Civilization: Beyond Earth a Pandora’s Box of opportunities

You’ve just engaged Ghandi in an all-out nuclear war and your frail empire is in tatters, you decide that the only way to win the game is to funnel all your resources into sending man beyond earth and into the stars. And so the late game stage of Civilization V is usually played out, but have you ever wondered what happens next, when your intrepid explorers have reached their new homes? Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth picks up at this point, acting as both a spiritual sequel to Civilization V, and the earlier 4X classic Alpha Centuri. Focussing on the explorers sent out to distant planets Beyond Earth is Civilization with a sci-fi twist.

The game itself is heavily based upon the recent and successful Civilization V, utilising not only the basic engine and gameplay but also borrowing several of the graphics. This derivative nature at first leaves the game feeling less like a new property, and more like a glorified modpack or DLC. The classic elements that make 4X gaming so compelling – eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate – are all present in Beyond Earth. The exploration and expansion element are brilliantly handled as you delve deep into a sci-fi smorgasbord of advanced technologies and new worlds waiting to be explored. The exploitation and extermination aspects also feel different. The guilt of exterminating native populations is replaced with sheer joy as you rain down fiery, satellite-based death upon an unsuspecting alien population. There are few things better than the satisfaction of blasting giant space-worms with space-lasers.

The game features a heavily redesigned technology tree, now less of a tree and more of a spider’s web. No longer is the pressure there to research certain techs before advancing to the next level, instead your civilization can learn how to transcend their physical forms without even having researched basic physics. Questions may be asked over why a space-faring civilization does not already have a basic knowledge of physics, but without a basic technology level the game would feel as if it had thrown its players into deep space without any preparation. Civilization: Beyond Earth also throws in a new concept based on an orbital layer. Building on the satellite and SDI features employed in Civilization IV, the orbital layer allows you to launch all manner of satellites and orbital battle stations. The orbital layer not only adds a further aspect to the game mechanic, but also feeds into the storyline centred around a return to Earth. The orbital layer is key to establishing communications and power throughout the game.

The game itself does feel very similar to previous games in the Civilization franchise; however, it lacks a sense of historical familiarity that propels it into the unknown. While this may make it harder to warm to the civilization’s plights on this new alien world it opens up a Pandora’s Box of opportunities.

Frank Jackman

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