Civilization: Beyond Earth Review for PC

Civilization: Beyond Earth Review for PC

Looking Toward the Future

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is… wait for it… CIVILIZATION! IN! SPAAAAAAAACE! More specifically, it is a sequel, or at least a spiritual sequel, to another Sid Meier game, Alpha Centauri , the first take on a sci-fi Civilization. However, the game follows the trend of modern day Civilization games in becoming simpler and easier to understand, which unfortunately removes a bit of the original Alpha Centauri ’s charm. In fact, I’d say that Beyond Earth is even more simple than Civilization V was, and this is a double edged sword. While the sci-fi motif makes the game a treat to play, people who are looking for a deep and complex strategy game might find that the game is more one dimensional than advertised.

Here’s the basic concept behind Beyond Earth : we screwed up! We used up all of the Earth’s resources, and so we need to set out into the stars in order to find a new home. Luckily, we do! It’s a huge planet abundant with natural resources. Unfortunately, it’s also home to a number of hostile alien life-forms, a planet wide miasma which can kill you just by breathing it, and of course… the rest of the settlers who don’t necessarily see eye to eye with you. Will you be able to see eye to eye and create a new utopia for humanity?

NOPE! In fact, the game is almost a depressing commentary on the war-like nature of humanity. The main feature of the game is an affinity system which pushes you toward Purity, Supremacy, or Harmony. Purists want to recreate the comforts of old earth, Supremacists want to advance humanity beyond its limitations through the use of technology, and Harmonists want humanity to evolve with the new planet they are on in order to avoid using it until it becomes a dried husk.

Civilization: Beyond Earth Screenshot

These three affinities both affect the technology that you can research, and set the stage for the conflicts you will encounter over the course of the game. You’ll find harmonists riding alien beasts into battle against supremacist tanks and robot suits, as if it were a scene right out of James Cameron’s Avatar . You’ll notice that each affinity shifts your needs and resources in small ways. Maybe you’ll take a hit to happiness to keep everyone fed. Maybe you’ll cause unrest in order to better deal with aliens.

These are the types of decisions that are supposed to flesh out the personality of your civilization. There’s even a short questionnaire at the beginning of the game that determines what technologies and affinities you start out with. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t have nearly as much of the personality that the great leaders did in Civilization V . There are only eight factions to choose from and they are all kind of bland. Unique units rarely take the stage. The new tech web, which makes technological research much more non-linear, is a welcome gameplay addition as it lets every race pursue a different research path, but at the same time it sort of whitewashes everything into a sort of samey conglomeration. I found that each affinity played different enough from each other to insert some variety into the game, but two games with the same affinity are depressingly similar.

Civilization: Beyond Earth Screenshot

Another thing that whitewashes the game is the game’s focus on combat. A majority of the technological advancements all have to do with upgrading your combat units. Cities are very hard to defend and having a small standing army is virtually impossible. A small group of melee troops is more than enough to take many cities, meaning it’s easy to catch other players with their pants down. Inevitably, each game eventually becomes a military race, which is a shame considering there are a host of other victory options, including a unique victory condition for every affinity. Once again, this may be a form of social commentary, stating that any sufficiently advanced civilization will always be teetering on the edge of war, which is all well and good but it does make the game a little one dimensional.

The rest of the gameplay mirrors Civilization V for the most part. The game is played on a hex grid, and for the majority of the early game you will be looking for a suitable place to settle and start building your great cities. You click on cities in order to manage their resource usage as well as develop new units and structures, while you click on other parts of the map to get your units moving and fighting. It’s all pretty basic, which is welcome for people who thought older Civilizations were too complicated. It’s also still turn based, so you will be playing this game for literally hours at a time to even get close to halfway done.

Civilization: Beyond Earth Screenshot

Exploration is necessary but is kind of a different beast in Beyond Earth . You aren’t seeking out natural wonders as much as you are simply scouting. Once again, the game has a heavier military focus this time around, and that applies to the indigenous alien species as well. They are far more deadly than barbarians were in other Civ games, and if you don’t go out and find them and handle them, they might waltz into one of your cities and wreak havoc. You can also find ancient alien pieces of tech but these are few and far between and usually aren’t the main reason for traveling outside your boundaries. There is sort of this air of paranoia the game has, in which you never really have the time to stop and appreciate the map as you travel it.

The coolest new addition to the formula are quests. These are short term goals that, if you complete them, give you an instant bonus. It gives players some direction in the short term, just in case they didn’t know what they were going to do next. It also gives players access to resources that they otherwise wouldn’t have access too. This subtly influences the path you take through the game, which influences your tech, which influences your diplomacy, so on and so forth. The ripples can be felt all the way down.

The fact that you can trade in favors is also kind of cool. Many times in Civ games, leaders would come to you asking for some resource and they, unfortunately, would have nothing you want. Now you can trade this in for an IOU to be fulfilled at a later date, which might not mean much in a game so based around military conflict, but certainly feels better.

Overall, I would say that Civilization: Beyond Earth was fun, at least as fun as Civ 5 . It just wasn’t mind-blowing, which is a shame because all the Alpha Centauri fans out there were kind of hoping for that. The game almost feels like a Civilization 5 sci-fi mod, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If anything, the game sells itself on promise. I can see expansions including new factions, new tech, and possibly even new affinities making this game a wonderfully fun and addictive experience that lasts for years. For now, however, the game is simply fun, and that is probably enough to warrant a purchase for most. Just don’t expect this game to give you the stars.

The alien worlds feel alien, though you never really appreciate them as much as you appreciated the natural wonders of Civ 5. 4.5 Control
Point, click, navigate menus–it works well just like it has in Civ games past. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The ambient music that plays during the game is appropriately creepy and alien sounding. 3.5 Play Value
Civ: Beyond Earth is a game that will be awesome, but for now is just good. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Seed the Adventure: Establish your national identity, choosing one of eight different factions, each with its own unique gameplay benefits. Craft your expedition by assembling your spacecraft, cargo & colonists through a series of choices that directly seed the starting conditions when arriving at the new planet. A new quest system guides you as you begin your journey.
  • Colonize an Alien World: Explore the dangers and benefits of a new planet filled with alien terrain, resources, and hostile life forms unlike those of Earth. Build outposts, establish trade routes and develop flourishing cities to create prosperity for your people.
  • Technology Web: To reflect progress forward into an uncertain future, technology advancement occurs through a series of nonlinear choices that affect the development of mankind.
  • Orbital Layer: Build and deploy advanced military, economic and scientific units that provide strategic offensive, defensive and support capabilities from orbit.
  • Unit Customization: Unlock different upgrades through the tech web and customize your units to reflect your play style.
  • Contend with Rivals: Wage war, form diplomatic alliances, and engage in espionage in your path to victory against other factions, each with its own leader and different gameplay style.
  • Multiplayer: Up to 8 players can compete for dominance of a new alien world.

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