Ernest Hemmingway said, "All thinking men are atheists." He clearly didn't get the gameplay perks of religion.
I’ll be completely honest with you (and when have I ever been otherwise?)—I’ve never played a Civilization game before in my life. Based on what I saw of the older Civ games when I was growing up, I just kind of assumed that the franchise was still a vehicle for one guy to sit and stare it his computer screen for days at a time working on maintaining his virtual empire in his boxer shorts. That’s what my old college roommate did, at least.
But I’ll admit, I was wrong to have that perception. I realize now how outdated it is after seeing what Civilization V: Gods and Kings has to offer. Somewhere along the way, this series morphed from a solitary, drawn-out affair into a multiplayer contest of wits and duplicity, like a more interactive version of Diplomacy. And I have to say, that does make me want to play it.
But I digress.This is a preview for an expansion, after all, and all of you Civ V vets out there want to hear about the new features. Chief among them is religion, a staple of any successful civilization. Religion is governed by a new resource called Faith, which is earned in a number of ways like discovering ruins and building religious structures.
Building Faith will eventually allow you found a Pantheon of the Gods, granting your civilization a gameplay bonus of your choosing called a “belief”. It’s wise not to waste time obtaining this, because each belief is unique to the game and locks everyone else out of that particular belief once you choose it.
In later stages of the game you can acquire a Great Prophet with faith, who will allow you to officially found your new religion complete with two more customized beliefs. Like any religion that’s serious about spreading, you can spend additional Faith on missionaries and inquisitors to spread your influence around nearby tiles and convert other cities.
Espionage returns and now works differently than it has in the past. Espionage primarily impacts diplomacy. You can use spies to rig elections to increase your influence when local elections are held. A more risky ability is to attempt a coup to become a city-state’s ally—but if it fails, your spy will be executed.
More interestingly, a spy burrowed into another civilization can intercept information about the actions being taken there and relay it to you. What you do with this information is up to you; in the demo I was shown, a player who learned that one faction was massing an army for an attack on another could tip off the potential victim if they wanted to keep a healthy diplomatic relationship with them, or sit back and do nothing if they wanted the attack to be successful.
Finally, the combat has been more refined. It works on a 100-point system now instead of a 10-point system. Combat in the new expansion will be a bit slower, allowing more time for battle lines to form and units to be pulled back and substituted—nuances that the developers felt were not being given proper consideration in the original system.
Naval units are also being split into both a ranged and melee category, whereas previously ranged was the only option. Melee naval units can raid coastal cities to plunder or capture them.
Even though I don’t personally understand the importance of half that stuff, it was plain as day during the demo that the new features were very deep. Both the developers and longtime Civ players will be really excited to see this expansion release in late Spring.