GAME REVIEW: SID MEIER’S CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH / DEVELOPER: FIRAXIS GAMES / PUBLISHER: 2K GAMES / PLATFORM: PC, OSX, LINUX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Effectively the Alpha Centauri to Civilization V, this latest effort by Firaxis to establish a sci-fi strategy title is a release fans will both love and hate. Set in the distant future and the collapse of modern society, humanity has flung itself out into the stars. Between fraying tempers, clashing ideologies and limited resources, the humans are just as likely to combat one another as the dangerous alien natives of the worlds they have descended upon.
Anyone who played Civ V will instantly pick up on a vast number of similarities between the titles, from the hex-based grid system to the general presentation. From accessing cities to engaging in diplomacy, it initially looks at first glance like Civ V with a new coat of paint, but scratch the surface and you will soon find massive changes. Chief among these is the technology system, with the traditional tree being abandoned in favour of a web, with you starting in the centre. Rather than progressing onwards, you branch out, leaning towards one affinity or another as you progress. This dramatically alters your victory conditions, how native life reacts to you, and makes the game far more reliant upon you upgrading and altering certain units than constructing entirely new ones.
The aliens themselves rack up the difficulty, proving to be far more effective and organised than the barbarian tribes of past titles, and emerging with their own units. The likes of the kraken and Godzilla-sized monsters are something which will cause you no end of headaches should you go in all guns blazing. This isn’t to say that humanity doesn’t have its own new set of weird and wonderful weapons to call upon, with the ANGEL mech and orbital weapons facilities both packing a serious punch.
Unfortunately, the title also suffers from a fair number of notable issues which hold Beyond Earth back from accomplishing its true potential. While the game has obviously been built atop of Civ V, it regrettably omitted the more interesting elements of its expansions. With no religion, or few other notable developments such as great works, the game can seem oddly simplistic in its approach. If you only truly began to enjoy Civ V after God & Kings was released, this can seem like a definite step back. Even ignoring this however, the narrative and leaders of the game are far weaker than in other titles, each lacking the impact encountering Genghis Khan or fighting the Spartan Federation would have.
If you want Civilization with phasers and tyranids this is a must buy, but if you’re after a truly expansive and complex 4X title, look elsewhere.