Can Firaxis go Beyond what they haven’t done in some time? Create a Civilization game that is based in space, a spiritual successor to Alpha Centari? Well they certainly made a fun game but unfortunately in its current state it does not live up to all that Alpha Centari was or even how good Civ V was after Brave New World came out.
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is much like its predecessor in that it is a 4x turn based strategy game where you choose from one of eight factions and develop your new civilization to one of five possible wins. There isn’t much to story but I will say that the year is some 600 years in the future in which all civilizations are leaving Earth due to “The Great Mistake.” We can only assume that humans have done something to Earth that won’t make the planet sustainable to life after some time. The factions include the American Reclamation Corporation (of course the US faction would be a business), Pan-Asian Cooperative, People’s African Union, Kavithan Protectorate (India/Pakistan), Brasilia, Franco-Iberia, Polystrailia and Slavic Federation (Poland can space?).
Now though the gameplay is fun, it can be repetitive and is lacking the content that the previous iterations had which always seems to be a problem with Firaxis games. The premise behind the game is that you develop a city through culture spread, science and production in order to come to an end game event that allows you to win. Before starting the player gets to choose between a faction, one of the different kinds of colonists, a spacecraft, cargo and what planet you want to visit:
During gameplay you will build various build and research various technology all while trying to fend off your enemies in order to get to one of five victory conditions. Those include Domination in which you capture all enemy capitals, Contact in which you contact a previous superior alien race and bring them back to the planet. Promised Land which is the Purity victory which is where your civilization will make contact with Earth and bring in new Earthling survivors through the Exodus Gate and start colonizing the new planet. Transcendence, the Harmony victory, where the civ develops the mind flower and links all the minds of human, aliens and the planet together as one consciousness. Finally the Emancipation victory which would be the Supremacy victory where your civ goes back to earth to eliminate humanity because you have developed a way to create a new race of humans through the combination of alien DNA and nanotechnology. Now in order to reach these last three victories you must earn points in what is called affinity levels. Those include Purity (humans stay humans), Emancipation (humans become part human, part robot, part alien) and Harmony (humans try to link with the new world). In order to get affinity levels you must complete various quests along with researching the various affinity based technologies in the tech web. The nice thing about the Tech web is that it allows any Civilization to go in a direction of its pleasing. No Civ is going to have a race to the same technology. I could be going for Alien Evolution for Harmony where as someone else could be going for Nanotechnology for Emancipation. Our units and buildings we can have will be completely different.
Unfortunately on the other side of the spectrum, these victory conditions all can be achieved within 200 turns which is much faster than Civilization V and in some cases I’ve even gotten victories through domination in about 70-90 turns. Now granted there are modes which makes builds and research take longer but it isn’t adding much to the gameplay. In Civilization V all of the buildings and wonders were rich with story and design but Beyond Earth just lacks the feel that the buildings are anything special. There is a way to read about each wonder however they don’t add much to the gameplay and they only have a simple schematic as their picture. Nothing grand and beautiful like the Great Wall or the Eifel Tower. Also the AI aliens, which are essentially barbarians from Civ V, are not very aggressive and can honestly be ignored after turn 50ish as they won’t bother you at all if you aren’t attacking them. At one point one of the buildings you can build is an electric fence for your cities that will keep the aliens away from them and they will never try and take your city. It feels like the Aliens were just there as xp boosts for your soldiers. Now there are mods that make they spawn faster and actually attack your city but we shouldn’t have to rely on mods to make the aliens interesting. This game is fun, I have easily 50+ hours in it, but it isn’t without having a little lackluster gameplay much like Civilization V was before Gods and Kings and Brave New World came out. There is no telling whether or not Firaxis will put out $20-30 expansions for this game before making Civilization VI but I can tell you that after 50+ hours I’ve just about seen everything the game can offer where as I can play Civ V for 200+ hours and still not have seen everything.
Now the graphics aren’t bad, they are just carbon copies of Civilization V’s graphics with a Sci-fi skin which is nice but it isn’t anything special. Most were hoping that due to the time between when Civ V came out and Beyond Earth that there would be some sort of improvement in the engine or design of the grid system but it remains unchanged. However I can see this from a “don’t fix what ain’t broke” mentality as well. The aethetics are nice, especially how your units change based on which affinity you progress in however the characters for the different factions are very lacking in any look and are very boring. On top of that, this has more to do with sound, they usually say the same line over and over again sometimes not saying anything at all. The faction leaders just lack any kind of character. Where is my warmongering Ghandi? On to sound though the voice acting and lines the leaders have are very meh, the music is quite good. The music changes based on how you are playing the game and is well done.
Overall this game is a load of fun and is very replayable however the gameplay itself is quite lacking in comparison to previous Civilization games and could be vastly improved by having the expansions Civ V received. I would recommend this game however maybe not at the price point it currently is.