The Civilization series remains one of the greatest and most famous franchises within the world of gaming, and for good reason. Its style of tactical, turn-based combat is so unique as it takes you through the entire progression of human existence and beyond! You maintain control of the survival of our species and watch your cities flourish and prosper with nothing short of elation. Civilization 5 for me remains the greatest in the series, a game which has kept me awake all night long and will remain to be timeless.
With such a reputation behind Sid Meyer's latest release, Civilization Beyond Earth, has a tremendous degree of pressure placed upon it to succeed. Does it live up to the hype, the pressure and critically acclaimed name? Let's find out!
Civilization takes us to (literal) new heights as man kind expands out into the universe. The vague catastrophic event labelled as 'The Great Mistake' sends mankind out across the galaxy in search of new colonies on extraterrestrial planets. The setting is obviously the greatest change for the series, making a move towards the similar sight of Starcraft II.
With this exciting premise in the back of our minds, does it match the sensation of taking over the history of the world we live in? Sadly, it doesn't. Allow me to explain the reasoning.
As the game gets started you become warmly familiar with the glorious base of controls and establishing settings made famous by the great series. In my mind, I was comparing the experience to the Alien franchise, bear with me here. What I'm referring to is in fact [Prometheus](movie:40483). This film did a few things right, namely casting Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba and having Ridley Scott return as the director. But the film failed catastrophically due to the fact that it was associated with the Alien film canon.
We felt betrayed and appalled by this ridiculous and half-hearted attempt at recreating a glorious sci-fi art piece. While my disdain for Prometheus is far too heavy to compare to how I felt with the new Civilization, it was Beyond Earth's association with Civilization's great moments that in many ways is its downfall.
It starts well, with your spaceship landing and granting you an initial bonus to help you get started, which you select yourself. You then get to meet your neighbours, the aliens. Only thing about these various species is this: there is no reason to care about any of them. Because I don't care, and they are constantly hostile, my only goal was to wipe them out.
At the beginning they place a nice difficulty rating upon the game, they are well designed and can be tough to deal with as you set about establishing trade and growing your army. They are highly unpredictable, great in an enemy for sure, but that's not what the Civilization series is about. We should feel like we can barter with these creatures as opposed to simply wiping them off the face of their own planet. We can't use them to further to the growth of colony, why keep them?
The combat system itself though has to be commended. The new technological advancements have you fascinated to see what each new weapon or unit will have in store for your enemy. It uses the same tactical, square based combat system that we know and love from 5, which is its strong point.
The game also features a great trading system. The negotiation table does receive an update that is worth praising in this game, as many of its other advancements really didn't pan out that well. Being able to use IOUs with other colonies who you don't require anything from is a particularly interesting touch.
Civilization works because we understand the setting. In a brand new sci-fi world, we have so much to understand and learn that it can be daunting to take all of the world's lore in. Beyond Earth doesn't help you in this respect. The Civilization games can certainly be difficult to get into, but I found it particularly hard in this case. It took me a lot longer than I'd have liked to get my footing. I felt...well...alienated.
It is by far nowhere near the strengths that the series has demonstrated in the past. I appreciate its desire to expand to new areas and update the series even further, but I still have no reason as of yet to leave Civilization 5 behind.