A few months back we wrote a preview of Civilization V's first expansion, Gods and Kings, that covered the introduction (or, rather,
reintroduction) of espionage and religion, two major elements coming to the
game later this year. Recently, we had a chance to see both elements again, but
we assume you’ve pretty much seen all you need to see about them, especially if
you read our earlier preview. Instead, we want to focus on the other thing we saw from Civilization V’s
expansion: Empires of the Smokey Skies – a full-on steampunk mode that's
tantamount to a new game mode.
Empires of the Smokey Skies is essentially a mini-expansion
within an expansion. When it’s booted up, everything's fast-forwarded
technologically to the invention of steam-power - that’s where it branches
off into an exciting alternate take on the world’s history. Just about every
unit, tool tip, and piece of dialog has been rewritten to fall more in line
with the stereotypical steam punk genre. This means all of the futuristic
technologies have been completely redone, creating a unique second-half of the
game. It also means all of the world’s leaders have long, British-sounding
names and wear top hats and monocles.
The goal of this mode is different than traditional
Civilization V – instead of racing towards completing one of the win
conditions, the different Steam Barons (that's actually what the leaders are called,
by the way) need to beat the others in three of five conditions for five turns in
order to be granted control of the League of Empires (we’re not making this up).
That means it’s a race on multiple fronts to have the most land and airships; control
the most Wonders, own the highest producing city; have the most social policies;
or acquire the most grossing gold.
Even more surprising is the inclusion of new units. Firaxis
opted to go the extra mile with Empires of the Smokey Skies, creating a large amount
of new steampunk tanks, airships, and buildings to fit in-line with the
alternate reality. We saw some ground units that looked like there were right
out of an artists’ sketchbook, and sky fortresses loaded with biplanes that made
our deepest steampunk dreams a reality.This is likely the most comprehensive scenario in Civilization history, and it stands toe-to-toe with some of the better full-blown modifications. It's the full package.
And it's just one element of Civilization V: Gods and Kings. That, mixed with the big changes to the traditional game - and slew of small changes that beg for an article all their own - will make this expansion a significant one, and it's likely going to be a must-buy this June 19 for anyone who's lost a few dozen (or hundred) hours in Civ V.