Review: 'Civilization V: Gods & Kings' - Everybody Wants to Rule the World

The first expansion for the latest iteration of the long-running strategy series doesn't reinvent the game in any fundamental way, but it does drop in more ways for you to achieve global supremacy. Featuring a host of new units, some new single player scenarios, and the introduction of religion as a tactical tool, Gods & Kings doles provides fans with more ways to mess around in Firaxis' combat/diplomatic/city-building sandbox.

The big addition, of course, is religion as one of the discoveries that your own civilization can make. Religion in this current incarnation lends additional status affects to your city populations and military units. You can also spread religion to city-states, thus increasing your influence (thus helping you with that ever-elusive endgame).

The addition of religion won't fundamentally shift how you play the game, but it does provide some new and useful benefits to your civilization.

There are several smaller but game-modifying changes that have made their way into Gods & Kings, including the ability of naval units to attack cities, which is just terrible. Well, only if you're someone, like myself, who doesn't think to adequately fortify their seaside capitol, only to have it taken over by the Russians. Besides the naval changes, the release also offers new units, buildings, and Wonders. I haven't had a chance to see them all, but essentially, it's like adding a bunch of differently-shaped chess pieces to the board that all have a couple of new moves. It's going to mix up your strategy a bit, and there is the chance of the world map getting crowded with new units.

According to the press release, the AI now plays a more varied game. As far as my own playthrough went, I can attest to this, with enemy units playing a bit more of a defensive game to go along with their offensive one. I found myself being flanked occasionally, while the CPU juggled unit types to bombard my units from a distance while doing up close and personal damage with melee units. If you've been away from the series for a while, you might want to start at a lower difficulty so you don't get chewed up quite so quickly.

Finally, Gods & Kings includes three new scenarios (essentially, campaigns with a shorter endgame based on history or, in one case, Victorian steampunk). Essentially, this is where you can test you mettle over 200 turns and get some new units in the bargain with the steampunk campaign, along with the Medieval and Fall of Rome campaigns. I was expecting something, I don't know, more narratively rich here, but for a shorter, more targeted Civ experience, this is where you can go.

Again, don't look for this release to drastically reinvent the game. Instead, Gods & Kings simply gives you a bunch of new tools to experiment with in your quest to win the Civilzation V endgame. While the scenarios didn't quite do it for me, you steampunk enthusiasts might get more mileage out of "Empires of the Smoky Skies," while fans of ancient military actions will probably get a thrill out of the two other hypothetical engagements bundled along with this release. For everyone else, it might take a couple of playthroughs to mess around with all of the new units or fine the right combination of diplomatic maneuvers to come out ahead, but that's partially part of why you're into Civ in the first place.

Gods & Kings is available now.

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