The first expansion for Civ 5, Gods & Kings was released this week, causing much nerd happiness to echo around the globe. Yet as I watched the demo video for it on Steam, I was left feeling a little hollow. The developers spoke of the exciting new additions of religion and spying, perhaps unaware that these were central elements of previous titles in the Civilization franchise. There are a lot of new rulers to play, and thus new buildings, units, technologies, wonders, and girdles. Apparently naval combat is slightly less stupid than it was before, and instead of you having to pay gold to city states so they’ll like you, (notwithstanding how powerful you were), now that situation has been reversed. There is also something called “enhanced diplomacy” which is interesting as there was no diplomacy at all before. I’m stuffed if I know how you can enhance something that just doesn’t exist.
No mention has been made of the total awfulness of the game engine and whether or not any improvements have been made so that time spent waiting between turns could drop to under the amount of time needed to await the arrival of the next ice age. And I’m assuming that we’re sticking with one unit per hex, thus necessitating the blanket covering of every square inch of land with armed forces which then need to say “pardon me,” and “would you mind awfully if I just pass through,” and other total lunacies all so you can get your tanks to the other side of the small island upon which your civilization was unfortunate enough to begin its life.
And how much do you pay for this? $50. Fifty big ones. Fifty smackers for an expansion. Can you believe it? I fucking couldn’t. But it doesn’t matter because something has happened which has caused me to abandon the Civ series like a sailor abandoning a cheap lady of the night:
Crusader Kings 2. I’ve been playing this title for the last month and all I can say is that it is to Civilization 5 what Nosferatu is to Twilight. Crusader Kings 2 is a game for grown ups. You want diplomacy, well it’s got it in bucket loads. And not the black and white diplomacy that exists in Civ 5, which amounts to “you hate me so I hate you and vice versa.” Crusader Kings is vastly more complex yet its reasoning is simple and easy to understand, (not something I ever thought I would say about a Paradox title). The diplomacy system is based on a combination of the seven deadly sins, (the king of Ireland who I am presently playing is a glutton which causes people to have issues with me), and their opposite counterparts, (moderation being the more balanced trait in the face of gluttony). Add to this the radical idea of your past actions, piety, and status being an influence on how other rulers and your own vassals view you. The Gods & Kings expansion trumpets a more dynamic fight for world domination, but Crusader Kings leaves it gasping in the mud face-down as my Irish army stomps all over its head.
And on top of this Crusader Kings 2 also has a new expansion out this week – Sword of Islam. This expansion actually does what it says and expands the game, so that now you can play a Muslim ruler with all the complexities that this brings. Just marriage alone necessitates that you marry at least four wives or your prestige will suffer. And if you happen to make the mistake of having a happy populace who are productive and hard working then the wild hill tribesmen will rise up and conquer you for committing the heinous crime of being decadent. The only real weak point of Crusader Kings 2 is the combat mechanic, which the player has no control over once a battle starts and mostly ends in victory for the side with the greater numbers. This expansion improves the situation somewhat but hopefully future additions will get this aspect sorted out. But the game engine works seamlessly with no pauses, (it’s only ever crashed on me once), it’s addictive as all hell, and I can get all my armies into one county area if I so desire.
And the cost for this new expansion? $10. It makes Civilization 5 look very poor indeed.