Creating your own religion in the soon-to-be-released expansion for "Civilization V" results in bonuses and benefits on your way to world domination.
The new "Civilization V: Gods and Kings" expansion pack offers players two revamped elements to the iconic real-time strategy game -- faith and spies. Neither is entirely new to the franchise, but each has been redone to make it more interesting and rewarding to use.
Faith is a new resource, like gold or science. Civilizations can accumulate faith by building shrines, temples and mosques. Acquire enough faith and your fledging country can discover its own pantheon of dieties. Pantheons reward players with bonuses based the way the player has played the rest of the game. As such, the player can decide what sort of beliefs the gods represent about their civilization.
Bring enough followers to your cause and eventually you can create a fully formed religion (I called mine "The Force"). You will also get additional bonuses to your civilization as a whole, and specific additions to city abilities. Later, you can enhance your religion and gain more benefits.
There are a limited number of religions that can be created and not every country will get to create their own. This puts a premium on developing faith early in the game so you can acquire the bonuses best suited to your playing style.
Religion was introduced in "Civilization IV," but this expansion to "Civ V" boosts its abilities to offer benefits to the entire civilization. For instance, there was no condition for a religious victory in the preview build of the game. Religion passively crosses borders and spreads to neighboring civilizations, but active missionary work can only occur in friendly cities and city-states.
The developers at Firaxis really tried to make religion something unique for each player and playing style. There are plenty of choices for beliefs and some new leaders players can control offer additional faith benefits.
The preview build of "Civ V" ended in the year 1290 (189 turns) so it will be interesting to find out how religion plays out in the later stages of the game when it will have to compete with more technology-based units and goals.
The second "new" unit is the Spy, but unlike its predecessor in other versions in the franchise, it isn't a specific unit to move around on the battlefield.
The "Gods and Kings" expansion pack comes with a steampunk scenario called "Empires of the Smokey Skies" and offers a good opportunity to use the spies. The scenario starts out in the Steam Age and offers steampunkish new abilities and units, like the Land Leviathan and the Sky Fortress.
The civilization leaders are decked out in top hats, wielding goggles and other trinkets you'd expect in a steampunk adventure. The goals of the scenario are also different from the traditional game. Become the leader in five different categories and you win.
Spies play a big role here and help players keep an eye on their rivals. You can assign them to steal technology, find out information or kill enemy spies. They also will slant local voting in your favor to give you a better reputation in the city where they're working.
In past "Civilization" iterations, spies would have to sneak their way to an enemy city, do one mission and hopefully escape with their lives. In "Gods and Kings," spies stick around in the cities where they are assigned for as long as they want (provided they aren't discovered).
This allows players to concentrate on other aspects of the game while still getting intelligence reports on their neighbors. Spies can be reassigned, but do you really want to risk an information black hole in the city you're leaving vacant?
The "Smokey Skies" scenario was short, but offered the best chance to see the spies in action. I only recruited one spy in normal game play in turn 187 and that happened spontaneously. Will there be something in the later stages that helps players recruit more agents or train them better?
"Civilization V: Gods and Kings" will offer more units, buildings, Wonders of the World and new civilizations to try out. Revamping the religious and spy elements will make the game even more thoughtful (if that's possible) and challenging for new and experienced players alike.
"One more turn" just got a whole lot harder to avoid.
By Larry Frum, Special to CNN