Civilisation V: Gods & Kings
Civilization V, released in 2010, was a somewhat major overhaul in Sid Meier's 20-year-old genre-defining series of city building, empire creating and world conquering, sprinkling yet further addictiveness on to something already considered the Pringles of the strategy gaming world.
Its release was cause for high and worthy praise, most notably for the new hexagonal tiling system, as well as the removal of unit stacking. No longer was conquest simply a case of sticking a wad of troops on the same square and charging forward. Clever deployment was now required to take your enemy's cities while protecting your fighty chaps from counter assault. It was altogether less busy, but more strategic.
But despite the significant gains, there was a sizeable group of devotees who complained that V had removed several of Civilization IV's most enjoyable elements in the process. Some even suggested the developers were too eagerly eyeing the first-timer market than its already loyal followers.
Thankfully, not only does the new Gods & Kings expansion pack restore any lost faith (quite literally, as you'll see in the next paragraph) but it throws in some considerable improvements in the process, giving the two-year title the video game equivalent of a pillow plump and, perhaps, even a fresh duvet cover.
The big news is that god has returned. But unlike Civ 4 whereby your people eventually adopted a religion of their own accord when each emerged historically, now you have a chance to find your very own. Beginning with pantheon worship, you build up Faith points and eventually lay down the basis for a more organised form of religion, choosing the particular factors and bonuses they bring, along with the name (Jedi!). It's then down to you to do the missionary work.
Espionage, too, is back. But rather than simply reintroducing the spy unit to sabotage or steal, you are given far greater opportunities for deviousness. Once you're given a spy to use (this time they're awarded, rather than built), you can place one within an enemy city to unearth your foe's military aims, or in a City-State to rig elections and help sway influence in your favour.
Religion and espionage aside, the core of Civ V remains intact, but has been added to with advanced AI, along with 27 new units, 13 new buildings and nine wonders (Great Firewall, being a rather nice addition). The naval element is more focused, with ships divided between melee and ranged and the new Great Admiral character for new advances on the high seas. Then there are nine new civilisations to choose. If you feel Attila really could have taken his Huns to bigger things, or Boudicca should have won against the pesky Romans, here's your chance.
Like any good expansion pack, there are new scenarios. Of the three in G&K, there's the outstanding Victorian steampunk-style Empires of the Smoky Skies, which sees you build flying airships and steam-powered tanks.
Few expansion updates are as "must-have" as Gods & Kings. It simply makes Civ V that much better to play, bringing back the best elements of the fourth edition while maintaining the crucial gameplay updates. The question is, where on Earth - or even Alpha Centauri - can they take it after this?
WoW meets WWF
Level 16 druids, listen up. Blizzard Entertainment has announced that the latest expansion to its all-conquering World of Warcraft marriage-wrecker is going on sale online on September 25 and, by the sounds of things, the developers have been influenced by a certain Jack Black-voiced animated film character. Mists of Pandaria will introduce a new race, the panda-like martial artists the Pandaren, and their homeland, Pandaria, while upping the level cap to 90 and adding a new monk class. Weíre not entirely sure what that all means, but thereís undoubtedly 50 billion WoWers who are already preparing to lose a lot of sleep doing battle with pixelated, endangered animals.
Dead Space 3
Due out March 2013
In space, apparently, nobody can hear you scream, an adage that has certainly been true of the past two Dead Spaces, terrifying donít-play-in-the-dark frighteners that had the player take control of Isaac Clarke, a lonely engineer who must blast past hordes of alien-infected corpses. In the third instalment, however, players have a fellow screamer in Sergeant John Carver, available as a drop-in/drop-out co-op, who will help unlock new story details as you take on the same scourge, now on a frozen planet. By the looks of things, itís absolutely horrifying.