Now, as you all probably know from my YouTube reviews, 4X strategy games are a particular favourite of mine. I especially like those with a Sci-Fi setting, but, apart from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (released in 1999), there hasn’t been a 4X Turn-based strategy game in that vein since then (well, technically there has: the Galactic Civilisation games has been in that vein and there’s several free games like that available to play, like Freeciv. However, most 4X strategy games tend to be RTS games and the TBS games tend to not be very well publicised, so the key point still stands! -ed.). I find this very disappointing, as Alpha Centauri was one of my all-time favourite games, but Fixaris and 2K Games were only to happy to oblige us Alpha Centauri fans, because they gave us…
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth (in case you forgot who made it… -ed.) was released on the 24th of October 2014 as a PC exclusive title, developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games. It is the 6th proper installment in the Civilization series (with eleven other games, including expansions, spin-offs and remakes, available to play as well…and that’s just the official stuff, too!), with the first being Sid Meier’s Civilization (released in 1991). I preordered the game, so I got the Exoplanets pack, which gives you access to some planets that have actually been discovered by real world scientists, but they kind of look like the other basic maps you get with the game, so I’m honestly not sure it was worth it. Admittedly, it didn’t actually add to the cost of the game, but I really expected more than that for preordering the game!
The world itself is vastly different to the one used in Sid Meier’s Civilization V (well, it IS a different planet entirely: I’d be very worried if it turned out this strange new world you’re fighting over looks exactly like Earth! -ed.): the impassable mountains are gone and, in their place, there are canyons and craters that function in a similar way (sounds like they’re just a reskin of the mountains to me… -ed.). Another new thing is miasma, a weird green gas-like substance that is capable of killing your armies if you stay under it for too long (why am I half expecting to hear it was also voiced by Tim Curry and sings? -ed.). Roads are still used as a way to keep your cities together and can now be upgraded to magrails, which are just a replacement for the now-defunct railroads. Barbarians have been replaced with alien creatures of various different sorts. Most of the land based ones are somewhat annoying, as they spawn far more than they should and fighting them just isn’t worth the hassle, so I prefer to try to make them allies, as they make excellent cannon fodder. There’s also a really cool water based unit that is a sea kraken (hmm…I’ll leave the obvious reference up to you, dear reader! -ed.) that I personally use to keep unfriendly civilisations at bay and a siege worm that has INSANE destructive capabilities (seriously: I needed five units to kill one in a game, and I nearly lost all of them in the process!).
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth adds some nice things to the game. I really like the revamped social policies tree, which is now referred to as virtues. It was really unbalanced and didn’t add much into the game on launch, but, since the 2.0 update, it’s been a lot better with integrating them into the game. Another cool addition is the affinities, which work a bit like the ideologies in Sid Meier’s Civilization V, but they’re far easier to obtain now. There are three affinities in the game: harmony, supremacy and purity. All of them provide you with extra resources, cheaper units and immunities to miasma, as well as guiding your civilization’s progress on the brave new world. There are three ways to generate affinity points: sending an explorer unit to complete excavations of ancient skeletons or units, completing appropriate quests in the game and completing the necessary research. I actually think it’s fairly well handled, although the element of luck to it may be problematic if you’re unlucky in a match. The research tree has also been replaced by the research web, which is actually a fairly good addition to the game, as it’s very in depth and there is a lot for you to research. Unfortunately, I think it would be difficult to get used to it if you aren’t already used to Strategy games like this, so you may wish to consider this if you’re new to Strategy games.
All of this is really good, but there is one major problem with the game at the moment: it isn’t very well optimised. Now, Sid Meier’s Civilization V did have that problem as well, but it was fixed fairly quickly after the game’s release. Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, however, has been out for about eight months now and it still isn’t completely fixed yet: the UI has a habit of disappearing for no reason whatsoever and the terrain doesn’t always completely generate, leaving a bunch of black blotches on the screen. I wouldn’t be complaining so much about this if it was a problem when running the game on my laptop, as my laptop is not especially good for gaming, but it’s also a problem I’ve noticed when I’ve played the game on my PC, which is actually a fairly decent PC for gaming on. The game’s release retail price of £29.99 does mean it’s hard to complain over this issue, as it’s not a game breaking issue at all, but I still think it’s an issue that should have been sorted out by now.
Overall, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is a solid addition to the already excellent Civilization series and is definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan of Strategy games in general. I don’t think newcomers to Strategy games will want to start experiencing the genre with this game, though, as it’s a little bit on the complex side and may be a bit tough to get used to as a result.