I was a big fan of the mainstream strategy games of the 90s and early 2000s. Command and Conquer games and “Tycoon” games were my go-to PC games.
But then I was introduced to Civilization IV, and it was a game changer. I got myself a Civilization V, as well and I fell in love with it. And now we have Civilization: Beyond Earth. Here’s my take on Sid Meier’s new approach to the Civilization series:
Traditionally, in a review, I would speak about three major aspects and break them down into smaller elements. However, my experience in strategic games is limited, thus I’ll be looking at the bigger concepts of this new Civilization game instead and draw my conclusions from there.
The different countries/civilizations are out and are replaced by sponsors. The concept is still similar to that of the old factions, and it is even implied in the game that previous civilizations have banded to form one sponsor. In-game these sponsors have dropped supplies that are scattered around the map.
While it makes choosing factions easier since they are fewer and there strengths more distinguishable, history buffs will miss the back stories of each leader and the personalities that come with it. Also, because we have no context on the current leaders that we will face on Beyond Earth, it’s quite difficult to see if the leaders’ personality also affect how they act towards you and other players in the game. Personally, I preferred knowing leaders’ and countries’ contexts as it makes the game more fun to play.
Forget everything you’ve learned about the victories in Civilization. Learning how to attain a victory on your first few tries will be a pain. Victories in Civilization: BE are more difficult and complex as it now involves a bit of Narrative, and other elements such as Affinities, Technologies, and building Orbits. There are five different victories as usual, and these are called: Contact, Promised Land, Emancipation, Domination, and Transcendence. Only Domination will be familiar to you, as it requires you to get rid of all the factions that have landed in the same planet as you.
The rest requires a lot more effort than previous games. Promised Land, Emancipation, and Transcendence are victories that you can only achieve if you ascribe to an affinity, reach a high level on that specific affinity, build a structure tied to that affinity, and protect it until you reach victory. Affinities are like philosophical views that dictates your factions’ way of life. In-game, reaching specific affinity levels give you additional perks and even changes the way your units look. You could also find yourself in conflict with other factions because of a difference in the chosen affinity.
It takes a lot of getting used to, especially since sometimes gaining Affinity points could be complicated. It’s difficult to become a balanced civilization when you are focused on one affinity only. Affinity can be gained through finishing quests, making decisions, trading with stations, and researching technologies.
It can definitely be frustrating to balance all these with the many elements that can affect affinities. Still, I appreciate this new concept as it adds narrative to your quest for victory and it keeps you on your toes, something I didn’t quite see in the previous Civilization games.
Technologies now have a webbed structure. It’s easier to look at the big picture, as well as the minute details than previous games. This is a revamp that I especially love, were it not for the complexity brought about by the fact that I have no idea what most of the technologies are. Since the game is set in the future, we have little to no context as to how these technologies work, what structures they unlock and how it can benefit us.
Again, it takes a lot of time and game resetting to understand the specific technologies and how it will advance you to your victory. The map tells you however which technologies give you affinity points which are crucial to your victory. There are brief descriptions on what it does, granted, but it doesn’t give you much background after that. While I like the more holistic approach, my present mind sometimes struggle with understanding the technologies of the future.
No. Aliens are not the barbarians of this game. They are smarter and are also a crucial part all throughout your game. How you treat them dictates how the aliens act towards you, and how your fellow leaders perceive you as well. You can even tame these aliens and use them in the battlefields.
Sometimes they can be a nuisance depending on where you have landed on the map. Land too close to a nest and you’re bound to have aliens swarming to your city. They are somewhat unpredictable too. You may think that you are doing them no harm, but if your military is a bit too close for their liking, they can attack you without warning.
Again, this new addition is something I like because it keeps you on your toes and it stays relevant throughout the entire game.
Playing the game as a Civilization enthusiast, I have mixed feelings towards the Beyond Earth. Do I like this more than previous Civilizations? Sadly, no. Because I no longer have that much context and knowledge of the specifics and details of concepts, it’s difficult for me to get into the game and have fun with it. Yes, it does feel like a re-skinned Civilization V but it still took me around five games for me to slowly enjoy the new concepts and explore strategies. But the new concepts do suit the premise of the game and it definitely made it a little more challenging because it’s a little more difficult to create and maintain the balance. The new quests, victories, and affinities also adds to the feeling of leadership as you get to steer how your colony thrives in the new planet. Something Civilization IV and V did not have.
Still, it seemed more of a chore and a complicated and confusing process, than a fun strategy game. With that being said, as a Civilization enthusiast and not an expert in strategy games, I would give this game a 7/10.