Future history in your hands, Beyond Earth takes you will to the stars, maybe even back to Earth if you choose.
Civilization Beyond Earth is the latest in line of Civilization series. It should not be seen as the next definite Civilization title, but a creature in its own right. Yet, what a creature it is. While there are many similarities, they are superficial under any real examination. There’s policy decisions, quests, wonders to build and opponents to dominate.
It follows the well tested 4X formula of many titles, including Civilization, quite deftly. There’s plenty that will be familiar, the turns, workers, improvements and wonders. What does set it apart is the language it uses. Set well in the future, it’s well and truly science fiction. This is perhaps best shown in the technology web, the first of the major divergences.
This technology web really sets the game apart. The first thing to say is that it is effectively impossible to get every technology. In more than four games, I’ve at best unlocked eighty percent of the technologies. Perhaps the first thing you will notice is the two tiers of technology, each major technology has a number of secondary technologies. These can be just as important as a new technology. From the ability to cross oceans, unlock new units and abilities.
This is the second divergent path the game takes. Rather than the unit progress of other titles, you continually upgrade your units, taking the basic soldier from a man in a space suit, to one that could be just as home in the miasma of the world, to giving them power armour, the type that make one the equal if not superior to his many chosen foes. The final option making them super soldiers through cybernetic augmentation. These choices change the appearance of your cities as well.
The other difference is in the Affinities the game gives you. These represent the philosophy your colony follows. Do you call back to Earth and it’s history, standing pure and untouched? Then you might like Purity. Do you believe you need to do anything and everything you can to succeed, that the human flesh is there to be changed, Supremacy is for you. Would you rather live in harmony with your new world, adapting humanity to it so that it will survive and prosper on this new world, Harmony may be for you.
Though familiar, the level of depth in the fields of cover operations and generating your expedition stand out. In covert operations, you can not just steal technology, science, credits, you can recruit units that you would otherwise not be able to. On top of that, if you’re in mind to dominate your opposition, you can take over there cities through this. High levels in one of the Affinities give you a special mission to attack the city, from dirty bombs or worm strikes, as two examples.
Generating your expedition is another feature of the game. While not choosing an exclusive faction with a definitive leader, that is where you start. After that you can choose what type of colonists you will focus on. These can really change the nature of the colony you bring. Finally, you can choose a cargo for your ship, again, something that will help you build and prosper in this alien world.
Visuals and Sound
The engine for Beyond Earth does not appear too different from that which Civilization V used. Even with that, it is used well. The miasma effects are subtle, the very world stunningly detailed. The terrain effects, resources and water are all there in spades. Units are also detailed, the further you progress down an affinity path, the more detail you see. Each has such a clear style, you can’t help but identify who has followed which faction.
Sound is easily another stand out feature of the game. Coming from three different composers, the background music is so easy to become lost in. That as you play you spend the turn planning your moves, setting up your workers, making sure that building is the one you want, you find yourself taking that bit longer, letting the song finish before you hit the next turn button. The same level of detail went into the unit sounds as well, though with it being so easy to become lost in the music, they can fade into the background.
The game features multiple multiplayer modes, including the return of the Hotseat. Hotseat allows one computer to host a match, no internet required. This is in addition to the modes, likewise shared with Civilization V. These matches have all of the options and map varieties from the single player campaign. Victory type, map type, map size, quick turns are all options that can be easily configured. Again, much as with the single player, no two matches will be the same with the same process for creation.
The best parts of Alpha Centari and Civilisation 5, which is still somehow unfair to this game. It’s the right combination of features, choices and options, matched to sharp graphics engine and perhaps the best soundtrack I’ve heard since Homeworld 1. While nothing revolutionary. It’s timing and delivery are also spot on. There’s plenty of challenges ahead in this game, not two games will be alike.