Note: this review assumes you are familiar with Civilization 5. If you’re not, it has been on sale several times the last few weeks; pick it up if you get a chance!
The first major expansion to Civilization 5 has arrived in the form of Gods and Kings. If you’re a purist clamoring for the return of square grids and unit stacking, you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you enjoy Civ 5 you’ll be pleased to know that Gods and Kings is, for the most part, more of what you love. Which is both its greatest strength and my largest criticism. Let’s talk about what I liked:
More rulers - Gods and Kings brings nine new civilizations to play as, including some fun choices such as the Celts and the Mayans. These civilizations mean a new set of rulers as well, so you’ll be dealing with Dido of Carthage or Attila the Hun.
More ways to play - Each new civilization has different attributes to promote a variety of play styles. Going beyond the usual exclusive unit, each civilization has a unique bonus to aid the player. For example, Attila the Hun possesses the Scourge of God, an ability that allows him to raze cities twice as fast as any other player. His nation also starts the game with Animal Husbandry, a handy bonus for the start of a game. Another example revolves around Polynesia, which starts the game with boats. These abilities were already in the original Civ 5, but Gods and Kings expands the system in meaningful ways.
Spy games - Gods and Kings sees the return of a classic Civ unit: the spy. Spies can be used to steal technologies from other players, but they can also be used defensively. Placing a spy in your city allows them to work counter-intelligence. This gives you a chance of catching any enemy spies operating in the city. Spies can also influence City-State elections, giving you more influence in the area. Spies don’t radically reinvent the game, but they add another layer of complexity and fun to the core game.
City-States are everywhere - Interactions with city-states has been completely overhauled. City-states now make more active and varied requests of you. In my last game there were requests for me to find different civilizations, natural wonders, and even cities with Great Wonders. A definite improvement over the gold-based influence of the core game.
Are you there God, it is me Attila – With a name like Gods and Kings, the introduction of religion doesn’t come as a shock. In addition to the standard set of Great People, now Great Prophets can be deployed to shape and modify the religious core of your country. The player can even use missionaries to gain influence over city-states, in addition to other civilizations. The religion system appears to be very robust, but my experience with it has been somewhat limited.
So what doesn’t work?
Random bugs – On the whole, Civ 5 plays well. However, Gods and Kings seems to have brought some minor bugs with it. Most are simple and mildly irritating, such as having to rebuild a road three times on a tile before it acknowledged its existence. Several of our editors are experienced workers having issues completing farms on random map tiles. Little issues like this and strange camera behavior are slightly grating, but on the whole the bugs haven’t been too serious.
More of the same - While the new city-state and religion options are fun, they don’t seem to truly affect the game that much. Old strategies still work, but the new units and bonuses at least promote slightly altered plans.
Ultimately, Gods and Kings is a solid expansion. If you love Civ 5, you’ll enjoy it. If you hated the fundamental changes brought to the franchise with the fifth entry, you’ll be upset (side note: you should also get over them, Civ 5 is great). Gods and Kings contains everything that makes Civilization addictive and engaging, making it worth the $30 price.
Conquered the world twice, playing as new civilizations. Attempted to play peacefully, but Austria forced me to raze every city they had. Don’t mess with Attila the Hun. Civilization 5: Gods and Kings is available now for PC and Mac OS X.