Civilization V – Gods & Kings Review (PC)

very good
key review info
  • Game: Civilization V: Gods & Kings
  • Platform: PC
  • Gamepad support: No
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by:
  • Show system requirements

Somewhere to my North, Gandhi and his Indian civilization has managed to acquire atomic weapons, which should be a worry given his real-world philosophy, while to the East the great Hun empire is getting ready to engulf me with pikemen and early gunpowder units.

My South is anchored to the sea, which is one of the strengths for the Carthaginians, and my West is only occupied by some city states that I am allied with and the Dutch, who only have three big cities and trouble enough from their Roman neighbors, who are more interested in war than in cultural development.

This is just one of the situations, real-world based but entirely fictional, that Civilization V can create and the recent Gods & Kings expansion pack takes the already successful formula of the turn-based strategy game and tweaks it enough to make old strategies less efficient and generate new tactical and strategic challenges.


Gameplay

The biggest addition of Gods & Kings, as the name implies, is the religious system, which has the potential to reshape the way players approach the game from top to bottom.

Religion at first seems just a simple distraction, allowing gamers to select from a range of rather limited bonuses that only appear to help during the early game.
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God choice
Religion foundation
But after enough of the new Faith resource has been generated, which can happen during Antiquity or can take until Medieval Times, gamers can found their own religion, picking everything from a name to the bonuses that if offers and the way it will impact the rest of the game.

The naming option is interesting (but you can also pick from a range of real-world religions), but the real choice is linked to how the belief system will work.

At first players can choose two effects, from a pretty large pre-defined set, and two more can be added with another Prophet, when the religion gets an upgrade (the Byzantines can even add a fifth effect, making their civilization uniquely suited for a religion-based game).

I chose to use religion as a way of boosting my own civilization, choosing to get more research when meeting other belief systems and to get a number of bonuses for my large cities.

I tailored my religion to boost my own playing style, yet one can also imagine a religion designed to empower the military, using Faith to get access to units, or one that allows a player to bypass one Civics branch altogether.

The possibilities are not unlimited, but there’s a lot here to experiment with, especially for a player willing to create the Faith required to spend on all the religious elements that Civilization V introduces.

Religion also creates another race within the game, parallel from the technology-based one, and getting locked out of your own religion and having to choose one from a neighbor tends to be a severe handicap, especially during the middle portion of the game.

The implementation of espionage, the other big new system of Gods & Kings, is now as impressive as that for religion and the feature seems wasted and unimportant.
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Diplomatic dealings
Peek-a-boo
Basically, spies are generated automatically and the player can only choose which city to move them to and what kind of missions to launch.

Technology stealing is unhelpful when it comes to my normal playing style, which involves staying level of just ahead of the tech curve, and coups in city states are only marginally useful.

The development team at Firaxis also promised corrections for some of the game’s core mechanics and improvements for the Artificial Intelligence powering the computer-controlled civilizations.

Unfortunately, they are hit and miss and the tactical combat has some problems.



The computer does very well on the offensive, when it has superior troops, but there are big problems when it comes to his defensive operations, especially during the modern era.

It still tries to throw cavalry at walls of pikes and usually ignores the power of aircraft-based assaults even when good solid bombers are available for use.

The A.I. also tends to miss the finer points of civilization specialization and seems to put much less of an emphasis on Great Persons that the human players do.

Another piece of behavior I cannot understand when it comes to diplomacy is the speed with which A.I.-controlled civilizations shift from open-border agreements and research agreements to denunciations and, sometimes, even war.

The overall quality of the Artificial Intelligence is better in Gods & Kings than in Civilization V, but it is still far from the near perfection seen in the final release of the previous game in the series.


Graphics and audio

The fact that Gods & Kings still looks impressive is a testament to the great job that Firaxis has done with Civilization V when it was first released.

The new leader and the new units all look good and the religion interface slots nicely with the rest of the game, with a few additions here and there designed to offer more information to the player.
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Late game
Wonderful time
Unfortunately, espionage again sticks out like a sore thumb, with its weird menu, which both hides information from the player and makes the choices one makes seem inconsequential.

Civilization V rivals other strategy games like Total War: Shogun 2 and Sins of a Solar Empire when it comes to graphics quality, and this is the first time when the series has actually convinced me to zoom in to look at cities and improvements rather than just spend the whole game fully zoomed out in order to plot my strategic moves.


Multiplayer

All the Artificial Intelligence problems I talked about during the Gameplay section can be avoided by creating a multiplayer match with other humans, and Civilization V can be a perfect multiplayer game for a group of dedicated gamers who have the time and the patience to see a game to completion.

Just make sure that everybody in the group has had some matches with Gods & Kings to get acquainted with the new mechanics and maybe set some house rules in order to deal with tactics like religion rushing, which can be unbalanced.


The Good

  • Religion is fantastic
  • New leaders and civs
  • More late game options

The Bad

  • Problems with the A.I.
  • Espionage lacks punch

Conclusion

Gods & Kings is by no means a perfect expansion, but if Firaxis delivers another one or two packages that contain the same amount of content, then Civilization V will probably fulfill its potential and become the best turn-based 4X video game in history.

The most interesting addition is the religion system, which is a great way for players either to enhance the strong points of their civilizations or to mask their most obvious vulnerabilities.

Espionage is currently more of an annoyance than an asset, but Firaxis will probably have a chance to fix it with another expansion or, possibly, via downloadable content.

Hardcore Civilization players should definitely pick up Gods & Kings and explore the new systems and mechanics that it adds to the game.

Anyone who is still playing the fourth game in the series should stick with it until the developers deliver at least another expansion for Civilization V.

Finally, those who lack any kind of experience with the turn-based strategy series would be best served by picking up the original package, which is currently pretty cheap, and then moving on to Gods & Kings if they like the game experience.
 

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story 8
gameplay 9
concept 10
graphics 9
audio 8
multiplayer 8
final rating 8.5
Editor's review
very good
 

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