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Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Gods & Kings Demo Now Available – And First Impressions

By on June 29th, 2012 3:07 pm

Sid Meier's Civilization 5: Gods & Kings

The Steam page for Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Gods & Kings is now offering a playing demo for this Civ5’s first expansion.

I couldn’t find the details on this demo other than this is standalone demo, meaning that it doesn’t require you to have the Civ5 base game to play, and that the demo should be available for both PC and Mac (via vg247). I couldn’t install the demo myself to verify this, probably because I own the game.

Nevertheless a demo is always a good thing, and a good opportunity for you to experience first hand if Gods & Kings enhances and/or fixes Civ5 for you or not. Or if this would be something you would like to play if you’re new to the civilization games series of course.

What’s new in Gods & Kings? These are the major new features:

  • 9 New Civilizations: Carthage, Byzantium, the Huns, Austria, the Netherlands, the Maya, Sweden, Ethiopia and the Celts (there’s also Spain and Mongolia that have been introduced earlier via DLCs).
  • Religion: Great prophets, missionaries and inquisitors which help spread your faith.
  • Espionage: Establish embassies and use spies for surveillance, steal technologies or interfere with city-state alliances.
  • City-States: Two new city-state types have been added (Mercantile and Religious). Vatican City and Jerusalem are holy cities that play key roles in the religious struggle.
  • Reworked combat system: More emphasis on a balanced army composition. Lines should stand longer to allow for smarter tactical decisions.
  • Naval Combat: The navy is now split into two different ship types, melee and ranged. This means that coastal cities are now vulnerable to surprise naval attacks.
  • 9 New Wonders: New wonders include the Hubble Space Telescope, Neuschwanstein, the Great Mosque of Djenne, the Great Firewall and the Terracotta Army.
  • Three new Scenarios: Medieval (from the crusades to the Renaissance): Fall of Rome (play as either Eastern Rome, Western Rome or as the Barbarians); Empires of the Smoky Skies (build flying airships and huge tractor-like tanks in this Victorian science-fiction scenario).

I leave you now with some first impressions on Gods & Kings after playing for about 4 days. A review will follow perhaps a couple of weeks from now.

Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Gods & Kings First Impressions

Civ5: Gods & Kings major new additions are no doubt the Religion and Espionage systems and the new Civs. But, there are many other things worth taking notice, which all added up help make Civ5 a much better game than it was upon release.

Diplomacy is definitely better

For instance, Diplomacy. Boy, it’s night and day for me since the last time I played Civ5 (and it was quite a while ago). I believe that the “denouncing” and “declaring friendship” mechanics were already present in Civ5 through patches, but at that time people were still saying very bad things about those changes, saying that basically the diplomacy system was still broken. I wasn’t ready yet at that time to try it first hand.

Basically what I can tell you now is that after playing a couple of games I think diplomacy behaves much better than when Civ5 was first released. It is much less chaotic and I didn’t notice the old strange patterns of mass declarations of war or everybody requesting the same things from you a few turns apart (e.g. waves of requests for open borders one civ after the other). Horrible.

I can’t tell you for sure if diplomacy was already much better after the patches, before Gods & Kings I mean. But, I can tell you that in G&K, diplomacy does feels much better, and I mean, in a huge way. There’s still a lot of unpredictability yes, like Civs declaring war after being friends for a while (backstabbing) or Civs starting a war without a perfectly good reason (if there’s such a thing), etc. But now, all the Civ’s behavior seems much more natural and realistic than before.

I’m currently playing with Theodora of the Byzantine with Genghis Khan as my closest neighbour, who attacked me early in the game (of course), who can trust Khan, right? But, eventually a friendship with Gandhi (always a great fellow) allowed us to combine forces and get to grips with the Mongol King. And, Gandhi was very friendly during the campaign, and now acknowledges that we fought a common foe and that we had a long friendship, etc. We never broke our friendship since then. And yes, you can now see a bunch of modifiers that tell you a good deal of what a Civ thinks about you (I don’t know it this was already in Civ5 base through patches though).

Sid Meier's Civilization 5: Gods & Kings

Religion is fun

Ok, short story: Religion is back. Long story: Religion was already present in Civ4, was taken out in Civ5 vanilla and was put back in again in G&K, although now slightly enhanced.

Why is it enhanced and fun? Because now you can use it in more ways than before (in Civ4), where religion was basically only useful for making good and great friends and equally good and great enemies. In Civ4 that was pretty much it for religion. The different religions were all the same, only different in the name and the era you could found them.

That’s why many folks back then proclaimed that religion was flawed, and that it should be improved or taken out completely because it lacked depth. Well, there you go, Civ5 took it out and the result was just horrible. Now, it’s back again, good. I can’t imagine a civilization themed game without religion.

In G&K you can recruit Great Prophets when you accumulate enough “faith” (the game’s religion resource). You can spread your religion with them, enhance your faith through beliefs (more on that in a second) or build holy shrines that produce more faith in certain terrain tiles. So, there’s this fresh new religious sub-system called Beliefs. These allow for a player to choose, or better word to tailor his own religion. You can change the religion’s name but you can also choose from a big set of distinct bonuses, which have quite a significant impact on the game. And there are two layers of beliefs: permanent effect bonuses and bonuses gained when a new city starts to follow your religion.

Apart from Great Prophets you can also recruit missionaries to spread the good word or inquisitors (new) that help revoke a religion a city already has. And according to your beliefs, which you can enhance later on with more Great Prophets, some buildings will also give you extra bonuses like gold, food or more faith. So, there’s plenty of stuff to choose here alright, and that’s what strategy is all about at the end of the day. So, thumbs up for G&K religion so far.

Battles feel more balanced now, and are more engaging. But …

One of Civ5 vanilla’s major problems were the occasional and somewhat irrational AI battle moves. Sometimes single catapults or archers were sent upfront, many times alone on suicide missions. The battle system was undoubtedly broken.

Another thing that bugged me about combat, that I wasn’t much aware at the time, but am now after G&K, is the fact that troops were too weak, or, if you want, attacks were too strong, specially when attacking in open country. This was especially dire when you played epic speed games, where army units take quite a while to build and you could easily get frustrated by losing troops much faster than you could build them. But, well, it’s war, and it’s Civ, nobody said it was going to be easy and we “accepted” it.

I think both these issues have been addressed to an extent, however I didn’t play enough yet to have a definite take on things. The AI does seem to behave more cleverly. You don’t, or rarely see suicide missions. However I tend to think that the AI attacks better than it defends. It plans its attacks well and brings good numbers, but while defending the AI tends to stroll around with its troops or send them occasionally to their certain death. So, combat seems far from being perfect still.

I also noticed another odd behavior that I particularly disliked, an exploit perhaps, in one of my games. I built a citadel near Khan’s capital (by consuming a Great General) but I didn’t man it, and the AI constantly “trapped” itself there. Taking an empty enemy fortress can be a clever move but doing so when there are a couple of enemy trebuchets at firing range, a crossbowman and some other support forces (including a city at firing range) was clearly a dumb move.

So, Genghis Khan was sending his armies to their death one by one (you can see below an alone crossbowman that the AI sent to their doom) while I was calmly using this “exploit” to exterminate his armies and gain experience in the process. I must have repeated this behavior for like 4 or 5 times. AI bug? Exploit? Realism? Hum… Khan should know that my armies where there waiting for him, so it’s dumb alright. Looks like Firaxis has plenty more work to do on AI  ahead still.

But, combat feels better now, overall more balanced, and more fun. For instance, troops are now harder to kill. Each army has now 100 HP instead of 10 HP as of before (if I’m not mistaken). But that’s not the point, the point is that it takes longer to kill troops. So, prepare yourself for tougher and longer battles, which in my opinion has brought much more fun to the game. So, you will no longer lose your crossbowman that easily to a knight, for example. If your crossbowman is in a hill, or a forest, it could take the knight up to 3 attacks to kill your unit (or more …), so there’s more room for tactical thinking now.

Bottom line

There are many other things worth taking notice in G&K that improve Civ5 in some way. Things like happiness not being so much of a problem now (or so frustrating as before) because religion helps a bit. This is especially important at higher difficulty levels where the AI gets a huge happiness advantage.

Then there’s the new streamlined espionage system that lets you use spies to steal techs and gather intelligence to see what the enemy is plotting. The spy can also influence a City-State or even plant a coup there to overthrow a previous alliance. Another good thing about City-States in G&K is that you can’t buy them off so easily now. Gold still works but you’re forced to fulfill quests in order to get in good spirits with City-States, and to become allies with them it’s even more critical to fulfill those quests. And there are plenty of new quests.

I’ve been reading mixed reviews on Gods & Kings, ranging in scores from 4.0 to 9.2. I don’t know enough yet to score this expansion but one thing’s certain, I played through Civ3, Civ 4, and specially Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword to death (usually in Emperor difficulty), and I found Civ5 vanilla to be, well, quite boring. It was a good game yes, but not up to its predecessors. You have my Civ5 review here by the way.

My biggest grips with Civ5 vanilla were the highly erratic and schizophrenic diplomacy, boredom and global happiness issues. I was never able to play more than, let’s say, a couple of hours straight without feeling bored. Now, I can’t wait to resume my Civ5 G&K game. Looks like the “just one more turn” effect is back. And that my friends, as we all know, means that Civ5 with G&K is finally a worthy Civilization game.

But, I’m still in the Renaissance era, so, I may change my mind about this. You will have to wait for the review to know more about that ;)

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  1. bertipa says:

    In the industrial era I had a few crashes but, after a few reboots, I managed to finish it.

    All in all a really nice step toward a complete game, pity that they are selling it a piece at a time calling them ‘expansions’

    • Adam Solo says:

      I also had a few crashes today (once in a leader scene), but I’m not sure if that was the game or some beta drivers I tried today :D Rollbacked and no more crashes, so … guess was that.

      Yes, it’s starting to become an old Civ habit. Civ3 vanilla sucked/was broken, then improved with patches, and after the expansion Conquests, all was fine.

      Then Civ4 vanilla was also far from perfect and then improved with Warlords and perfected with Beyond the Sword (probably the pinnacle of the series).

      Civ5, boring. Civ Gods & Kings much better. But, we had to spend $29.99 for it. So, I agree with you that not all seems naive. But, I would say in the dev’s favor that this may be the price for trying new things (1UPT, more “realistic” diplomacy and global happiness are such examples). Then people don’t like this or that, miss this or that and they “fix” it for us.

      All in all I think they made a good job with Gods & Kings. Some people will probably say that the game is now easier or that it was “dumbed down”. I tend to think that it is more streamlined now. I feel that I’m still far from a final take on G&K but I’m having a lot of fun so far (addicting fun), so that’s all that matters to me really.

      What about you bertipa? Are you having fun? Do you think Civ5 has become a better game than Civ4 BTS? I think it may have a chance.

  2. bertipa says:

    The Jon Shafer vision for Civ V is coming alive, pity that he is not there anymore.

    I would have been a bit more extreme and I flatly refuse to be happy with the civilization series until they manage to introduce spherical planets but still… the next expansion of civilization V has a real chance to become the reference title for the series.

    In the end, nowadays, I’m almost not playing CIV IV anymore and CIV V is my clear leader as hours of game played so that mean that I quite like it.

    Mind well, I’m more a Prince or King level player: my feeling is that at the higher levels the need to optimize your game goes against the ‘History simulation’ and render the gameplay too artificial.

    At the intermediate levels you can still play relaxed and win without creating super specialized cities and dream yourself as an illuminated (if inhumanely long living) leader.

    I did not had much combat, my three neighbors declared war on me in the second age, they were twarthed and that was it. Still I think that the changes in hit points was a good idea.

    BTW I won a diplomatic victory and my state was on top of every statistics so maybe next time King level will be.

    P.S. it is flatly refusing to run on MacOSX, for the moment I just reboot on Window 7 (were I’m trying Endless Space also) to play but it is strange.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I also think a bit better of Jon now. I guess it was just a matter of a couple of years more game balancing then :)

      Have you noticed that the map is slightly spherical? I mean, when you zoom out you can see further way, like in a spherical perspective. It’s subtle alright.

      Yes, guess I will not get back to CivIV after G&K either.

      I follow you on higher difficulty levels turning the game a bit artificial. Boy, “a bit” perhaps on Emperor, above that (Immortal and Diety) the game just becomes insane, and a new type of playing style is required, I also don’t like that. My top difficulty is Emperor, and I play King games sometimes also.

      You don’t see as much combat as you see in Civ4. I mean, if you want to experience combat through all the game ages, sure, that can be done. But if you play “normally” if you know what I mean, you tend to fight less in Civ5 G&K than Civ4 BTS. That’s because I think it’s easier to forge lasting friendships, if you understand how to “play the cards right” of course.

      Now, what I didn’t particularly liked was the fact that the united nations comes very late in the game now. I mean, to win diplomatically you need to go almost all the way through the tech tree, which in a large game can be quite painful due to turn time.

      But, it should work in MacOS yes. I can’t help you here because I don’t own a Mac nor have the knowledge. Probably you could find something on the Steam forums… or just googleing about it of course.

  3. Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

    Maybe I will revisit CIV5 again, but in my personal opinion it is still not even close to the pinnacle of the series. As Adam eluded to, it is a shame that an expansion has to be paid for to have a mechanic that came with CIV4.

    The combat and strategic and tactical options you had in CIV4 is still miles ahead of CIV5. I just like having real world unit options and choices like nuclear carrying submarines, stealth bombers, etc. The hex system was a welcome addition, however they have not seem able to fully utilize the hex system.

    I think it was lazy of the devs to incorporate CIV Revolution simplicityinto the pc version. The reason CIV REV was popular was because it introduced new players to the genre and is portable. However, we still need the flag ship series to add to what was successful ie CIV4, and not take away the important elements.

    For example the future mod in CIV4 I think should be permanently adopted into the series. To take things further, let’s look at what Spore tried to accomplish. Why not let us continue into a 4x Space Strategy game once you launch your first colony ship? The type of civiliazation you groom during the “Planetary” phase will be the type of “Space Empire” you become, by inheriting attribute empire wide.

    So if you accomplish the “Planet” phase by total domination, your space empire get combat bonuses. Imagine the potential.

    • Adam Solo says:

      It’s tough to have to pay $29.99 more to finally have “the game” we deserve and need, but I didn’t say that we were paying for a Civ4’s feature, that I suppose you’re referring to Religion and Espionage. Although the mechanics were brought back they were done so in a considerably different manner. I’m still adapting to the espionage system (it’s ok at the moment) but I can say, like I mentioned in the article, that Religion was enhanced, in fact I think beefed-up is a better word.

      But, Kyle, I don’t know if these were brought by Gods&Kings or not but, there are nuclear carrying submarines and stealth bombers in G&K. The hex system was very rough in Civ5 vanilla yes, but now the AI seems to be a bit more competent using it (I don’t know how much yet).

      I didn’t play Civ Rev, so I don’t know how that may have influenced Civ5. If it is about the “simplicity” or “dumbed down” factors, I frankly don’t know. What’s wrong with things being simpler anyway? The important thing is if you’re having fun or not. There is a fine frontier between something that one may consider to have been “dumbed down” or another one thinks made the game more “streamlined” or easy to play (easy in the sense of UI accessibility, not difficulty level).

      I would love to see the vision you mention about having both “planetary” and “space empire” phases in Civ6. I guess Sid thinks he accomplished that to some extent with SMAC, but in fact he didn’t, or at least not what we’re talking about. You’re referring to the complete empire-building 4X package: Civ + Master of Orion in one game. There are people thinking in that kind of concept by the way, just look at the site forums (Starlife is such project example).

      I can’t enthusiastically recommend you G&K yet, because I haven’t reached critical knowledge to know for sure. But, what I can tell you now is that I’m having a ton of fun with this improved Civ5. In fact, unless there’s some big turn of events in the next games I’m going to play, I could already advance that I don’t plan to revisit Civ4 BTS after Civ5 G&K.

      And, as a general comment (and a bit of a rambling), quite frankly I don’t have a clue of what some people are talking about when they say that the game’s diplomacy is still broken, as it was in Civ5 vanilla. Are they playing the game? I played Civ5 vanilla quite a bit and the diplomacy was horrible. Ok, let’s say incomplete, for the sake of politeness. G&K diplomacy system may still have bugs and minor annoyances here and there but as it stands now it feels already much better (more alive, more realistic) than the one in Civ4. You can forge long lasting friendships; you can fight wars with a civ and not become an eternal enemy for the entire game when you make peace; espionage now brings “intrigues” to the table that you can share with other civs for relations boost. But, if you have a tiny army it doesn’t matter if all the civs are friends with you, they WILL turn on you in matter of time. That’s how diplomacy works in real life. In Civ4 you could have a tiny army and if you’re “friendly” to a big powerful neighbor (due to shared religion and such) you would be alright. Now, is that realistic? You would at least need to be vassals or a protectorate of that powerful nation at best.

  4. Adam Solo says:

    Finished my first G&K game today. It was a bit tough but I won! :D

    Emperor, Epic, Large, Continents, 10 Civs, 17 CS
    Victory: Diplomatic

    Perhaps I could write an AAR about it. I never tried to write one, this could be a good time to start. I’ll think about it.

    I liked the system. It’s definitely more interesting and deep than the one to be found in Civ4 BTS. The new resource, faith, is useful almost through all the game because although you can only buy missionaries, inquisitors and great prophets in the beginning later on you can recruit great engineers and great scientists also. And, it makes sense too. Religion did support many great thinkers throughout the eras.

    It’s ok. You can steal techs, gather intelligence on other Civ’s plans, share these plans with other civs as intrigue for diplomatic boost, influence city-states and plant coups (overthrow a city-state’s alliance). You can’t “destroy resources”, run poison, destroy buildings, that sort of things however. I think more can be done with the use of spies still, currently it is ok.

    Definitely better than Civ5 vanilla, much better actually. It’s possible to revert diplomatic stands, it’s possible to have long (and even all game through) friendships. There are plenty of great details, like espionage intrigue sharing, Civs remembering promises you made (to not settle near their borders for example). I also found the denounce/friendship mechanics to be quite realistic and balanced. But, I do have to say that diplomacy can become a bit chaotic by late game. All the things you do matter, and some things you discover too late to fix, like the choice of a social policies. Autocracy, Order and Freedom don’t mix well, so you may end up disturbing a long time friend if you choose Autocracy and they “believe” in Freedom. In Civ4 this was easily fixed but in Civ5 G&K you can’t switch social policies unless you accumulate the next culture breakthrough. Tough right? But more realistic than changing an entire belief system in 1 or 2 turns isn’t it?

    The AI fights cleverly now but it clearly can’t beat the human, by far. It’s still easy to outperform an AI in battle with less and weaker units, because we choose the terrain wiser and choose when to retreat or advance also wiser than they do. Tactics is that sort of thing that the AI can’t just beat the human at. At least, that’s what I felt. But, I haven’t seen any suicidal moves from the AI (at least worthwhile to report) where in Civ5 you would constantly see siege and range units wondering around, and sometimes simply moving to you heads on. This is no more, at least in this game I played I’ve see none of that nonsense.

    Great fun. The absolutely ridiculous addictiveness is back. At least for me it is.

  5. JohnR says:

    I mostly liked Gods and Kings, and it met my expectations. It maybe was not a big departure for the series and doesn’t change the core Civ5 experience all that much, but I still mostly enjoyed it. Loved the new factions, especially the Byzantines, and felt that religion was handled much better than in Civ4. I also really liked the Fall of Rome scenario, though I was a tad disappointed with the steampunk scenario and ‘Into the Renaissance’. As I recall Civ2 had this great retro-scifi scenario where you had among other things Jules Verne’s Nautilus and the Martian War Walkers, but again, I didn’t think the Civ5 steampunk analog was nearly as interesting.

    One thing I’ve always hated about the Civ series though is that you can spend a lot of time on a standard game of Civ only to come up short at the end. This can be very frustrating. Having said that, Civ5 one of those games that I consistently come back to every few months, and I can’t say that about many games.

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