Civilization: Beyond Earth Hands-On Preview
If you’re a fan of everything Sid Meier like me, October can’t come soon enough.
Sid Meier has once again turned his gaze to the stars as Firaxis Games gears up to release the newest entry in the Civilization series, Civilization: Beyond Earth. I recently had some hands on time with Beyond Earth and discovered some new and interesting details on my 100-turn journey.
Beyond Earth takes the Civilization model many of us have come to know and love, and covered it with a heavy application of science-fiction-themed paint. If you’ve played Civilization V, you’ll have no problem picking up the game and getting right into the action. But don’t let the approachability for franchise veterans mislead you: There is enough new in Beyond Earth to take your battle-tested strategy and render it unusable.
One of the first things players will notice when they sit down with Beyond Earth is a new feature in the Civilization universe: a concept called “seeded starts.” With seeded starts, the player defines a short background for their civilization prior to setting out on a newly habitable planet, with specific perks that will affect your starting priorities and strategy. Seeded starts also allow you to choose from a random assortment of planets, affecting your overall map type.
Your first two choices, “sponsor” and “colonist,” define the two main civilization perks that will persist throughout the entirety of your gameplay. The sponsor defines the faction and the Earthly civilization backing your interstellar expedition. There are eight choices for your designated sponsor, and each will bestow a unique benefit on your civilization on which an overarching strategy can be built and decided. These benefits range from a simple +10 percent food bonus in growing cities, to a 10 percent production boost when building Wonders with +25 percent worker speed.
Colonists augment your sponsor benefit, either by allowing you to double down on your current benefit or by applying an additional perk, which supports your strategy through a secondary parameter. Colonist perks focus on the five main pillars: science, food, energy, production, and culture.
Your last two choices, spacecraft and cargo, define your initial starting advantage. From immediately revealing the coastlines of the map to having a starting amount of the Energy resource, your spacecraft will help define your first couple of turns that will be the foundation to the rest of your game. Having a pool of energy from the start will allow you to build a new unit immediately, while revealing the coastline of a map heavily populated with islands will aid you in initial exploration and determining where to build your next city. Cargo determines what extra item you are bringing with you to aid your burgeoning civilization in expansion, whether its starting with an extra population, or the Pioneering Technology enabling you to build a settler unit before researching it.
A second new feature you will discover is the Quest system. Quests provide the backbone storyline to your individual game. Since your varying actions each game will trigger different quests, they provide a unique flavor to each playthrough. Quests not only help guide players through the game with instructional steps to reach targets, they also help deliver an overall narrative while providing players with interesting things to do for rewards. More importantly, quests define a clear path to victory for your civilization. All victories other than total domination come in the form of quest rewards. Quests will put tough decisions to players, such as whether to attempt to domesticate the local alien fauna or to eradicate it.