One of the longest running franchises in PC gaming, the Civilization series has strictly focused on the growth and development of humanity on our home planet Earth. Civilization: Beyond Earth looks beyond the horizon however, expanding on the technology victory of Civilization V, colonizing a new planet in a distant star system.
While Firaxis Games did create the popular fan-favorite Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri in the late '90s, it is not strictly a Civilization game. That being said, Civilization: Beyond Earth is being hailed as the "spiritual successor" to Alpha Centauri, but the similarities end quickly when looking closely as Civilization: Beyond Earth looks vastly different from Firaxis' cult favorite.
After teasing fans with a short Civilization: Beyond Earth trailer at PAX East, Firaxis unveiled a new video for the game yesterday, offering an in-depth look at Beyond Earth as a whole, whetting the appetite of strategy gamers everywhere.
A New Beginning
The video begins with a general overview of the series to date and informs upon what to expect from Civilization: Beyond Earth. Earth is now highly polluted after narrowly escaping humanity's dark age called "The Great Mistake." Nuclear war perhaps? The core gameplay still revolves around Civ V's hex tile system but this time around, human explorers will colonize "alien worlds." The last point is what stands out since "Alpha Centauri only had one "Planet" to colonize.
When Civilization: Beyond Earth begins, players choose a sponsor (eight total to choose from), cargo, and colonists, then construct and launch their ship. Upon making planetfall, we enter the Civ formula and players must prioritize between food, production, culture, science, and energy. There are three tile types (lush, arid, fungal) in addition to danger tiles (i.e. poisonous miasma) which can kill units that end their turn on these locations. The game tiles are of no surprise, as one would imagine lush tiles are good for food resources and arid for production. Fungal might serve as a way to harness the latent power of the new planet and build energy, but that is my guess only.
It is presumed that the production of the ship, choice of a sponsor, cargo, and colonists is accomplished in the game setup before the player's first turn. It would make little sense to actually require players to spend time on Earth constructing their spaceship, considering that is what Civilization V was supposed to accomplish.
Food, production, culture and science are all familiar aspects to Civilization fans, but the inclusion of energy is a curious one indeed. Alpha Centauri used energy as its in-game economy engine, and with the exclusion of "gold" from these categories, it is highly probable that energy will function in the same manner as it did in Alpha Centauri and as gold functioned in every other Civilization game.
Similar to Alpha Centauri, Beyond Earth includes satellites and an orbital layer that provide additional benefits to the player. These satellites will eventually fall from orbit and the video paints a picture that this will be a common occurrence.
As with any turn-based strategy game, the fog of war must be penetrated in order to expand an empire. Explorers have a limited number of expedition modules which can uncover artifacts and unique resources, including those from fallen satellites and alien nests. Native flora and fauna have natural defenses in a similar fashion to Alpha Centauri, in that they can be pacified by how well you treat the environment. Destroying some alien units will draw the ire of more powerful units so the balancing of harvesting resources and treating the planet with respect will undoubtedly be critical.
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To survive, the player's civilization must adopt a philosophy, or Affinity. These affinities function in a similar fashion to the ideologies from Civilization V, for only one can be chosen.
- Harmony: focuses on transforming humanity by gene splicing and genetic modification. This affinity will focus on symbiotic co-existence with the native life of the new planet. Cities and units will noticeably change in their look and feel over time to resemble a more "alien" look.
- Supremacy: belief that humans can settle any world by the use of nanotechnology. Focuses on human augmentation and cybernetics. Units appear more robotic in nature, and tend to favor unmanned drones and combat robots.
- Purity: followers of purity believe that this new world should adapt to humanity and resemble a new Earth. It will focus on the preservation of history and human physiology, relying on exosuits and strong vehicles to survive combat.
Each affinity progresses through a quest system and through new technology. Quests will give the player the ability to make decisions that shape their empire. As the affinity level progresses higher and higher, more powerful bonuses are unlocked and there is greater access to unique monuments and wonders. Affinities are entirely situational and are not preset each game, be it by sponsor or faction leader. This is a departure from previous games where certain leaders almost always favored certain ideologies, or social engineering choices in Alpha Centauri.
The tech web breaks the conventional model of linear development, as seen in all previous Civilization games. Each primary technology has a couple minor techs associated with it, allowing for very specific customization and encouraging players to branch out. Choose carefully because the entire tech web cannot be unlocked in one game.
One aspect of unit maintenance standard in past tiles is each unit was a drain on the player's gold per turn (GPT). The video seems to indicate that the units built in Civilization: Beyond Earth will cost multiple resources to maintain. If this is the case, careful management of units and resources will be critical.
Dealing with other empires and advancing your own is where games are won and lost. As was the case with Civilization V: Gods and Kings, trade and alliances (and spies) will be critical for players of Civilization: Beyond Earth.
There seems to be more of an emphasis on relations with other empires in this game. In previous titles, leaders would inexplicably denounce or declare war on you, or even more random and odd, would simply insult you. Doing something nice for a nation might earn positive relationship points, but rarely did it lead to meaningful interactions. Civilization: Beyond Earth, with its favor system, looks to change this entirely.
There are five ways to win in Civilization: Beyond Earth.
- The Purity victory (called Promise Land Victory) is achieved by constructing a device called the Exodus gate connecting this new planet to Earth, bringing refugees to the new planet.
- The Harmony victory (called Transcendence Victory) is achieved by constructing the Mind Flower which merges the consciousness of all living creatures with the planet itself. This is very similar to the Transcendence victory in Alpha Centauri.
- The Supremacy victory occurs by constructing a device that returns the colonists to Earth but brings the technology and learnings from the new world back to the citizens of Earth.
- The Contact victory occurs by discovering a mysterious signal, decoding it and building a beacon to attract a benevolent alien race and serve as ambassadors for humanity.
- In the domination victory, it is exactly the same as Civilization V, where you must capture all the capitals of the other empires on the planet while holding your own.
Having spent over 2,000 hours playing Civilization V, Civilization: Beyond Earth looks strikingly similar in structure, but with some modifications. Considering the age of Civ V, I'm not yet sold. The graphics look cartoonish but I am in favor of the more in-depth feel of diplomacy and technology advancement. Considering each leader has no preset convictions towards any particular affinity or gameplay style, we can at least expect Beyond Earth to be highly replayable.
If you missed it, here is the Master Control video taken directly from Beyond Earth gameplay. It focuses on a faction following the Purity affinity.
The video showcases a few of the units in the game, along with naval combat, satellite combat, and a very quick look at diplomacy.
Ready for Civilization in outer space? Let us know in the comments section below!
Civilization: Beyond Earth releases October 24, 2014 on PC, Mac and Linux.
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