Mods, Performance, Faith, and Spies

The story of that ten year long game of Civilization II certainly put thoughts of turn-based strategy into my brain.

I had been tinkering with Warlock: Master of the Arcane since shortly after Ken at Popehat mentioned it (which is when it went on sale for half price).  It is another strategy game from Paradox Interactive, the company that seems to have a near strangle hold on the strategy game market.  At least on my machine.

While a decent game, and well worth the money at half price, it didn’t quite scratch the itch the itch caused by all this Civ talk.  And while my impulse was to go straight to Civ II again, I decided to crank up Civilization V. It had been a while since I had played it and there being a new expansion and all.

That meant getting into Steam, and Steam took the opportunity opened by my looking their way for a minute to put up a message announcing that Civilization V was now on Steam Workshop.

Steam Workshop

Steam Workshop is Valve’s interface for dealing with mods and other user created content.  This got me looking through some of the player content.

Some items from the list…

I grabbed a few custom maps, including one of Westeros, which I immediately tried out.  It is a standard size map only, and it played pretty well.  I ended up starting north of Winterfell, so I was in the Night’s Watch position, which did leave me dealing with a horde of barbarians almost constantly throughout the game.

And City States, which I remain unenthusiastic about in Civ V, at least make sense in the context of Westeros, with its many nobles pledged to one liege lord or another and switching sides at awkward moments.

The game was fun and I ended up pretty much as King in the North.  It also left me susceptible to Valve’s next pitch, which was for the Civ V expansion, Gods & Kings, marked down 10% if I pre-ordered.  And so I did.

Well, some of the features sold it to me as well.  I was not so interested in other potential kingdoms or new technology, but the introduction of spies and faith into the game was big to me.  I miss spies especially.

The expansion dropped on Tuesday and I have had a chance to play a bit.  And for the most part I am happy.

Faith, in which you essentially found a state religion, is good.  You can tailor your religion, and there are details to master there, but it does not come up until your empire has reach a given status, so the game is well under way when you have to pick, rather than it being yet another starting parameter with which you can tinker.

And spies… spies are very good.  Spies are no longer units on the field of play, to be moved around and thrown at enemy cities.  Instead, there is a new interface to manage your espionage activities.  But through that interface, you can do all your old favorite spy things along with a few new twists.

Where are my spies?

And you can no longer create an army of spies to overwhelm your opponent via an espionage war.  You have to take a more refined view of their use.

Those two, along with things like embassies, revamped combat, and tweaks to things like city states have seemed pretty good so far.

But then we come to the annoying bit.

Actually, it isn’t annoying to me, because I bought the expansion.  This will annoy those who are waiting for a Steam sale on it.

Basically, the expansion includes improvements to performance.

Like all Civ games that I have played at launch… which is, pretty much, all REAL Civ games (so no Call to Power)… Civ V has shown itself to be a processor hogging behemoth, incapable of running quickly on my relatively beefy system, at least when it comes to the last third or so of the game.  At that point I generally spend as much time waiting for the game as I do playing.

It is part of the Civ tradition I guess.  I remember the time it took to play a game of Civ II dropping dramatically each time I upgraded my computer.

Anyway, along with fixes to the AI, which now fights better, performance overall in the late game has been improved noticeably.   But you only get that improvement if you buy the expansion.  If you don’t buy it, you can suck it as far as Sid Meier is concerned I guess.

So it is a good thing I felt the need for spies and religion, because I would be pissed if all I really wanted out of the expansion was to make the game work better.

All in all, it makes a decent game better.  Ars Technica and Kotaku both have pretty positive reviews posted, if you are skeptical of my point of view.  And you probably should be.

Now to see what that Middle-earth map is like.

8 thoughts on “Mods, Performance, Faith, and Spies

  1. Aufero

    That IS the annoying bit, because I’m totally waiting for a Steam sale on the expansion.

    (The part that tempts me most isn’t espionage or religion, but the AI upgrade. My Civ V games tend to be a bit skewed in favor of scientific or cultural development early on, because I can safely assume any AI aggressor will fumble around and lose half its units due to tactical stupidity. A challenge would be nice.)

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  2. Wayne

    I can’t wait to give the expansion a try. But with family in town, I’m in gaming limbo at the moment.
    I was unaware of the performance improvements. That’s always nice. Civ has always done that slow down in late game, though Civ V was never all that bad. Eliminating the “Stack of Doom” I think helped there. Less units to track.

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  3. Milady

    Thanks for the heads-up on the expansion, I had shelved the game for a while precisely because of those performance issues you have mentioned, and now it might be worth giving a try. Cheers!

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  4. mrrx

    Hmmm. Can you quantify that performance boost at all ? So far I just log out of the game when I’m bored waiting for the other guys to move.

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @mrrx – Quantify? No. I played a game on Sunday, pre-expansion, and then another Tuesday night, post-expansion. It really *felt* like I was spending less time waiting for the CPU to take its turns, thus was noticeable.

    However, the games were not identical. I played on the same map, but there were other things going on, like spies and such. Plus the freakin’ Huns were tearing my neighbors to shreds. So there might simply have been less for the AI to do. Huns with battering rams are bad news. The Huns had a veritable NASCAR race of rams running around at one point.

    So it might have been partially the power of suggestion. I’ll have to play another serious “all Sunday afternoon” sort of game to get a better feel.

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  6. Toldain

    I’ve been enjoying the wargame aspect of Civ and working my way through the DLC. Since I don’t think it’s possible to turn off the expansion once you have it, I’m going to hold off getting it for a while.

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  7. Aerynne

    Gods and Kings is evil. Pure evil. I have not slept a full 6 hours in two days.

    Don’t discount religion – it was thoughtfully implemented. Every time another Civ’s spy stole technology from me, I dispatched my faithful to convert their citizenry. It was surprisingly satisfying.

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  8. LC

    I’m really enjoying the changes. Naval combat is much improved. Diplomacy still isnt great but it does seem improved. Religion offers alot of new possibilities. I Can’t wait to go home and play…

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