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My Review of Gods and Kings

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  • Wiglaf's Review of Gods and Kings

    Long time Apolyton member Wiglaf is the 2nd person to submit his review of Civilization V: Gods & Kings to Apolyton's Civilization 5: Gods & Kings review contest and is clearly not happy with this expansion pack, read his review to understand why. If you like his review, please give him a 'thanks' in the forums. The reviewer that gets most 'thanks' will get his or her Gods & Kings purchase paid back by Apolyton (read the terms & conditions for specific information)

    Review:

    Gods and Kings, hitherto 'GK,' is the first expansion to Jon Shafer's last act as a respected member of the PC videogame industry, known as Civilization 5. GK is a continuation of the trend of cashing in on a successful but highly flawed game by tacking on poorly integrated, barely thought-out game features that really should have been included originally, in working format.

    I will break down my thoughts on the additions.

    The name: 'Gods' makes sense, but 'Kings' does not. This is a bad start, and things will only get worse.

    Boring, uneventful, nukeless espionage: The first thing I noticed is that all my spies have only first names, like Albert, or Alexa, or Fred. While I appreciate the need for secrecy, I do not appreciate feeling like I am sending my god damned pet goldfish off to spy on the enemy. These are professionals and they should be named as such.


    Also, evidently the developers could not be bothered to have graphic artists contribute to this part of the game in any way. This expansion is so low budget they just added a couple of menus, and even the menus don't make sense. Espionage gets its own big button up top but religion, a more important game feature, does not.

    The third thing I noticed is that there is almost no strategic depth to this addition. Much like the loss prevention department of a struggling department store, you only have three options: rig useless 'elections,' Steal tech/intrigue, or counter-intel. It goes without saying that if you are a big tech leader, then you just do counter-espionage and maybe influence a city state if you're bored. If you're way behind in tech, you steal tech. Pretty simple. If you simply must influence a city state, go for it, enjoy the thrill down your leg as you 'rig an election' to get a small influence boost over an unthinking, unfeeling dispenser of some faith/gold/food/military units. Whatever. If this excites you, get a girl friend.

    Intrigue is the dumbest concept ever introduced in a Civ game because it's not even a coherently integrated game mechanic. The developers couldn't even implement it in MP because of this incoherence. The basic idea is that your spies in enemy Civs have a chance of learning of that civ's secret war plans, like a plan to sneak attack you or another Civ. Because Civ5 cannot read your mind, the AI can never get intrigue from you.

    The developers could have easily remedied this inconsistency, say by requiring all players (including the human) 'draw war plans' 10 turns in advance of an invasion, but they opted to make it impossible for the AI to detect through espionage that you are plotting an invasion. The result is that you get intrigue to play with, and the AI does not.

    Which would be upsetting except for the fact intrigue is useless and poorly designed anyway. A good 80% of the time, your intel is that some other AI is plotting to sneak attack another AI, which functions like a positive diplo modifier for you when you share this information with the victim AI. I suppose you could be a douche and not share the intel if you want to hurt the other player, but since the AI rarely follows through on invasion plans you learn about through 'intrigue,' no one really cares.

    By the way: When you catch an enemy spy, their leader comes up and apologizes by doing the same animation he does when you eliminate him from the game. Like I said, low budget. The best part is, if you tell him to stop spying on you, you get a negative diplo hit for it. (If he gets caught again, you get to declare war on him for it, which at least approximates the casus belli system this game so desperately needs.)

    Customizable, nameable Religions: Finally, a way to spread 'HIV' throughout my civilization, just like Reagan.

    Unlike espionage, it seems the developers found some buried art assets of missionaries and inquisitors to use with this feature. They must have found these files and gotten excited, which was a mistake because the missionaries and inquisitors look every bit like the terrible vanilla-reject 3D models they are.

    Basically, civs race to found a limited number of religions, which they can customize with a list of exclusive bonuses that no other religion can later claim. Most of these bonuses will appeal to effete players, like the +1 happiness for being near rivers. I founded racism, which provides a +1 happiness or culture or something for every jungle tile near a city, for obvious reasons, as well as +2 gold for every city following the religion, as well as something else, like more faith points or something useless.

    Very little depth or balance to this, as well. If you found a religion, it is always in your interest to spread it far and wide, being cognizant of the diplo hit you will get if you spread a religion into a civ that has its own religion. It might also be wise to place cities to take advantage of bonuses you may have selected. By 1400 AD, Racism was making me an outrageous amount of gold (something like 40% of my total income), allowing me to buy city states and therefore the game through diplomatic victory.

    If you don't found a religion, you are either slow or an idiot, but basically, you get to ignore this entire mechanic. I guess it might be a bad thing if another powerful civ spreads its religion in your cities, but not really, since you still get some of the bonuses from that.

    AI: It was very clear I was buying up every city state (literally every one) and beelining to Globalization to build the UN. No Civ stopped this, told me to stop, attacked my capital, anything. Once I built the UN, all the city states and three civs voted for me, including Catherine, who was way ahead of me by score. I cannot understand why an AI that wants to win the game would do nothing at the strategic level to stop someone else's obvious attempt to win, and then on top of that, vote voluntarily to lose the game. It didn't matter what the civs did, since buying the city states up/patronage/Greece made it a guarantee I'd win with city states alone, but still.

    Tactically, the AI seems to be decent at taking coastal cities and completely incompetent at taking everything else. Nothing has changed here.

    Special mention goes to diplomacy, which is still racist and thinks it is reasonable for me to sign a peace treaty where I give away 5 cities and all my gold to stop a war I am winning. The diplomatic AIs do not seem to care that I pledge to protect certain city states, because even AIs that like me demand tribute from the city states anyway every 10 turn and then force me to either ignore it (hurting city state relations) or condemn them for it (hurting my relations with them.) It is at least possible to predictably form blocs, mainly with civs that A) do not border you and B) are condemning the same civs you are. But it's not like you'll ever get anything meaningful out of that, aside from research deals. Coordinated warfare is still an impossibility.

    And that's it. There are scenarios no one will play. There's a new menu that sucks. There's some new Civs like Austria that are overpowered. I want my money back, Plomp.
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