Civ V add-on brings Religion and Espionage
Firaxis layers in religion, espionage, and…yes, steampunk.
In life, one must ask the fundamental question: Could there be civilization without religion? In the gaming world, it’s the same: Could there be Sid Meier’s Civilization without religion?
The answer is simple now that Firaxis has balanced Civilization V’s new engine and its systems have been tuned. “Religion was always part of our long-term plan,” explained Tiffany Nagano, producer, 2K Games. “We wanted to establish the core elements of the game and let them settle. Once we were happy with the way they settled, we layered in religion and espionage, which permeate everything.”
In anticipation of the $30, June 19 release of Sid Meier’s Civilization V’s newest add-on pack, Gods and Kings, Nagano played a working version of the substantial addition. The expansion pack is almost a game in itself with 2K stating it will be as big if not bigger than Civ IV’s incredible Beyond the Sword expansion.
Civ fans will find three new scenarios, including a nifty Steampunk option, an expanded tech tree, new units, and nine new civilizations—Austria, Byzantium, Carthage, Celtica, Ethiopia, the Huns, the Maya, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Previous available DLC states Mongolia and Spain are included in the expansion.
But it’s the addition of religion and espionage that create the greatest complexity and depth to the already intense strategy game.
So You Want to Start a Religion?
After thirteen turns we catch up with the 13th century Swedish empire leader Gustavus Adolphus. And religion, it turns out, is a strong element in one’s early civ-building plans. Adolphus has started down a religious path by using the resource “faith.” When enough faith is yielded, the Swedish leader can found a pantheon, an early or proto-religion.
“In any given game, you choose all the beliefs and/or traits for your religion, and the resulting benefits and effects will be custom and unique to your play style,” explains Nagano. “In the same way that you might pursue a different combination of social policies in different games, the traits and bonuses that you choose to make up your religion can be different from game to game.”
Accumulating “faith” kicks off the mechanic of picking gods or goddesses. You can choose the Goddess of Food, for instance, and farms will produce more resources; or the God of Hunt, producing more resources in hunting camps. The key is picking the one that best suits the type of civilization you want. Once a pantheon is picked, the choice is removed from the game.
After creating a pantheon, several choices open up. You choose icons, a belief (that benefits the founder, of course), and eventually he or she will found a Great Prophet, the next key step. The types of religions aren’t based solely on European Christianity, by the way; about 10 real-world religions — Judaism, Buddhism, etc., open up, and you can rename them (Nagano said they usually call theirs “Sidism,” after Sid Meier).
Religion aids in the growth within a civilization, but it’s utilized as an offensive tactic to expand it. Missionaries can visit enemy territories whether your state is an open territory or not, and once there, they can convert citizens. Let’s say we planned on attacking Boudicca, in the Ireland area. We could send a missionary group led by a Great Prophet into her region in a relatively neutral way.
Once there, however, we decide to command them to convert Boudicca’s population. Because her citizens already believe in a religion, however, the percentage of conversion isn’t as high or fast as it would be if no religion was established. In a separate scenario, we see that by sending the same missionary into a non-religious civ, we can convert 100% of the citizens relatively quickly. As a side note, an established religion can influence nearby cities—as many as 10 hexes away.
Well, it turns out Boudicca isn’t pleased we’re converting her people, but it doesn’t matter. We have decided to attack her. Because the religious infiltration has softened up Boudicca’s city-state for a military attack, her population is weakened. With converted citizens now believing in our religion, we receive a boost rate of up to 20%, giving us a higher chance of success.
Spy Vs. Spy
What’s most interesting about religion is that it’s powerful up to a point. That point of time being the Renaissance. The focus behind Gods and Kings, explains Nagano, isn’t to maintain a status quo. “[Lead Designer] Ed Beach’s focus is to keep the game changing as you progress.” Thus, as the Renaissance’s revolution influences societies, religion slowly loses sway. In its place, Espionage steadily grows more and more powerful.
Espionage is equally fascinating. Once a city-state has reached the Renaissance period, Espionage is available to let you produce a single spy. In Civ IV, spies were disposable. In Gods and Kings, there are only a handful per game, but their power (which, again, steadily grows as religion’s power wanes) is great enough to rig elections and even risk staging coups.
Spies are very interactive and complex, and they create intrigue. You can set your spy to infiltrate opposing players and read letters sent between high ranking offices (because, as spies, they are also high ranking officials). And so the higher ranking spies become information brokers who bring significant intelligence to light, such as plans for attacks, plans to steal resources such as banking and chivalry, and so forth.
You can also focus espionage on your own city-state to uncover what spies from other regions are doing in their own home state. Returning to the idea of staging a coup, you can stage a coup only in a city-state, which makes you an ally of said state, not the ruler of it.
You Can Always Count On Steampunk
In the games industry, certain aspects are expected: aliens, zombies, cyberspace, and steampunk. Unique to Gods and Kings are three new scenarios, including the Steampunk one Nagano showed us called “Empire of the Smoky Skies.”
Capitalizing on the real-world industrial revolution, breakthroughs in science, and the heavy empire building of Western nations in the 19th century, Firaxis’s new scenario is a Steampunk wet dream. You can build the Difference Engine (based on the 1990 eponymous book by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling), build Testa coils, and create giant mechanical airships called Sky Fortresses, which are overly ornate blimps constructed with smoke stacks billowing pollution, and more.
“The original concept came from Pete Murray, marketing associate at Firaxis, a huge Steampunk fan, and I latched on to it because I love applying the Civ framework to other possible settings for human civilization,” explains Anton Strenger, the scenario designer. “The biggest example for me is playing Alpha Centauri when I was young…I loved seeing the futuristic technologies and imagining what they might mean.”
The entire scenario is built on the idea of conquering with technology, capitalism, and claiming geography. And it appears Firaxis’ graphic designers went to town by creating as many heavy, steely, piston-moving, early-age industrial mechanisms as they could.
“Other than merely including sci-fi/fantasy elements though, which many games want to do just for its own sake, I was intrigued by the Steampunk theme because it is an alternate historical setting,” adds Strenger. “Human history was very dynamic in terms of scientific discoveries, and if one discovery came before another it could drastically change civilization and influence where science went next. The tech tree in base-game Civ does a great job of condensing the history of science in a way that you can use it for a game, but I think of the Empires of the Smoky Skies scenario—which really began from designing the new tech tree for it—as a way to remind players that there are other possibilities out there.”
You control all types of military units able to attack from land, sea, and air. In addition to the Sky Fortress are Wright Brother-styled airplanes that attack in groups by dropping bombs.
“Empire of the Smoky Skies is completely different than any other scenario we’ve done before and I like the unique traits and artwork,” said Nagano. “Personally, I think everything is better with a top hat and spectacles.” And who doesn’t?
Civilization V: Gods and Kings ships June 20 for $30 on Steam and retail for PC. Although Nagano responded with a “no comment” to a possible Mac version, if 2K Games’ enthusiastic support of Civ V on Mac is any indication, we could expect a Mac version around August. Either way, expect Gods and Kings to vanquish entire work days, endless nights, even three-day weekends.’
By: Douglass C. Perry