PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Civilization V: Gods & Kings

While I was merely looking for some variation on the base game, the truth is that Gods & Kings with its additional emphasis on diplomacy and culture really seems to feel like it “completes” the game more than anything else.

Publisher: 2K Games
Players: 1
Price: $29.99
Title: Civilization V: Gods & Kings
Platform: PC, Mac, Onlive
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Developer: Firaxis Games
Release Date: 2012-06-19

While long term fans of the Civilization series had mixed responses to Civilization V, I count myself among its advocates. I like the less busy combat system and in general find the game to work pretty fluidly.

As a result, I’ve played a fair amount of games of Civ V since its release in 2010, though admittedly it has gotten a little stale at this point. The Gods and Kings expansion comes at a good time then for me. I have been ready for a little variation on the game, and Gods and Kings, as a fairly robust enhancement of the basic game, offers quite a bit of variation.

In addition to adding some new civilizations to play (most of which are designed to benefit from the new features of the game), Gods & Kings features a new resource, faith, which, of course, relates to the addition of religion to the game. Also, the game adds elements of espionage to the base game in the form of spies who can steal technology from competing civilizations and influence cities in which they rig elections.

Influencing civilizations and city-states is probably the dominant focus of the expansion as both spies and religion change relations with your competitors and allies. I found diplomacy a rather onerous and costly strategic option in the original version game, but these additions make that a much more viable option for me at least.

Since most of what is done with spies is confined to more menu-driven controls, religion is the more interesting addition to the mechanics for me. Essentially the founding of a religion within your civilization comes in two phases, a form of pagan worship followed by the birth of a more organized form of religion.

Initially, a civilization chooses a pantheon to worship, which confers a bonus to the civilization. In my first game, for instance, I chose a pantheon that granted bonus faith to any city built in hexes adjacent to undeveloped forests. The concept is rather cool as these holy areas are initially useful in building up faith but then become less useful (since these bonuses are small ones in the long term) as one modernizes and needs to put that sacred ground to more secular purposes (in game terms, bonuses to production, food, and the economy) -- a rather nice simulation of the movement away from nature worship towards more systematic philosophies friendlier to a more urban outlook.

When a civilization accrues enough faith, a Great Prophet will be born and an organized religion can be founded. Firaxis seems a bit timid in the way in which real world religions are incorporated into the simulation at this point, though. When a religion is formed, you name it by choosing from one of a number of familiar world religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. However, these names are essentially just placeholders for a set of mechanics, as choosing, say, to play an Islamic civilization does not feature any different gameplay options than, say, playing as a civilization that is dominated by a faith like Judaism.

What one is capable of doing when one founds a religion is build new units, Great Prophets, Missionaries, and Inquisitors, which are capable of evangelizing other foreign cities or stamping out heresy in cities belonging to the player. Since religion changes the influence that you have within your own civilization and those of your opponents, this is a perfectly workable and interesting mechanic. However, it seems to me that the developers have essentially created a simulation of Christianity, with its emphasis on missionary work and evangelism.

The Great Commission as a central tenet of the Christian faith places a high emphasis on conversion, but the notion of missionaries of Judaism is an almost nonsensical concept. Other faiths, like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, do indeed have missionaries, but, again, this really is not such a central component to those faiths, and Firaxis hasn’t really designed any additional mechanisms to try to focus on, say, the centrality of the scholarly life that adherents of Judaism focus on by passing on the traditions of the Torah throughout generations.

Again, the mechanisms here integrate well with the systems of the game as it has existed previously, and I certainly understand the dangers of stereotyping or just being offensive if one tries to present someone’s religious philosophy and fails to do so conscientiously. Still, though, it would be interesting to see these religions defined more by their particulars and, perhaps, in a less generically Westernized way.

Still, though, this “Christian sim” does create some interesting moments. For example, in one game I was at war with Babylon, and I realized that the only way to get my missionaries in to share their gospel of truth with a nearby enemy city was by sending them in with a “military escort”. Suddenly, my missionaries resembled crusaders, sharing their gospel with the aid of the sword.

Quibbles about the generic presentation of organized religion aside though, this is a tremendously rich expansion of an already tremendously rich simulation. While I was merely looking for some variation on the base game, the truth is that Gods & Kings with its additional emphasis on diplomacy and culture really seems to feel like it “completes” the game more than anything else. Civ V fans should feel confident in shelling out a few extra bucks for this more complete experience.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.