Civilization: Beyond Earth is the latest installment in Sid Meier’s’ long running Civilization series. This 4x turn based strategy franchise began all the way back in 1991 and it has been regularly releasing games with numerous expansions ever since. Beyond Earth differs from the previous Civilization entries, as it leaves Earth in favor of alien worlds. Long fans of the previous titles’ mechanics needn’t worry however, as many of the core gameplay remains similar or even unchanged from Civilization V.
First and foremost, I think it’s important to disclose that I haven’t followed the Civilization games since I played Civilization II in the mid 90s. I have played a few 4x strategy games since then, but I am admittedly less than seasoned in the genre. That being said, I found that Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is admirably intricate. This will appeal to fans of strategy games, but it also creates a steep learning curve for others that may be just now testing the waters.
In my first game I must have spent at least an hour getting through my first fifteen turns alone. This is in part because I was going through tutorials and learning the basics, but also because I spent almost all my time looking through the technologies and units after the tutorials were over. After my first two hours of play time I found myself reading through guides for basic strategies for the early, middle, and late games. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun doing it, but not everyone that feels like they need to will enjoy it. I have no doubt that the complexities and nuisances of the meta game are what lead to this series long running success.
Like Civilization V, the events of Beyond Earth are played out on a hex grid. At any given time you’ll need to make sure to consider all six directions while planning attack routes as well as defense strategies. There are three affinities in this iteration, which effectively determine your civilization’s philosophies and the course of its development. Supremacy focuses on enhancing units with the most advanced equipment, Purity focuses on defending its people by going it alone and trying to make your new planet more like Earth, and Harmony specializes on becoming one with your new home and its native lifeforms. These each deliver interesting play-throughs, but I found myself leaning toward Supremacy most often.
The core gameplay has been refined for years, as a result it’s pretty solid. However, what isn’t solid is the UI. Even after hours in-game I feel like I’m fighting to get to where I want to go. A patch was released today that helps with this some, and given enough time in-game I’m sure I’ll notice a marked improvement. However, at the time of this writing I can’t say for sure that will be the case.
If you’ve enjoyed Civilization in the past due to its historical settings, you might not find Beyond Earth as interesting, as it does in fact take place on other worlds. As for the alien planets, many, like myself, feel that the alien life encountered feels like nothing more than wildlife. I feel like there was a huge opportunity missed in making the only intelligent factions other humans. Why not allow the players to fight or align themselves with advanced alien civilizations?
On a more positive note, the tech web has been done very well. You no longer have to commit to an entire technology path to get to an ability at the end of the tech tree. Now you can mix and match and decide which things you need in the moment. It’s even advantageous to get several technologies near the middle of the web before branching off to more specific upgrades toward the edges. There are so many technologies that knowing the web as best as possible will increase your chances of success drastically. This is part of the steep learning curve I mentioned earlier. If you’re wanting to play online or with friends knowing how to use the tech web better than they do will be key. However, if you’re wanting to relax in a game with the computer on the easier difficulties it won’t be nearly as important.
Beyond Earth is a worthy entry into the Civilization series. It carries the essence and hallmarks if its predecessors while taking a few liberties of its own. Changes to previous successful game designs are always risks and they’re executed with varying degrees of success. They are however necessary to avoid stagnation and Beyond Earth’s expansions, which are presumably on their way, will be able to further iterate and improve on them from here.
If you’re looking for a solid 4x strategy title, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is worth considering. It’s also a good choice if you’re a new comer to the genre, assuming you’re willing to take the time to learn the mechanics and technology web specifically. It has a lot of depth and offers several ways to play and hours worth of time to do it.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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