The choices we make, the chances we take, determine our destiny. That has been one of the core pillars of Sid Meier’s Civilization series since the beginning. We choose how we want to grow a society, whether to fight or use our resolve, where to pull our resources and where to position ourselves for the best outcome. You can dump hours and hours into a game of Civilization and by the end, you’ve either come out a better person, or have had everything destroyed in one fell swoop. The newest entry into the Civ series is certainly no different, but this time it takes a page from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri by turning you into space pioneers. And while the game lifts a lot of the core concepts and control schemes from Civilization V, Beyond Earth stands on its own as an in-depth look at the beginning of a new society in a not too distant future.
Before you get into the game you first need to figure out the where and who. Where will you plant your flag and build your new society and who is supporting you. Instead of the usual nationalities selection, you’re given eight civilizations to choose from, each with their own bonuses that differentiate themselves wildly from the other. You can choose the resource specialties of your colonists which affects output once you start building cities, you can customize your spaceship to get a better lay of the land, and you can choose the cargo you take with you which helps start you up once you’ve arrived. From there you land in an area where you feel like you’re most likely to get the most energy (the currency in the game) and then you build.
If you’ve played Civ 5 then you should have a pretty good idea of what to do from here. You develop in a hex grid and can get food, start production, spend energy to grow, establish virtues, essentially the same as before, except in one key area: science. Instead of a tech tree like before, you’re given six branching pathways, each with their own specialties and ways to help raise your affinity, and that’s just from the start. Over time it builds and grows and while it can be a bit daunting at first, with enough time, it becomes one of the more impressive aspects of the game. Speaking of affinity, you’re given three affinities from the start Supremacy, Harmony and Purity, and each of them can have a major effect not only on how you beat the game, but how the game will play out for your society. Depending on how you choose, it will make the game a lot easier or harder for you later in the game.
Eventually though, you may need to fight and when you do, pray it’s not against the aliens, which replace barbarians in Beyond Earth. Though not hostile generally (depending on how you play), they provide an interesting foil for your society as they can easily crush you if you get in your way and aren’t readily prepared. City states are less of an issue, and you still have the option of fighting or using diplomacy to reach an end a lot easier, but can still provide a challenge later on in the game. The only issue there is that some of the representatives start to blend together after a while, so keeping track of who likes who and who hates who gets a bit hard to focus on.
The graphics and the score are absolutely top notch in this game. The flora and fauna, the lush colors and even the humans themselves all look spectacular and look absolutely gorgeous on a high setting. As for the music, not only did they get Geoff Knorr and Michael Curran, who won a Grammy on their work with Civ 5, but they brought in Griffen Cohen, a newcomer and Grant Kirkhope, who is known widely for his work on Rare titles like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. You can listen to this score for hours on end without getting bored and each track feels like it fits the mood perfectly. If nothing else, the presentation in Beyond Earth should keep you satisfied for a long, long time.
While it can certainly be daunting for newcomers and some elements can feel a bit on the obtuse side, Civilization: Beyond Earth is a stellar entry in the Civilization series, worthy of it’s place next to the other titles in the series. With an enormous amount of choice, tons of replayability, and an amazing level of presentation, this is a game that fans of the series should definitely not miss.