Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review - Civilization 5: Gods and Kings

I don’t have the time for Civilization 5. I have a full time job, a social life, freelance work and hobbies. So the fact that Gods and Kings dragged me in one Sunday afternoon for six hours is pretty telling – especially after I set aside a couple of hours to play it...

The latest expansion for Civ 5 – itself the latest in the venerable turn-based strategy series – is a fantastically addictive, immersive game, which is sure to keep any strategy buff playing for hours. If you have a girlfriend, you’d better warn her.

G and K continues Civilization 5’s excellent gameplay, which as any Civ fan will know revolves around selecting a civilization and leading it to victory through economic, political, military or technological means. What G and K adds is a slightly more troublesome aspect of humanity – religion.

The core game itself is an excellent example of the genre. Starting out in your nation-state, gamers have to expand, advance and conquer the world, moving forwards through the ages as you do. The game is played on a hexagonal grid, and the movements of your various armies, assassins, spies, labourers et al is carried out in a turn-based style. Battles play out from this isometric perspective, and are more about statistical management than strategy, but that’s to be expected.

The depth the game offers is staggering, but the huge array of tech-trees, diplomatic options, fleet distributions and farming quotas are all easy to control – once you’ve spent some time playing the game’s well-implemented tutorial. Starting out with a single perk – such as quicker military construction for the Russians, you move from grid to grid, conquering or smooth-talking either online players or a pretty fiendish AI, until you achieve final victory.

G and K’s main addition – religion – adds a whole new aspect to the challenge. Starting small, with a single ‘holy man’, or ‘prophet’, the gamer has the option to try to convert or conquer other religions and bring them to the flock. This then has an impact on the wider game, making some countries more likely to become allies if they follow the same religion, or more likely to try to stamp you out if there’s a long history of tension between them.

The religious aspect also allows you to collate ‘faith’ points, which lead to more grand buildings and temples from any one of the major world religions becoming available for your selection. Winning through the religious angle is a much more difficult approach than just dominating the other civilizations, but it can be more rewarding. The add-on also includes a number of new units, world leaders (all shot in lovely graphics) and civilizations to lead/coerce/conquer. I thoroughly enjoyed debating politics with Mahatma Ghandi.

Gods and Kings is an excellent addition to an already excellent game, adding a new layer of depth to Civilization 5’s brilliant gameplay while not overcomplicating the action. If you’re a fan of Civ 5, I’d definitely pick it up.

Reviewed on PC