Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is by far the most brutal introduction to a Civ game ever. Not only is the AI aggressively hostile, the native aliens and inhospitable land tracts that make your early game extremely claustrophobic.
In my first few games, I’ve managed to win only one out of five games thus far. No Civ game has ever managed to piss me off so bad that all I want to do now is to pummel the AI into submission. The only thing that is holding me back is the lack of sleep that I’ve earned myself since receiving the game.
What does this button do again?
The real enemy in the Beyond Earth would be the new tech tree. The alternative victory conditions are a long and arduous climb to the top. Having these victory conditions split into 3 affinity paths – Harmony, Purity & Supremacy, is not the challenge but having them placed all over the tech web is the real demon to slay.
Affinity paths are important because at the start of the game everyone has access to pretty much the same basic tech. Unlike traditional Civ games where the end game eventually plateaus with planes and tanks, Beyond Earth has you throwing huge Alien beasts against Mechs. If that isn’t cool, I’m not sure what else is.
While it might lend to a more varied end game in terms of combat, the path to victory is long and confusing for players right from the get go. The introductory system, while decent, does not highlight the cost benefits of a specific path.
In my first few games, following the victory path down then Supremacy route inadvertently causes your faction to be on the backpedal in terms of economy growth and science. The researched core technologies that helps you achieve Supremacy points lacks the buildings and improvements required to perform optimally. Hence, I realized that an great amount of emphasis has to be placed on the faction bonuses at the start of the game and other starting bonuses as well.
While it might be intentional to have the tech spread across the tech web, it felt to me that it made little sense or proper progression when building into your preferred Affinity Path.
Beyond Earth is best described as a snowball, if the player does not min/max for his ultimate end game in mind, he will wilt under the might of the AI’s armies. As far as I know, it would be nigh impossible to gain the upper hand using generic military units. It appears that there is no way to win without picking an Affinity Path. Be prepared to stick to your guns once the decision has been made.
Combat and Collusion
I distinctly remember playing a game in which the moment all the AI had made landfall, the closest two factions allied and proceed to declare war on me by the 20th round. It took me a good part of the game to beat them back and by then it was announced globally that another AI faction had proceeded to work on the Mind Flower Wonder which is the penultimate goal for the Harmony affinity. As expected, I lost that game as I did not have enough time to move my troops across the map to delay his victory.
The Aliens in the game appear to work against your favour; not only do they seem to swarm around your borders, they don’t seem to harass the AI that much. Unlike in Alpha Centauri, where there was a rare chance of converting low level Aliens to your cause early in the game, the natives here are purely obstacles that need to removed for expansion. Colonists and new bases are Alien magnets, so remember to escort them or clear the way to the new base site.
Unfortunately, the only way to gain Alien units would be to walk down the Harmony path. Apart from that, I did not notice any significant difference between each Affinity specific unit towards the end game apart from the massive unit that you get to build at the end of your Affinity tech tree.
Similar to recent Civs, a deathball stack of units does not exist within Beyond Earth. This makes moving troops across the map into enemy territory is big chore towards the end game but if you’ve made it that far, that’s what the alternate victory tracks are for.
Familiar yet incomplete
I’ve been waiting for a sequel to Alpha Centauri for the longest time ever. And when terms such as “spiritual successor” gets thrown around, fans tend to expect great things from Beyond Earth, myself included.
While Beyond Earth does work a new angle to the 4X series, the shadow of Alpha Centauri looms large. Despite it being enjoyable to play, the folks at Firaxis might have missed out the small things that made Alpha Centauri epic.
Missing are the cut scenes that pop up each time a wonder is built accompanied with a small voice over. Such finish touches helped to paint a far bigger world in the original. Presently within Beyond Earth, each faction feels incomplete of character; aside from faction bonuses, there really isn’t a real need for me to root behind a specific group. Additionally, factions in Beyond Earth are at loggerheads only with respect to Affinity choices but not ideologically.
It might sound weird for a 4X game to have a decent backstory but Alpha Centauri illustrated that it was possible. I’d love to have seen some banter and unique lines between the faction leaders in Beyond Earth.
I feel it wouldn’t be fair to give Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth a score at this juncture because despite it’s kinks, the game has a surprising amount of depth. I’ve only spent about 22 hours of playtime and it feels as though I’m only scratching the surface when it comes to strategy.
If you are a fan of 4X games and Civilization in general, I’d say this is a title worth recommending to veterans of the series.
Allow me to go back once again for…just…one…more…turn…
Gerald currently straddles between his love of video games and board gaming. There’s nothing that interests him more than trying out the newest and fanciest gadget in town as well. He dreams of publishing a board game sometime in the future!