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Civilization V: Gods and Kings expansion review

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Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods and Kings

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Civilization V: Gods and Kings is the first major expansion for Civilization V, adding an extensive array of new units, features, and gameplay improvements to an already deeply addictive game. If you haven’t played Civilization V for a while, prepare to fall in love all over again.

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And even if you’re still a regular die-hard Civilization V player, Gods and Kings just gives you more of everything you love about the game—and more opportunities for modders.

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The best gets bigger
Gods and Kings basically adds more of everything to Civilization V, and tops it off with a generous dose of new features and gameplay improvements under the hood. In truth, when I started reviewing Gods and Kings it had been a long time since I had played and reviewed the original Civilization V—so long in fact that I couldn’t even tell the old from the new. To keep it simple, here’s a (semi-)quick rundown of the new features:

  • New Game Scenarios: Three new scenarios include the medieval period, the fall of Rome, and Empires of the Smoky Skies, a Victorian steampunk scenario complete with a unique tech tree and technologies.
  • Faith & Religion: A big new addition to Civilization V, Faith lets you choose a Pantheon of the Gods and create Great Prophets to found and spread your customized religion across the world. (Spaghetti Monsterism, anyone? Don’t worry, there’s a mod for that.)
  • A reworked combat system and AI (artificial intelligence) that places more emphasis on a balanced army composition.
  • Naval options: There are two different types of ships types, melee and ranged, making coastal cities vulnerable to a surprise naval attack;
  • Enhanced Diplomacy and Espionage: You can establish embassies at foreign courts for closer ties or clandestine operations. And as religions of the world start settling in and the world moves into the Renaissance, you can unlock spies to spy on foreign cities, steal advanced technologies from your strongest competitors, gain influence with City-States through election rigging, or even start a coup;
  • New City-States: There are two new city-state types—Mercantile and Religious. They can provide new types of quests and, more importantly, give you one more thing to conquer.
  • 27 new units, 13 new buildings
  • 9 new civilizations such as Carthage, Netherlands, the Celts, and the Maya, each with unique buildings and traits.
  • 9 new leaders including William I, Prince of Orange, Boudicca and Pacal the Great.
  • 9 new Wonders and effects including Neuschwanstein, the Great Mosque of Djenne, the Terracotta Army, the Great Firewall, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Gameplay - where I destroy all things French
As stated earlier, it had been so long since I played Civilization V I could scarcely pick out what was new in Gods and Kings and what existed previously. That said, well into a game I realized I’d already built and used a ton of the new DLC features and units. I was quite oblivious as to whether or not it actually improved upon the original game, but the game is certainly no less addictive than it was the last time I played it.

I started a medium-sized, Normal game as the Empress Wu Zetian. As is fairly typical, the early game consists primarily of exploration, researching early technologies, and clearing out barbarian hordes so you can expand your empire. I placed a lot of my resources into science, technology, production, and weapons—setting the stage for an advanced military if I survived long enough to see it.

Buh-bye Songhai
On my continent I eventually meet Napoleon, the emperor of France, and Askia Muhammad, the emperor of Songhai. We played nice for a while, each of our early empires too fragile to risk all-out war. Askia took an obnoxious stance almost immediately, complaining about my proximity to his borders. I tired of him eventually and need to expand, so I crushed him with a smaller but more advanced military, and then took his cities.

The French continue rapid expansion but Napoleon continues to play nice. We even swap embassies, and some of the new espionage options become available. I shuffle my spies around trying to steal technology and/or protect my own, but eventually place one in my embassy within Napoleon's empire because the little bastard keeps stealing technology from me.

I respond in kind, only to learn (again through my spy) that the French have nothing worth stealing because my empire is far more advanced. Eventually, my spy also uncovers a plot by Napoléon to attack one of my cities near his border. And here I thought we had a peace treaty? So much for a diplomatic victory.

The French are coming
Sure enough, within about 10 turns of my spy’s report, Napoleon abolishes our treaty, declares war, and attacks one of my cities near his border. I think the little bastard was even smug about it.

Napoleon’s forces are intelligently composed of a mix of ranged and infantry units—the expansion claims the AI is supposed to smarter about how it composes its military. His forces rapidly invade my borders.

But Napoleon bites off more than he can chew. Thanks to my spies, my city is already well-fortified against him, and my own sizable (and technologically superior) military is in position. I rain death upon him with my Chu Ko Nu archers, Trebuchets, Musketeers and cavalry.

Welcome to Waterloo II, Bee-atch! I deliver a crushing blow to his forces. Napoleon is French Toast, and sensing defeat offers peace. “We mustn’t let war define who we are...” he says.

I refuse—not only to punish him and watch him squirm, but because Paris is in my sights. If Paris falls, so does another rival empire.

Eventually, Napoleon makes another and very desperate plea for peace, offering two entire cities and a wealth of gold and resources to make amends.

I take the offer—and then crush him about 20 turns or so later. Paris falls, and in a bid to build a better world, I put all mimes and poodles to the sword, but save the toast and fries.

Overall
It’s “just one more turn” all over again. Civilization V: Gods and Kings adds a wealth of new toys to your Civilization V toy box and (if you haven’t played for a while) will suck you back in to one of the most addictive and compelling turn-based strategy games of all time. If you were already a fan of the game, then Gods and Kings just adds more of everything to make you keep loving it.

Gods and Kings also adds new fodder for modders. There are many, many Civilization V mods out there available for free (whether or not you want or own Gods and Kings); check Civilization Fanatics, and a recent article on Venturebeat offers up a top 5 mods list as well.

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