Following the advancement victory from Civilization V where the first player to build a rocket off Earth was the winner, Civilization: Beyond Earth takes those space pioneers and thrusts them down on an alien planet to start over. Wait, we leave home, invade another planet and they’re the aliens…nevermind. The opening cinematic (see below) gives a bit of background story as to why we are no longer on Earth. I still am not sure why the guys at Launch Control are so happy to have sent hundreds of people into space to possibly never be hear from again, but on to the game…
Gameplay is standard turn-based strategy and doesn’t try to change any of the mechanics of the genre, it simply adds a bit of complexity to how players think about playing a Civilization game. Anyone new to the Civilization series will easily be able to pick up the concepts of the game and be well on their way to total world domination. Veterans of the series will find the familiar Civilization that we’ve known, but with a few tweaks to change up the usual strategies.
The typical victory scenarios have been revamped except for Domination, take over everyone is still pretty valid. A second victory condition, Contact, requires the player to decode and then as the name suggests make contact with the aliens that sent it, must like the book/movie of the same name. There are also three other victory conditions that are all dependent on a player’s preferred affinity.
Speaking of affinities, this is probably my favorite change to the series. The player will by virtue of game decisions be able to choose the course for the human race. There are three affinities: Harmony, where players attempt to become native with the planet; Purity, where players strive to remain like humans from Earth; and Supremacy, where players use technological advances to become a stronger race altogether. The affinities are advance by choices in research, quests and trading can grant points toward a particular affinity. As a bonus for advancing an affinity, special bonuses and abilities are gained. Additionally, unit unlocks and upgrades that can change the look of certain units are dependent upon affinity. And as a reward for advancing an affinity to high level, an Ultimate unit is able to be built that can sway the balance of power significantly. While playing, I always found myself drawn more to the Supremacy affinity. Possibly because of the name, but also because I just liked the look of the units.
Another addition to the series is the Orbital Layer. This feature allows players to build and launch special satellites. These satellites can have military, economic or research purposes and are deployed for a limited time. While I feel I don’t use it a great deal, I liked this addition. I mean, we’ve left Earth, why can’t we have satellites to do things. The coolest satellites is one of the ultimate units for the a space platform that can rain sweet, sweet laser death on anyone it sets its sights on.
Beyond the affinities and orbital layer, the majority of the game is standard Civilization. Explorers explore and workers work. Resources and citizen happiness must be watch at all times. Dialog with other colonies and their sponsor asking for stuff or saying what a bad person you are must be managed so as to not upset your neighbor but not give away the farm. Graphics are built on the same engine as Civilization V. And for that reason, several people have commented that the game had more of an expansion or mod feel than an entirely new release. This was not the case for me, the game showed enough of a difference from its predecessor to give some distance.
Anyone who enjoys strategy games or the Civilization series in general should like Civilization: Beyond Earth. And the beginner will find it easy to pick up and a good way to give your brain a bit of a workout. With the ability to host game saves via Steam, this makes a good game to play at any time when you just need a break from reality.