Pax East 2012: Civ V: Gods & Kings Changes the Game

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Pax East 2012: Civ V: Gods & Kings Changes the Game

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Religion and espionage spice up the massive mechanical overhaul to my favorite game from 2010.

More than any game from the last few years, Civilization V has chewed up massive amounts of my time. After talking to Dennis Shirk at PAX East this weekend, the producer of both the vanilla game and the expansion, it looks like Gods & Kings will result in more sleepless nights. The gentle overhaul of all the mechanics aside, there are so many new civilizations, units and game systems that playing it will feel like a whole new game. The Gods & Kings expansion will cost $30 when it comes out on June 19th (22nd outside the US) on Steam.

"We targeted Beyond the Sword as the amount of content we wanted to include," Shirk said, referring to the amazing expansion to Civilization IV. "I think in a lot of ways we have hit that and in some ways, especially in terms of new game systems, we surpassed it."

The big tickets in Gods & Kings are the religion and espionage systems. Religion was in Civ 4, but the way lead designer Ed Beach approached it is completely different and it changes as your culture becomes more advanced. There's a new resource called faith which acts like culture or science in that it's generated from buildings within your cities. Once you reach a set number of faith in ancient times, you can found a pantheon. The pantheon gives you one mechanical benefit or belief from a list of 20 or 30 - for example, if you found the Goddess of the Hunt, all your hunting camps produce more resources. Once you pick your pantheon, that choice is removed from the game so there is an element of speed to get the best pantheon for your civ.

"Pantheons are a halfway layer that introduces religion. With the pantheon, you just pick that one belief so it's like sticking your toe in the water," Shirk said. "Then you get a full-fledged religion when you go even further."

The religion system really opens up once you get to found an organized religion. You spend a certain number of faith (around 150 for the first one in a world) to design a religion from a bunch of different parameters. First is the icon - the ten or so available are based on real-world religions like Buddhism or Judaism, but you are free to rename your religion if are so inclined. Then you get to choose a belief that benefits you as the founder of that religion, as well as a belief for each city which converts to your new religion. These benefits are drawn from a pool just like pantheons are, and the number of religions is limited to half the number of civs in the game. If you start a map with 8 civs, only 4 religions can be founded, so there is an urgency to have your civ found one early on.

"I love playing a religious game now because it feeds into almost every strategy," Shirk said. "Seven out of ten games I play as Boudica [the Queen of the Celts, a new civ for G&K] because one of her traits produces faith for free from the start and her Pictish warriors reward you with one faith for every kill."

Espionage sounds just as engaging. In past Civs, you could build spies and send them all over the world, but beyond stealing some tech there wasn't much use for them. In Gods & Kings, you have a set number of spies at your disposal based on what era your civ is in, which sounds very much like a German board game concept. You can move your spies around the map, but it will take them a few turns to travel. Once they are in a city, you have the standard set of actions available like poisoning the water supply, etc. But the really cool addition is there's a chance your spy will learn some real intelligence about your enemy's plans.

For example, if you have a spy in Mumbai, he might learn Gandhi is plotting to attack China. That's a valuable piece of intel derived from the AI system itself, and if you then open up a dialogue with China, you have the option to inform Wu Zetian of Gandhi's plans. If you do, you'll gain a friend in the Chinese lady, while the warmonger Gandhi will be less happy with you. If you're more of a merchant-type, your intelligence can also be sold to the highest bidder, using your spies to make a quick bucket of gold.

"Once you receive the information, it sends a bit back under the hood, and if you go to a leader. Go into the discuss section and you'll now see options there that say 'I want to tell of these plans'" Shirk said. "I like to play the non-aggressive information broker in the late game."

There's so much other stuff to talk about, but let me summarize some of the more pertinent info I found out from the presentation and in talking to Shirk. Navies have been buffed substantially in usefulness, mostly because certain ships like the destroyer are now flagged as "melee". Before you scoff, that just means that they can capture coastal cities as if they were a land unit, and the increased vulnerability of coastal cities takes some getting used to. Also, the HP levels of units went from 10 hp to 100 hp so there is a lot more damage spread around. Siege weapons effectiveness against units has been decreased, while they will be absolutely necessary if you want to capture a city that has built a wall improvement. No more simply trying to overwhelm a city with massive amounts of warriors. Without siege, you are shit out of luck.

City-states have been changed so that you can't just buy their loyalty and two new types - religious and mercantile - ensure a more interesting variety. Religious cities will give you faith points if you're friends with them, while mercantile cities have unique luxury resources that are not available unless you buddy up to them.

The pacing of the game has been overhauled, including the entire tech tree. Shirk and Beach's team have tried to make sure units have a usefulness for a much longer period of time, a worry of mine because adding new units such as "Great War" biplanes and machine gunners would have been very difficult to play with if it kept the pacing of vanilla Civ V.

"The entire system of how units come out, the pacing, the cost, all of that stuff has been reworked," Shirk said. "If you look at the tech tree, there has been a lot of shifting around. We always wanted to get at least one tech level between each unit in the chain. We don't want you to get musketman here, and the very next tech you can get will give you a rifleman."

Based on all I saw, it looks like Gods & Kings will be a whole new game and I will never sleep again.

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When Civilization V hit, I think I managed to chalk up eighty hours of game time, which bled away without much notice.

This expansion seems very interesting, and I'll have to keep a keen eye trained on it's progress.

In reality, if there are enough new civilizations I'll probably get straight back into it - trying to role play as the leader of each was half the appeal to me.

It would amuse me, especially with the addition of religion and it appearing to be more fleshed out, if Firaxis introduced Hitler as a leader. Although I imagine someone will provide a mod for him with appropriate 'perks' and such.

Beyond the Sword, the amazing expansion to Civ IV. Typo, but..

What? Naval units can take cities now? I jus.. is the AI beefed up? Please say yes, there are already too many ways to demolish the crappy combat AI..

I can probably drop 30 bucks to have Napoleon lead Islamic France on a jihad of Pangaea.

I do love the hypotheticals.

Also, nice to see some risk involved with the coastal cities, rather than pure reward.

Sounds awesome.

Civ V changed a LOT, but there was quite a bit that was pretty weak. Mainly the diplomacy system. Hopefully this expansion gives it an overhaul so it can be more than an IM system Civs use to say they denounce you.

Uhh, Beyond the Sword was Civ IV

Other than that, this may get me to play another round of Civ V. I really missed the religions, espionage and corporations, and if Religions and Espionage are coming back - and in a better way then ever - then I may end up enjoying it a bit more.

I really enjoyed Civ V and I am thinking this is just what I need to get me back into it. Now I just need to have it show up on Steam so I can wishlist it so I don't forget.

These seem like well thought out enhancements. I'll be dusting off civ V on release, most likely.

This all sounds great. Now if only Civ V didn't slow down to a crawl in the late game because of bullshit worker AI...

So does this expansion pack mean that the game won't be as shit anymore?

A desperately needed expansion. Civ5 just feels half-finished (especially the AI).

Quesa:
Beyond the Sword, the amazing expansion to Civ IV. Typo, but..

What? Naval units can take cities now? I jus.. is the AI beefed up? Please say yes, there are already too many ways to demolish the crappy combat AI..

Thanks for pointing that out, changed to Civ 4 in the post.

And yes, Shirk said the AI also got an overhaul along with a streamlining of the code so there will be less slowdown in the late game. Whether that promise follows through is yet to be seen.

Greg

Remake Alpha Centauri :(

DamienHell:
Remake Alpha Centauri :(

A - f*cking - men.

Looks awesome!

Is that last picture Haile Selassie?

I don't see why this couldn't have been included in the original game? Religion and Espionage seem like pretty big concepts to not have in the game in the first place (or at a smaller scale).

I hated espionage in Civ IV, I hope it becomes less cumbersome and more useful.

Looking forward to this. I love Civ V, and Religions are the one thing that I missed the most from Civ IV.

Also diplomacy could use some fixing, the mechanics on Civ IV were almost perfect, and the diplomatic victoy was my favorite kind of victory on that game, in Civ V it's just bribing city states.

Looks good, if only I could get the game to actually launch for once.

I like the hex map and some of the other changes in Civ 5, but overall it just doesn't stack up to BtS. That said, I have put something like 90 hours into the game, so it's not like I don't enjoy it.

If this expansion is anywhere near as good as BtS was for Civ 4, it's gonna make for some great MP fun. I'd love for the SP to be awesome too, but I'm kinda doubtful they'll get the AI up to speed.

From when I first got Civ iV, and the for the following 5 years, there was never a time that I did not have a game on the go. It was such a highly addictive game.

I got Civ V shortly after it came out. There were a lot of interesting things that I liked about the game, but in the end, I lost interest. It did not have that addictive quality. I still play it on occation, but usually when I want something to occupy me while there are commercials on when watching sports.

That said, this sounds like a very good improvement for the game, adn I will likely get it. I hope it lives up to the reviews.

Gentleman Adventurer:
Looks awesome!

Is that last picture Haile Selassie?

Sure looks like it, coupled with Addis Ababa clearly flying the Lion of Judah. Yay Ethiopia!
Austria's a little meh, on the other hand.

And it looks like the CN Tower is wonder.

OniaPL:
So does this expansion pack mean that the game won't be as shit anymore?

I didn't much care for the game myself either. To me it was like one of those amphibious prehistoric fish, a bastard child of evolutionary theory that was neither at home in the water or on land. Caught, cooked and served up in yesterday's newspaper with a nice serve of chips and a lemon wedge.

Not to say that a lot of people did like the game, I just felt that it wasn't quite there yet and as such it didn't capture my attention like previous Civilisation titles.

Captcha : partly to blame

It sees right into the depths of my soul! I am partly to blame, come back to me Civilisation like you once were before the tattoos and the short-cropped haircut and I'll treat you right this time! You know they don't love you like I do! None of them can!

I've changed! Please, baby, come back to me! :P

Expansion packs like this will mean that I am more than likely to end up purchasing the original Civ V (+ EPs). The more key concerns of mine they address (e.g. lack of religion was one of the biggies), the more I'm inclined.

Can't wait for spies that's one thing I missed on release. Religion I'd rather not have in game to be honest but I'll probably just set it to free religion or whatever.

This looks pretty decent, actually. Maybe after another expansion or two I'll give Civ 5 another shot. It just failed on too many levels for me to give up Civ 4.

Greg Tito:
And yes, Shirk said the AI also got an overhaul along with a streamlining of the code so there will be less slowdown in the late game. Whether that promise follows through is yet to be seen.

Yeah, I realize you haven't gotten to see any evidence of anything on that front, just wailing at the moon. I've been seeing all this 'The nuanced AI will offer you fine tea and crumpets for weather forecasts' stuff with no mention of 'Now the AI will recognize that a rank 10 archer in an inaccessible location renders that front completely closed and won't throw its entire armed forces into the jaws of death for no gain. At Deity.' I love Firaxis but fixing the major flaws in the AI shouldn't require an expansion.

I never used to warmonger, I'd always try to tech and culture with just enough military not to get the global war declaration until I could get off planet, but in Civ V it's hard to overlook that as long as I get one or two archers maxed promotions (or, I don't know, just play England or China) I can still win the game if every nation declares war simultaneously.

I guess it's silly to whine about naval city conquest, getting a couple of ships of the line or destroyers to completely flatten three cities simultaneously and then waiting 20 turns to get land units there to take the cities might be a little unrealistic.. but actually having to protect the transports without stacked escorts actually made it less viable. Now there's little incentive to ever send a land unit into a water tile in the late game, especially once you have airports.

Has there been a release date given? Or just a vague "summer" one?

Yeah it's about time they got us a real expansion pack, all the little DLC things don't really add anything to the game.

And if they're going to make it so a group of warriors can't take a walled city without a catapult, they better improve the tactical AI or it will hardly be an improvement at all since that was about the only way they could capture your cities. I get the impression with the Civ V AI that they did a lot of work at the design level then built according to spec, but did very little practical testing and implementation. AI of course is real tricky to do, but sometimes the best method of design is 'watch how the humans do it and code the AI to mimic that'. They didn't seem to do this in Civ V.

RandV80:
Yeah it's about time they got us a real expansion pack, all the little DLC things don't really add anything to the game.

And if they're going to make it so a group of warriors can't take a walled city without a catapult, they better improve the tactical AI or it will hardly be an improvement at all since that was about the only way they could capture your cities. I get the impression with the Civ V AI that they did a lot of work at the design level then built according to spec, but did very little practical testing and implementation. AI of course is real tricky to do, but sometimes the best method of design is 'watch how the humans do it and code the AI to mimic that'. They didn't seem to do this in Civ V.

I dunno, if the AI decided to build 20 stealth bombers I'd get worried. The AI themselves cant ever counter that I've found.

Havegun:

Gentleman Adventurer:
Looks awesome!

Is that last picture Haile Selassie?

Sure looks like it, coupled with Addis Ababa clearly flying the Lion of Judah. Yay Ethiopia!
Austria's a little meh, on the other hand.

And it looks like the CN Tower is wonder.

I read somewhere that they were adding nine new civs. So we have Ethiopia, Austria-Hungary, the Celts, the Huns, and Carthage (I think). So that leaves four unknown.

Also, I dig the new World War One era units.

Pretty excited for this. Prepared to have waaaaaaay more of my time sucked away.

Can't wait for it. I liked Civ V, but losing all of those smaller details in the switch over kinda hurt the addictive qualities of the game. I especially missed the interesting ways you could use religion as a tool of diplomacy, added a fun way to win games without involving combat. That's probably the problem with vanilla Civ V, not enough to do in a non-combat oriented playthrough. This will fix that I hope.

DamienHell:
Remake Alpha Centauri :(

Check out the planetfall mod for Civ 4. It's an enhancement + remake of SMAC, and uses all the sounds and voices from the original, as well as custom unit graphics and terrain.

Think I just came.

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