Sid Mier’s civilization is like a fine aged wine, during different periods there will be slight nuances in the flavour but overall, it’s a good experience. Civilization 5 Gods & Kings feels like someone has left the cork out.
Civilization 5 like its predecessors has aged well, operating systems have changed, textures have been updated and the bar has been raised. For the most part the changes in subsequent games have been improvements. The Gods & Kings expansion is no such change, much of the core elements that made Civilization 5 a great game have been retained, other aspects have been changed and some new features have been added that fall short of expectations. The major changes that have been introduced in Gods and Kings are; the introduction of Espionage and Religion to Civilization 5 and a change in the units and structures that are available during the course of one match.
Religion returns from a hiatus from the original release of Civilization 5, which aimed to streamline and simplify the experience. One of the bigger complaints that stemmed from the hardcore Civilization community was the loss of the Religion and Espionage mechanics (which were present in Civilization IV) about the original release game was a loss of some of the tactile manoeuvres that were available in Civilization IV but, not Civilization V. In response to this complaint Firaxis has included Religion in this expansion in conjunction with a new resource; faith. A player can first found a pantheon and then a religion afterwards. Not all civilization may start a religion so there is a sense in urgency to found the one you want the most lest you miss out. Religion is spread via two ways, either passively as cities within 10 hexes of a religious city are slowly converted or more forcefully through the use of prophets and missionaries. In theory this would add a new layer of interaction between yourself and other city states and civilizations. Unfortunately this is not the case, while you get to choose founder and follower bonuses depending on which part of the map you spawn on it is mainly a game of luck. Once a religion has a majority following it is extremely hard to turn the tide, AI opponents build cities like it is going out of fashion and often the passive conversions that take place are hard to combat. While a neat concept to bring back I wish Firaxis would have taken it to the extreme, during one match I founded a religion that was spread to 80% of the world’s population. It would have been an interesting addition to gain some bonuses from other civilizations following your religion such as an easier alliance or immunity from some of the smaller diplomatic losses you can occur. I feel that Religion, is hardly a mechanic that will force you to change your traditional play style and for such an expensive expansion I expected much more.
Espionage has also made a comeback in this expansion, much like religion it was a nice inclusion but it lacks the impact that it should have had. With spies you can control their actions through a hub that is available in the right hand side of the screen. You can use spies to not only protect your own cities from the wondering eyes of other nations but to also spy on other civilizations and steal technology or secrets from them. You are also able to use spies to rig local elections in city states which will drop the approval rating of its ally if you succeed. I felt as though the espionage mechanic was a nice addition to the game but much like religion it was missing some additional punch to make it that must have feature for the game. What would have been even better is if like some of the older civilization games you were able to sabotage cities and try to cripple them before an invasion. I did enjoy courting new allies by passing on information that was gained via my network of spies but this just wasn’t enough.
Most pieces of downloadable content and expansions retain the better characteristics of the main game and add pieces of content that improve on the weakness found. The God’s and Kings expansion actually made the base game worse. The expansion added new units and building throughout the standard technology tree. While this may sound like a good thing I found it to be a major hindrance due to the inclusion of what I like to call “buffer units”. These are units like the Triplane and the Great War Infantry, all these units do is replace other units you would have had in a similar timeframe with weaker versions in an attempt to get to the end of the game to use the higher levelled units. While in theory this sounds like a good way to balance a civilization rushing technology to get units like the stealth bomber all it really does is give you a lower amount of time to use the better units. By the time you get access to giant death robots and jet fighters the game has largely been won or lost by this time, you can win via a technological or cultural victory quicker than you will have the chance to get access to these units and build them to win via a domination victory. This will give lesser skilled players less of chance to play with the better units before the game is won or lost.Apart from the major features there were also a few extra additions to the game such as a new scenario called Empire of the Smoky Skies. This scenario allows you to use steampunk units and alternative resources. This was a great addition my only wish is that it was available for general gameplay instead of being locked to a single scenario. There were also some news textures like the trading post which instead of looking like a mass of gypsy huts now looks like a marketplace where someone could go without getting mugged. Even though these improvements were included there were also some unsightly bugs that made their way in as well. I disconnected from a single player match due to an “Network Connection Lost” error and I also had planes flying around dropping their arsenal on cities for an extended period of time due to an animation bug.
Civilization 5 Gods & Kings is full of great ideas that have not been expanded upon enough, what few inclusions were made were overshaded by the disappointment of what could have been. The game provided nowhere near the level of content that is should have given its lofty price tag. My advice for any prospective buyers is to wait for a Steam sale for this expansion, some fun can be had but only at the right price.