Hey all, the release of Gods and Kings, Sid Meier's major overhaul of Civ5, was for me the most eagerly awaited game release since Skyrim. Was it worth the wait? I would say for the most part yes. Although as the one review I've read noted, the expansion was not an earth shattering change of the Civ5 experience, the changes are all good and well-executed.
First the big changes. I never liked spies in the earlier civs as they were a bit too tricky to use. In Gods and Kings though, the implementation was good bordering on great. Spy management is all handled from the spy menu where you can assign them to your competitor's cities, or keep them at home for counterintelligence. Once you assign them to a city, all you need do is sit back and wait for results. Positive results can yield stolen technology and a promotion for your spy, though negative results can get them killed (very bad because you don't get that many in the course of the game). They can also cause a diplomatic incident if they are caught. In fact one competitor declared war on me after my spy was caught in the act. Also,spies will warn you of upcoming attacks on you or other civs. If it is on another civ, you have the option of sharing that information with them. Anyway, it is all very cool and seamless, though being a lover of esthetics it would have been nice if your spies had pictures rather than just a name.
I'm happy to report that their implementation of religion this time was brilliant. I absolutely hated religion in Civ4, as I felt the religions were a bit generic and skewed the game too much. In Gods and Kings though, you are allowed to customize your religion to best suit your needs and play style. For example, one trait can allow you to use faith (in lieu of gold) to recruit pre-modern combat units (hello Islam . Another enhances your civ's happiness, and in any event the game gives you a lot of attributes to choose from. When you found a religion you are given a list of the usual suspects, but you can change the name. I recall in one game as the Byzantines I chose Christianity and renamed it to Saint Theodora. Also, although religion may loose some of its luster as the enlightenment creeps in, I found my religion useful all the way to the end. Anyway, again, I thought Sid hit a bull's eye with religion this time around.
There were a plethora of minor changes as well. You get new technology, new units, new wonders (favorite is the Great Firewall , and most importantly, nine new civilizations. It's interesting to note that of the nine, four of them are led by women: Theodora of the Byzantine Empire, Maria Theresa of Austria, Queen Boudica of the Celts, and Queen Dido of Carthage. My favorite is Theodora and the Byzantines. For one thing they have two special units ,the Cataphract and the Dromon fire ship, that you get early and remain viable for a long time up until the advent of the knight and the caravelas respectively. This is in contrast to civs like the Japanese who get the Zero fighter which has a relatively short window of useability late in the game. Also, playing Theodora allows you to choose additional religion traits when founding a religion.
The other thing I wanted to mention at this point is that in addition to the standard game you have three scenarios. Thus far the only one I've played is the Fall of Rome, and it was fantastic! I think I liked it a bit better than Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasions. I played the Eastern Empire, and it was running with the devil, touch and go, as you would expect. One thing really interesting about it is that as you loose cities and your morale falls, you have to choose from a selection of negative policy enhancements (that simulates a collapsing infrastructure), very painful decisions indeed. I found the worst part of the scenario was trying to budget properly and keep your morale from plummeting, both of which I ultimately failed to do (even though I still somehow managed a win). Anyway, in the course of the campaign I lost all the Danube marches and several cities in the East, and the only reason I didn't loose Macedonia and Greece was because of that wonderful Byzantine navy. I did have a measure of payback when I managed to recapture Adrianople and Thessalonica from the evil Huns, though in typically Byzantine fashion I did it on the cheap. I had grandiose plans though of making bashing the Persians a top priority, but things didn't quite work out that way. I stripped as many troops as I could from the west and quiet sectors, and concentrated an army in the East to teach the Persians a lesson in humility. Alas, as soon as I started my advance the Persians quite unexpectedly made a major attack further south and captured Edessa like some thief in the night. By game end it was only by a hair's breath that I was able to call off the offensive and redeploy to prevent the loss of Antioch. This points up another cool thing about the scenario. After the initial storm, the barbarians and Persians seemed like they were spent and content to hold on to their early gains. They came back with renewed vigor late game though, and I was glad the scenario ended when it did. Anyway, again, one of the best Roman campaigns I've ever played. I look forward to trying it again as the Western Romans or one of the barbarian factions.
There are two other scenarios that sound very cool. One is about the transition from the high Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and the other is what sounds like an uber cool Jules Verne retro scifi steampunk scenario. A great time should be had by all.
On a negative note, some have argued (and not without cause) that the Gods and Kings content should have been included with the original game. Maybe so, but better late than never I always say. In any event I found it well worth the $30 price tag.
Anyway, I look forward to reading comments about Gods and Kings from other civ fans in this forum. IMHO the bottom line is that although Gods and Kings may not set the franchise on its head, most civ fans should like it a lot.