Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Beyond Earth First Impressions
Space: the final frontier. Blatant Star Trek quote? Yes. Best way to describe the feeling you get exploring a world in Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth? Also yes.
The hugely popular series is leaving the confines of our world and venturing forth into the unknown this fall, and while I could not get hands on with the title, I was enthralled during the ten minute presentation at the 2K booth. Most Civ games end with creating a spaceship capable of moving on to distant worlds, and Beyond Earth picks up the story when you’ve settled on that new world.
The game takes the same view as Civ V: beautifully drawn visuals, hex tiles and engaging exploration. In fact, the exploration is heightened since you never know what you will encounter. Barbarians make the previous games interesting, alien lifeforms make Beyond Earth more intriguing.
As you move your explorer across the map, you will encounter these aliens throughout your travels. The aliens and lifeforms in Beyond Earth react to your level of aggression: coexist peacefully and they will leave you alone, come to close and they will protect themselves. The environment isn’t without its own intrinsic hazards as well. Clouds of gas litter the landscape. Leave your units in them for a turn and they will start to take damage.
Along your travels you will come across resource pods from Earth. These are pods that were sent to the surface of your planet before your settlement and act along the same ways as we remember uncovering ruins might. Technology and gold rewards might be the reason for seeking out these pods. Fossils and other ancient alien artifacts can also be uncovered and some times you might be rewarded with an alien unit fighting for your civilization.
You can choose between three different affinity alignments in order to govern your people: purity, harmony and supremacy. During our presentation, our civilization had taken the affinity of supremacy, which is exactly how it sounds. We learned from the mistakes of the past and are determined to make sure the Human Race is able to move on from this planet easily and pain-free. By embracing advanced technology we make it so the human race will survive no matter what calamity might befall the planet. Harmony seeks to co-exist with the planet, which supremacy sees a little near-sighted. By this co-existence, Harmony players are able to tame and domestic the local wildlife. Purity tries to maintain the cultural and historical heritage of the old Earth, and therefore is usually an isolationist. These players specialize in turtling, or building powerful defensive structures and making the new planet more like Earth.
The game will also feature quests, and while the narrative is still primarily driven by the players, the quests serve as nudge in different directions. Also new is an amazingly complex and rich Technology Web. Each technology is steeped in real tech that is currently available now, or will be made available in the future as we look towards our own future. Each technology also has its own leaf technology for the different affinities, adding even more depth to the game’s inner workings that Civ fans have come to love with the series. Expect many hours pouring over the tech web deciding which direction to go in your quest for domination, regardless of your affinity of choice.
Each affinity has their own victory conditions, as well as your normal victory conditions usually associated with the game. Our demonstration had us vying for control over some valuable resources on a nearby continent named Firaxite. This resources is one that all affinities can use, but has special use by those of the Supremacy tree, as it is a base mineral in construction of certain units. Only problem is that when our civilization colonized the nearby continent, our Harmony brethren colonized alongside and took the resource under their city’s boundaries. We see this as a threat to our way of life, and see Harmony as a threat to this. Since we want to make sure that Supremacy isn’t attached to any one planet, but is able to become mobile if the time arises we need to abandon this world like we did Earth, Harmony’s attachment with the new world is seen as short sighted and weak. War with them as a threat to our way of life was inevitable, the need for Firaxite gave us a reason.
After wiping out the Harmony armies around one of their cities, we used our naval vessels to bombard the city. Eventually, within the end of the turn, we held the city, forced Supremacy on the local inhabitants whether they liked it or not and came into possession of the valuable resource.
The entire time this was going on, I was reminded of all the Civilization games I have played over the years. From conquering the entire planet in Civ III, to making the space shuttle that would take my people into the start with Civ V; the gameplay seemed as familiar as ever, but the setting made it feel like a whole new world. That might be because we are exploring just that, and honestly I cannot wait until the game launches this fall. You might not see me write an article for weeks as a result.
Just remember, where Harmony fails, Supremacy leads all!