistent. Steam really streamlines any installation, so I really just had to wait for it to finish downloading. One thing I will say for the Steam version is that it now has Steam Workshop, the mod repository that Skyrim’s been using. It’s amazing. If you get any version of this game that is not on Steam, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.

Anything else that caught your attention?: Absolutely. I would be remiss if I did not mention that the vocals in the introduction themes are performed by none other than the wonderfully talented veteran Overclocked Remix’er, Jillian Aversa. Since this is a game review post and not a music post, telling all the reasons /why/ this is amazing is sort of out of the scope of what I’m writing here, so instead I’ll just direct you here.

So would you recommend it?: If you like Civ 5, yes. If you like Civ 4 but are on the fence about Civ 5, definitely. If you don’t like Civ at all? Then this won’t really change your mind about it, since it’s an expansion, and also WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU IF YOU DON’T LIKE CIV? ….That is all.

[This review is reposted with my permission at Attack Initiative.]

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