As vaguely threatened, here are my initial thoughts:

Civ 2, Civ 3 & Civ 4 all had two expansion packs each; the first was decidedly naff but the second one was enough to spark further interest in the game until the next one was due. Does Gods and Kings break the mold or have we got lighting striking a fourth time?

Let’s look at the basic facts; we have the reintroduction of religion into the franchise and that perennial favourite espionage. There are also tarted up and strengthened City States, new units, rebalanced civic options and also new Civs to pick and choose. Worth £19.99 (I curse not taking advantage of the Steam Summer Sale) or hideously overpriced?

Religion – Religion is now a quantifiable measure which takes the form of “Faith Points” that are earned through certain buildings, Wonders and landmarks. Once a base amount of Faith has been amassed, a Civ may found a Pantheon – a permanent bonus to that Civ. Amassing more Faith will eventually generate a Great Prophet which is used to found a religion. There are about ten World Religions that can be chosen (though they can be renamed if you fancy a society of Elvis worshippers, Jedi or something similarly daft). Anyway, founding a religion will kick off more bonuses, one to the Civ who has started the religion and then one to each city following the religion.

Armed with faith, the idea is to begin to spread the good word and more importantly suck p the bonuses. There are bonuses for every sort of player – builders, warlords, economists etc. Faith also plays a role in unit creation and Great People Generation later in the game. But that’s kind of where it all ends; no Crusades/jihad, no “religious victory” and there are only negative diplomatic tweaks with religion.

So what about Espionage? From the Renaissance era, a spy is awarded each time the player enters a new era awarding up to five spies. They are used to steal technology, interfere in diplomatic relations between City States and main Civs and er… That’s it. Oh -you might get the odd random spy report. Otherwise situation normal.

Right, City States – ah, now this is at least a little more encouraging. There are two new types of City State to play with – Commercial and Religious. The former boost happiness in the empire as they have access to luxuries that cannot be acquired through any other means whilst the latter will boost Faith in the game. Furthermore, City States will set quests rather than just wanting other rivals eliminated. This may be acquiring resources, building roads, setting Faith/culture/science generating competitions or spawning Great People. This allows a more varied and interactive game feature which can really see players going all out to buy City State Allegiances.

New Civs are interesting, new units are pretty good too especially in City Defending units. And finally, there has been a fair attempt at rebalancing the game, particularly as siege units are now city killers only whilst naval units may directly capture cities. Research Agreements can only happen between friends and not any old characters. There are three scenarios to play but I haven’t gotten round to trying them yet.

I am somewhat disappointed with this expansion pack as it only feels like half a game – there have been some great interpretations of core game concepts but they suffer from premature termination as they don’t have any longevity. Once you’ve founded a religion…so what? Suck up the passive bonuses and then that whole side of the game can be quickly made redundant. Espionage barely gets off the ground and it’s irritating to find your technologies constantly stolen by rivals.

Workers suffer from redundancy again after railroads have been constructed; can they not be given some other task post railroad? And why is the AI still water unit shy? These and many other fundamental questions still need answers; c’mon Firaxis!!