It’s no secret that I love Civilization V. Frequent readers of Mana Pool have come across my Civilizations & Leaders Guide and will have noticed that I’ve spend more than just a little bit of time with the game. The original game was obviously not without it’s flaws, but it was still pretty damned good. So does Gods & Kings manage to improve on the core game? It certainly improves several aspects of the game and introduces elements with the core game sorely needed. I’d go as far as to say that this expansion is pretty much vital as it rebalanced some other aspects of the game and improves on combat significantly.
The first and by far most obvious change in Gods & Kings is the ability to found your own religion. This is done in an excellent manner, complete with a list of founder, follower and enhancement perks which allow the player to tailor the religion to their play style and strategies. Religion is so well integrated into the game that quite frankly I wouldn’t know how to run some of my larger empires without it any more. Religion has brought a new resource called ‘Faith’ to the game, which together with Culture, Gold, Food, Science and Production does a great job to provide some additional depth to the game. It also brings new units in the form of missionaries, inquisitors and great prophets, which allow you to spread and manipulate the spread of your religion on the map.
Founding a religion is a matter of collecting faith – which when you reach a specific point allows you to found a Pantheon and pick 1 perk. Each time someone does this, the faith requirement for the next pantheon goes up a little. Once this is accomplished, it is a straight race to the required faith level to trigger your first Great Prophet, which allows you to found a proper religion and pick founder and follower perks. Depending on number of players and map size, a specific number of religions can be found, after which no new religions can be started. Religions can be further enhanced with another Great Prophet, but all religions can do this. The main benefit of getting there first is to be able to have a free pick from the remaining perks, as each perk can only be picked once. Generally speaking if you’re planning to go for religious pursuits, you wish to get there fairly early, or you might end up with far less desirable perks. This is especially true in multiplayer.
Gods & Kings also introduces a number of changes which are meant to balance aspects of the game that players and developers found lacking, or requiring tweaking. A number of new technologies have been inserted, primarily around the time when the world war 1 units are introduced. There are 27 new units to match this, such as the machine gunner and triplanes. This means that there are now three different types of fighters and bombers and the pacing is much better in the later eras.
Diplomacy also gained a number of balance changes and generally speaking works a lot better. Especially dealing with city states, which is much improved with a number of new quests and a much better general involvement. In addition, a number of new city states have been added as we obviously also have religious ones now. Once you hit the Renaissance you gain access to spies, which change the dynamic of the diplomatic gain dramatically. Spies enable you to gain vision on specific cities, steal technologies or outright sabotage relations with city-states. You can also discover that someone is plotting against someone else, and then choose to share this information with the target for diplomatic favors. All in all it has made the game a lot more dynamic, whilst at the same time ensuring that people who are falling behind are still able to make somewhat of an impact.
Some very significant but less obvious changes have been made to the tactical side of the game. These actually have a huge impact on how the games play out and I felt it was more than worth mentioning them in more detail. First, Naval Combat has been completely revamped. There are now two different ship types, melee and ranged. Ranged ships aren’t much different from before, but the big change is in the melee side of your navy. The melee ships can’t attack land based units, but they are able to attack and conquer cities. This is a huge change, as prior to the expansion your navy was not able to capture a coastal city without a land unit present. Due to this change, it is now vital that players protect their coast, or their coastal cities are at serious risk of falling to an opponent with a superior navy.
In addition to this, all embarked units are now able to defend themselves, and can stack with a ship for protection. Gone are the days where players simple picked off an embarked invasion force by avoiding combat with enemy ships altogether. A clever player can now properly protect his units with the appropriate combat vessels. Last but not least there is the addition of the Great Admiral, a unit not unlike the Great General – but with the ability to repair all naval units in range. This can make quite the difference in a prolonged big naval engagement and should not be underestimated.
Land based combat has also been enhanced, and Firaxis have done away with the ’10 health per unit’ system in favor for 100 health per unit. This might sound like it wouldn’t make much of a difference, but the ability to deal more precise damage does a lot of positive things to combat and makes units feel more robust and damage a little more predictable. AI has also been enhanced to build smarter, more balanced armies and most combat feels more tactical and less dependent on sheer luck of the dice.
Besides for the changes mentioned above, there are new wonders, some changes to the engine (it all runs a little smoother) and three new scenarios: Into the Renaissance, Fall of Rome and Empires of the Smoky Skies. If I have to be honest, the scenarios didn’t do much for me (I play them sorely to acquire the achievements), but they’ve given modders some additional items to work with and some players will absolutely enjoy them. Speaking about achievements, the game is up to 227 on Steam now, absolutely crazy. I’m getting there though.
So should you buy Gods & Kings? Yes, absolutely. It improves the core game at every level and I would go as far as to say that Gods & Kings is a vital expansion. I don’t really see a point at playing the game without it – as there isn’t a single change that hasn’t made the game better. New Civilizations, more balanced combat, Religion, Spies, it all greatly contributes to the overall enjoyment the game offers. This expansion is fantastic and I sincerely hope that the next expansion (please expand the later/future eras!) is of similar quality. In fact here, have my money in advance.