The name of Sid Meier will forever be known as one of the most inspiring figures in the video game industry. For over 20 years, he’s been at the forefront of making some of the greatest video games ever created, including his landmark turn-based strategy series Civilization. These games allow you to control historical nations including Greece, Persia, China, America, India, Russia and many, many more. You are then given the chance to develop theses nations further through the ages, starting from the bronze age and all the way through to the age of space travel. The Civilization series is highly regarded as one of the most important strategy games ever and even today many other developers of strategy games have used Civilization as the standard to meet.
Now to add to the Sid Meier collection is the newest game in Civilization series. In Civilization: Beyond Earth you are tasked with taking your people to a new planet as Earth is now uninhabitable. While there, you must guide them through hash trials and tribulations for your nation to prosper. In many ways, Beyond Earth bears a strong resemblance to another famed Sid Meier video game: Alpha Centauri. However, as the newest addition to the Civilization franchise and the spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri, Civilization: Beyond Earth still has much to live up to.
From the moving, emotional opening intro sequence, you are motivated and inspired to guide your people in their new home and establish your Civilization in this alien world full of wonder and danger. You’ll begin by choosing your sponsor which gives you unique bonuses such as faster production, extra trade routes, tougher soldiers and extra research trees. Other options include extra bonuses and the map you’ll be playing on and soon, it’s time for you and your people to settle in their new home. Beyond Earth follows the formula of the previous Civilization games. You start off with a settlement where you’ll begin building up its infrastructure. You can hire workers to make improvements to the surrounding landscape and settlers to quickly establish a new colony. You’ll also adopt virtues which accelerate research, increase industrial output, help your units gain more experience and provide a more plentiful harvest.
How you decide to pursue your policies is entirely up to you. You can always choose the more peaceful route, maintain friendly relations with other factions through trading available resources for a certain period of time and forging alliances. It’s possible to progress through an entire session without acting out any aggression towards any other factions. Alternatively, there’s the more assertive choice: engaging in all out warfare by using spies to infiltrate your rivals and crushing them with a host of various military units at your command including infantry to land, air and sea units and even alien lifeforms.
You are able to research various categories which help with industrial, scientific, economic, cultural and military endeavors. The research tree connects various branches and enables unlocks. You’ll be able to research projects which will improve production, enable the training and growing of alien lifeforms, increase orbital scanning and train better units. Investing funds in these research categories will help your faction grow and outshine your rivals with an array of improvements.
However the most distinct research classes of all are the one’s connected to the 3 affinities: Purity, Harmony and Supremacy. These 3 affinities will affect your faction greatly depending on what you research. Harmony is the integration of the new planet’s geology and ecosystem with the human physiology, Supremacy is the use of cybernetics and nanotechnology for the advancement of the human race and Purity is the act of preserving the human physiology without any interference. These are unlocked by researching various branches within the tree connected to leaves that have the appropriate affinity symbol next to them. Affinity research offers unique bonuses to your faction such as faster energy production, weather control for more favorable conditions, citywide holograms to spread culture faster and they also offer unique units including the Lev Tank, robotic soldiers or squads with both human and alien lifeforms. The more you research the more you uncover and investing time and resources into research especially connected to the 3 affinities will shape your faction into a noble or even dominating superpower.
Beyond Earth is a great addition to the Civilization series. It’s addictive, deep and the variations in both single and multiplayer will keep you occupied for a very long time. Yet although this lives up to its predecessors rather nicely, it still isn’t one of the stronger titles in the series. For instance, Civilization has always been about celebrating the progress and development of nations both old and current. It was gratifying to watch your economy boom, your culture flourish, your research projects becoming successful, and even to conquer your rivals with your immense army. Here on the other hand, everything from the virtues to the research ultimately seems to build up solely for military purposes and nothing else seems to get much attention. It feels like more of a priority to build up a strong military rather than develop your nation through all aspects. This concept is understandable considering the hostile circumstances, but in earlier Civ games military force was only part of the big picture and encouraged other options for your nation to expand, which arguably can turn out to be more rewarding.
The Civ games are well known for adding a lot of charm and character to the factions. The factions were represented by historical figures like Boadicea, Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth, Catherine the 2nd and even a genocidal, war-mongering, Nuclear Weapon using Gandhi. This gave the game almost a more human approach since these characters added a face to the factions as their mannerisms, expressions and dialogue almost made the relationships with other factions more personal, providing another reason to ally with or outdo these rivals. The factions in this game unfortunately do not have the same presence and charm as the factions in the earlier Civ games. There’s not much to differentiate between the faction you’re playing as and your opponents aside from different statistics, another language and perhaps a chosen affinity. Beyond that, it’s not as enjoyable to interact with these factions as it was before.
As the latest entry to the Civilization series, Beyond Earth lives up to the name rather well by following the formula of previous Civilization games and taking pages from Alpha Centauri’s book. While it may not be as strong as the magnificent Civilization V is, it’s still able to provide satisfying and addictive turn-based strategy in a beautiful and exciting sci-fi setting. If you are a long time follower of Civilization or just looking for an enjoyable sci-fi 4X strategy game, then grab Civilization: Beyond Earth and lead your people to the dawn of a new era.
This review is based on a digital copy of Civilization: Beyond Earth for the PC provided by 2K Games.