Wot I Think – Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide

Rising Tide [official site] is the first, and some might say much-needed, expansion pack for Beyond Earth, the sci-fi Civilization V spin-off which met a somewhat muted reception. It’s out tomorrow, but I’ve spent the last few days with it.

It’s so much better. It’s so much worse.

The good news is that, with its first expansion, Beyond Earth feels much more its own game than it did before. While perfectly solid, it was greeted with no little gloom at its conservatism, at how it felt so much like Civilization V with rather dry sci-fi lip service applied. Not being the spiritual Alpha Centauri successor many had long prayed for was one thing, but not creating a meaningful sense of strange new worlds was the kicker.

While Rising Tide doesn’t quite wash away the dryness, it does take Beyond Earth further away from Civ V, and closer to the otherworldly experience I know I’d been hoping for. There are quite a few more alien species hanging around, for a start, a few of which are pleasantly enormous and more ambitious in their design than the ‘just some big green bugs, I guess’ approach of the vanilla game. You can do more things with/to them, too. For instance, there’s a new tech which keeps them calm, so you don’t have hell to pay every time you have to stomp one of their nests, and another which lets you sic ’em on an enemy. The best addition is Leash, however, which lets you make any alien into your own personal fighting pet.

Realistically, most aliens are pretty lousy fighters once the human civs have progressed past basic technology, but it’s both useful and fun to have free insta-reinforcements if you need them. Without Leash, it’s a long wait for the game to give you anything that isn’t Some Blokes, but with it you can have a more characterful army from the off. With the right research, you can also Leash Collosal Aliens, including the mighty Siege Worm. One of several bugs I encountered in this very slightly pre-release code meant I could Leash those guys from the start, but fortunately it was much more a bit of a fun than an unfair advantage. It also soothes my troubled soul a little – I don’t like wiping out the natives just to clear space or so they stop bothering me, so this is a way to turn things to my advantage without resorting to genocide.

Even so, the politics and philosophy of alien engagement remains almost non-existent. You piss ’em off if you start attacking them, and other civs may raise a spoken eyebrow at your actions, but other than that it is hard to come up with a reason why you wouldn’t wipe them out – even when placid, they simply get in the way. When you start building human-alien hybrids, it’s nothing to do with what’s actually on the planet, simply a result of research. So there aren’t any real consequences to genocide, and I feel that, even with Rising Tide, Beyond Earth hasn’t done anything more than reskin Civ’s Barbarians as aliens. A great shame: you’re on a brand new planet! Dealing with brand new species is profound! It feels as though this is something Beyond Earth’s oddly under-played quest system could toy with, but that’s pretty much still the same dry, pop-up sideshow as before.

The other big shift, in terms of lifting Beyond Earth beyond a retextured Earth, is sweeping change to water. There was some basic naval stuff in Beyond Earth, but fundamentally an ocean was just a body of water to cross in order to settle or battle elsewhere. Now, it’s something to build on, and to fight over. I often steer clear of naval stuff in Civ games if I can, because little grey boats are boring and it’s just one more thing to manage amid millions, so I wasn’t overjoyed that Rising Tide seemed to be fleshing out the oceans but not the land. The good news is that water is now effectively an alternative landmass, upon which you can construct new cities, which in turn have access to special aquatic tech that land-locked settlements do not. They can also, as a build order, be made to move ever so slightly across the water, thus adding territory, as they can’t acquire it via Culture, as the land cities can. It’s not as exciting as it sounds, and I found it more expedient to simply buy new hexes with Energy instead.

The aquatic stuff all folds in very naturally though, becoming part of your ongoing expansion and involving its own aliens, units and tense sieges. There’s new prettiness to behold too – strange minerals and impossible science lurking beneath the water’s skin. Arguably that side of things is superficial, but it all adds to that much-needed sense that this is not just Earth with some funny rocks scattered here and there. Attacking (or defending) an aquatic city presents a fascinating new type of challenge, too: you can’t just invade with your best ground units, as they’ll get picked off as they cross the water, but instead have to raise an army of boats with which to encircle it.

Meanwhile, a single enemy boat could head around the ocean’s perimeter and grab one of your aquatic cities if you’ve been complacent enough to leave it unprotected because it’s on the side of the world, in the middle of the sea, and you’ve got a few new alien species causing trouble too. You don’t get the relative safety that the more clustered, easy to reach land cities offer. In other words, if you’re at all combative, you have to go all-in to naval battles. The sea is the world now, not a mere obstacle. In a way, it’s just reusing something that was already there in Beyond Earth and Civ V alike, but it’s genuinely successful in making Beyond Earth’s world feel, well, beyond Earth.

A couple of new biomes, replete with new species, and some more specialised additional leaders also add much-needed colour, as does a handful of new, more science-fictional Affinity units, designed to give more satisfying (both visually and tactically) pay-offs for specialising your research approach. Long-term, all these things will be vital to ensuring subsequent campaigns don’t feel as interchangeable as they did in the parent game. It’s real progress, and the game’s so much more interesting for it.

So far so good, then. Unfortunately the other big change – a massive overhaul of the Diplomacy system – didn’t sit at all well with me. The old request/demand assistance setup has been dropped, the feeling being that other leaders were simply too unfamiliar to have vaguely predictable behaviours (i.e. you’d expect Genghis Khan to be a bit of a prick, but the president of the ARC is such a total unknown that it just feels unfair when they randomly declare war) and that there wasn’t enough insight into their attitude towards you. Now, each Leader has a Fear and Respect rating towards you, which opens up various trade and co-operation options depending on how high they are, and potentially leads to exploitation or war depending on how low they are.

You don’t trade science or resources this way, but instead you essentially rent bonuses in exchange for Diplomacy Points. Chuck 150 points plus 15 per turn at Polynesia and they’ll do… something which means you generate more culture, or new settlements found instantly. Or vice-versa: they’ll come to you offering points for prizes, which you’ll want to accept because diplomacy points can unlock Civ-wide bonuses akin to Virtues and because they can be used as an alternative currency with which to insta-purchase units and buildings. New/revised buildings and tech unlocks also pump out the Diplo-points.

Yes, it’s very game-y and perhaps hard to identify the internal logic behind it (I can buy more factories because I had a number of positive conversations with other nations?), but it holds together, and very much contributes to dragging Beyond Earth away from Civ’s over-familiar shores, and to allowing you to play it as a placater rather than aggressor. I think the diplomacy points will cause some grumbles as they’re just an added layer of statistical complexity rather than making the underlying ones more interesting or human, but in my experience there are two far more significant problems in the new system.

The first issue is that it makes decisions for you. Choose a policy bonus thingy that you want, chat with the Leader who can provide it, and the game will offer a fixed, pre-determined amount of Diplomacy points to trade for it. You can’t alter the offer, so when they say no – as they often do, for entirely opaque reasons – there’s nothing you can do about it. I had thousands of points in the bank, but couldn’t offer more. Everyone was saying no despite being in alliances with me, and there was not a thing I could do about it. I think this has been done in order to prevent a rich-get-richer situation, whereby you can bankroll your way into multiple massive bonuses, but, well, isn’t that Civ all over anyway?

Far more problematically, the same problem exists when it comes to brokering peace. There’s a new War Points system that shows who’s broadly doing best and then, behind the scenes, makes a calculation as to what each side will offer in order to agree to peace. Where Civ traditionally allows you to stipulate what you want and/or are prepared to sacrifice, now it decides for you. So, for instance, I’d absolutely steamrollered this troublesome Civ; I didn’t want to wipe them out but I needed to stop them attacking me. I crushed their army, then went to offer peace. The game decreed that I would demand one of their cities from them – there was no option to alter this deal. They said no. Of course they said no. I didn’t even want their city: I just wanted peace so I could get back on pursuing a chilled-out Transcendence victory. Instead, I was locked into conquest. Later on, they came to me offering me their city in the name of peace. I had to accept. They hated me for it and so attacked again later. Stupid, just stupid. Similarly, had I instead kicked seven bells out of another Civ and they then begged me for peace, I would not be able to make demands in exchange for mercy. The deal is fixed, based only upon whatever the game has silently decided behind the scenes.

Problem two is alliances. Depending on your Fear/Respect rating, you can request any of these relationships with other Civs: War, Sanctioned, Neutral, Co-operating, Allied. The former can be made to happen from acts of aggression, as always, while Sanctioned is in theory where you end up just after making peace or if someone really, really doesn’t trust you. In theory. The reality is that your relationship with someone can switch from Allied to War in a heartbeat, and it’s not obvious why. There are small pop-ups throughout letting you know about minor shifts in respect and fear, but very rarely is there any warning that someone’s getting antsy: suddenly they just declare war outright, with no apparent diplomatic consequences to themselves for breaking off the alliance.

Right now, there’s a further issue. If someone does declare war on you, no-one you are allied with will come to your aid. However, if a Civ declares war an another Civ you are allied with, you will immediately be at war with that first Civ, whether you want to be or not. 2K have confirmed to me and another journalist who’s experiencing the same headache that this is a known issue – there’s a patch in the works to ensure allies will indeed join you in any war you declare. “Firaxis is working on getting this fixed,” is the official response, but it will most likely not happen in time for tomorrow’s launch.

This would appear to be a related bug: when allied with two civs who go to war with each other, I swiftly found myself at war with both civs. It didn’t happen immediately or consistently – one would instantly turn on me, and the other a few moments later, declaring their outrage at my violent ways. Then everyone else gradually joined in too. I ended up in horrific loops of conflict with people who were supposed to be my allies, constant domino effects triggering as their allies – also my allies – turned on me. (And no-one helping me, of course). I’d eventually make it back to Co-operating or Allied status, only for them to declare war again moments later. I think the fact my Fear rating was maxing out as I raised an army to defend myself only deepened their hatred of me, but the only way I found out of it was to, eventually, totally obliterate the two Civs who’d originally declared war on each other, which presumably was the Gordian knot at the centre of all this mutually-confused destruction.

It’s a bug, so I shouldn’t spend too much time on it, but it made my game a nightmare and so I must conclude: hold off. Wait for the patch(es). Play right now and there’s a big chance you’ll be soured against a game you might otherwise enjoy. Or, on the other hand, it could turn out that it’s weeks or months before this is resolved. I sincerely doubt that, but: hold off for now. This is an expansion priced as if it were a full game, and so you are very much entitled to expect it to work properly.

And even putting bugs aside, I found the new Diplomacy system infuriating in its restrictions. The wholesale removal of active negotiation for peace or requests for your allies to join you in a war is bewildering, as is the gutting of trade negotations. I appreciate that Beyond Earth finally has the confidence to not simply hang off Civ V’s coat-tails, but taking away meaningful agency when it comes to a critical part of the game – how you relate to other Civs – seems absolutely crazy.

And so it is that this piece must end on something of a cliffhanger. I can’t safely recommend for or against Rising Tide, because I need to see how the Diplomacy plays out over the coming days. In the build I have here, it’s a disaster, so I need to see whether that changes, and how soon. The new aliens’n’ocean stuff is thoughtful and entertaining, pushing the sci-fi further and helping Beyond Earth take much-needed strides away from Civ V, building it at last into a game you have to figure out rather than just go through the motions with. It still comes up short on character compared to the best Civs and, of course, Alpha Centauri, but it’s without doubt less anodyne than before. Diplomacy, however, seems to me like a significant misfire even without the bugs – the question of your place in this new world, and in relation to your rivals, remains unresolved. I suspect Beyond Earth’s road to recovery has only just begun.

I will be updating this piece once the patch arrives, and we’ll see if it alters my feelings about the Diplomacy system or not.

Rising Tide is released tomorrow.

52 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    municipalis says:

    Ah good, another offering from Firaxis taking the two steps forward, one step back approach to fixing their previous half-assed offering.

    • dontnormally says:

      quill18 “I’m not crazy right? This is the stupidest thing ever?”

    • Osmedirez says:

      That.. that isn’t ‘one step back’.

      “The deal is fixed, based only upon whatever the game has silently decided behind the scenes.”

      That’s 10000% a deal breaker. To me this makes any and all improvements made to the diplomacy options null and void. Thanks for the heads up, RPS. It sounds like they won’t ‘fix’ this problem based on the way it’s designed, and I will never spend money on a game that requires a mod to make it ‘worth playing’. That’s just an insane removal of agency that will ruin any game I try to play just by being there. Well, thanks for the heads up RPS.

  2. ButteringSundays says:

    “For instance, there’s a new tech which keeps them calm, so you don’t have hell to pay every time you have to stomp one of their nests, and another which lets you sic ‘em on an enemy. The best addition is Leash, however, which lets you make any alien into your own personal fighting pet.”

    So basically colonialism.

    Not at all the kind of game I’d want out of an off-world civ. They’ve basically just created a shitty society and replaced minorities with insects.

    • jeeger says:

      Well, the aliens in Civ:BE don’t seem to be sentient, so calling the “leash” technology “imperialism” really breaks down. Or would you call animal husbandry “imperialism” as well?

      • LionsPhil says:

        The impression I’m getting is that the colonists aren’t really bothering to find out how intelligent or not the native life may be before they start subjugating or massacring it for being in the way.

    • killias2 says:

      I’m not sure if comparing “insects” to “minorities” is terribly brilliant on your part. Might want to rethink that.

      • Distec says:

        I thought the hand-wringing over Prison Architect was silly enough. This takes the cake, this week.

        • acheron says:

          I assumed the OP there was a parody of some sort.

        • dontnormally says:

          The privatized prison industry is one of the most terrifying aspects of current-day USA.

          That said, the game is alright.

  3. wondermoth says:

    I can’t believe they’re charging £30 for this, and I’m somewhat surprised the staggering price of the still-broken patch-that-needs-to-be-patched hasn’t been mentioned in the article.

    I really want to play BE again. I really want to buy this update. But there is no fucking way I’m paying £30 for it, even when it’s been patched into usability.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Exactly. I like Civ:BE and want to like it more, but I’m not paying that much for an expansion of an expansion.

      Fortunately, Lord Gaben will eventually grace us with a rising tides sale.

    • Creeping Death says:

      This is why you look at storefronts other than Steam. It’s £18 on amazon.

    • Aetylus says:

      Are 2K taking their Aussie price gouging to British shores also? I’ve seen a number of similar conversations on the Xcom2 forums. We’ve been paying a good chunk more than the Americans for anything with a 2K logo on it for a long time… sorry if that plague has spread to you guys also.

      Best I can recommend is delaying buying anything 2K until reviews come out saying it is awesome… saves you having to spend any money on BE for instance.

  4. RuySan says:

    I really dislike how Firaxis thinks that just adding more stuff makes a strategy game better, when in fact can lead to bloat and micromanagement.

    For each welcome addition in the Civ’s expansions, there were more needless additions that just added micromanagement (i.e. espionage, trade routes, big corporations in Civ4). This seems to be heading the same way.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I’m going to take a “wait and see” approach here. I definitely agree with your point, and think that the Civ IV expansions are some of the most overrated expansions I’ve ever played. However, the expansions for XCOM and especially Civ V were very thoughtful, directly addressing specific issues and filling in gaps and shoring up weaknesses. We’ll see where Rising Tide falls on the expansion spectrum.

      • RuySan says:

        I have to agree with the XCOM expansion there. It definitely improved the base game.

        My problem with Civ 5 expansions is that while they have have added bloat, they also brought some welcome additions, and since I could never decide if i waned to play vanilla or not, i stopped playing the game altogether. Besides, it seems the expansion exacerbate the problem of the game becoming really slow in the late game, at least for me.

    • draglikepull says:

      Vanilla Civ IV was pretty much perfect. The expansions just muddied it up. Any time I play Civ IV (and I still do) I do it without any expansions installed.

  5. cpt_freakout says:

    Sounds like they lost an RTS in there somewhere, and removed stuff from the base game in order to see if they could find it. Hmph, I’ll just keep waiting for XCOM 2.

  6. frogmanalien says:

    Deeply disappointing – as if the bugs of Civ 5 weren’t bad enough (multiplayer was beyond a joke for well over a year) it amazes me that a game picking up the Civ engine would continue to be buggy for the sake of new features.

    It seems to me that all the new features just add fog to the core game – and goes for the original BE and this one from what’s been said- Tech trees versus webs, diplomacy without control, etc.

    I’ve gone back to earlier Civ’s and find them far more enjoyable and robust (despite being written for Operating systems that have long since gone EoL) – anyone know the closest thing to a Civ4 redux?

    • killias2 says:

      If you love Civ 4, the best option is still, far and away, Civ 4. I should really revisit it sometime, as it’s still probably the best 4x ever made.

      I also wouldn’t mind a new take on Colonization. The Civ 4-originated remake was fine, but there’s so much more potential there. Lots of good ideas but never quite the execution to match.

  7. icecoldbud says:

    “Right now, there’s a further issue. If someone does declare war on you, no-one you are allied with will come to your aid. However, if a Civ declares war an another Civ you are allied with, you will immediately be at war with that first Civ, whether you want to be or not. 2K have confirmed to me and another journalist who’s experiencing the same headache that this is a known issue”

    So they are releasing dlc with known issues to a game that really could of been a mod to civ5 for 30 bucks! They suckered me into buying the game, well not this time!

  8. heyhellowhatsnew says:

    Dear nerds: There will never be an Alpha Centauri. There will never be another MOO2. Get over it. Move on with your lives. You will be much happier that way rather than live in your childhood nostalgia nerddreams.

    • killias2 says:

      To be fair, there have been like a billion straight rip-offs of MoO 1/2. Practically the whole Space 4x sub-genre is an endless series of (mostly bad) remakes.

      • dontnormally says:

        I don’t think i’ve ever seen a ripoff of MoO1, though. It really is one-of-a-kind.

    • Neutrino says:

      There will. Even if I have to make it myself.

    • grimdanfango says:

      As with most things… it certainly won’t happen if we do what you suggest and just accept what we’re given.
      If you want something, why the hell *not* let it be known that you want it.

    • Babymech says:

      Haha, shows what you know. There already was an Alpha Centauri.

    • Rindan says:

      But fucking why!? Why oh fucking why couldn’t they have just taken the things done right with AC, spruced up the interface, and called it a day? Just shamelessly steal, give it prettier graphics, and add on some glitter and refinement to the stuff that didn’t work.

      It doesn’t make any god damn sense. How can you be making Civ:BE and intentionally pick dumb fucking system that doesn’t work. It would be forgivable if they were pioneering something here, but they are not. There is a gold standard, go fucking steal from it. If you happen to have an original idea that isn’t shit, slap that on top.

      The thing that kills me the most is that I was so pumped up for Civ:BE. The affinity system sounded AWESOME. It sounded to me like they learned from AC. I was prepared from a game that look at what AC did and cranked it to 11. I was ready for civilizations that radically diverged in culture and technology, and that had wildly different styles of play. I was excited for a new story and new mechanics. I didn’t want AC2, I just wanted a game that had learned a fucking lesson and then went beyond. I don’t want that anymore. At this point, I would be happy if they got the game to the point where its mechanics suck less than Civ5’s mechanics.

      I can’t say that my hopes have been dashed by this expansion as that would imply I had positive expectations. The expansion sounded like shit when they first announced it and stuff they were working on. There was a complete and total tone deafness when they explained the expansions mechanics that really blew me out of the water. I small part of me hoped that they were going to turn it around, but clearly they have not.

      Someone will pick up the torch eventually. If it wasn’t for the fact that good AI seems to be the bane of smaller indie developers, we probably would have had a worthwhile successor already.

    • melancholicthug says:

      What an asinine comment. Nostalgia? I still play AC, almost 20 years later and probably could do so for 20 more, and it’s loads better than the crap they try to force down our collective throats, like this one.

    • Blastaz says:

      Youngling.

      MOO 1 was best MOO.

      MOO 2 was the beginning of the end!

  9. Neutrino says:

    Considering that all they had to do was remake AC with better graphics it’s really disappointing that even after a patch so long in the making Beyond Earth is still seemingly so lacking in the core areas of diplomacy and conflict. And I still can’t quite get my head around the notion that purchasers of the original game will have to pay again to even get the patch.

    I was looking forward to this coming out but when the reviews suggested holding off for the first patch, and then it turned out that we’d have to pay separately for the patch this dropped off my radar quicker than a Malaysian airliner (too soon?).

    I’m hoping against hope that the upcoming MOO remake turns out better.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Colour me unimpressed on the MOO remake so fun. Stellaris from Paradox looks far more promising.

    • mouton says:

      I love SMAC but I wouldn’t want just a remake. I am sorry, but I dislike this “carbon copy of your childhood” approach.

      What they needed to do is make a different game with somewhat similar amount of personality. Obviously, they failed.

      • Rindan says:

        The core of a “remake” for me, would just be a game with some fucking personality. Seriously, just give civilizations a little character and don’t totally fuck up the mechanics. To this day I can name every single SMAC faction leaders, civilization, ideology, and what their cities looked like. My memory is shit, but they were just so memorable; as memorable as any computer game character. People still quote the characters like they were real people. It is sad and pathetic that Civ:BE couldn’t even get that right, to say nothing of actual mechanics.

        • ZeroWaitState says:

          The Civ games are basically board games where the computer is managing the cardboard bits for you. If they want to make an interesting game, they need to study modern board games harder. The problem with Civ is that the way you interact with other players is limited to setting up a trade route and attacking someone. That’s pretty much it. Compare that to a board game like Dune (or Rex, which is the modern version), where there was one player everyone had to pay to put new units on the board, and another one that controls the landscape, and another that could flip battles they weren’t even involved in. That meant when a critical conflict came up, you had to think about the political landscape and which player might profit from a particular outcome, beyond just controlling territory. That was a real diplomacy system. It’s also really hard to make a computer good at playing that system, which is why I suspect we have a million Risk clones coming out of Firaxis these days.

      • Neutrino says:

        When a particular game has already nailed solid core mechanics does each new iteration of it really need to tear them up and attempt a completely different (and probably shit) new implementation? Chess boards are made now that are fancier than the ones we used in the past, but the core game mechanics have stood the test of time, so we don’t change then every five years. Why can’t that be true of classic PC games too without that being characterised as wanting to ‘carbon copy your childhood’?

  10. Carlos Danger says:

    My first and main thoughts about colonizing a new planet would not revolve around diplomacy. I would rather they focus on the trials of establishing a civilization on an alien planet which seem to have been glossed over and relegated to a footnote status at best, again.

  11. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Guess this goes straight to the grab the goty-edition in sale for 5€ list.

  12. nimbulan says:

    Well this is pretty much what I expected. A couple token efforts to improve the game but overall it doesn’t really sound any better than the vanilla game.

    I can’t say I really understand why they added new factions though. They by design have zero personality and are completely interchangeable with the rest so why does having more of them matter?

  13. Zenicetus says:

    Well, so much for that. I was rethinking my disappointment about this game the other day, and willing to maybe give it another shot if diplomacy sounded like it would be fun.

    Diplomacy is a weak spot in the other games I’m playing now like Endless Legend and GalCiv3. So I figured if Firaxis was going to downplay any interesting interaction with the aliens and focus so much on faction conflicts, then at least it would offer something I wasn’t getting in these other games. Intrigue, manipulation, alliances, etc. And they can’t even get THAT right?

    At this point it’s not even looking like a candidate for a Steam sale pickup for me, unless they completely revamp that canned-offer negotiation system. I don’t want the game making decisions for me, or locking off assets I can trade. I can’t believe they thought this was a good idea.

  14. WiggumEsquilax says:

    The one part of Alpha Centauri that I didn’t enjoy was aquatic cities. I prefer the fundamental separation between land and sea, the impeding terrain to your movement and settlement.

    Settling water tiles effectively creates a never-ending landmass. The only difference between water and land now being the types of units that can traverse it. For me at least, very boring.

  15. Chufty says:

    mutually-confused destruction

    Splendid phrase!

    Er yeah shame about the bugs, but at least that means I’ll get something useful done this weekend.

  16. stampy says:

    boy, i cant _wait_ to never buy this!

  17. racccoon says:

    NoOOOoooooOOOoo my eyes…..please stop!! no more honeycombs no more HEXXXXXXXX!!!

  18. Ufofighter says:

    I can summarize my opinion as: I’m thankful of the refund policy of Steam.

    I put a clock alarm at 1 hour and 50 minutes… I was asking for a refund before that.

  19. BillyBumbler says:

    I’ve been playing Legacy of the Void beta, and I just love all the combat units. I’m wondering if a turn based WarCraft or StarCraft with 4X lite elements could ever work.

  20. Titler says:

    A lot of the issues with AI diplomacy mentioned in this preview aren’t actually bugs, but the same old terrible design choices Firaxis has been foisting on Civ based games for years now, sadly.

    The AI suddenly turning on you is by design, as admitted often on the forums; the basic attitudes and your shared history with each other influences the chances, but there was always a random chance they’d just declare war anyway. And the stronger you got the more likely it was for them to combine behind your back and have the entire world declare war upon you… This was supposedly just to prevent gameplay becoming stale, and avoid allowing the player to rapidly become untouchable, but they never, EVER got the balance right for anyone but the most insanely talented players… You’d be on a map with 7 AIs, beat one after a hard fought war, and suddenly you had all 6 declare on you at once before you had time to recover, and it would make the game unwinnable.

    You’d also find you could invest entire hours of strategy into building up rock solid alliances only to find your ally turn against you because of random chance, or even because you’re doing too well in the mutual war they just asked you to join…

    … oh, and Alliances didn’t work if you declared war, only if one of you were attacked. So again you were hobbled from actually winning the game on the macro level by your own planning; The inability of allies to recognise a defensive war in this expansion probably actually is a bug, but they’re never going to be actually useful because then you can clevely use the AI to help win, and Firaxis doesn’t want you using strategy at all, simply winning by being so ungodly good at powergaming the basic game that the AI can’t keep up with you even when it cheats to buggery.

    And that is just NO FUN. The first two Civilizations are probably up there with the best games of all time for me… I played months on Civ 1 for the Commodore Amiga, but from 3 onwards I’ve just increasingly felt cheated and abused by the games because, at anything above Prince difficulty, the arbitrary negative consequences of the actual gameplay made it a miserable experience. Someone actually gifted me a copy of Beyond Earth on Steam, but I’ve never even installed it because the way Firaxis thinks has put me off so much… it’s agonizing to play cleverly, then see all your work undone because the only way to stop AI constantly attacking you is wipe them out, but if you do that you get a genocide penalty and…

    • carewolf says:

      This has been the case since Civ3. It is not a problem on most difficulties, but if you want to win on the highest difficulty, then you have to meta-game the AI, basically minimizing agro while having power they don’t recognize or respond to.

  21. Zenicetus says:

    I was desperate for something new to play over the weekend, so I broke down and bought it. I’m rationalizing it as a gamble towards future improvement, and maybe it’s throwing good money after bad. At least I can form my own opinion and track whatever they do to patch it up, going forward.

    The hotfix for allies not joining the player going to war is appreciated, but they still need to fix the stupid way peace is negotiated, where the player has no input on the results. Right now it’s easier just to avoid wars (if you can), or go for flat-out domination and ignore what everyone else thinks of your civ.

    One big side effect of the water expansion — which I don’t think was mentioned in the RPS review — is the way it flattens the map and removes a layer of strategy, since you can now settle a city anywhere except mountains. The AI will expand with no preference for land or sea, just prioritizing resource locations.

    Depending on how the random landings work in each game, it can mean far fewer border conflicts with other factions, compared to vanilla BE. There is just so much more room available now. You have to play on smaller maps with high numbers of factions to get into frequent border conflicts, since there is no reason not to expand over the water and away from anyone else you run into. At least until the late game.

    It almost feels like a space 4X in that respect, with free movement for settling in any direction. Not sure I like this, but I have to play a few more games to see how it pans out. At least there are still settings that can start the game with more or less water (determining the combat units you’ll use), and an “age” setting for frequency of mountains and craters that form barriers. I might end up playing with lots of mountains in this game, if the AI can handle it.