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PREVIEW

Civilization V: Gods & Kings

Religion. As a secularised games journalist it's not a subject I thought I would dedicate most of preview of a highly anticipated game on.

But if Gods & Kings can get me excited about the prospects of religion, well, score one Firaxis Games.

Religion was omitted from Civilization V. Perhaps because it served little purpose other than building culture in the previous games. But for the new expansion Gods & Kings it has been given lots of attention as one of the main new features. Unsurprisingly, the mechanics have been completely reworked and it will play a very important role in the early part of the game.

How it works is that players collect faith points and use them to build and advance their religion. And the religions themselves can be tailored to the needs of the players, so if you want a religion that helps culture, make it so. If you want be able to start religious wars add the just war perk - although neighbouring nations may not be to keen on you as the religion spreads. And religions do spread.

Civilization V
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The game starts out as a religious race of sorts. There are not enough religions to go around and some civilisations won't be able to found one. As soon as you have enough faith and meet certain prerequisites you can found any of the included religions and shape it to fit your needs. If you don't get one of your own you will be affected as the religions as they spread, but you won't be able to shape them yourself. You will get the benefits, but there could also be potential drawbacks of religion spreading from nearby neighbours, especially if things take a military turn.

When you reach 200 faith points you spawn a great prophet and found a religion. It will spread on its own to neighbouring cities, city states and nations along with the perks you choose for it. Religion can have a major effect on city states and the interactions with city states have been given a major overhaul. Instead of just bribing them all to vote for you at the end, there are now many more quests you can complete to get on their good side, while paying them off with gold is going to get very expensive (even if you can still do it). You can send out missionaries to help spread your religion, and you can use inquisitors to silence unwanted religions (Firaxis haven't decided on whether to include an achievement if you employ inquisitors with Spain, but it would seem very fitting).

Expansions offers developers a chance to take a look a system that may not have worked exactly as intended. One such area of Civilization V was combat. Firaxis felt that combat was a bit too swift and breaking through rows of defending units was a bit too easy. Therefore they increased hit points ten fold (to 100), to make the pace of combat a bit slower and to allow for more subtle differences in terms of the effectiveness of your attacks.

Civilization V

Another system to get a major overhaul is espionage. Instead of having spies running around on the map, there is now a dedicated, intricate interface. Espionage takes over the role of religion as your game passes from renaissance to the industrial era. Your spies can give you information of enemy plans and movements, rig elections, influence nations and city states and various ways, steal technology and more. You will level up your spy, and if you attempt drastic actions you will run the risk of failing and having to start over with a low level spy.

As you probably expect Gods & Kings comes with new civilisations (9), new units (27), new wonders and new resources. Firaxis have revealed some of them, but they're keeping mute on most as well as changes to the multiplayer for now.

For those well familiar with Civilization V, Gods & Kings appears to offer just the right amount of tweaks and new features to potentially change the way you play the game. And that ladies and gentleman is exactly what a well thought out expansion is meant to deliver.

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