Developer: Firaxis Games / Publisher: 2K Games / Played on: PC / Price: $29.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Drug Reference, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence]
If you’ve played the original, you know that Civilization V is a crazy complicated but awesome game. That complexity makes Civ V an incredibly deep experience, but also works against the new expansion, Gods and Kings. Because the base game is already extremely dense, the additions of the expansion feel like superfluous complexity. It’s an extra steamer tray of mashed potatoes on the end of a thirty-foot buffet — sure it’s nice to have more stuff, but it doesn’t change your experience profoundly enough to warrant the cost.
The most broad addition is found in the first half of the expansion’s title; your civilization can now found a religion. Essentially, once your civilization advances enough, you can pick various tenets to add to your religion, each of which offer a different perk. For example, one might produce more happiness in your cities while another makes your combat units more effective. Each city that ascribes to the religion in question gets the benefits of that religion, encouraging you to spread your religion to your cities, and possibly even to your opponent’s to subvert the bonuses they were trying to accrue. That’s the extent of it really — some minor perks that don’t really factor into the game at large. You can’t convert a city to your control through religion or anything so consequential.
The second and more substantive addition is in espionage. Now, your spies can infiltrate other cities to steal technology or rig elections in city-states, granting you free influence. On top of that, you can move spies to your own city to run counter-intelligence against enemy spies. This makes for a cool cat-and-mouse game, especially when your supposed allies are caught with their hands in your research cookie jar. Nabbing expensive tech for free can also have a substantial impact on your civilization, especially if you aren’t science-focused.
Gods and Kings also comes with three scenarios, which are special games with unique conditions and winning rules. I ended up having the most fun with the add-on scenarios, mostly because the custom rule sets provide a unique experience and require well-planned strategies to succeed. One scenario, “Empires of the Smoky Skies,” takes place in an alternate reality steampunk world with completely different units and tech trees. This felt way more substantive of an addition to me than the rest of the new mechanics.
Naturally, Gods and Kings adds nine new civilizations to play as, each with their own unique bonuses, but that’s the same story as the rest of the expansion. It’s more content, but content that fails to substantially change or enhance vanilla Civilization V. If you’ve put so much time into the original Civ V that you’re bored with all the civilizations in the original game, Gods and Kings will extend your play time considerably. However, most Civ players will find the changes too minor and the original game complex enough that an expansion isn’t necessary.