Hands-On: Civilization – Beyond Earth

By Adam Smith on July 21st, 2014 at 1:10 pm.

Last week, I visited Firaxis to talk about the studio’s history and the ongoing evolution of Civilization. We mainly focused on the series of games rather than humanity’s works as a whole, so as to stay on topic, and I spent part of the day playing Beyond Earth. Is it a sci-fi spin-off or a fully fledged sequel? How precisely is it related to the series and to the much-loved Alpha Centauri? Later this week, I’ll share conversations with the development team and more thoughts on the history of the series, but first of all, here are some impressions of the game itself.

Please don’t be a Civ V reskin, please don’t be a Civ V reskin.

I say that as someone who likes Civ V, particularly now that it has expanded so impressively. One of the many problems associated with preview trips is that they often take place in a faraway land. That means creaking eyelids on the early morning train to the airport, the resigned anticipation of jetlag and remembering to pack an extra pair of pants. In the case of TransAtlantic trips in particular, it also means sitting for hours on a plane with a mind returning to the same questions again and again. Will Ferrell’s sketch-stitched man-child routine is just the right level of background noise – it shouldn’t escape onto a bigger screen down on the ground but the occasional chuckle distracts from the storm brewing just beyond the wingtip.

I’m heading to Firaxis to learn what makes the company tick. Civilization has been a constant in my gaming life, just as it has been the thread running through the house that Sid built, and I’ll be speaking to employees who remember the early days, tracing the history of the studio and the series at its heart.

That comes later though. First, there’s the small matter of Beyond Earth. The announcement flared up in my inbox like a supernova. The older parts of the internet spluttered with excitement. Alpha Centauri’s back, went the whisper, ALPHA CENTAURI IS BACK AT LAST.

As more information trickled out, it became clear that sci-fi Civ does not automatically equate to an updated Alpha Centauri. Beyond Earth will be a different game and that should give hope that it’ll be something entirely new rather than a faucet piped into the murky reservoirs of nostalgia.

The majority of my doubts sprang from one simple fact – Civ is a series about exploring what is already known and Beyond Earth will be transposing that framework onto a story of the unknown. How much of Civ’s structural integrity is purpose-built to support linear progression through history? Civ V’s shift to hexes and abandonment of unit stacking changed a great deal in the turn-by-turn experience, but Beyond Earth needs to alter the superstructure of the long-term experience if it is to be something other than Civ in space.

That’s why I spend most of the trip to Firaxis’ Maryland studio wondering what the convincing change to the formula will be. I want to see evidence that Civ V’s core can handle mystery as well as history.

Three playthroughs of the first one hundred turns following planetfall convince me that, yes, Beyond Earth is capable of emulating alien experiences. It doesn’t sound like enough, one hundred turns, and in many ways it isn’t. I want to see the later tech, I want to nurture my new outposts and I want to defy my fellow humans as we begin the struggle for resources and space. Playing a Civilization game with a turn limit is an exercise in frustration. At E3, the limit was set to 50 – I have double that and I make full use of my time to explore alternative paths. In theory.

In truth, Beyond Earth doesn’t allow me to set my goals quite as comfortably as I’m accustomed to. I could play the beginning of almost any Civ game a hundred times and do almost exactly the same things. There are learned behaviours that dictate the movement of settlers, the build queues that I lay out and the route that I take through the tech tree. Beyond Earth tears up the blueprints, smashes the GPS and feeds my colonists to an enormous siege worm.

Civ V changed the way players interacted with the map, adding those extra sides to each space and only allowing one unit to occupy them at a time. The two expansions fleshed out the mid- and end-game, adding new layers to the map and civs, as we as additional diplomatic interactions. Beyond Earth leaves the map as it is, in terms of the basic rules that govern it, and works instead on the systems behind it. The most obvious immediate change is the abolition of the tech tree.

There’s still tech to discover, of course, but the linear tree of historical progression has become a web of discovery. It’s a little like a second map, overlayed on the planet itself. Players begin in the middle, with the technology to survive planetfall and make a home for their people, and from there they set out into the unknown. Tech takes two forms – branches and leaves, suggesting this might be a tree after all. The branches can be unlocked when a learned branch touches them, and leaves are the individual pieces of knowledge that stem from each branch.

The ‘Physics’ branch might allow a Civ to turn over the ‘advanced ballistics’ and ‘atom smasher’ leaves, for example. Different applications of the same base discoveries. It’s entirely possible for every faction in a game to journey along different branches to its neighbours. This means that instead of a race toward gunpowder and nukes, along with the same wondrous checkpoints along the route to modernity, Beyond Earth’s late game may well pit divergent factions against one another. This is reflected in the other major change to the formula – affinities.

Broadly speaking, the three affinities define the relationship between a faction and the living planet. Each has its own victory condition, aesthetic and technologies. As well as directly influencing what is and isn’t available to a faction, affinities provide some of the grammar with which Beyond Earth tells its stories.

Tech, units and aliens aside, storytelling may be the strongest focus for the team working on this new iteration of Civ. It’s not the sort of thing that makes for easy marketing material, a push toward a new type of strategic storytelling, but the evidence of a concentrated effort to engineer new narrative ideas is clear throughout the game. Discovering new tech doesn’t just trigger flavour text, it requires decision-making. How will the advances be applied in the new society you are building?

Missions arise too, early in the game. Crashed ships, ancient ruins and evidence of a progenitor race with technology beyond our wildest dreams (there’s always a progenitor race with technology beyond our wildest dreams). Using Civ V’s intelligent and clean UI, information and events drip down the right hand side of the screen awaiting the player’s attention. If the density of the early stages holds up, this will be a much busier game than previous Civs. In the (almost) 300 turns I played, across three separate starts, barely a single one passed without some interruption to my master plan.

One game saw me on a relatively benign continent, which I explored and excavated. Explorer units have a one-use excavator to dig up ruins, enormous skeletons or wreckage. Sometimes their efforts will uncover the beginning of a long-running subplot, revealing the planet’s secrets, or those of the stars beyond. Sometimes they’ll simply provide a resource boost. As other factions arrive, they introduce themselves and their base appears on the map. They’re friendly at first, or stand-offish at least. The planet must be tamed or beaten into submission before the humans can resort to the old warlike ways.

But on that first playthrough, the planet seemed tame enough already. Aliens aren’t aggressive, to begin with at least, and I gave the few species I encountered plenty of space, content to poke at the new tech and explore the surface.

On my second attempt, I decided to build a second colony. This involves building an outpost and cultivating it, ensuring that it survives its vulnerable infancy. Like so much else in the game, it’s a taste of the familiar with a few new ingredients added into the mix. Realising I didn’t have time to nurture the outpost, I decided to head to sea, which is where I met some of the planet’s larger lifeforms. Unlike barbarians, the aliens come in many shapes and sizes, and they are capable of mass destruction if angered.

My final playthrough almost ended before the 100 turns had expired. My first colony attracted two siege worms, like a piece of bait on the planet’s surface. They’re enormous creatures, emerging from the ground and swallowing units whole. All of my improvements, precious farms and mines, were smashed into pieces by the things’ passage, and I decided to fight back. It took fifteen turns for my city’s bombardment to destroy one worm and my explorers had found another family of the bastards to the east, where a collection of tempting ruins and wrecks lay on a miasma-choked plain. By the time the turn counter reached 100, I was in retreat, even though I’d discovered ‘pet’ aliens of my own.

I always tend to play Civilization the same way. Culture victories, peace and research. Beyond Earth won’t allow me to do that. The changes to tech, the addition of alien lifeforms and the extra narrative incentives are all part of a bigger fundamental shift – Beyond Earth forces the player to be reactive rather than following a formula. Even in the short time I spent with the game, I threw out my strategies and rethought my approach several times. And that’s before having a chance to deal with the other factions in any depth.

Beyond Earth is not a reskin, although it is recognisably a sequel to Civ V, sharing some of the same philosophy. Civ V changed the course of the series and that’s something I’ll be writing about later this week, with commentary and thoughts from several Firaxis members, including the two designers at the head of Beyond Earth.

It’s a far more interesting game than I’d anticipated. Early impressions, from afar, suggested that it might lack Alpha Centauri’s character and it certainly takes a very different approach. But the initial disappointment when the factions were revealed has drained away – Beyond Earth has backstory aplenty but its mechanics are engineered to allow players to create a personality for their faction rather than to adopt one. The tech tree, the affinities and the wildly varied victory conditions – one involves ‘emancipating’ the people of Earth from their flesh, another involves becoming Carl Sagan’s poet – are all part of the process by which the people who have left Earth become something new.

Their story hasn’t already been told and their choices haven’t yet been made. Through exploration, development and conflict, factions will take on a personality. The choices and strategies that define that personality are already looking far more diverse than what I’ve come to expect from myself, and from Civ. To avoid being the same game in a new set of clothes (purple clothes, right? Aliens always come in purple), Beyond Earth needed more than flavour text and thematic weight.

It has those things and the intricacy with which these particular futures have been created is far more impressive than I’d expected, but it also requires new strategies, many of which comfortably tie back to those themes of controlling strangers in a strange land. After years of feeling in control of my various civilisations and their path through history, a taste of the unknown is more than welcome.

Until I’ve experienced the mid- and late-game, it’s impossible to say whether the game will retain the tension and surprise of these early hours, but it’s a pleasing start. Importantly, there’s enough shown in those beginnings to leave my mind full of imagined tactics and strategies a week after playing. Beyond Earth presents a lot of information but all of it feeds back into the basics of the design – management of resources and space. Easy enough to grasp, but with so many new permutations, mastering it might be as tricky as holding onto a siege worm.

Civilization: Beyond Earth is out on October 24th, worldwide (no oceans in space).

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99 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    Wow.

  2. Orija says:

    What did you find disappointing about the revealed factions?

    • WinTurkey says:

      Maybe that the factions are based on geographic regions of earth instead of ideologies like they were in SMAC?

      • mouton says:

        Pretty much this. They look quite bland, really, just big national countries.

        • rexx.sabotage says:

          They are only as bland as the player controlling them, I really look forwards to this new experience.

          When I pine for the company of Yang, Lady D and the rest of the gang I’ll simply saunter over to GoG and once again revel with the drones and talents through the xenofungal blooms, naked, under pale moonlight.

          • mouton says:

            You seem to think I want a copy of SMAC civs. I do not. I just wished for a bit more imagination than just Civs in space. At the very least something like Firefly invented – Sino-American Alliance – some mixing up of modern power structure instead of just throwing in boring continental supercountries.

            I also look forward to the game regardless of this apparent flaw.

          • rexx.sabotage says:

            I think they really wanted to step away from leading the player into a match with a sense of pretense that all it’s predecessors have done before it.

            “Oh you picked Miram so, get ready to thump some heretics” or “Hey, it’s Ghandi! Here come the nukes!”

            They are really doing their best to leave the player at the helm of the narrative and I am entirely on board with that. I remember being cheezed that I couldn’t pick from my favorite Civ II civs the first time I played Alpha Centauri but, I got over that pretty quickly.

          • mouton says:

            @rexx.sabotage

            In such a case, why have civs at all? Just assign team colors.

            Civs/leaders having a bit of character is an essential element of the series.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          Hopefully the faction system has enough to work with when they raise the Steam Workshop floodgates.

          I was hoping for a return to Civ 4′s two-step choice of leader and civilisation (and Nimoy’s narration).

          • bard says:

            And on the pedestal these words appear –
            “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
            Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

          • floydian101 says:

            The lack Nimoy’s narration was my biggest complaint about Civ 5. He’s a tough act to follow. I still smile when I hear about how the bureaucracy is expanding to meet the expanding needs of the bureaucracy… it’s so true

          • LionsPhil says:

            “Beep. Beep. Beep.”

  3. mtomto says:

    I hope civ6 will get some tech tree love like this. Tired of bee lining the same techs every game.

    On topic: Game looks meeh…

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, I’m tired of every expert discussion of strategy beginning “So, first you rush Great Library”.

  4. Metalfish says:

    I guess if I wanted AC I could always just boot it up again. Those voxels are oddly timeless. Anyway, this looks, well… …I really don’t know. That’s not a very insightful observation, I guess, but I think it conveys the odd mix of emotions this game is inspiring in me as I learn more about it.

    • Alfy says:

      Last time I booted up AC, I realized the interface is absolutely godawful, I would love to see a modern one take its stead. But yeah, still nice to see new things rather than more reboots.

      • xenothaulus says:

        I think I would be perfectly happy with an HD update to SMAC, even with the old UI. The last time I tried playing it, the only thing that really bothered me was how awkward it is to move units.

        • Alfy says:

          Yes, if I remember well, you have to click right on the unit, choose move from the menu, the choose the destination. Or something silly like that.

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            Use the key pad.

            Who uses a mouse in these games for movement? Or much else, really.

          • MaXimillion says:

            In Civ V you hold down the right mouse button and drag to move an unit.

            In SMAC you hold down the left mouse button and drag to move an unit.

            I don’t really see how one is more difficult than the other.

          • The Random One says:

            You hold and drag to move in Civ V? What are you, an octopus?

        • BTAxis says:

          I’m not sure what an “HD” version of the game would be like. You can already use all of your screen real estate with the old version.

        • Stardreamer says:

          It hasn’t got *quite* the panache SMAC does but Pandora: First Contact might scratch an itch or two if you let it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Big Murray says:

      I’ve never been able to understand what’s going on in Alpha Centauri. It’s a jumble of stuff which doesn’t make sense to me, despite numerous attempts at getting into it. It’s not a very user-friendly game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I’d be pretty OK for an indie to step up and do what Xenonauts did for X-COM – provide a more classic experience than the Firaxis reworking, but with an updated interface, etc.

      • mouton says:

        I am against nostalgia carbon copying myself. I’d rather they did something closer to X-com EU than Xenonauts. I just might get my wish, if this proves good.

        • supermini says:

          Interesting you should say that, I didn’t think Xenonauts was very good. It gets a lot of brownie points for nostalgia but overall I thought it was a clunky game with boring maps and unappealing visual style.

  5. Conehead The Barbarian says:

    There is one burning question about this game, and that is what are the loading times like? I really liked Civ V, but I could never start it up on a whim just to play a few turns, instead I would have to sit there waiting then when I finally get to play im not as enthusiastic.

    Hopefully they are much shorter, because otherwise I don’t see it as being a game I could go back to again and again.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      If at all possible, put Civ V on an SSD. The improvement in loading times is enormous.

      • BTAxis says:

        I wouldn’t say enormous. But yeah, it helps.

      • Conehead The Barbarian says:

        Unfortunatly I don’t have an SSD, and would probably do so if I had one! :(

      • Durrok says:

        Also make sure you have a beefy CPU. My problem with Civ 5 on launch was that I couldn’t play past turn 100 with any significant amount of AI on my intel core 2 duo. Reducing the number of AI would help stave it off but eventually the turns grinded down to 2-5 minutes and increased with every passing turn. My new i5 does not have that issue thankfully. :)

        I did not play any of the expansions or further patches, I had already moved on prior to the new expansion and did not revisit it. They may have fixed or reduced this issue in subsequent patches.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          There was a memory leak when save scumming, especially during late-game turns. Game data didn’t properly clear when loading and got added to the next save. It’s fixed now.

  6. mickygor says:

    (no oceans in space)

    I still thank Kittan every night for sorting that out for us

  7. Alfy says:

    I’m really, really worried they are keeping the 1 unit limit of Civ V. While this could have been an interesting feature, it turned out to be a complete mess, especially with the inept AI. We’ll see, but I hope they have listened to the constructive criticism and will not repeat the many, many mistakes of Civ V vanilla…

    • Premium User Badge

      Big Murray says:

      It worked better than having a “stack of doom” strategy being the be-all and end-all of combat. I much prefer the one-unit p/h limit.

      • Alfy says:

        But that’s the thing: the stack of doom was never a good option in Civ IV, thanks to catapults and such damaging all the units in the stack. And the Civ V implementation of 1UPT is so bad, even the designer had doubts it could made to work properly, and I really hope they took the lesson. Here’s what Shafer had to say about it:

        “Speculation aside, the reality was that the congestion caused by 1UPT also impacted other parts of the game. In every prior Civ title it was no problem to have ten, fifty or even a thousand units under your control. Sure, larger numbers meant more to manage, but hotkeys and UI conveniences could alleviate much of the problem. But in Civ 5, every unit needed its own tile, and that meant the map filled up pretty quickly.

        To address this, I slowed the rate of production, which in turn led to more waiting around for buckets to fill up. For pacing reasons, in the early game I might have wanted players to be training new units every 4 turns. But this was impossible, because the map would have then become covered in Warriors by the end of the classical era. And once the map fills up too much, even warfare stops being fun.

        So is there a way to make 1UPT really work in a Civ game? Perhaps. The key is the map. Is there enough of room to stash units freely and slide them around each other? If so, then yes, you can do it. For this to be possible, I’d think you would have to increase the maximum map size by at least four times. You’d probably also want to alter the map generation logic to make bottlenecks larger and less common. Of course, making the world that much bigger would introduce a whole new set of challenges!”

        • Frank says:

          High upkeep works in the complete game to keep unit counts low. And positioning a city in a defensible position behind chokepoints is an interesting option to have. That is, congestion is an interesting strategic tool.

          I’m glad he introduced 1upt to the series, but the expansions were essential to making the game playable, and everything he has said about the game since then has simply been a plug for his new project.

  8. Lombar says:

    I never should’ve read this.
    Now what do I do until end of October :(

    • Alfy says:

      Play Pandora First Contact?

      • Premium User Badge

        Thurgret says:

        The reviews didn’t really sell it for me. And it falls foul of a certain company’s pricing scheme, which is even more off-putting.

        • ThornEel says:

          But if you do want to play it anyway, don’t make the same mistake I did. Do not read the faction backstories. They may be the stupidest, most uninspiredly awful ones I’ve ever read for videogames – and that’s coming from someone who enjoyed Starship Troopers 3. Without being drunk. Somehow.
          Which is a shame, because the game itself looks promising. But it may very well sap any shred of interest you would have for playing it; it’s that bad.

          • Premium User Badge

            Thurgret says:

            If it ever goes on some sort of sale, maybe.

            Was that Hero of the Federation? Or another one? I think I saw one other Starship Troopers movie that wasn’t the original, and it was pretty awful. I still watched it all.

          • ThornEel says:

            That would be Starship Troopers 2 I believe, the 3 was Marauder.
            The 2 is rumoured to be the worse, though, so I haven’t the courage to check it out yet.

  9. MkMax says:

    I dont mind CivVyness as long as they improve the leader AI, make it clear what is pissing them off (or highlight when an action might not be liked by another faction) and make them more context aware

    it particularly pisses me off when they start thinking im weak (which seems to ALWAYS happen), start a war with me, i kick their asses, they beg for peace, then they do the same thing again a few turns later (havent you learned anything?) until i just obliterate the faction out of the map, then all the rest throw a tantrum and a few turns later someone thinks im weak again

    • 2late2die says:

      Agree, I love Civ V, but the AI sometimes can be… no actually always, is infuriating. So they’re all at war with one another for hundreds of years, but I take one city state and suddenly I’m the devil incarnate and they all gang up on me. WTF! o_O

      Anyway, back on topic. Civ BE looks great. It’s still an open question as to whether I’ll be able to get into it as much as Civ V (I tried a bunch of alternative scenarios and some mods, but I always tend to gravitate to your “run of the mill” history-based random-map game), but I’m certainly looking forward to trying it out and giving it a chance.

      • WiggumEsquilax says:

        It’s a clear example of the gang up on the human trope. Civ has always tethered diplomatic penalties to difficulty increases.

        In Civ 5, at prince level and above, not only do the A.I. get production bonuses, they take an inherently dim view of the player. If you want peace, you have to keep making small, pointless trades, just so that other factions don’t feel ostracized by you. That, or forming permanent alliances and letting yourself get drug into their wars.

        I wish that Firaxis would take a page out of the GalCiv2 playbook, and let the player choose the minutiae of a difficulty level.

      • ensor says:

        Knocking over city-states always incurs a massive diplomatic penalty with all AIs; that’s a game balance feature, not a bug, as being able to take over city-states with little repercussion would be game-breaking. In other words: don’t knock over a CS unless you’re going for Domination and have the armies (and tech speed) to back it up.

    • Chuckleluck says:

      Or demanding all my strategic resources, half my luxury resources, 750 gold and the blood of a virgin for ONE CRAB.

    • Frank says:

      My problem with the AI is that it’s still militarily inept. It shouldn’t just look at my army’s power and do a binary check of “is it near my border”. If it sends its entire army four-turns’ journey away from its border with me to attack my closest ally, it should be on its guard.

      I say “still” militarily inept since this is how it behaves in Civ V complete. In the base game, it was even worse, with land armies always “embarking” on their little rafts for no good reason, letting me shoot down their entire force with my ships. That reminds me, in the complete game, they don’t even bother competing for naval supremacy, seems.

      I’d really like to play at a level of difficulty that is challenging but does not involve resource asymmetries (which some might call AI cheating). Maybe resource asymmetries will be easier to swallow in Beyond Earth, since they’re explicitly setting up the single-player as an asymmetric affair.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      When talking about the tech tree, they mentioned that ideologically aligned factions will have an affinity for each other. Whether that means the AI will be friendly, who knows.

      Although in complete Civ V it’s not too hard to keep friends. They’re just very untrustworthy of anyone powerful and generally awful at coordinating troops. I’d like to see improvements in those areas.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Rizlar says:

    This sounds great. Reacting to changes in the world, more exploration in tech and storytelling through player choices all sound right up my alley.

    Really hope the worlds are as convincing as in Civ V though. They are clearly interested in science and ideas from real life but with so many out there, fantastical sci-fi elements it still seems like it could go either way.

  11. Anthony says:

    humna humna humna

  12. Delodax says:

    Is there any mutiplayer in this Civ-incarnation? Has anyone tried it?

    • MkMax says:

      ive never understood mp in civ,
      if its hotseat then yeah, get some guys together for a long weekend

      but online ? who the heck would play a 10-100hour online game with 90% of down time

      • Chuckleluck says:

        I don’t understand playing with random people online, but my friends certainly will play Civ V with me. We usually play against AI because someone gets made when we play versus.

        Back to the original topic, I imagine they’ll have the same multiplayer as Civ V (hopefully more stable at launch).

        • Premium User Badge

          draglikepull says:

          LAN games of Civ are great. I wouldn’t play online multiplayer with randoms, but getting a friend or five in a room to play over a weekend is great fun.

        • Ny24 says:

          I always play with one or two friends online. Sometimes we are in the same room, sometimes not. We mostly need two long evenings for a match, sometimes completing the games, sometimes not. But it’s very fun and relaxing and you have time to talk during (we play simultaneous mode). And if one is in war with someone, the others just watch tv or something.

        • Delodax says:

          It can be quite a pleasant experience playing with some friends online. My main gripe with Civ5 online is that the AI is borked, and I usually don’t have the human player count to sustain larger maps without them…

      • Premium User Badge

        FriendlyFire says:

        You do know simultaneous mode exists right?

  13. Marcus says:

    “Beyond Earth forces the player to be reactive rather than following a formula.”
    I loved to read this.

  14. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    I shouldn’t have to do this, you should all know better… but just so I can say I told you so…

    *jumps in his time machine*

    *double poof!*

    *steps out of time machine, hides several boxes of iPhone 6′s under the sofa*

    Right. I told you so.

    Day 1 release of Beyond Earth – the internet is in flames with people complaining of broken saves after 50 hours of gameplay, ridiculously OP’d units, God awful AI diplomacy, save folders filling half the visible Universe and that ‘stupid changed mechanic that was *way* better in Civ V, why didn’t they just do it the way they did in Civ V?!?!!’

    Honest reviews are generally positive but they “just can’t see past the wealth of bugs that seriously damage enjoyment of the game”.

    Jump forward 3 more years to the second expansion pack and the 6 gamers left playing BE will be happy to inform the internets that it’s easily the best game in the series ever, all the bugs are fixed, the new AI is amazing and they’re glad Firaxis changed that mechanic to more like it was in Civ V.

    & everyone will be raving on the internet about Day one purchase of that new Civ game that’s coming out later in the year….

    /tiphat

    • TormDK says:

      While I like your predictions, Civ 5 remains one of the most played games on Steam still.

      Obviously, if Civ:BE can reach that level of success, then Firaxis will be swimming in Gaben-Cash for a long time to come.

    • Frank says:

      Don’t the geeks still hate Civ V? I haven’t been keeping up with their kneejerk idiocy, but it would be weird to hear them compare Civ V favorably to anything. Even the designer pisses on the game, presumably just to gain cred with the geeks.

      I’m betting the launch won’t be so bad, since they’re working with the same engine and making far less radical changes (like one-unit-per-tile and hex grids). But I wouldn’t be too surprised if you’re right… in which case I *still* would not be disappointed with my preorder.

      • Sian says:

        I see myself as a geek and quite possibly a nerd and I’ve never complained about the changes made in Civ V, even though I loved Civ II and IV (kind of missed Civ III and never got around to playing it). I was mercifully spared by the bugs except for some connectivitiy issues, but even then, I usually state my opinion in a calm and collected manner. I’m still playing it, so are my geek friends who also didn’t complain as much as you imply. We’ve never hated it, and we like it even more now. And like TomDK said, it’s one of the most-played games on Steam even now.

        Would you kindly refrain from judging the whole of geekdom by a few loud individuals?

        • Frank says:

          Ah, sorry; so am I.

          By “the geeks”, I meant it as a shorthand for the ones who make an issue out of every little departure from tradition in the series for reasons I cannot fathom (conservatism, hipster geek cred through negativity, …?).

          In my defense, I did say “the geeks” not “geeks.” :) And I’m using the same broad strokes as the comment to which I replied (which talks of an internet “in flames”).

          • mouton says:

            I call such people “nostalgia-blinded hardline mouth-frothers”, not “geeks”

          • Emeraude says:

            As a nostalgia-blind~ hardline mouth-frothers myself, I take offense.

            We haven’t played Civ V.

            It’s on Steam.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Wait a minute… these are iPhone 5s! You just changed the 5 to 6 with a marker!

      • The Random One says:

        Actually, Apple did it. And they used their proprietary iWrite.

  15. Mezmorki says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find the game visually … uhhh … muddy? The terrain and landscape specifically just looks murky and not very well defined and with a too many garishly drab colors. It looks neither earth-like nor truly alien, just non-distinct and uninspired.

    That said I’m still looking forward to the game – but the look of the landscape doesn’t get me very excited at all.

  16. 0positivo says:

    Considering how godawful the community and mod support for Civ V has been so far (how long has it been out? And still we cannot even think about playing mods with other people. Considering AI is incapable of using 90% of the modded stuff out there… yea), I have very little goodwill for this sequel. Call me skeptical, but I’ll wait for reviews, then for more indepth reviews a few months later, forum opinions on balance and engine moddability, and, at last, a discout and/or the inevitable expansion that will fix the broken game

    • Frank says:

      Civ V complete does not seem broken to me, apart from the stubborn insistence on every menu being spreadsheet shaped (in the process, eliminating the essential AI relationships wheel). That InfoAddict mod worked fine for me, though I can understand why some might call it cheating (since it provided more info than the designers intended).

    • regault says:

      Expect any reviews at launch to start at 85% just because it’s Civilization. Remember when all the editorials for Enemy Unknown were “We know its braindead compared to its predecessor, but it’s a AAA turn based strategy game so support it anyway! 95%!” and then it took waiting around for The Long War mod before the game was decent?

      Personally, this doesn’t look like it’ll fix any of the deeprooted problems with Civ V (Namely the cascade effect 1 unit per tile had on ruining game pacing.), and all the crud about “story” makes it sound more like dud Fallen Enchantress than an actual Civ game. And of all the things to carry over from SMAC, they somehow decided on the trite living planet concept to bring back. Remember when sci-fi planets could have interesting ecosystems without “Durr, the planet is all connected!” BS getting in the way? What happened to Dune, The Integral Trees, Speaker For The Dead, Icerigger, Voyage to the City of the Dead, and so on?

  17. Laurentius says:

    So 15 years laeter Firaxis can’t keep up with their own game.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      Yeah weird, almost as if a development studio isn’t a hivemind that merges all talent it ever had into itself, never losing anything!

  18. Wulfram says:

    Unless the tech tree is supernaturally well balanced, that design seems like it risks large amounts of it being neglected by skilled players

    • Frank says:

      I think the idea in this game is not that you will research the entire tree; skipping is okay.

      It sounds like there might be enough randomness in initial conditions that you are sometimes driven to one part or another of the tree… which would be good and bad.

      • teije says:

        While I respect that as a design choice and it does force strategy in your research, I hate it in practice. The main issue I have with Starbase Orion, an otherwise great iPad space 4x, is that many techs get “passed by” and can’t be researched.

        Otherwise, this game looks very promising. And SMAC is still very playable and on GOG if anyone needs a fix before then. I can’t think of another TBS with it’s great level of atmosphere.

  19. Ny24 says:

    I think a good solution for the mid- and endgame in civ is the nomination of “secretaries”. Like you have a secretary for war and tell him/her to move your troops to engage xy, or to build up troops for an invasion on xy. And you have the secretary of production and you tell him to focus on rocket science. And they all would have individual interests, so when the secretary of war wants to build troops but the secretary of production wants to build a new city they like fight to the death for your neverending love and give you presents and talk to you in sexy voices. If I think of it that way … maybe that would make the lategame even longer.

  20. InternetBatman says:

    I noticed that one of the unit’s design’s seems similar to FO:NV rangers.

  21. porps says:

    between this and dont starve together theres a lot to look forward this autumn :)

  22. UncleLou says:

    Sounds great, but – purely from a stylistic point of view – it looks a bit too much like Civ V. Alpha Centauri had a distinctive style, although that was probably more due to the sci-fi look of the interface etc., and we haven’t seen the UI of the new one yet.

    Day 1 either way.

  23. ThornEel says:

    So now, science victory is replaced by Sagan’s hopelessly naïve Contact scenario… well, still better than total genocide by igniting the Earth’s atmosphere with the engines of a departing colonisation ship.
    What, that’s the only way to make sense on how a colonisation ship gives you global supremacy! Otherwise, any other nation (who didn’t pour all its resources into a giant project with no expected return of investment before centuries) could use their superior resources to invade them, then shoot the ship down/capture it.

    Also, while we’re at victory conditions :
    ‘emancipating’ the people of Earth from their flesh
    That’s still one of the creepiest victory conditions found in videogames…

  24. Leb says:

    Having spread my wings in the 4X genre quite a bit the past 2 years, I have no excitement for playinf this.

    For the same price you could grab Endless space, warlock 2, age of wonders 3, Pandora first contact and eu4 in a steam sale and have a variety of CIValikes to play that have a variety opf unique aspects.

    The biggest hype around BE seems to be surrounding its tech tree.. Yet most of the games I listed already have systems just as deep or deeper.

    Plus, if it is to follow the path of CiV V, it won’t be good until an expansion pack or two. Save your money for the game of the year edition,

    • Laex pls says:

      You’re talking about 4x games and don’t mention the best one ever (Distant Worlds: Universe)? That makes me a sad little panda.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Yeah, you’re talking about 4x games and don’t mention the best one ever Master of Orion 2. And the best one ever Sword of the Stars 1. And the best one ever Galactic Civilization 2. And the best one ever Civilization 5. (Oh wait, you did mention that one…)

  25. BlueTemplar says:

    adding those extra sides to each space
    You mean _removing_ extra sides?
    You can move a unit to 6 different sides from an hexagon.
    You can move a unit to 8 different sides from a square (in most 4X games, SMAC included.