Civlization V was a beast, a fun game that actually asked you to use your brain (a feat, indeed, in today’s world of mindless shooters, not that I don’t enjoy those 😛 ) and Civilization: Beyond Earth, dubbed Civilization in Space by some, promises to be just as good – no, better! – and I just can’t wait for September to come around.
Departing from the model in previous games, which all chronicled some event in history, if not all of human history, the upcoming Sid Meier title sets its sight on the future of mankind, a future that, while dark and fraught with our mistakes and abuses, is also inherently optimistic. 200 years from now, after something called “The Big Mistake”, our planet has suffered far too much and humans are sending their first colonial parties into space, to fulfill a dream we’ve always had: to conquer the stars. You choose the ship you want, the leader and the people you want to take with you. This, in itself, adds a whole level of strategy and narrative to the story that was previously not found. Instead of just throwing us on some random part of the world, the backstory tells us who you are and why you are going where you are going. Choosing your leader has always been an important strategic decision and so it is here (I can’t emphasise enough on how much I relied on the Aztec Jaguar’s ability to heal and how, if I played with any other guy except Montezuma, I would usually be hopelessly outnumbered before the end of the Renaissance).
Unlike other games, however, there is also a bit of new stuff in the beginning of the game. There are no barbarians, it seems; instead, we have the indigenous aliens of the planet we are trying to colonise but, unlike the barbarians, they aren’t always hostile. There is an added dynamic of how you interact with them, where you settle and how hostile you are to them that will determine their reaction to you, which is far more realistic (and, may I say, would make the game much easier in the beginning as I can’t count the number of times I only had two units, both out exploring, when some random barbarian would pop up, destroy my buildings and capture my workers, only for me to return the scouts from some far away land). There will also be different types of alien monsters to make your life all the more miserable.
You won’t have to worry much about other civilisations in the beginning, either, from what has been revealed. Apparently, the other humans who come to the planet for settling always come after you and, so, you have a grace period of anywhere from 0 to 50 turns when you can flourish almost unhindered by any major hassles. There are, however, deadly siege worms – I can only shudder at the thought of what they’ll do your cities – to deal with so it’s not all sunshine and roses.
Out with the linear, and in with the web! The old tech tree has been thrown out and Firaxis has, instead, opted for a much more connected technology progression system, as opposed to the fairly linear system of days past. You get to a technology through various paths now and that certainly makes things much more realistic. Your ‘philosophy’ or ‘ideology’, referred to as ‘affinity’ in the game, will develop alongside your technological progression, to provide a more organic and connected face of the progression of your society. There are three affinities: Purity emphasises on the human roots of the settlers and promotes Earth culture; Harmony, which openly accepts the new planet and seeks to amalgamate with the planet itself; and Supremacy which places credence on technology as the saviour of humanity.
The Affinity system does look rather interesting, with many rewards and much more interaction between what your people ‘believe’ and how they live and progress, much more than we’ve seen in previous games, so much so that your Affinity will determine how your units looks later on in the game. While Supremacists look all robotic, streamlined and efficient due to their openness to cybernetic implants and emphasis on technology, the Purists retain their human look and the Harmonists just look like a crazy (though cool) fusion of humans and reptiles. Not only that but your technology web as well as the benefits your army receives and their progression are all affected by your Affinity.
The combat system will remain mostly the same.
While huge advances have been made, I feel that some of the more interesting features of the game have also been removed: religion, for example. Now, perhaps it didn’t make enough sense for people to believe in religion in the future but I am not sure if the Affinity system, which can be seen as an amalgam of both the philosophy and the religion aspects of previous games, will indeed be able to harmonise the two aspects of the previous games efficiently enough. I guess we’ll just have to wait till September!