October 24, 2014

Sid Meier steals my sleep once again

Beyond Earth... interesting concepts here.

In a lot of ways it's Civ 5 with a new skin on it. Cities make food/money/science and grow semiorganically in an interesting manner (though you tend to get these weird shapes as the city AI prioritizes resources over everything else... which is exactly what it should be doing from a gameplay perspective, to be sure, but your cities end up looking like Congressional districts after a particularly bad gerrymander). The trade system is straight out of Civ 5. There's even minor powers, in a game where that doesn't particularly make a whole lot of sense thematically, though they've been toned down from "one city civilizations" to "send your trade guys here for teh bonus!"

The biggest difference is in the technology and development of your civilization. In all the previous Civ games, everyone was on the same development arc, and you basically had to pick up all but a handful of the technologies somewhere along the line. BE has a "web" with branch-and-leaf techs (basically, you move along the web to "branch" techs, then you can pick up "leaves" that you're interested in from that branch). You are NOT going to get all the techs, not even remotely; even all of the branches is unlikely. Many of the techs are... unimpressive in their effect, giving you a building or two, possibly not all of which you can use, because of...

...the affinity system. Hoh, now we're getting somewhere. Basically this forms the "theme" of your civ's development. Are you concentrating on Harmony with the weirdness of the new planet? Or Purity of the original human form and terraforming? Or Supremacy by saying "screw you biologicals, uploading your brain is where it's at?" Or just a big pick and mix? This ends up having a few different effects on your game. Picking anything and working on it gives you a few direct bonuses, so it can be worth going a bit into all three of the trees. But the game also upgrades your military units, and the further into a tree you go, the bigger the bonuses available, so specializing REALLY helps. (This also prevents the game having to have fifty basic military units - you've got one basic soldier which can be at a dozen or so different upgrade stages, and the game upgrades your whole army automatically.) There are also certain buildings and units which are only available to civs that have reached a certain level of affinity, even if you have the prerequisite tech, culminating in a unique victory condition for each.

These two systems feed into each other big-time. While there are the occasional boosts to your affinities via "virtues" (social policies from old Civs) and quests, the biggest way you can directly manipulate your affinities is by researching the appropriate technologies. So sometimes you'll research a tech that you're not particularly interested in, just for the affinity bonus learning it will give you, because THAT will push you over the upgrade level for one of your units and suddenly your Marines are running around with more combat power than the enemy's armor.

The last big difference is that you generally get a "choice" quest when you do things like build a new building for the first time, and you get to pick an upgrade to it ("do you want this building to produce an extra culture, or an extra food?") Sometimes these choices are pretty trivial, sometimes they're hugely important ("why yes, I would like an extra spy for every one of these things that I build!")

All of these things come together for replayability. Different choices mean you've got a different game, much more so than the usual "rush to certain useful techs before everyone else" of older Civ games. We'll have to see how that works in practice, but it sure feels fresh at first blush.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at 01:02 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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