Civilization V: Gods & Kings preview – Hands-on with the steampunk scenario

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.

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