Wot I Think: Civilization – Beyond Earth

“They should have sent a poet,” says astronaut Jodie Foster, struck dumb by wonder upon encountering alien intelligence at the end of the film Contact. It’s easy to feel the same way about Civilization: Beyond Earth, the latest iteration of Sid Meier’s venerable and mighty Civilization franchise. C:BE takes the player to the ostensibly virgin soil of a new planet, but it’s not long before one questions exactly how new this new world really is. Just to mix up the out-of-date science fiction references – is that the Statue of Liberty’s head protruding from the hex-grid ahead? You maniacs! It was Civilization V all along!

Maybe not quite – but C:BE borrows far more from its earthbound predecessor in the franchise than it dares change. As such it represents a much less ambitious departure from the usual Civilization mould than 1999’s Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – the only previous interstellar excursion in the series, which I celebrated on this site earlier this week – or, for that matter, Civ V, which shook up numerous established Civ fundamentals.

Many aspects of Civ V appear with only the lightest camouflage, such as social policies, which are renamed virtues, not terribly interesting diplomacy (in which many exchanges are word-for-word what you’d get in Civ V), and trade routes, which are unchanged. The really new aspects are the addition of a orbital layer to the tactical and infrastructural choices offered by land, air and sea; “quests”, a completely novel gameplay dynamic for Civ; replacement of the tried-and-tested tech tree with a non-linear “tech web”; affinities, which, although implemented differently, are reminiscent of Civ V: Brave New World’s “ideologies”; and the alien flora and fauna afforded by the new setting.

Anyway, one could draw up these lists of overlap and deviation all day, and it wouldn’t be very exciting for anyone – which is precisely the problem, as the C:BE player is continually prey to the narcissism of small differences, identifying and questioning each little choice on the part of the makers rather than immersing oneself in the terror and splendour of an alien environment.

It’s a murky place, this new home for humanity, with shadowy, dripping forests and a swampy complexion, particularly in the swamps. Parts of it are shrouded in poisonous fug called miasma. From bubbling mires of green ooze, alien nests can arise, and spawn forth mysterious creatures. Well, not terribly mysterious. Faced with any number of sinister or unusual ways the alien life in the game could behave, C:BE’s ETs act much like a cross between Civ V’s barbarians and the bugs in Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers: showing up pretty early on in large numbers and not leaving a tremendous amount to the imagination.

As for the human element, the player can choose from and compete against a fairly small number of near-future Earth societies with fairly arbitrary strengths and weaknesses – if there is a detailed backstory behind the Slavic Federation, Brasilia or the others, it’s not spelled out. Players start at a more advanced technological level than in a usual game of Civ, so there’s not long to wait before flight and ocean travel are possible, which speeds the game along. However, the available units feel much less varied than the immense range of standard Civ, albeit with new customisation and specialisation options.

Those specialisations aside, diplomacy and warfare progress almost exactly along Civ V lines, with all those strengths and weaknesses. Foremost among Civ V’s changes to the formula was the removal of unit stacking and that carries over to C:BE, as do the tough cities. This combination means that wars tend to be long and undramatic, and can sometimes feel like unit traffic traffic jams into stalemated bottlenecks.

Minor powers, a new feature which hugely enriched Civ V, exist in crippled form as “stations”, small outposts which claim no territory, do not conduct diplomacy, and still restrict where you can found your own settlements (which must, incidentally, pass through a restricted “outpost” phase before becoming proper cities). You can trade with stations, and sometimes get diverting choices as a result, but other than that all you can do is squash them.

Dear me, this is turning into a long list of complaints, and that’s probably not entirely fair. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being very like Civ V – quibbles aside, Civ V was a superb game, especially once it had been expanded and enhanced by the Brave New World and Gods & Kings add-on packs. Maybe that’s what’s missing here. Every stunted or banal gameplay element in Beyond Earth is just waiting for an expansion to bring it to life.

But they really should have sent that poet. Parts of C:BE are just unforgivably dull. Complete a wonder, for instance, and you see nothing more than a little blueprint of whatever obscure futuristic device it is you’ve just completed, which as it’s made of balonium, tells you precious little. I won the game by making contact with an alien intelligence and for this stupendous, epochal achievement I received a still picture and a line of text telling me what an achievement it was.

Shorn of the history, culture and myth of Old Earth, an interstellar Civilization game needs to do extra work to create atmosphere, suspense and a sense of narrative. C:BE’s designers were clearly aware of this as they put in those quests, tasks the player can complete (or choose not to) along the way, which flesh out a bit of the feel of a future society making its way in the unknown. But most of the “quests” aren’t exactly epic. You’ve completed a new building type – do you want these buildings to provide a bonus of +1 energy or +1 food? Congratulations, you’ve completed a quest.

They’re not all like that, but most of them are. Those dark forests, the glowing Rifts (a new terrain type, impassable like a mountain), the poisonous miasma … there are the bones of an atmospheric world. But play for an hour or two and I doubt you’ll have any spaces left on your alien lifeform spotter’s card. The in-game characters are cardboard cut-outs against the memorable cast of Alpha Centauri, and the “harmony” affinity’s route to special understanding with the local flora and fauna will not astonish anyone familiar with Lady Deirdre.

Beyond Earth is still fun, and an immense time-sink – of course it is, it’s Civilization. But would that it was truly beyond Earth, and truly beyond Civ V. Not a crash and burn – but the Prometheus of the Civ franchise, an interesting failure with much of value in the wreckage.

Civilization: Beyond Earth is out now.

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162 Comments

  1. amateurviking says:

    Aww

  2. Jumwa says:

    That sums up my feelings fairly well. Though I would add that the early game feels particularly dull. While you gain access to air and sea travel quicker, the aggressive alien life that populates sea and land inhibits you greatly. The rifts in the planet only add to the claustrophobic feeling of trying to wage war or settle, and that is further exacerbated by miasma.

    I started the game intending to live at peace with the alien life, but instead found myself gunning them down mercilessly just for something to do that wasn’t impotently waging war across narrow bands of land against other nations.

    Bugs have also been a prominent issue for me, sad to say. And all in all that feeling of: I was sold another unfinished game, that’s just awaiting some more expansion packs and patches, permeates the whole experience. The future is now.

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      Lacero says:

      “I started the game intending to live at peace with the alien life, but instead found myself gunning them down mercilessly just for something to do”

      I did this in the demo. I won’t be buying the full game.

      • Jumwa says:

        Good move. I’m advising anyone interested to wait for the inevitable expansions/patches that’ll make this a more complete experience.

        All in all it’s another reminder of why my big, beefy gaming PC has sat mostly unused this year while I play 3DS and Wii U games: I am sick and tired of playing unfinished games. And sadly, with the state of things today most games never seem to finish before the devs move onto other projects.

        • tormeh says:

          Buy the complete edition in two years – That’s what I’m doing.

          • Jumwa says:

            That’s the only way to buy PC games anymore, frankly. Otherwise you’re paying more — WAY more — to be a bug tester.

          • P.Funk says:

            Is that really any different than it used to be? Wait 2-3 years for a game to come out, mostly complete barring a string of patches and maybe some DLC/Expansions versus Wait 6-12 months for an Alpha or Beta and start the long process of watching it evolved through early access until it reaches release at the 2-3 year mark after the initial Kickstarter/Announcement.

            Nothing much has changed except the need to force yourself to not buy it til then. Thats still not much different than in the old paradigm except instead of having to wait a year+ to drop cash you’d wait a few days to a week for the reviews to come out.

            I find the jaded attitude that comes with this generation of PC buyers to be rather odd. Its all smoke and mirrors, the only difference is that many get on board earlier and games that don’t ever get completed see some light of day whereas in the old paradigm they’d die without a release at all. Again, sucks for those who buy early but those who don’t accept the risk are naive, just as naive as those who Day 1 buy a game before a review.

            The only REAL deviation from the past is that in a digital distribution scheme returns are basically impossible barring some catastrophically poor release (happened once or twice I think). That however was a change that was secured long before the early access kickstarter permanent Alpha thing exploded.

          • Jumwa says:

            Beats me, P. Funk.

            I grew up WAY too poor to have a PC in the 90’s. Might as well have asked my family to get a space shuttle to take me to school. I got into PC gaming after university just as steam sales started becoming a thing. So maybe I was spoiled on actual finished GOTY editions.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Yes it’s different. First, companies couldn’t rely on patches when most of their customers didn’t have Internet access. Second, selling someone an unfinished product is generally grounds for complaints and legal action.

            You forget the noughties, when there was no (Steam) sales. Thankfully torrents already existed and demos were still common. (Though the issues caused by being able to release patches for customers to download already started to appear.)

          • P.Funk says:

            Thats silly nonsense. Mid nineties maybe, but by the late nineties and early thousands internet access was pretty standard, even if it was just dial up. I might remind you that back then patches were usually on the order of a few megabytes. Nothing to sexy. The reason why they had expansion packs and not downloadable DLC. You could count on people to steal a couple minor patches but not download that much usually.

            Whats more selling an unfinished product is not a crime if people are aware its unfinished. Its idiotic to claim its some devious scheme if people buy into it in full knowledge of what it is. Plenty of people don’t buy anything until its released. Even if it is released we still have games like Civ where it takes multiple expansions to be complete. Apparently no early access or kickstarter managed to avoid that issue.

            More jaded nonsense.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Nonsense? Most people don’t have access to Internet right NOW. Steam, with it’s ~70 million users (which is considered huge) is only 1% of the world population!
            I don’t know about you, but I certainly did not even have dial-up until about the turn of the century (and I live in a rich country), despite having had a personal computer for several years before that.

            “Steal” patches??

            I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but unfinished game releases seem to become more common (I’m not talking about selling games before they are officially released via Kickstarter/Early Access). The whole problem is that people are NOT aware that the game is unfinished, because I guess they expect an officially released game to be finished enough to be working well? How naive of them! /sarcasm

        • Raoul Duke says:

          As someone else has already said, you should be buying the “gold edition” of stuff that came out 12 months ago. There’s loads of great games in this category.

    • malkav11 says:

      I would not describe the aliens as aggressive (except against colonist units), merely numerous. Most of the time if you’re not actively poking them they do nothing at all except mill around in swarms.

      • Jumwa says:

        That’s what one person kept insisting to me and some others on another site. Seems like there might be some bug I’m experiencing, because aliens would randomly attack me unprovoked. I assumed I just hadn’t gotten to the point with harmony that they leave me alone.

        Then eventually I got sick of it and started killing them.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I have experienced that in the demo. There’s a low probability that they’ll pick a fight; I’m guessing it’s something like if their random wandering makes them want to move into a tile you occupy.

          Somewhat damningly, their behaviour is exactly the same if I do poke them. Units immediately adjacent will react, then it’s back to milling around.

        • malkav11 says:

          Well, you’ll note the “most of the time”. They do occasionally just attack, but it’s never very clear as to why. Also, harmony doesn’t do anything to make them leave you alone. One point in -purity- will make them ignore your explorers (but they mostly do that anyway). As far as I can tell there’s no way to make them fully peaceful towards you, and there’s no equivalent to Alpha Centauri’s alien capture mechanic. (You can build alien-based units with enough Harmony/tech though.)

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            One of the loading screen tips or something mentioned that aliens can become friendly to you if you leave their nests in your territory undisturbed. Which is half sensible and half ridiculous, as those sit over deposits of the resources that harmony uses for their advanced units…

          • Jumwa says:

            The only predictable pattern as to why that I’ve seen is when I go close to them. They never fail to do so then, but with how movement is so inhibited that’s not easily avoided.

            Other than that, they will randomly come out of the fog to attack my cities without provocation or reasoning it seems.

          • Gap Gen says:

            The long-range units will reliably attack my artillery even if the other aliens are passive, too.

  3. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Yeah, I can’t disagree too much with this. I put in a good 20 hours with it since last Friday (two full games) and while I’ve enjoyed it I can’t help but feel like they missed some opportunities. It feels a lot like Endless Legend, but that game put more effort into trying to make the lore stand out.

    While an expansion or two could do wonders, I think it’ll be difficult for them to address the terrible UI. The use of muted colors throughout makes the whole thing a hard-to-read mess.

  4. zer0sum says:

    Well I don’t see this game as a failure by any stretch of the imagination. It’s 100% competent and delivers a very true Civilization experience. I would equate this release to the standalone Colonization released for Civ IV. It’s basically the same game as its big brother, with new skins and some changed rules. In fact, I would daresay that Colonization is the more innovative game, but this is nevertheless an enjoyable effort.

    • Jools says:

      This is pretty much what I wanted to say. Colonization took a lot of flak for feeling like a modded Civ IV, but it made some pretty sweeping changes to the formula (although, admittedly, not as many as the original Colonization). Where Beyond Earth stumbles is that it really changes almost nothing. The tech web is unique and affinities are cool, but the core of the game is still just Civ V and nothing but. It’s not a bad game by any measure, but it is more or less just another dose of Civ V.

      • Archonsod says:

        “Where Beyond Earth stumbles is that it really changes almost nothing”

        Yes and no. The tech web is huge, the health mechanic works far better than happiness ever did. The social policy/virtue system is a step above Civ 5, and espionage is finally worthwhile. However these are iterations rather than changes, and that;s where the problem is for me. I was hoping this would be a sci-fi epic, as it is it feels like a reskinned Civ 5.5

    • Granath says:

      1. I’m not looking for just “competent”. It delivers an underwhelming, dull Civ experience. Really, is there any reason to play this over Civ V? I truly can’t think of one.

      2. Colonization had far more personality and different mechanics in it than BE does. Of course, Colonization was flat-out broken on release because the best way to win was NOT to expand. It took a user mod – Age of Discovery II – to make Colonization a good game. But at least it had different mechanics.

      • Gap Gen says:

        It took me a while to realise you weren’t referring to the original Colonization (although again, it was better there to build a few solid colonies than a ton of small, underdeveloped ones).

        • Granath says:

          I doubt too many people remember playing the original Colonization. That was 20 years ago.

          Shit, I feel old now. I was already married when that game came out.

          • Gap Gen says:

            That was a seminal PC game for me, after Sim City and some 3D dinosaur thing that came with our first PC.

          • AngoraFish says:

            I am still waiting for my Colonization fix… none of the modern attemps even come close.

          • Granath says:

            Angora,

            Try the newer Colonization with the Age of Discovery II mod. I’m not a big fan of the original version but that one is pretty cool.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, I suppose it depends what you mean by failure. It’s a competent game, sure, but for people looking for more than that it missed the mark. I guess it was always doomed to fly too close to Civ V and not close enough to SMAC, and if you’re making something that looks like a spiritual successor you’re going to disappoint people even if the game itself is technically sound.

    • malkav11 says:

      Colonization is a remake of 1994’s Sid Meier’s Colonization, thus cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered innovative, though the original certainly was. Beyond Earth may have been assumed to be inspired by Alpha Centauri, but pretty much everything it’s doing (that it didn’t directly inherit from Civ V, granted) is brand new.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Ok, I suppose tech “leaves” can be considered more than just an iteration (over the MoO2 and Endless Space systems). And Affinities can be considered more than just an iteration of the Civ5 Ideology system. But I can’t see much else that would be really “brand new”…

        • malkav11 says:

          Quests. Staggered starts. Their approach to unit upgrades (with mutually exclusive choices at each step, furthermore). Ruin expeditions. Wonders that you build on tiles. I -think- the favor system in diplomacy is new, even if it’s not really useful in its current form.

          It sounds like you’re talking in terms of 4X as a genre, though, and I’ve only been talking in terms of the Civilization “family” of games. I haven’t played anything like every 4X and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the above can be found in other games by other developers. They certainly aren’t in Alpha Centauri, though, or Civ V.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Well, yes, I don’t see why we would restrict the discussion to only Civ 4X games… or even “planetary” (as opposed to “space empire”) 4X games.
            – Quests in Endless Legend are as much if not even more integrated in the game… though there’s of course the possibility that Beyond Earth devs had the idea to add them independently (EL was released in early access the same month that Civ:BE was announced). But then quests were in Heroes of Might and Magic series of games, which is pretty close to a 4X (though, not on every map, so it maybe doesn’t really compare), and I would bet that the Age of Wonders games have them too.
            “Proto-quests” are present in Alpha Centauri and Distant Worlds.
            – Alpha Centauri Alien Crossfire has a staggered start for the Progenitor Aliens. How does staggered start works in Civ:BE in multiplayer?
            – Ruins are a staple of “space empire” 4X games, usually you need to settle the planet ruins are on and often do some extra work to get the bonuses. Those are often powerful bonuses, things like unique techs you cannot get elsewhere, like in Space Empires 5. In Distant Worlds you can find and repair derelict ships and keep them as a part of your fleet, or scrap them to randomly acquire one of the technologies the components of the ship are built with and you don’t have.
            – Wonders that you build on tiles… Probably new, the closest I can think of are the Ring- and SphereWorlds you can build in Space Empires games… though those aren’t a victory condition, and by the point you can get them you’ve generally already won.
            – Ah, yes, the favor system surprised me… favorably. However, is it much more than a fleshed out Civ4 system where you could give gifts to other empires and see their disposition improve towards you, which then made it possible to get something for free from them at a later time (if you didn’t piss them off)?
            Also, I haven’t checked whether the value of a favor scales with empire strength, otherwise, there’s not a big difference with just trading gold/energy/credits. I wonder whether there’s any kind of system that makes different factions value different things in a different way, a bit like StarDrive 2 intends to do.

    • icarussc says:

      Yes, indeed. I came here just to say this. This is Colonization: Civ V Edition. It’s a halfway-point between a mod and a sequel, except that they’ve decided to package it as a sequel. That’s an idea that’s probably good for their bottom line, but is definitely contributing to the confusion and disappointment that some people are feeling.

      That said, it’s the interesting Affinity system that’s the real star here. Anybody play Fall From Heaven II, the greatest mod in the history of mods? The Affinity system is very similar to its religion system, where investment in a religion yields specialty units, buildings, and spells.

      Now, that’s what I would REALLY love: a standalone expansion version of FFH2. Sigh.

      • hjarg says:

        Affinities are more or less the same. You get upgrades to units that are more or less the same. There is no real differences between them. You gain them mostly through tech, not based on your actions or quest desicions or something. There is nothing stopping from harmony player wiping out any alien it comes across. There is nothing stopping from purity player living in harmony with aliens. And even worse- once i had 10 in every affinity. Meaning basically that i was cyborg society that tries to keep their humanity pure and meanwhile dominate the planet and live with harmony with it.

        They are a good idea, but the implementation…

        • BlueTemplar says:

          Yes, there’s one issue. Affinities are mostly gained from the tech tree, with technologies that have exponentially scaling costs when you go towards the outer border. It’s not so “bad” as in Endless Space, but you’re still somewhat guided towards researching all techs about 2 “levels” lower than the highest cost tech that you have. And this combined with Affinities not being mutually exclusive and Affinities unlocking buildings and other things that don’t go obsolete (?) (unlike units where you’re locked into a path?), makes you have the two other affinities lagging not too far behind the one you’ve chosen (especially if you haven’t chosen the “combat” virtues that tend to give you affinities?).

    • Rindan says:

      I really couldn’t disagree more. Civ:BE is a horrible mess that doesn’t even match Civ5. It isn’t just bad, it is actively worse, taking out things that Civ5 had. I am not even talking about stylistic stuff where you might have a legitimate difference of opinion. Two people can disagree about whether or not one unit per square is a good idea. There is so much wrong with Civ:BE that is just objectively wrong and awful. I’m going to go ahead and plagiarize myself from another thread because in a fit of nerd rage I came up with all the things I find horrible about Civ:BE.

      Theme:
      -The “victory” screen is horrible. Horrible. You get a paragraph of unenthusiastic text and that is it. Why oh WHY! could they have not made this more interesting? I could have at least made up a better slab of text in an hour. Maybe a little cut scene?
      -The factions barely differentiate. The difference between pillaging the planet on the purity tract and going full on treehugger with harmony is minimal. Your supremacy civilization never gets weird and creepy. I hate to be the guy that keeps bringing up Alpha Centauri, but if you simply glanced at a Gaian content and a Morgani content, you would not confuse the two. One would be covered in fungus and mind worms would be patrolling the borders, while the Morgani would be covered in farms, solar collectors, and bore holes. In this game? They all look exactly the same.
      -The wonder pop ups are bad. Want to see how it is done properly? Observe getting a wonder done properly:


      link to youtube.com

      (there were more videos here, but I think automod hates them, just look up Alpha Centauri wonder videos. Each and every single one of them is better than all of Civ:BE’s wonder flavor texts and “videos” combined)
      -The factions are utterly lifeless. Technically, we might all be shooting for different affinities, but I can’t tell who is going for what, and the practical difference is almost zero. Throughout my first game I literally couldn’t tell who was shooting for what.
      -The flavor text for technologies is utterly lifeless. People still quote Alpha Centauri to this day. No one is going to ever quote Civ:BE.
      -There is almost no difference between the affinities. The difference in units and buildings is cosmetic and slight modifiers that do nothing to enhance the theme.
      -There is no reason as harmony to not slaughter the planet. None.
      -The “story” is just relayed poorly. I managed to trash the planet and emancipate earth without ever even getting an inkling as to what was up with the planet other than that barbarians now are apparently aliens that you need to slaughter with no consequences.
      -No real terraforming. Remaking the planet in the image of Earth or adapting to planet should be a theme, but it doesn’t exist. The purity guy isn’t actually causing any real harm to the harmony guy.

      Polish:
      -It doesn’t tell you what you built when you build something. You just get informed that the city was done.
      -If you get a technology through some other means that research, it just tells you the technology name and you have to hunt it down in the help or the tech tree.
      -If someone builds a wonder, you again get told the name, but it doesn’t bother to let you click it and view what the wonder did.
      -There are zero stats and graphs. No ending replay, no graphs, nothing.
      -Alien aggression simply doesn’t work. You can beat the crap out of the aliens and there are no consequences. They don’t get more or less angry at you. I played supremacy and murdered every alien I came across, and they never changed their behavior towards me once.
      -You can’t get any information when you get ambushed by the sparse diplomatic options that there are. Someone wants you to go to war, and you have no way to look at the map and decide if that is a good idea. The fact that they use the name of the leader instead of the faction name just makes it even harder to figure out who they are talking about. Someone wants to trade strategic resource, and you can’t even tell how many of that resource you have!
      -There are some affinity quests, but most of them apparently ignore your affinity. Do you REALLY think that my techno-cyber race with a 15 supremacy rating and (according to an earlier quest) a group mind is going to balk at cloning or holographic theaters?
      -No strategic map, and literally half of the factions are a shade of blue-green.
      -You can’t tell what your strategic resources are being used on.
      -The military menu is useless. You have to click, open a menu, open a menu, click on a unit and then click out of the menu to mess with that unit. If you are searching for a particular automated unit, you are going to have a bad time.

      Mechanics:
      -Some of the wonders appear to be nonsense and just give minor amounts of food/production/etc. I had boring old upgraded buildings that beat some wonders. Wonders in general appear to be broken from a balance perspective.
      -If there is a way to to tell who is at war with who and who has what relations with who, I can’t find it.
      -Diplomacy in general is utterly screwed up. There are almost no real diplomatic options.
      -Stations: not a bad idea in concept, but they apparently forgot to include them in the diplomatic options. If someone is beating up on a station you trade with, you can’t warn them off or threaten them with war. This is a massive step backwards from Civ5’s city states.
      -Buildings and wonders are utterly uninspiring. Almost all of them are just boring +some-resource. Very few of them do anything interesting.
      -There is no point in city specialization. There are very few synergies in this game so, if you need more science, just slap down more science somewhere. That lab is going to give you +2 science basically no matter where you put it.
      -The game ends too early. Right as you get to the point where you fill out the space and start to butt heads with the advance technology, the game simply ends.

      This is just what I thought up of off the top of my head, and there is certainly more. There is some real potential here, but the execution is horrible. I beat the game, and I’m done. Someone give me a shout when this has even a fraction of the theme of Alpha Centauri or the game play of Civ5. As it stands, this like someone took Civ5, stripped off its polish, and stapled on some systems that are theoretically interesting, but are executed horribly. It doesn’t even come within spitting distance of having the theme of Alpha Centauri.

      • Laurentius says:

        I agree almost 100% although I had a decently plesaurable time in my marathon playthrough (although after beating the game I lanunched AC and not started scend BE game which is telling). Some omissions are really strange, like I encountered them before in 4X games but from smaller, more obscure studios ( i.e. Endless Space) but Firaxis is giant in comparison but BE often feels cheap and compromised by little effort.

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        Elusiv3Pastry says:

        This. ALL of this.

    • Dread says:

      True, Civ: BE feels like a modded game, similar to Civ4: Colonization, however, there are a few key differences here.

      Civ4: Col is a faithful recreation of the original Colonization (at least as far as I can tell, I haven’t played a lot of both), it never aspired to be more than that and if I recall correctly, it was also significantly cheaper, I think 25€ on release or something like that?

      Civ: BE wanted to be something else, the developers stated, they didn’t want to remake Alpha Centauri, however, this is what people wanted and even though, they don’t want to, they will be still be judged on those merits.
      As it stands, BE is inferior not only to Alpha Centauri, but also to Civ5, on top of that they want the full price of 50€ for this game and have already set it up to be expanded upon with paid dlc.

      Factions, which represent the regions currently missing in the game (Germany, Italy, UK, Scandinavia, Balkan states, Turkey, Arabia), I’m certain, all of those will be added as paid dlc.
      Key features like the planetary council, which is inexplicably missing. Features, they were working on, like the faith system. There is so much, which you already know will be added later.

      But even if they implement all of that, will the factions have a personality and identity coming even close to SMAC? Will the planet feel like a living being instead of a couple of barbarians in bug costumes? Will the intricate diplomacy of SMAC find its way into BE? I doubt it.

      • malkav11 says:

        I wish Civ IV: Colonization were a faithful remake of the original (albeit with modern conveniences). It is not. You’d hear a lot more people excited about it if it were.

        • Dread says:

          Yes, that’s what I read from other fans of the original, I can’t see it however. What is so different between the games?

          I played maybe 2 games of the original and 3 or 4 of civ4: col and I really don’t recall significant differences between the two, apart from the graphics.

          • malkav11 says:

            I played a hell of a lot of the original Colonization and I’m not sure I even finished one game of Civ IV: Colonization, but I have to confess that it’s been long enough since I played either that I can’t remember what the differences were and a Google search just produced more assertions that they were different in meaningful ways. Sounds like maybe Civ IV Colonization had some balance issues with mechanical changes they made, though? Specifically, tying the size of the King’s Royal Expeditionary Force to your colonial production, and making teaching take longer and longer the more people you teach.

  5. Trillby says:

    As someone who has played many many hours of Civ5 single and multiplayer, I have to agree. I loved AC, and was really looking forward to this. I’m not disappointed, and I still have a number of avenues to explore, but all in all….meh with one thumb up.

    To be honest, there are free total conversion mods for Civ5 that, although not as polished, are just as arresting from a design and mechanics standpoint.

    It’s more Civ – worth the money in my book – but as the gentleman elaborates, no Alpha Centauri.

    • Paul B says:

      I wonder if that’s why I’m more sympathetic towards CIV: BE – I’ve never played SMAC (it’s on my todo list) so just enjoy it as a continuation of CIV V.

      CIV V didn’t become good until the Brave New World expansion, so I think CIV: BE is just two expansions away from being a very good game. Not living up to the legacy of SMAC, but still a game worth playing in its right.

      • P.Funk says:

        But if its leaning heavily on a Civ V that is already 2 expansions deep what excuse does it have for being ‘meh’?

        Paradox makes games that are arguably in the same realm of complexity as Civ, if much more era focused, and yet they are rarely not exciting or unworthy of praise before the inevitable expansions come.

        I also want to point out that I much prefer the Paradox style of expansions that we often see, namely that when the DLC is produced the aspect of the expansion which improves the game is given for free to the whole community who owns the core game and whatever DLC you’re actually paying for is usually a minor deviation from the core itself. Specifically this refers to games like Crusader Kings 2.

        In contrast with Hearts of Iron 3 the seminal game is always the latest expansion which is more than just a lateral addition but a full blown major feature adjustment. However, I never found earlier iterations to be basically boring or broken.

        In effect I feel that Paradox is better at giving us a well rounded and complete experience at release than Firaxis.

        • Paul B says:

          Actually re:Paradox updates – that sounds like the right way to do things. It seems a shame that Firaxis charge for the big, game changing packs/updates, and the owners of games like Civ V play an inferior product if they don’t want to shell out.

        • Droniac says:

          You may wish to highlight the ever so slight difference in scope between a Paradox sequel/expansion and one made by Firaxis.

          I love CK2 and EU4, but they’re really not that different from their predecessors. The changes are mostly extremely iterative and limited – even the interface and visuals are largely the same. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that Gods & Kings brings more of a dramatic change to how you play in Civ 5 than EU4 does when compared to EU3. It’s this dedication to changing their formula to try to hit on great new concepts that ensures that new Firaxis games tend to be a little lackluster at launch – but nearly outright classics once everything has been ironed out in a few expansions. Paradox doesn’t really attempt this – which is why their enormously iterative games are mechanically fantastic at launch. If we were to continue the mod allusions then EU4 would be a mutator for EU3, where Civ: BE would be a total conversion for Civ 5.

          The same is true when comparing expansions. A Paradox ‘expansion’ – at least for CK2 or EU4 – mostly just tackles an extremely specific scenario or play style with a few core changes. It won’t alter the experience of the game much, or at all, for most play sessions. That doesn’t take away that these expansions can be absolutely fantastic if you’re a big fan – but they’re not comparable to full game expansion packs like Firaxis does. A Firaxis expansion pack tends to change the entire core game experience for every session (if not every turn!). Think numerous major new mechanics, most existing mechanics retouched/improved, full game rebalance, loads of new nations/units/techs/buildings/wonders, improved AI/performance/interface, etc. The difference in scope is enormous – as is the difference in impact.

          And while it’s appropriate to say that Beyond Earth isn’t as much of a departure from its predecessor as Civ 5 was, it should also be noted that it’s easily Firaxis’ most competent vanilla game in recent years. Indeed, where Civ 5 was nearly universally inferior to Civ 4 (save for hex grid and possibly city states), Beyond Earth has many mechanics that are outright superior to what Civ 5 + expansions has to offer. Think of the espionage system, virtues, quests, and multiple distinct viable tech paths. It does require some serious work to become as fun as Civ 5 + expansions, and has some balance problems (trade routes!), but it’s a much more solid base game with a great deal more potential than Civ 5 vanilla.

          I really hope we don’t have to wait for an expansion to fix the interface though. It’s not even consistent in where it places its exit-menu buttons! And the new city screen is downright infuriating if you’re coming from Civ 5 (or even Freeciv). It’s also missing a lot of menus and a good victory/defeat screen.

    • malkav11 says:

      Are there total conversion mods for Civ V? I’ve been looking and I haven’t seen any.

  6. Arcanestomper says:

    There actually is detailed backstory for everything. All the faction, wonders, and leaders get nicely filled out histories and descriptions. Each victory has quite a bit of description to describe exactly how awesome you were to do them. Even the buildings get a paragraph or so of exposition.

    The problem is that all this stuff is in the civopedia. Where you’re never going to see it unless you’re specifically looking.

    I don’t know why they did all the work of writing those details and then hid it away. Especially since it would have gone a long way to correct the blandness I keep seeing people complain about it. It seems poorly thought out.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, I hate it when games do this (or worse, games’ habit a decade ago of hiding the backstory in the flash-laden website). If you’re going to write backstory, at least use it to further the game’s setting somewhat, rather than getting a temp to write it then hiding it in a menu that no-one will open.

    • Cinek says:

      Yep. It’s a very nice and creative game, only… Good 90% of people will just skim over a surface feeling it’s nothing more than spinoff from Civ V and go away.

      Reminds me of Alpha Centauri which got the same threatment – majority of people skimmed it quickly, saying it’s not much more than regular civ with new skins and few small features.

      The whole example of quest with choosing option is a perfect sample of just how horribly shallow this review is. I’m saddened.

      • Bradamantium says:

        That’s a problem though, isn’t it? Sticking all the good stuff behind a screen far away from the game’s salient action is a conscious decision that detracts from the game.

      • Lakshmi says:

        That plus things like saying you can’t traverse rifts they’re impassable. No, they really aren’t – you just use flying/hovering units.

        Edit: re the shallowness of the review.

      • Aninhumer says:

        I feel like Alpha Centauri did a pretty good job of working its world into the gameplay. Every technology would come with a quote from one of the factions. Occasionally, you’d get a little video about their ideology (I can’t remember what triggered those). And in the single player campaign, it gave you another page of story to read every so often. The whole thing gave me a tremendous sense of place.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Yeah, the writing and worldbuilding in SMAC was a lot better than in this game. I suppose it might have helped that Brian Reynolds was lead on both SMAC and Civ II, so he had some experience going in. But it also helped that he had a background in philosophy, so put social ideas and human culture front and centre. This feels more like a big bag of ideas without a central theme. It’s still a good game, just not one with particularly great narrative design.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          The videos were for when you completed a Special Project (= Wonder). You know, like all Civ games did from Civ2 to Civ4?

      • P.Funk says:

        As commenters below me have pointed out I think you miss the point of how well SMAC presented its backstory as being integral to the experience of playing. C:BE seems to have failed to integrate the story with the gameplay.

    • RedViv says:

      I think this could easily be solved with just a better way of signalling that you can right-click many things to get to their respective Civipedia entries. Maybe a tiny pulsing question mark, hover over it and get a right-click mouse icon?

      I’d love to see tiny render films for wonders though. They feel very… sterile. No matter their actual wondrous nature. But I guess that is the running theme here. 70s, not 2000s Battlestar.

      • Cinek says:

        Or at a very least – a cinematic for the victory. Seeing only an artwork after winning was really, very disappointing. But yea…. it could really use something to bring wonders back to life. Even if we’re nitpicking here.

        • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

          It looks like we’ve stepped back from the 90’s games. Those knew the value of a striking animation in a tiny, tiny window.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      That reminds me of what some people complained about Destiny. That there is very little exposition, and of that little quite a bit of it is: now you can go log out of the game and look it up on our webpage! It boggles the mind, it really does. At least in Beyond Earth it can be found within the game itself, but they really should have been able to produce something better.

  7. mvar says:

    I was terrified after reading the first user reviews and now RPS confirms this. Sooo disappointed. I’ll pass and wait to see if they manage to resurrect this game with some DLC/expansions..

  8. phanatic62 says:

    That disappoints me. All along I wasn’t very excited for this game, but I was hoping that there would be something so new and so different that I would have to buy it. I got my fill of Civ V, so I don’t need to play it “in space…”. I guess I’ll just check this out again after a couple of expansions. In the meantime, I’ll keep waiting patiently for At The Gates.

  9. Laurentius says:

    It is pleasant 4X game and all but it is so uninspiring, so unimaginative on thematic front of selling “Beyond Earth” to the players. There is no effort, no flavour, no lore to this planet, aliens, enviroment etc. Even when minmaxing in Civilization game people know what hide behind these invention , epochs and wonders and derive plesure from coursing their steps among them, here are just statistics and pretense that we should care, I care to a degree because it is pleasant forumla that I get used to but I don’t care for this world at all. It looks like effortles mod, or something cheaply sketched together. It is actually a service to BE that reviewer herehasn’t mentioned Alpha Centauri.
    PS. Where did demographics go ? huh ?

  10. LionsPhil says:

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with being very like Civ V

    *cough*

    Foremost among Civ V’s changes to the formula was the removal of unit stacking and that carries over to C:BE, as do the tough cities. This combination means that wars tend to be long and undramatic, and can sometimes feel like unit traffic traffic jams into stalemated bottlenecks.

    Although if the demo is anything to go by, it’s made substantially worse by a carpet of aliens adding to the gridlock, which is particularly vexing if you’re trying to live and let live.

    • Jumwa says:

      Not just aliens, but the fissures in the land everywhere, which are impassable to all but a couple late game units. Then tack miasma on top of that, which slows you down and causes 10% damage for each turn you persist on it. That’s treatable in the long run, but helps make for an excruciating early game.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Well, frankly, Alpha Centauri’s fungus feels much more impassable and dangerous than Civ:BE’s miasma : it really stands out on the map, covers large swathes of land, hides any unit unless you build a sensor or bump into it, native units can appear from anywhere in it and it makes your units more vulnerable to native units (while the native units have no maintenance costs while in it, heal and treat fungus as roads), and can appear triggered by pods or be (re)generated (?) by hard to kill fungal towers.
        Of course there are no 1UPT limitations in Alpha Centauri…

        • Jumwa says:

          It’s not a straight up comparison though, as you say, AC had unit stacking firstly. Plus it didn’t have long canyons dividing up the world. It’s not any one thing by itself, it’s the combination of it all that creates the problem.

          And I’m not anti-1UP! I thought that was a brilliant change. Though it’s introduced problems that Beyond Earth has further exacerbated.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            I’d call it a failure. I just don’t think it can work for a 4X game – if you use it you end up dumbing the game down, reduce available combat strategies and make it more frustrating, and also having an “AI” that is even more incompetent than usual.
            Notice that Jon Shafer, the Civ5 lead designer, went back to unit stacks for his new 4X game “At the Gates” :
            link to kickstarter.com
            It’s a shame that they didn’t scrap the system for Civ:BE, but the moment they decided to reuse the Civ5 engine so much, they were kind of forced to keep the “carpet of doom” system.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The worst thing about miasma (vs fungus) is that it’s hard to spot on some terrain types and your units make no efforts to avoid it. Want to plot a go-to route that’ll take multiple turns? Well screw you, buddy, your soldiers are going to march straight through that death-cloud to get there—do it segment by segment, manually.

        (The demo stops early enough that I don’t know how it compares on the “being part of the Planet” scale. Turf wars between forests and fungus were a really nice background action.)

        • Jumwa says:

          That was a cool dynamic. I didn’t really feel much of a vibe with it this time around. I guess it’s like how the Wot I Think pointed out: there’s just no flavour or story to things, so it just feels like an arbitrary choice.

        • Rindan says:

          There is never any conflict with the planet in this game. You can go full tree hugger, and there is literally no reason not to exterminate all alien life. In fact, you are actively rewarded for exterminating the alien life. Gaians in SMAC would smear their content with fungus, but in this game, all factions are pretty richly rewarded for clearing out the natives. The only difference between a full on Harmony player and another type is that the Harmony player will likely drop miasma on themselves as a defensive gesture.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            To be fair, the same issue is kind of present in Alpha Centauri too. By maxing your Planet rating, you can use even more minerals, and you will even get bonuses against the rebellious native life! Increasing your Industry and Economy ratings allows you to produce more, with the same ecological impact. Same for the Hybrid Forest / Borehole strategy. And using fungus for production, even playing Gaians or Cult of Planet, is only really viable in the late game (and IMHO hybrid forests fit better Gaians anyway).
            Where it does really show up is in the Social Engineering (including faction preferences) : Industry and Economy boosting/reducing choices tend to oppose Planet and Morale boosting/reducing choices (fights against native units are “psi” fights : they only use morale and planet modifiers, not weapon/armor ones).

  11. Orontes says:

    For me, a bit of a disappointment frankly. I know it’s still Civ V underneath, I just wished it was more than that. The planets never felt truly alien, the different factions are utterly boring compared to AC, the trading stations are, well, just stations, and there isn’t enough story and lore told in the game. Very little atmosphere throughout. Oh, and when I won the game, I got the same thing as the writer here. Anticlimactic, in a word. Something I could describe the whole game. It direly needs expansion packs, although if the developers had that in mind, then I would feel a bit miffed.

    And don’t get me started on the wonders….

    (Props for getting the espionage right, and also adding the orbital layer, though. My post couldn’t just all be a rant.)

  12. acheron says:

    There are a lot of cool ideas here. Tech web, affinities, and so on. It just feels.. a bit unfinished. The affinities don’t affect as much of the game as they should — harmony or supremacy, you’re still building the same improvements and things either way. For something that was apparently designed as the core of the game, there needs to be more there than some units that have different names.

    Balance is off by a lot (how to win: spam trade routes), and there are a lot of interface quirks (how did they miss that the game never tells you what building was just completed?).

    I dunno. I finished one game, and I just started another that I’ll play though. And probably play some more. What can I say, I like Civilization.

    Was XCOM pretty good at release? I thought so but I can’t remember for sure. But Civ V and nu-Colonization and Civ IV were all rough when they first came out. And this. I don’t know if Firaxis is not leaving enough test & polish time for themselves or what.

    • mpk says:

      XCOM was competent and polished, but suffered from a lack of depth and was improved with the expans… oooh, I see…..

  13. mattevansc3 says:

    So did you forget to capitalise Crash and Burn it was it an unintentional reference?

    Game sounds really disappointing. I like Civilization but this sounds more like a mod or a skin than an actual game. I was hoping for something a bit more adventurous than this.

  14. Distec says:

    But Steam is yelling “9 out of 10! 9 out of 10! 9 out of 10!” whenever I load up its store page. CAN I NOT TRUST THIS!?!?!?!

    I’d be pretty comfortable with purchasing a sci-fi version of Civ V. But not at that that price point.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      It’s called advertising. They aren’t going to select the bad reviews!

      All the while Steam user reviews are “Mixed” at only 64% positive (metacritic user score is at a low 59), and to add insult to injury, Pandora : First Contact (released a year ago) has now “Mostly Positive” reviews at 72% (funny that, it gained 4% in two days…)
      link to store.steampowered.com

      Pandora was called an uninspired Alpha Centauri clone… sadly it would seem that Firaxis (whose first game was Alpha Centauri, remember?) can barely do better than Pandora (and I haven’t played Pandora in 6 months, which have seen the Steam release and 2 expansion packs).

      • Cinek says:

        Expectations change the way people score them.
        Buying Pandora everyone expected utter shit game with some of the Alpha Centauri themes plotted in between.
        Buying Beyond Earth people expected Alpha Centauri reincarnated on steroids. RPS is one of a few gaming portals to blame for that.

        • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

          I think Firaxis’ marketing team should shoulder the majority of the blame on this one.

      • Distec says:

        I know what it is. I just couldn’t help but chuckle when I tried to reconcile those scores with the swelling negativity its incurred.

        From what I’ve played of the demo, it’s okay. I enjoyed Civ V, so more of the same isn’t terrible. But it’s certainly a discount buy.

      • Flavorfish says:

        I can’t help but feel that Pandora is a much better game.

      • green frog says:

        Meanwhile, the actual Metascore is sitting comfortably at 81 as of this post.

        Personally, I hardly value user scores worth a damn. I know some people swear by them and deeply mistrust the critic scores, but for me it’s the opposite. How can you take user reviews seriously when a ton of them openly admit they’ve never even played the game and are just there to push the vendetta of the week? And as much as people lament the alleged “7 to 9” scale used by game outlets, is the the binary “0 or 10” system used by most user reviews any better?

        For all the accusations of corruption in game journalism, I’ll take the opinion of someone who is qualified enough to actually land a job writing about games over the screeching mob of idiots that is the public any day.

        • Rindan says:

          I use user scores to calibrate the critic’s scores. In general, I find the disharmony between user scores and critical scores to give the best information. A low rated game with high user scores probably means that you have an unpolished game with some sort of great mechanic or new idea, and that if you are willing to overlook the lack of polish, you are going to have a good time. A high critical score with a low user score almost always means that you are looking at a deeply flawed game with great marketing. When they match and are over 70, you probably have something solid.

          Just look at the difference between Alien Isolation, Civilization:BE, and Mount and Blade. Alien Isolation’s score matches because most folks are in agreement. Civilization:BE’s doesn’t. The users give Civ:BE a much lower score because it has some deeply flawed mechanics and great marketing. Mount and Blade on the other hand has a higher user score than the critics score because it has interesting mechanisms that are worthy despite the polish.

          Sure, lots of the user’s scores are utterly worthless. Lots of people give perfect 10s for stuff that isn’t 10, or 0’s for stuff that isn’t horrible. The average though is what matters. Just one pure observation alone, I think the the average user score, regardless of how it came to be, tells a lot.

          • green frog says:

            I agree with a lot of what you said, especially about games with low critic scores and high user scores. Now that you mention it, I do actually find user scores quite useful in that instance.

            However, I believe the low user scores can be for any number of reasons beyond the game itself having “deeply flawed mechanics”. It could mean they don’t like the DRM attached to the game, or that they don’t like the company who made the game, or any conceivable issue whatsoever. For example, Gone Home and Mountain both have great critic scores and crappy user scores. Does that mean that they are bad games with great marketing? Or does it just mean that a bunch of a certain kind of gamer bombed the user score because they feel their turf is threatened by experimental combat-free indie games about teenage lesbians and sentient mountains?

            That’s just two examples. A user score could be bad for any reason, not just because the users are immune to publisher pressure and the critics aren’t. My rule of thumb is: if both of the scores (critic/user) are high, it’s probably a keeper, if one of the scores is high, it’s probably worth considering, and if both scores are low, you can safely pass.

            I may have given the wrong impression – I don’t believe the user score is completely useless or should be banned. Just that a low user score in of itself is insufficient for me to dismiss a game. In Beyond Earth’s case, I personally suspect people are giving it a hard time because it doesn’t live up to Alpha Centauri. Whether giving a game a crummy score because it doesn’t reach the heights of one of the best games of all time is justified or not, is a matter of opinion.

          • Rindan says:

            For what its worth, I think Civ:BE has exactly the user score it deserves. It isn’t just that it fails to live up to SMAC, it simply fails. It has so many glaring flaws. Some of them are so stupid it defies reason.

            For instance: when a city finishes production, it just tells you that the city is done. It gives you no hint as to what it actually produced. If a diplomatic option appears that isn’t on your turn, there is no way to get any information. Do you want to go to war with the utterly forgettable Hutama? Don’t know which faction Hutama represents or have his position on the map memorized? Tough shit, make a decision. Let’s say they want to trade you something for 3 of your float stones. I bet you would like to know how many of your float stones you have, but again, though shit. They actually go the extra step and blur out that information even though it should normally be visible. The victory screen is a few lines of text, a picture, and no stats or replay. There is no reason for a Harmony player to not slaughter the native life. In fact, they are actively encouraged to. If you get a technology through espionage or someone builds a wonder, there is now way to look up what those things are without clicking to help and manually searching it.

            The list is really endless. Civ:BE has some fantastic ideas in there, but the execution on almost everything is somewhere between bad and horrible. It strips out stuff that Civ 5 had for no comprehensible reason. Why would you remove the stats screens and make the unit management screen even worse?

            I REALLY hope they fix Civ:BE. I have pretty much written off them ever making it a game with a strong theme, but theme aside, the mechanics and the polish are also a mess. If anything, I think its rating is more likely held aloft because it is Civilization game, rather than being knocked down a peg because it isn’t Alpha Centauri. My hopes for a strong theme are utterly dashed, but maybe they will fix the mechanics down the road. With fixing though? The game has exactly the user rating it deserves.

          • green frog says:

            Fair enough. I am confident though that Firaxis will aggressively work on correcting the game’s flaws through patching if not also expansions. That’s what they did in response to the heavy criticism Civ V faced, and it became a vastly better game as a result.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            “For example, Gone Home and Mountain both have great critic scores and crappy user scores. Does that mean that they are bad games with great marketing? Or does it just mean that a bunch of a certain kind of gamer bombed the user score because they feel their turf is threatened by experimental combat-free indie games about teenage lesbians and sentient mountains?”
            I doubt that this kind of issue affects a significant fraction of games. And it’s another reason why reading the actual user comments helps… (just be sure to consider when exactly they were written… and sometimes reading between the lines helps)

      • Dan Griliopoulos says:

        Just to say that we added a lot more to Pandora with the updates and expansions (first of which is free), which were aimed to deal with the criticisms that Adam and others had with the late game content. Considering our team size, we’re proud that it’s even comparable with Beyond Earth.

  15. mpk says:

    So far (14 hours in), it’s been deeply average, and suffers in comparison compared to Civ V, which started off great and just got better.

    I’m assuming that there will be a Gods and Kings/Brave New World expansion next year. I really hope it adds some character to a game which is just very bland at the moment.

    That said, I’m 300 turns into a massive marathon game. We’ll see if the change of pace can change the interest level.

    • Cinek says:

      o_O “Civ V, which started off great’ – what? I quite recently bought Civ 5 so got fresh memory how this game plays with no addons what so ever and Beyond Earth is much better and more interesting game than Civ 5 was at the day of release. Especially in terms of overall gameplay mechanics. You must have mixed it up with expanded Civ 5. That one in deed got much better, almost like a whole new, different game.

  16. toshiro says:

    I loved CIV 4 and played it for hundreds and hundreds of hours, not to talk about CIV 2 which in a way set the bar for all 4x games I’ve played since (like fallout 2 set the bar for RPGs). CIV 5 just didn’t sit right with me, and I’m sure this wouldn’t either. I think the time for AAA strategy games is on an all time low, with how the civ series and the total war series is developing. I think these series will now wither and die, while games with fresh ideas, like EU4 and paradox interactive in general, will satisfy my strategy needs from now on. That and indie-developers of course. I just can’t see how a big company would dare to actually think “new”, and while they will continue to make games for some time, they will at some point make themselves redundant. Unless they have the guts to go for something new that has not been tested by a focus group of adolescent boys.

    Civilization is dead. Long live Civilization!

    • green frog says:

      Ironically, it was the very fact that Civilization V tried something new that ended up with some people disliking it so. People want to have their cake and eat it too. They demand innovation in the abstract but in practice they often react poorly when developers dare deviate from the formula.

      • dmastri says:

        This is disingenuous. It is not the fact that they tried something new. I was excited for the changes. However they were poorly implemented. Civ5 to this day features an AI that cannot manage combat. It makes for a boring experience. It feels that firaxis, much like creative assembly, have been moving backwards. They aren’t putting out terrible games…just bland uninspired ones.

        • green frog says:

          Ah, but if they hadn’t overhauled the combat system, then they wouldn’t have had those problems with the overhauled combat system, would they?

          The point is, if you really want developers to try new things, you have to accept that what they try might not work out 100%. It’s taking a risk. Or, you can have developers just stick with what’s proven to work.

          • toshiro says:

            Well, I feel like you missed my point. Of course I didn’t like CIV5 because it wasn’t an exact replica of CIV4, the notion is bizarre, but because I feel that they did not continue to evolve the game for players like me, looking for a very deep experience. I felt it was dumbed down. I might be wrong, I did not play it very much because it just bored me after a couple of hours.

          • toshiro says:

            Also, to change the combat system isn’t exactly a real change. It’s tweaking. If they actually did something new I would give it a much more honest try.

          • green frog says:

            Well, vanilla Civ V was indeed massively pared back compared to Civ IV BTS. But the expansions went a long way towards addressing that. You might want to give it another try.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            They haven’t just “tweaked” the combat system from Civ4 to Civ5. The 1 Unit Per Tile system had far-reaching consequences on the whole game balance and pacing.

  17. HyenaGrin says:

    I’m weirdly ambivalent about Beyond Earth.

    On the one hand I genuinely like it better than Civ 5, though that might simply be a matter of novelty that will eventually wear off. But overall I find the process of playing the game to be more involving. It asks ever-so-slightly more of the player; instead of directed research, you have to put some thought into planning your research strategy if you want to be effective, for example. Balancing horizontal and vertical virtue progression is also important, rewarding you in different ways that can lead to different strategies (or at least reward different strategies).

    But overall I was hoping for a bigger paradigm shift from Civ 5 (which, despite some ideas such as hex tiles that improved upon the fomula, is in my opinion not a better game than Civ 4). I felt like there were some lessons to learn from Civ 5 even if it was well-received, and those lessons were not taken to heart.

    Alpha Centauri was a total rethink of the Civ formula; it recognized that the formula doesn’t necessarily apply to the kind of future-society that by necessity does not function using normal paradigms. These are colonists in a hostile world, alone and unsupported. Simply reskinning Happiness to Health (and kneecapping it) isn’t really a meaningful change. Reskinning Gold to Energy (and pretending that it’s not the same thing with traders converted into generators) isn’t really a meaningful change.

    In far too many places it feels like a (admittedly well-crafted) mod. Many of the systems which generate the game mechanics are simply renamed and their values adjusted or taken out entirely to simplify them. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if Firaxis still, after all this time, have not implemented multiplayer mod usage for either Civ 5 or, indeed, BE. At first I thought this was a technical issue, but with this wildly desired feature conspicuously absent from this new title, I am now utterly convinced that this was a deliberate decision in order for them to have a platform to sell DLC of a type and quality that fans have historically been happy to produce for free.

    Another gripe, and one that I admit Firaxis would have had a hard time addressing, is the lack of character to the world. Alpha Centauri is by no means an easy act to follow. They nailed the mark on so many points. The characters, the sense of embattled ideology that permeates the game, the character of the planet, the story and sense of progression not just technologically toward victory but of understanding of your environment, the brilliant way in which the text and voice acting infused a remarkable amount of detail into the world with relatively little reading. Alpha Centauri built a fantastic world made up of memorable characters that I still think about to this day. Can anyone honestly say they will remember anything about any of the factions/characters in BE? Can anyone honestly say they could quote one of the readings from a tech advance or wonder, fifteen years later? Because that’s what we got from Alpha Centauri.

    So what’s the damage? I still enjoy the game. But I wanted something more. This was an opportunity for them to break from the mass market expectations and let their creativity run a little wild. It was an opportunity to make some nuanced statements about society, politics, and the aspirations of humanity. It was an opportunity to try new ideas as a testbed for future Civ games. It seems like they might have wasted this game as an opportunity. There is substance here, but it is largely substance we have seen before, merely with a new coat of paint. What the game crucially lacks – and what Will Wiles rightfully points out – is style. And while mechanics can be added to extend the life of the gameplay, through expansions, it is much, much harder to make a game live on in the culture like Alpha Centauri did, without a strong aesthetic, stylistic foundation to build on.

    • acheron says:

      The best quote from BE that I’ve encountered so far was from reaching one of the top Supremecy levels.. something like “Update notes: previous versions of humanity are no longer supported”.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Yes, the tech tree is really where Civ:BE stands out. Affinities and Virtues are not far from being great too. The whole game design of slowly crafting your civilization is IMHO “mechanically” extremely well made… but sadly falls flat on its face because the whole thing feels very boring. You just cannot get excited with things like +5% to production or +1 X to *random building*, even if eventually, in accumulation, they could lead to a very different civilization each game. Compare with Alpha Centauri, where buildings and especially wonders have much larger effects, not to mention social engineering where most changes need preparation and feel like major changes to your faction.

      Alpha Centauri has the same “energy as gold” system… but there you can feel the difference, as solar collectors actually generate more energy the higher they are located, and energy and minerals generating-boreholes are hard to build and really have an impact on the map.

    • Rindan says:

      “Richard Baxton piloted his Recon Rover into a fungal vortex and held off four waves of mind worms, saving an entire colony. We immediately purchased his identity manifests and repackaged him into the Recon Rover Rick character with a multi-tiered media campaign: televids, touchbooks, holos, psi-tours— the works. People need heroes. They don’t need to know how he died clawing his eyes out, screaming for mercy. The real story would just hurt sales, and dampen the spirits of our customers.”

      “Already we have turned all of our critical industries, all of our material resources, over to these… things… these lumps of silver and paste we call nanorobots. And now we propose to teach them intelligence? What, pray tell, will we do when these little homunculi awaken one day and announce that they have no further need for us?”

      “As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.”

      “The Warrior’s bland acronym, MMI, obscures the true horror of this monstrosity. Its inventors promise a new era of genius, but meanwhile unscrupulous power brokers use its forcible installation to violate the sanctity of unwilling human minds. They are creating their own private army of demons.”

      “I think, and my thoughts cross the barrier into the synapses of the machine—just as the good doctor intended. But what I cannot shake, and what hints at things to come, is that thoughts cross back. In my dreams the sensibility of the machine invades the periphery of my consciousness. Dark. Rigid. Cold. Alien. Evolution is at work here, but just what is evolving remains to be seen.”

      “My gift to industry is the genetically engineered worker, or Genejack. Specially designed for labor, the Genejack’s muscles and nerves are ideal for his task, and the cerebral cortex has been atrophied so that he can desire nothing except to perform his duties. Tyranny, you say? How can you tyrannize someone who cannot feel pain?”

      SMAC’s theme and quotes give me chills to this day. Civ:BE’s theme gave me yawns.

    • toshiro says:

      well put!

  18. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    I am having fun, but I agree with what people are saying here, it’s somehow missing something. However I’m not sure I agree that it’s entirely like Civ V, some of the balance tweaks have changed it enough to keep me much more engaged. Put it like this, both games have achievements for getting 100 science/culture/wombats out of a city, and in Civ V I generally got to a stage of almost every city generating over 100 of everything. This was pretty much when I got bored. In BE I’m not managing to make utopia cities containing everything everywhere, I’m still making decisions about what to build where, what I need right now, and it’s keeping me more engaged as a result. I do realise it’s a new game, but I’m pretty sure I’d figured out Civ V in less time than I’ve been playing BE.

    However, I’ve only seen four types of alien, and they don’t even seem to get palette-swapped between worlds. More variety of worlds and not being sure what I was going to find down there would go a long way, I reckon. (Insert standard cynical comment about DLC here.)

  19. DrManhatten says:

    I must admit so far it hasn’t clicked with me either and this is the first time I experienced this with a Civ game. I even enjoyed Pandora First Contact more in the first few hours than this one so far. Oh well but then I didn’t have Kerbal Space Program at the same time installed :D

  20. acheron says:

    Thinking about the themeing and atmosphere some more… Civ games don’t necessarily need that, because they build on the entirety of human history. We don’t need to be told that, say, the Pyramids are pretty cool. Or inventing gunpowder, or whatever. We know who Augustus Caesar was, or Elizabeth I, or George Washington, so the games don’t need to invest much external character onto the leaders. (Aside from the Civ in-joke of Gandhi and the nukes.)

    Alpha Centauri added the strong story and personalities so that the player cares about the Mind-Machine Interface and the Self-Aware Colony and what Morgan thinks. Rather successfully I would add.

    I can understand not wanting to push the same kind of defined story that Alpha Centauri did. They’d need to invest a lot into it to not have it seem like a pale imitation. But now everything seems technobabble generic. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the buildings and even wonders don’t really do anything other than +2 to [stat].

    Another problem is that the same voice actor reads all the quotes, so I (at least so far) can’t even distinguish which quotes are from whom, which kills the idea of leader personalities.

  21. draglikepull says:

    While I like Civ V well enough, I’m often surprised at how many people seem to really love it. It felt like a big step back from the brilliance of Civ IV to me. True, the expansions improved the game, but it’s still not as fun or challenging as vanilla Civ IV.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Also it didn’t have Leonard Nimoy’s Sputnik impression.

      • Paul B says:

        Obligatory link:


      • BlueTemplar says:

        While I can understand that people that experienced the Star Trek series on television could be excited at Leonard Nimoy’s quotes, I found his delivery rather boring and monotone… (this one above might be a fine example actually) especially when compared to the delivery of quotes in Alpha Centauri.
        Of course while the Alpha Cntauri voice actors were excellent, it’s the whole game experience that really makes it an unforgettable experience, so I won’t link them here (as the fans of Alpha Centauri can remember them by heart, voices included; and they probably won’t really impress anyone that isn’t experiencing them in the game itself).

        • LionsPhil says:

          While there’s some amusement from the Spock angle, most of it is simply the sense of gravitas Nimoy puts into it.

          I don’t really think it’s directly comparable to SMAC. SMAC’s tech quotes are painting its world; Civ IV’s is known, and its just pulling out all the stops to be a lush and polished journey through it.

      • Volcanu says:

        Well my work is done here

        link to dailymotion.com

  22. vlonk says:

    Civ:BE is in dire need of a game balance patch. I cannot imagine this built of strategic balance is what the creators had in mind. The age-old dogma of “tall” or “wide” empire development in Civ games was thrown out of the window in favor of traderoute/city spamming(which is completely counter-intuitive to the “harsh environment” approach the game wants to convey), some world wonders have laughably small benefits and I cannot even tell my neighbour to leave my tradestation in peace. Critical parts of the Ui have been removed (strategic overlay, advisors, traderoute sorting, certain messages).

    But also some deeper design problems can be spotted. Why oh why is the game designed in a way to push the harmony-affinity player to also murder the local wildlife? Was ist really not possible to create an attractor/repulsor unit to herd those buggers? There is no diversity in playstyles, therefore it is sadly not a SMAC or a Starcraft or even an Age of Empires. Time will tell if a patch/dlc/addon can bring some life into Civ:BE.

    • iniudan says:

      You can easily live in peace with them building and tech that increase xenomass tile value do it without building the xenowell on them, so it a mather of deciding if you want a wall of alien or harmony unit and building.

      Get a fence up while you build up the city surrounding land and until alien are friendly, so the worker can work the city tile without alien been annoying and as to keep workable land, they would stand on, until they are friendly. Once done building and friendly, destroy the fence to let them back in.

      Of course getting a level of purity greatly help with building outpost around the alien until you got them friendly.

      • vlonk says:

        That is all true Iniudan, but i strongly feel this is – right now – the inferior path. It is binding resources in static defenses that are not devoted to growth and have no other military purpose (towards players). I rather build some buggies and artillery and clean the streets =/

        If I could actually do something with those buggers I would keep them alive but they bring free XP and I cannot delevop or shape the wildlife. Also heavily terraforming the planet is adviced, yet it is utterly contrary to the harmony lore principles. What is that nice word, ludo-narrative dissonance?

    • HyenaGrin says:

      I also ran into the problem of having a trade station plunked in the middle of my territory and could not diplomatically defend them from another Civ perpetually trying to murder them. Fortunately the terrain and my borders were such that I just plunked down a few units to prevent the AI from being able to attack (whilst the faction kept pestering me for open borders. Uh, no). But I was pretty miffed that I couldn’t diplomatically cast them under my protection and threaten war on anyone who ignored it. I mean, I could have just declared war on the faction in question, but the game would not have recognized it as a justified thing.

  23. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    A little disappointed after two playthroughs but Civ 5 felt the same way at release. I hope it’s better in a couple of months or after an expansion.
    I didn’t know it was in the game until my second game but I like how there are a couple of different biome styles.

    The first one was a dark purple-ish world where I could barely see miasma but the second was more earth-like and it was a lot easier to see everything. The forests have different appearances between them too. I’m not sure if there are any more or if the pre-order DLC added any.

  24. airmikee says:

    link to rockpapershotgun.com
    The RPS review of Civ 5 was nearly identical to this review. Summed up: Pretty game, too many missing features compared to the last game in the series, play something else. And yet now Civ5 is being hailed as the standard for comparison against Beyond Earth.

    link to metacritic.com
    The earliest negative reviews on Metacritic also do the same thing. For Civ5 it was, “Play Civ4.” For Beyond Earth it’s, “Play Civ5.”

    It took them a few months to patch Civ5 into a working state for me so I’m gonna wait for the first couple patches before picking up BE. I just have to laugh at the ironic comedy of most sequel games being unable to compare to their predecessors, until the next one comes out.

    • XhomeB says:

      Civ 5 could have been patched up to a better state, because it was all about the mechanics. BE is also about the lore and overall sci-fi “fluff”. And what BE has to offer in this department is bland and uninteresting. Alpha Centauri it isn’t, and you can’t “patch” such things, unless you throw everything into a garbage bin and start from scratch.

      • green frog says:

        Beyond Earth is being evaluated on the “fluff” and not the mechanics because Alpha Centauri had great “fluff”. If Alpha Centauri had never existed then Beyond Earth would be considered on its own terms.

        This is the problem with making a game that is perceived as a “spiritual successor”. They will forever live in the shadow of their predecessors and be evaluated on those terms. Given that no one uses the term “spiritual successor” except when referring to a revered classic, this is usually a losing proposition for developers, because it’s difficult if not impossible to capture that same magic a second time.

    • Flavorfish says:

      This is different.

      The problem with Civ 5 is that it’s mechanics were very unrefined on launch and it was content light. (MUCH more content light than Beyond Earth)

      Beyond Earth’s problem is that it’s mechanics have grown stale and uninteresting because they are shameless reskins of Civ 5’s. This is a passionless Civ 5 mod masquerading as a full game, whereas Civ 5 was a brave step in a new direction that started as a stumble.

    • Supahewok says:

      “The RPS review of Civ 5 was nearly identical to this review. Summed up: Pretty game, too many missing features compared to the last game in the series, play something else. And yet now Civ5 is being hailed as the standard for comparison against Beyond Earth.”

      That’s not really a valid point to criticize the review. Most of Firaxis’ strategy games of the past few years have been lackluster on release, Civ V included. I disliked Civ V on release, but got talked into trying it out again with all of the expansions and DLC and had a blast with it.

      On the whole, that is more Firaxis’ fault then the reviewer. I’m just glad this site is being honest about not hopping on to this game until some more work has been put into it. Far better than other sites blindly giving it a 9/10 for being an entry in a beloved series.

  25. Kamalen says:

    So, if I read everyone correctly, it’s quite a under Civ V version.

    But is it good enough on it’s own for someone who, say, liked Civ V but hadn’t played much Civ V ? Plus ‘im more into SyFy than history.

    • LionsPhil says:

      This is terrible sci-fi. It has no respect for the “sci” part.

      However, since you spelt it like the TV channel, I guess maybe it’s up your street.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      If you didn’t play much Civ5, and merely liked it, and are into Science Fiction, why wouldn’t you play Alpha Centauri instead? The question of course is whether you won’t mind the (relatively) outdated graphics and GUI design or is that going to be a showstopper for you?
      Only you can decide…
      link to gog.com
      You can get an Alpha Centauri demo here :
      link to alphacentauri2.info
      (It works under Win7, I just tried, it’s just that instead of installing it, extract the linked .exe as a zip in a folder, then run the game from terran.exe in the “programs” subfolder.)
      (P.S.: It doesn’t seem it has the voiceovers that had so much to the game, nor the special project movies.)
      (P.P.S.: Yes, please don’t spell Science Fiction that way.)

    • Joshua Northey says:

      If you a re happy with 20-40 hours out of a game this one is fine. People are mostly mad because it doesn’t have the hundreds of hours quality past ones had. Maybe that will get better wih time?

      • BlueTemplar says:

        But only 20-40 hours out of a sandbox type of game is not “fine”. It means that the game sucks…
        I don’t see Firaxis completely dropping the game, so it will get better over time. But will it ever get good?

  26. Flavorfish says:

    I have to say Beyond Earth feels incredibly stale, more so than any other Civ game on launch. Sometimes it feels like Civ 5 mod drained of it’s passion without even the ambition to change what no longer is coherent with it’s new theme. It’s a shame because they had the opportunity to do something really interesting and experimental with the formula of Civ in the mold of Alpha Centuri with Beyond Earth, but this doesn’t even bother with the lofty ambitions of AC.

    Controversial opinion:

    Pandora: First Contact is a superior game. Unlike with this review, RPS didn’t mince words with their Pandora WIT, but after playing both games for a few hours back to back last night I can’t help but feel Pandora has the edge with it’s more unique mechanics. On steam the User Reviews for Pandora have jumped up %4 in the 2 days since Beyond Earth was launched, to 72% against Beyond Earth’s 64%.

    • P.Funk says:

      Maybe someone should do a review specifically revisiting Pandora in the wake of this game’s release.

      I imagine one might title it Pandora: Beyond Earth

  27. almostDead says:

    Should anyone read this, and is still undecided, do not buy this game at the moment. It is remarkably dull and lifeless with lots of annoyances like not knowing what you just built and trade route management.

    I can only hope that they put in as much aftercare patches as they did with CiV. I am worried though, as this is not the flagship product, as they were at pains to point out.

  28. Sardonic says:

    I realize games are reviewed based on what they are, not what they could become, but there is no denying there is potential here.I’ve already sunk a ton of time into the game, and I look forward to sinking more into it. I hope they keep this espionage model going forward, though there are too many ways to decrease intrigue and not enough ways to increase it.

    Just wish they’d fix the dumb trade route situation too. And fix alien/AI aggression to be proper.

    The game is playable now, and will doubtlessly become more playable in the future, so long as Firaxis do not abandon it. They certainly did abandon parts of Xcom, I mean that sniper overwatch exploit is still in there, sheesh.

  29. JohnnyPanzer says:

    The review and the comments here pretty much solidifies what I suspected all along: I play games very differently than most people. Almost every single complaint is about something that is the very reason I enjoy BE so much more than Civ.

    The lore is bland, which to me means it doesn’t get in the way of my own imagination. It’s still there though, but I don’t feel it’s forced upon me. Descriptions and backstorys are hidden away in the civopedia, which no-one cares about. Except me. I can’t even begin to understand how someone could play a game without pausing every single time they come across a new element to go read everything there is to read about it.

    Combat is described as dull due to the lack of stacks of doom, and units getting bottlenecked in the geography is seen as a drawback. To me, it’s the other way around. Instead of having two stacks of five million units hack it out over two hexes before the war is won or lost in a single round, I get a long and drawn out affair where unit placement not only matters, but is the key to victory.

    Aliens are numerous and can seriously trip you up from the start, often described as something that makes the early game boring. I find it wonderful, and it gives me something to do from the very first round. The are not aggressive unless you provoke them, but exactly what provokes them can be something of a guessing game. Again, this is something most people seem to find annoying, but I love it and it keeps me on my toes.

    Random factors can seriously mess with your progress, or take you to the top even though everything was all but lost. To me, this is perhaps the single best feature of BE. I’ve always found Civ to be too much like Starcraft, where gameplay is about doing things in a very particular order, as quickly as possible. I always feel like the game is set in stone after 50 turns or so, where a leader is going to stay the leader and a looser will remain so. here anything goes. I might have a massive lead at turn 200, but that doesn’t mean I wont be surrounded by my own smoldering ruins a hundred turns later. Likewise, I no longer stop playing just because I’m seriously behind, knowing full well that I could still win the race if I play my cards right and/or luck is on my side.

    The shift from a zillion different unit types to a few types that are heavily customizable is another thing I only see as an advantage. In Civ, every time I got involved in a war that included longbows, tanks and muskets all at once, I was struck by a massive migraine and then I had to go and lie down for a while.

    That said, I still agree with some of the things in the review. Diplomacy, for example, is a joke. But that’s been the case in every single iteration of Civ so it doesn’t irk me too much. And I also realise that it’s a matter of taste. I just can’t help but hope that I’m not as weird as I think I am, and that there are other players out there who finds BE to be superior for the very same reasons…

    • iniudan says:

      Exactly how I feel about the game.

      I personally find there is more unit variety in BE then in 5, as unit in civ 5, except for some civilization specific and high level unit, there is very little difference in how they are used tactically, as upgrade are mostly just general strength stat increase, while the upgrade in BE can be a complete tactical shift on how a unit type is optimally use, make for much more varied warfare (at least against player, the A.I. still mostly just throw unit at you, but it does seem more aware of unit positioning then it was in 5). But in exchange the experience system as become extremely generic, which I’m actually fine with.

    • dmastri says:

      I too like boring bland games.

      Kidding aside I think there’s a large subset of gamers, maybe middle aged crowd,that has been playing these games for 20+ years and find it impossible to actively regress in features and game play. With so much game history to draw upon many of us aren’t willing to accept such a phoned in mediocre attempt, particularly when it arrives with conveniently dlc-shaped holes.

      • JohnnyPanzer says:

        I’m 38, so I’m not sure age has anything to do with it. I truly think it has more to do with massive differences in playstyle.

        I often find myself loving games that others consider bland or boring. I think it has to do with the fact that I play all games as roleplaying games. I want to write my own story, not have it written for me, and I think BE does everything right in that regard. There’s a ton of information in the game, but I have to look it up instead of having it staring me in the face all the time. This means I get the best of two worlds. When I’m in the mood for some reading, I can look things up in the civopedi and sit for hours going through the backstory and descriptions. But when I want to play and form my own narrative, there is nothing getting in the way.

        • dmastri says:

          OK but the fundamental mechanics of combat are incomprehensible to the AI. There’s no game here, it’s an inevitable march to victory. That’s my biggest fault with it. I too love the RPG elements of playing games a certain way. Like running a Xenonauts ironman game, inventing storylines as you follow what troopers survive your first alien skirmishes, losing key folks & equipment later in the game, etc. Or playing Dominions 4 and following your heroes, inventing stories, remembering their victories, their defeats. I’m with you.

          The problem is the mechanics of After Birth, and in large parts Civ5, suck.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      You seem also to read comments very differently than most people. You seem to compare Civ:BE only to Civ5 (and Civ4), but there’s a lot of commenters here, including me, that are comparing it to Alpha Centauri first and foremost.

      I did go to the civilopedia to check on leader backstory… but I didn’t think to do it for Wonders – and unless I missed it, there’s no way to summon the relevant civilopedia page when you build one. That’s a big issue if you want to immerse new players in the game. And if the lore is bland and boring as you say, why do you bother to read it?

      Two stacks of a million units hacking it over two hexes is a riduculous misrepresentation of the combat in Civilization games before 5. While Civ4 does have the issue of the AI not knowing how to properly use artillery units (that do collateral damage to stacks), I very much doubt that any experienced player would let you get away with that. And this is even more ridiculous when talking about Alpha Centauri, because with automatic collateral damage to the whole stack when losing a unit (if not in a base or a bunker) and artillery units that have a range of 2 tiles, even the AI (incompetent, as usual, in 4X games) is going to punish you if you send all your army as a single stack. If you add to that terrain bonuses, separate attack and defense values, special abilities, probe teams, impassable zones of control, and the 4 kinds of air units, you end up with a tactical combat deeper than any other Civilization title.

      Aliens suffer from a lack of aggressivity. You can run around them, stay in miasma all you want, explore ruins, even clear nests if you have an opportunity, they will never attack you, besides one random attack by a siege worm. Alpha Centauri’ native life was much more dangerous and frightening, for various reasons.

      4X games are rarely set in stone, except when playing against only the AI – by the point you start to take the lead, you generally cannot lose anymore. I doubt this is different in Civ:BE.

      Civ:BE is also vastly inferior in unit customization compared to Alpha Centauri (while it does a good job of visually separating the 3 “factions”). I also fail to see where you see a “zillion” unit types in Civ : you generally have only a few unit types (melee/ranged/siege/cavalry) that are upgraded as you go trough the ages.

      I find Alpha Centauri AI diplomacy pretty immersing (few bugs aside), and Civ4 AI diplomacy quite well made.

  30. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    I completely love this game and am having a blast. I cannot stop playing it. I am eagerly awaiting the expansion packs to make the game even better.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Philopoemen says:

    With the US$90 pricepoint, I’ll wait for the inevitable post-expansion Steam sales

  32. Dominare says:

    I agree with much of what has been said, but I also want to remind people that AC had its share of huge balance problems as well. I wonder if some aren’t forgetting the details having not played it for a while, but things like the Weather Paradigm giving you access to condensers etc way before anyone else, or the Hunter Seeker Algorithm making you immune to probe teams (nerfed in the expansion pack) could be game breaking. The AI also never used supply crawlers which essentially let your bases work any nearby tile they wanted for the cost of supporting one unit (i.e. 1 mineral) which meant spamming them was a no brainer and gave you a huge advantage. The xpack wasn’t blameless either, how about the Pirates faction who started in the sea and were thus basically untouchable for the first 50-60 turns?

    The point is, yes Beyond Earth has some pretty major balance problems. A single trade route giving you better returns than most wonders is bizarre; it is compounded massively by the way trade routes are only limited by city rather than globally making wide far better than tall in every conceivable circumstance. However these things can be fixed, and I’m hopeful they shall be. Likewise the monochromatic city cards making it tricky to see at a glance what’s going on there, or the fact that it doesn’t tell you what a city just finished building when it asks you for the next task, etc. Its a bit weird this stuff made it past playtesting sure, but there’s a good game in there somewhere and I’m hopeful they’ll dig it out in time.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      It’s funny, because most of your examples on the contrary show that SMAX has pretty good balance :
      – Yes, supply crawlers are overpowered, one reason why is that, like Probe Teams, they don’t have any support cost. And can be upgraded with energy to rush Special Projects and prototypes for an energy cost lower than if you were to rush a regular building. Still, they are a vulnerable source of economy in multiplayer games.

      – While Weather Paradigm gives you Condensers, using them isn’t much more powerful than the “Forest and Forget” strategy, because :
      — You need a lot more formers for that
      — You need the Gene Splicing technology to take advantage of Farms on rainy tiles, otherwise you’re still capped to 2 nutrients per tile (with the interesting exception of the Condenser tile itself, which does makes it a powerful synergy with crawlers, if you can afford all the terraforming – and the exception of nutrient bonus tiles)
      — You need Fusion Power to get a really good specialist (Engineer), and if you don’t make all those extra people specialists, you’ll have to somehow deal with drones.
      — You need to build Hab Complexes to go over 7 population.

      – As you said, the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm was nerfed in the expansion. If there’s one really overpowered Special Project, it’s Cloudbase Academy, which comes from Mind-Machine Interface, the same tech as the overpowered ‘Copters.

      – The Pirate faction would be overpowered if sea bases were competitive before Fusion reactors. Even with the Pirate faction bonuses, they’re not (sea colony pods, formers and crawlers are too expensive) – so it’s generally recommended that Pirates find a secluded island to develop on until they reach Fusion. (One thing they are really good at, is to insta-build expensive buildings with sea pod events, and then switch those minerals to Special Projects without any loss, to grab them really early. Alpha Centauri, like other games of its time, is full of weird exploits like that, which give it extra flavor at the expense of some balance.)

  33. Premium User Badge

    Cross says:

    I feel this review sums up to something slightly harsher than what i feel about the game, even if i do agree on each and every individual point. BTW, all that backstory on the wonders you are hurting for is to be found in the civilopedia, which is still a bloody copout, to be sure, but it’s there.

  34. Lytinwheedle says:

    Does anyone else feel that Firaxis has completely lost its way? All their latest games feel… for lack of a better word, small. Unambitious and lacking in vision.

    Look at their remake of XCOM; it was mostly ‘good’ because someone had revived the franchise and had made a game that everyone enjoyed 20 years ago. So far, so good. But once that warm glow fades, you are left with an unambitious, linear game. The tactical combat was declawed, and turned from a tactical simulation into a kind of card-game battle system (I’m going to draw my rocket launcher card, followed by my sniper shoots twice card). There was no strategic layer whatsoever (build more power plants), and the choice was illusory (Play generic mission to be rewarded with a card giving you +2 mans, or +2 science, or +2 manufacturing). The game would have been better and tighter if they had simply scrapped the illusory choice and made a chain of scripted and narrated missions on more diverse and interesting maps.

    Now we have a remake of SMAC (Yes, they never promised that, but really, it is) which is just a unambitious and pathetic. Have Firaxis replaced their game designers with focus groups? What game are they going to streamline until it’s great-looking but utterly simplistic dross next?

    • jalf says:

      No. No, XCOM was brilliant. And it was a good game in its own right. Seen as a remake, it was lacking, because it threw out a lot of cool things from the original games. But standing on its own, it is one of the best games I have played in years. And most people seem to have loved it.

      Civ5 was ambitious as heck. They made some fundamental changes to something that *could* have been “unambitious and lacking in vision”. It didn’t work as well as it might have, especially early on, but it certainly didn’t feel like a “designed by focus group” game.

      So no, I really can’t see where you’re coming from.

      I get that it’s oh-so-cool to be bitter and cynical on the Internet, but really…

      Beyond Earth is really the only recent Firaxis game I can think of that’s just… fizzled.

      • dmastri says:

        Xcom was fun but he’s right… extremely linear and they gutted meaningful player agency in the strategy map. I also really disliked the monster closet approach to triggering the baddies, rather than have them start on the map.

        Xenonauts lacks the graphics but trounces xcom remake in game play.

        I don’t think this is about it being cool & hip to hate on mainstream. I think its about not lowering standards and expectations. I always love to read the tom chick reviews where he calls it like it is and the comments blow up with the fan boys trying desperately to discredit him as a click bait troll. The mental gymnastics on display are truly worthy of genuine psychological research.

  35. AyeBraine says:

    GENERAL VADIM KOZLOV OF THE SLAVIC FEDE…

    C’mon, we can’t provide for every combination of names and factions in the UI! The artificial intelligence will come up with extra long ones anyway, what’s the point?

  36. navyknight says:

    This is why I wait for the review, thank you for preventing me from wasting my money on this game. I might pick it up on a Steam sale next year or the year after.

  37. kevmscotland says:

    Well, I’ve given it over a week now.
    In my opinion, Civ V is still the better game.

    Beyond Earth is too similar while missing the stuff added to Civ V via the DLC’s. Infact a cynic would argue Beyond Earth is specifically missing certain things to re-add them as DLC later.

    After extended play I can also say I haven’t warmed to the new tech tree. Its hopeless.

    I do like the ‘quests’ however.

    I don’t want to call it lazy but I feel there was a real missed opportunity here.

    I’d have LOVED to have seen players settle on different planets and have it play out in much the same way different continents did.

    You’d have had to have got the tech to space travel between the planets, have different planets hold different bonuses. Have moons represent islands. etc.

    Might not have made a huge gameplay difference (they could have still been represented as a flat circle of water with a continent on it) but it would have made for a far more interesting setting.

    • Hex says:

      You might want to check out Endless Legend.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      The only game I’m aware of that did something like that is Emperor of the Fading Suns (1996) :
      link to en.wikipedia.org
      I’ve heard people swear by it, but I haven’t personally tried it, because, well, under 800×600 resolution, I find it hard to get into most games :

  38. nameless_one says:

    this game is boring the animations are bad the textures poor it is not exciting to start a game like this.
    ive played civ 5 and it was better than this.the animations of the units and resources etc. seem unnatural.