Title: Sid Meier’s Civilization Beyond Earth
Platform: Steam, Windows, Mac & Linux (planned)

Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Empire Strategy, Civilization, Turn-based strategy
Players: Single player, Multiplayer  


Written by Whistler 26th October 2014













After glossing past the usual logos of 2K and Firaxis the scene fades in, a lone truck passes through an almost non-ending refugee camp, a father and his daughter sit amongst other passengers with exhausted expressions riddled over their faces. The van reaches its destination, a strange base, from here you can hear the young child’s voice speaks over the events as her father; her father is scanned yet is unsuccessful to be given passage, but as fate would have it the daughter is chosen.

We see that Earth is in search of a new home with select individuals chosen from each nation to represent a new hope for humanity, here we see the father once again, gazing into the skies as shuttles soar into the skies.

The passengers of these arcs step out to gaze upon their newfound world and thus,

“A new beginning for mankind”.


I was always curious as to where Sid Meier’s Civilization would go next, where titles like Total War focused on specific events and cultures, Civ games always encompassed global scale strategy and even went through the ages right from the dawn of humanity. So much like dragons and knights were once the go-to for innovation, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth breaks free from the box and floats into the realms of space. Oddly though innovation is stretching it as those who are Sid Meier savvy will know that this isn’t the first time we’re face with rebuilding humanity on an alien planet, as in fact Beyond Earth is very much a spiritual successor to the 1999 title, Alpha Centauri.


For those of you that have played Civ V (the two of you that haven’t, feel free to stop reading, go play it and come back later), Beyond Earth plays very much like a standalone expansion acting as an lengthy extra chapter where Earth is buggered and so various nations form corporate factions to blast off in search of a new rock to create a new hope for humanity. Honestly though while it is certainly fun to play, Beyond Earth quickly reeks of having a budget of a AAA game’s expansion rather than a AAA game itself.

It wears Civ’s skin and certainly plays like Civ, but it does change the formula, for better and worse.



























Similar to Civ you pick your corporate faction; I decided to go with Polystralia for their expansive trade expertise, but as well as taking on-board a colony of scientific minds with an already prepped laboratory and specialized scanners so as to map out the coastlines on this new planet. While it’s nice having a much more variable start up honestly the factions feel so bland and lack character opposed to the empires of the Earth based predecessor; nobody gets unique units, themes or specialities outside on the initial start bonuses. Personally I felt this hurt the replayability as there isn’t much motive to start over and rule this new world say as the Franco-Iberians as opposed to the Pan-Asia Cooperative.


Where you’re faction diversifies though is rather interesting, through the tech tree and other events you can gain points towards three affinities being Harmony, Supremacy and Purity. Leveling any of these three elements will net you bonuses and somewhat dictate your play style with harmony allowing you to live peacefully with the fauna and eventually wielding this newfound life; or perhaps supremacy as you forge a new race of technological hybrids, or do you instead hold onto humanity’s past with purity. However after about roughly halfway through a playthrough these choices became meaningless as you are free to level all three affinities where they eventually just turn into number bonuses.


Seeing as in Beyond Earth we’ve skipped the several eras of having to learn the wheel, chivalry or writing we can get into the good stuff post haste and will have diplomacy, trade, oceanic travel and even covert ops within a short time. While daunting at first for most Civ fans the tech web is a welcome sight, bearing a striking resemblance to Endless Space’s tech tree you start from the middle with basic tech and from there the web is your oyster as you expand from there in whichever direction you please (just make sure to use the search function until you familiarize yourself with it).


However even though we’ve been rocketed straight into the space era everything starts off rather slow and the space lag doesn’t seem to wear off for a lengthy period.  This feels largely due to the fact that while Beyond Earth condenses the Civ formula to the space era it still tries to stretch it to the same length, there were plenty of tech to research and plenty to build the lack the same kind of impact as those in Civ V or before. Even troops feel rather bland, while it’s nice that your military unit types are all upgraded at once rather than having to individually updating each of them they’re all so streamlined and basic that combat just feels stale and everybody having access to all of the same units just further blends everything into the same bland formula.



























Now Meier is quoted for stating that Civ is a series of interesting decisions and it is more apparent in Beyond Earth as after completing certain buildings, researching certain tech or coming across strange objects you will be introduced to BE’s quest system. While at first these were interesting little bits of flavour text as you decide between two options or are tasked with doing a, b or c but after a while they didn’t feel like they made much impact so I eventually succumbed to just skimming the flavour text, and picking whichever bonus aided me more. The thing is this sort of mechanic was already present as far back as Total War’s Shogun 2, and it neither improves nor adds upon it making it feel rather rushed especially since these quests equal to nothing more than numbers and percentages and are almost if not completely identical each playthrough.


Even the city states have been reduced to trading partners, I really do try not to constantly make comparisons between BE and Civ V but for everything it does right it feels like there’s at least two mistakes to follow it. Trading in BE has been streamlined and does feel more important, cities can only have two trading routes so you’ll be micromanaging each of your population centres in order to maximise growth, research development and production and you’ll quickly realize that trading with neighbouring factions and the stations (city states) will net you far better bonuses that sticking your borders.

While yes the stations being little more than bonus generators was disappointing trading in BE is solid and far more enjoyable, being able to have these options where you can naturally help neighbours out instead of the clunky ‘I will give you all of these if you give me those’ system the previous titles were landed with.


I will say though that the world in which you land is a lot more lively, after sending your little explorer unit out you will shortly come into contact with one of the planets many wildlife. While at first they seem like nothing more than Civilization’s barbarians with a paint job they in fact behave very animalistic, some only becoming aggressive from provocation or larger ones simply following the circle of life (f*ck you giant sandworm!). It certainly keeps you on your toes in the early turns as you hasten to set a foothold upon this alien landscape, which is another plus, since we’re not grounded in reality landscapes can become vastly alternating and differentiating from each other which offers some nice visuals from time to time.



























Contrary to how this review sounds, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is certainly enjoyable even within the context of a Civ game. The tech tree is a welcome sight and I felt a lot more incentive to explore as opposed to earlier entries in the series; however everything else either falls off, lacks polish or just outright feels rushed. The ‘civilizations’ of the game are uninteresting, bland with little more than numbers to differentiate themselves from one another, quest choices become meaningless, and combat is dull (the terrible AI doesn’t help with that). Now while I was glad that even trying to rush certain parts of the game (you know, cause I wanted this review to come out sometime before the end of the millennium) that it still took some effort to finish by transcendence, one of the many unique victory conditions; however after one playthrough I just don’t really feel like diving back in anytime soon and honestly it just reminds me how good Civ V was after it was fixed.

Maybe it’ll get a touch up and be ready to experience again but until then it just doesn’t feel like it’s worth the AAA game price tag, it’s an awesome premise, it just doesn’t feel like it fully delivered.


Pros:    

Enjoyable exploration,

Meaningful trading,

Improved tech tree,

Interesting worlds.

   

Cons:  

Quest choices lack impact,

Lacks overall content for a Civ game,

Bad AI,

Little to no variation between factions.


Final verdict,

Beyond Earth gets a solid 6.5/10, it just doesn’t raise the bar Civilization V already set.



Written by,

Whistler














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