Wednesday 12 August 2015

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (PC)

I review Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, a turn based strategy game currently available to buy on PC.

Civilization V is quite possibly my favourite PC Game that I’ve had the chance to play, so I was eager to jump into Beyond Earth when I brought it in the Steam Summer Sales earlier in the year. After all, I missed it at launch because my PC couldn’t fit the specifications, but now that I upgraded, my laptop is capable of running the game and it, despite some mixed reviews, did not disappoint, offering up another addictive game where we can’t help but keep playing even though it’s gone midnight and you have work the next day.

Beyond Earth offers the chance to explore an alien world, whilst keeping the relative look and feel of Civ 5 even if this version is perhaps more polished. The game itself takes place in the near future when Earth is ruined, and you find yourself playing as one of the major civilizations in the game. However, this is one of the several differences from the previous game – no longer do you play as historical civilizations like France or England, but you get groups like ARC, the futuristic version of the United States and short for the American Reclamation Corporation. There’s also nations like the People’s African Union (PAU) and the Pan-Asian Corporative (PAC). Each civilization that you decide to be will give you different bonuses, much like the previous game, for example, if you decide to play as ARC you will get a 25% increase on covert operations and they’ll cause more intrigue, whilst the PAU will have +10% food in growing cities when they’re healthy. It’s little bonuses like that (there are no unique units unlike in previous Civs) that offer a different experience each time you start a new game. I’ve had the chance to play as both ARC and PAC in my two games that I played before writing this review and they both suit different playing styles.

The game allows you to have special advantages before jumping right in. For example, you can opt to reveal all coastlines on a map (handy if the map you’re playing on is predominantly water based), as well as detect alien nests on the planet’s surface or have a soldier or worker unit already spawned when you land. Different advantages always help, and again, allows for greater replay ability value as when starting a new game you can simply select a different bonus for a different experience. Once you’ve picked your bonuses you’re dropped down via a spaceship and you get to decide where to put your Capital city on the map in a given area provided, with tactical advantages depending on where you placed your city allowing for bonuses. Once there, the game is yours, and how you approach it, what victory method you want to go for, whether you want to peacefully approach aliens or exterminate them (which will have consequences on how the other civilizations view you), or engage in diplomacy with other civilizations or bully them into submission. The same mechanics as Civ 5 are kept in play, and the game doesn’t really offer the same new experience like the transition from Civ 4 to Civ 5, but it does provide some great content especially if you’re a fan of science fiction, and will keep those of you who have not yet played Civ 5 entertained indeed.

The game is harder to get used to than previous Civilization games because you’re in a completely new alien terrain. New technologies are unknown and the improvements don’t work the same way that they did on Earth, making it an initially refreshing experience. It’s a daunting experience that will take a while to get used to, especially if you treat aliens the same way you treat barbarians that you did in Civ 5 – they will become more hostile and more threatening the longer you attack them. The Siege Worms offer a big challenge when it comes to taking down the aliens – and like the barbarians, they’re unpredictable and cannot be negotiated with, so it’s wise to invest in buildings that protect your cities and trade routes from aliens so you can concentrate on your neighbouring civilizations who depending on how you treat them may be more of a threat.  But don’t underestimate the aliens, even if they’re more of an early game threat and don’t really have much part to play in the late game, which is kind of a shame as the second time around, I was hoping to somehow strike up an alliance with them because I wasn’t wiping them off the face of the Earth (no matter how many times their Sea Dragons kept destroying my gunboats).

The affinity addition to Beyond Earth is probably one of the best, with Harmony, Purity and Supremacy each having different benefits depending on which upgrades you decide to explore, with each giving you different bonuses, for example, Purity will boost combat and Supremacy is geared towards economy, which again, makes for a different experience each play through.

Unlike the previous game where you had a relative level of comfort in exploring, Beyond Earth thrusts you into a battle for survival from the get go as you’re up against the environment and the creatures that inhabit it. Whilst the AIs can suffer in parts (for example, lecturing me about not attacking before declaring war and asking me to join, and apologising for spying in cities only to act aghast when they caught me spying in their city a few turns later), and I’ve yet to explore multiplayer for more than a few turns, Beyond Earth offers a mostly rewarding experience that whilst doesn’t quite render it as good as the previous game, Civ 5, it’s still a strong entry in the franchise and is worth a shout for strategy gamers. Recommended.

VERDICT: 8.5/10

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