Cloak and Dagger: Espionage Returns To Civilization
Much like the return of religion, Gods and Kings will bring espionage back to the Civilization series, as well. It’s a gameplay element that isn’t introduced until the Renaissance, so it doesn’t come into play until later of the game, but once it does…well, it certainly shakes things up.
All of your espionage planning for each turn is handled from a central menu, so you don’t actually have to manually move your spies around the map, tile by tile. You have a limited number of spies to work with, and they can receive promotions to become more powerful and efficient as they spend more time in the field gaining experience. Should that spy get caught in the process of any of your sneakiness, though, he will be swiftly executed and you lose your seasoned veteran.
So what exactly can spies be used for? Any number of things, thanks to the fact that Firaxis added just as many layers and options to this gameplay facet as they did to religion. On a basic level, they can be sent to other cities to gather intelligence, which enables the ability to steal rival technology. But if you want to get a little more adventurous, you can try using espionage to gain the support of city-states.
Around the same time that espionage is introduced, city-states start holding elections. If you want, you can pull a Vladimir Putin and rig those elections using your spies. But rigging elections takes time; the spies you send to city-states have to remain there for a number of turns in order to actually make an impact on the elections. So if you would rather, you can just do the blunt force method and stage a coup. Of course, success is not guaranteed; the skill level of your spy and the amount of time he has spent in the city-state has a bearing on your chance of success. Luckily, when we played through the demo, our 60% chance of success brought us to a successful coup. Had we not been so lucky, our spy would have had his head lopped off immediately.
What’s even more intriguing is that, when collecting intelligence, spies can eventually find out what AI civilizations are planning. “This is sort of a sneak look inside the game’s AI engine,” said Beach. And once you get inside the head of the AI, what you do with that information is up to you.
If you see, for example, that an enemy civilization is plotting to attack you, then you can adjust and prepare accordingly. That can be helpful. But see, what you may also discover are plans that don’t directly involve your civilization. While we were playing, we saw that Queen Theodora was secretly plotting against Dido, the queen of Carthage. Now, we could have given Dido the heads-up. Warning other civilizations like this will result in their appreciation, which can create alliances and bring other benefits to your civilization. But guess what? We didn’t like Dido. In fact, she was being a pretty big jerk toward us. So we let her get rocked.
After having seen Civilization V: Gods and Kings in action, I find myself feeling grateful that it’s a legitimate expansion pack, and not DLC. In this day and age where there’s so much DLC that you never even feel like you’re getting a full game anymore, it would have been easy for 2K Games to just churn out another piece of DLC (of which there is plenty for Civ V) and thrown players a new unit or civilization before calling it a day. Instead, they’re giving us tons of new units and civilizations while also creating new gameplay mechanics, all while maintaining the game’s fundamentals. With what Gods and Kings is introducing, Civilization V will be played in a completely different manner, and that’s what makes it worth our time. Check it out for yourself when it’s released in retail stores, online, and on Steam later this spring.
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