If the combat AI remains the most disappointing part of the Civilization V experience, the Gods & Kings expansion renovates the diplomacy system into one of the best. It might even be my favorite in the whole series. Even without that handy numerical readout of the negotiator’s likes and dislikes, my dealings with the AI nations feel more sensible and consistent than ever before.
Now, as a point of reference, I’ve always enjoyed the diplomatic machinations in Civ V. No more irritating computer players by refusing to trade away Industrialism for Horseback Riding. Instead, research agreements are tantamount to a 30-turn truce everyone wants to honor because of the big prize at the end. I’ve had games where the stability of my empire balanced on a stack of foreign luxury imports, defensive pacts, and city state alliances that spanned the globe. It’s the first game in which it feels possible to cultivate a landscape of not-enemies into a system of mutually beneficial friendships.
City states also have more influence over world affairs. New quests reward whichever player can produce the most Faith, Culture, or new technologies in a specific number of turns. Others offer material gratitude to an empire that uses the new extortion option to threaten a rival city state. It might seem like an easy way to earn a nationwide boost for a while, but victims are quick to seek the protection of another major civilization. The political standoff that occurs when another major power tries to bully a city state you’ve sworn to protect is a truly awesome addition to the game.
I absolutely love the political maneuvering Gods & Kings brings to the table. No single element redefines the experience, but taken all together, the diplomatic ripples created by espionage, city state quests, and well-meaning treaties build to create great surges in international relations. The turbulence is at once more unpredictable and more organic than in any previous game in the series, firmly establishing diplomacy as my favorite part of the expansion.
Such a shame.
Too Long; Didn’t Read Version
A wide range of diplomatic additions make AI civilizations and minor city states more interesting to negotiate with than ever. That includes espionage, but without the military leadership to back up their posturing, the path of peaceful coexistence is less enticing than it should be.