Civilization 5 will turn the tide of war and win back your time this spring with the release of the Gods and Kings expansion. Focusing on adding a few major game aspects, this expansion promises the return of fan favorite features religion and espionage, missing from the basic version of the world domination simulator, as well as tweaks to combat and diplomacy.
Religions allow players to found and grow the faith of their people from the very beginning, offering a much richer experience than religion in Civ 4. Now, religions can be customized to fit particular playstyles, such as aiding culture or war development, pulling different beliefs from a common pool shared among all players. Once an empire's faith adopts a practice, it disappears from the available options for other players, creating a new avenue for resource competition.
Religions grow in a variety of ways depending on your civilization and belief choices, such as the Celts gaining extra faith for living near wooded areas. Eventually, your faith can blossom into pantheon of gods or even see a prophet arrive to bring the true word and upgrade to major religion status, allowing further customization and development to suit your playstyle.
To hear about the more secular additions Gods and Kings brings to Civilization 5, as well as a few more nifty images, make the jump.
Late game, specifically at the Renaissance and beyond, espionage returns to let players manipulate foreign nations through the careful placement of spies. This system has been refined significantly from Civ 4, now being confined to a single status screen for easy manipulation of spies. Gone are the days of dragging your agents around the world manually - now, assignments let you distribute your forces quickly and quietly.
Your agents provide numerous behind the scenes benefits, like gathering information about what other nations are planning, giving actual insight into what the computer is running behind the scenes. They can also rig elections in city-states to install officials that like you or stage coups to try and takeover by force.
Speaking of city-states, Gods and Kings introduces two new varieties - mercantile states that can provide unique luxuries and religious states to bolster faith for their allies. Thankfully, the city-state system has also received some much needed attention. Previously, city-states would create alliances based on monetary investments, essentially letting players buy their way into powerful positions during elections.
All of that disappears with the Gods and Kings expansion. Now, these independent states will set tasks, affectionately called "quests" by the game, which determine what nations earn their favor. They cover nearly every aspect of play, from technological advancements to bringing faith to godless regions, adding a new layer of complexity demanding a leader's attention.
That is unless you want to smash your way to victory. The combat system has been slowed down noticeably, which lets conflicts grow from simple hack and burn conflicts to full on battles with dynamic battle lines and an actual feeling of war. Other tweaks include a few new ranged units to help keep pace with melee fighters and new melee naval units, like the WWI destroyer, to add more danger to coastal areas.
And, of course, the expansion comes with tons of new pieces to fill the world. 9 new civilizations will be available, including the Celts, Maya, Byzantines, Netherlands, and Carthage, each with the appropriate historical leader such as William I, Prince of Orange for the Netherlands and Boudicca of the Celts, each also speaking the appropriate language of their people in scenes.
Civilization 5: Gods and Kings hits stores this spring. Until then, pass the time looking over these screen shots and plan your next world domination.