When Civilization: Beyond Earth was released it didn’t take many days until I gave in and bought a copy. It is developed by Firaxis and builds on the previous Civilization game series. Civilization:BE also has a “spiritual predecessor” in Alpha Centauri. I haven’t played that game, but I have spend uncountable hours playing the previous versions of Civilization and Colonization. Now, one month and a lot of turns later, I will summarize my experience and thoughts.
You lead colonists that have been sent from Earth to establish a new home for mankind. Your task is to build a civilization on a newfound planet filled with strange aliens and rich in natural resources.
If you have played Civilization you will recognise a lot. You found cities, construct buildings, and explore. Other civilizations will also settle on the planet and you can either work with them or try to conquer them using warfare. I don’t find the civilizations in BE as prone to warfare as they are in for example Civilization V, which makes the game a bit less intense and you can focus more on your plan instead of worrying about what the others do.
The first thing you will notice is that BE is very different from Civilization when it comes to victories. The game is much more story driven and you win by reaching certain conditions (research these technologies, then build this wonder, then do these special actions etc). You have a quest log with missions that you can complete for rewards that is meant to help you get closer to victory. It is a fun change, but after playing through numerous games it tends to be a bit repetitive.
Finishing quests or researching certain technologies allows you to control what type of civilization you should build. This is called affinities and you have three to chose from. They basically can be summed up with: Become more alien, become more technical, or stay true to humanity.
Leveling up your affinity also levels up your units, which is useful. I have always found that managing and upgrading units in Civilization has been tedious, and having them upgraded automatically is a nice change. However, if you don’t focus strongly on one affinity you will find yourself surrounded with much stronger opponent civilizations and become vulnerable to attacks.
Researching technologies in Beyond Earth works slightly different from previous versions of Civilization. Instead of a research tree you have a tech web. This, combined with the new victory conditions, means that in higher difficulties you really have to be certain of what victory you are going for and what you are researching. It is a cause for more difficult decisions and it is sometimes painful choosing what research you have to focus on.
The spy system we are used to in Civilization V has gotten a big upgrade and is much more fun now. Just as before you can place covert ops agents in other cities. The more covert ops activity there is in a city (called intrigue), the more tasks your agents will be able to chose from. When there is low activity you can for example steal gold or science but at higher levels of activity you can start stealing technologies or order alien attacks.
The aliens are also worth mentioning. In Civilization, we are used to barbarians that attack units or pillage lands. On this new world there are roaming aliens. They are not at all as aggressive and a lot dumber. If you start attacking them however, they will understand that you are a threat and become more aggressive towards you. This is a change I really like, as the barbarians had an annoying way of always messing up my plans… :)
As I am a complete sucker for Civilization, Beyond Earth could have been either a complete miss or a complete hit for me. It is definitely different from Civilization in many ways and it is not a replacement or the next version of Civilization but rather another type of game in the same series that has its own tactics and charms. I’m glad to say that Beyond Earth, for me, is a hit.
8/10 alien nests