Civilization: Beyond Earth Review
Humanity has always held a sense of mysticism about space and its unexplored frontier. There is something about its seemingly endless expanse that captivates our imagination, riddling it with untold possibilities of the unknown. Civilization: Beyond Earth is Sid Meier’s newest foray into the Universe. Beautifully encapsulating humanity’s hopes and dreams for a future in the last frontier, it successfully takes the Civilization franchise into the next phase of its evolution.
That’s the first thing you will notice about Beyond Earth. It is visually stunning. From its landscapes tinged in otherworldly hues of purples and orange to aliens and space troops ripped from the imagination, it is a pleasure to stare at. And stare at it you will, as you take turn after endless turn trying to settle the wilds of your newly settled planet.
Civilization: Beyond Earth
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: October 24, 2014
It is hard, if not nigh impossible, to be a PC gamer that has never once picked up a Civilization game. Veterans to the franchise will find Beyond Earth distinctly familiar, from the basics of the UI to its hexagonal maps and troop configuration.Don’t be fooled, though,, Beyond Earth is far from a Civilization V clone. It takes the foundation of Civilization V and keeps what worked, while revamping entire areas to better reflect the story and the unknown qualities of space. Civilization fans will find a slower experience in Beyond Earth, with the game far better resembling a slow burn than the inevitable game changing explosions found in its predecessors.
The story of Beyond Earth is delivered to players through a new Quest system. Playing through humanity’s first attempt at colonizing a new planet, you will represent one of eight coalitions sponsoring our extended reach amongst the stars. Since your varying actions in each game will trigger different quests, they provide each playthrough a unique flavor. Quests not only help guide players through the game with instructional steps to reach targets, they also help deliver an overall narrative while providing players with interesting things to do for rewards. More importantly, quests define a clear path to victory for your civilization. All victories other than total domination come in the form of quest rewards. We’ve detailed the story and quest system during a recent interview, which you can find here.
Beyond Earth includes another new feature in the Civilization universe: a concept called “seeded starts.” With seeded starts, the player defines a short background for their civilization prior to setting out on a newly habitable planet, with specific perks that will affect your starting priorities and strategy. There are five distinct choices players can make before diving into a seeded start.
Your first two choices, sponsor and colonist, defining the Earthly faction backing your interstellar expedition, each granting you a perk which will help define your overarching strategy in the game. Your last two choices, spacecraft and cargo, define your initial starting advantage. This decision defines your first few turns by granting benefits such as revealing the entire coast-line on turn one or starting off with the ability to create a settler without having to research its corresponding technology.
Affinities are another new addition to the franchise. There are best represented as the major philosophies on human advancement and the way in which that advancement should take place. There are three Affinities a player may find themselves aligning with during gameplay: Harmony, Purity and Supremacy. Every decision, from Technology advancement to Quest decisions, affects which affinity your civilization leans towards. You will either find yourself making your decisions to align with an affinity, or letting turn-by-turn strategy be your guide and allowing your affinity find you.
Purity factions see humanity as the ideal, and seek to change the planet for themselves. Harmony factions believe their new alien home world is to be embraced, requiring humanity to change in order to find synergy between itself and the alien life already inhabiting the planet. Lastly, Supremacy factions think humanity should be above the planet they colonize and should be self-sufficient through technology in spite of them.