‘Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth’ Review

Platforms PC

Developer 2K Games   Publisher Firaxis

Genre Turn-based Strategy Platform Played On PC

At first glance, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth looks a lot like its predecessor, Civilization V. The map is the same hex grid format of a landscape dotted with resources, potential enemies, and occasionally hard to navigate terrain. However, while it is very clearly based on the format used in Civ VBeyond Earth introduces a number of features that serve to change the gameplay into something that, while not entirely new, is certainly different.

You will encounter some of the new mechanics even before you technically begin a game. Rather than choose an established civilization with set bonuses, Beyond Earth lets you build your own. Each player picks a “sponsor” and customizes their colonists, spacecraft, and cargo. These options allow you to tailor your civilization to your preferred play style. Are you interested in spying on other civs? ARC has a bonus to espionage. Do you want to build culture quickly? Selecting artists as your colonists grants a bonus to culture and health in each city, and so on. The result is a colony of your creation with unique goals and philosophies.

Quests are another new mechanic in Beyond Earth. The quest log keeps track of a variety of objectives that, when completed, grant bonuses to resources. Every once in a while, a quest decision will pop up, and you will have the opportunity to choose between two options. Usually these quests offer a choice between one bonus or another. Even these small binary options speak to the more finely tuned game mechanics, allowing players to adjust the output of a civilization as it develops.

As you play, you will choose an affinity for your empire to focus on. Will you choose Harmony and begin adapting to your new home, choose Supremacy and use advancing technology to create cyborgs, or choose purity and use genetics to improve the human condition at whatever cost? These three affinities will ultimately dictate your progression through the new technology web, the upgrades your units will receive, and even the victory type you will be able to pursue, so it’s definitely a good idea to choose a pathway early. Harmony for example, allows you to build units similar to the alien wildlife, earn bonuses from the previously harmful environment, and even go full-on Dune late game by calling a Siege Worm to attack a rival city. Frank Herbert would be proud.

The technology tree from previous Civilization games has become a web, which allows for a variety of progression paths. There is no longer an immediate need to reinvent the wheel every time you start a new game. However, the tech web is where Beyond Earth shows its fairly steep learning curve; it is incredibly easy to waste time in the early game if you’re not sure which direction you want to go. The web has a search function that makes finding a building or unit needed for a quest quickly as well as a filter that allows you to select only technologies that fall into a particular category. The filter saved me a ton of time once I chose to pursue a particular affinity.

There are two things I really love about Civilization: Beyond Earth. The first is the way units are upgraded. In previous Civ games, you had to spend money to upgrade each unit individually or risk being caught with outdated technology by an enemy with a few tanks. In Beyond Earth, your units are upgraded as you earn affinity points, and they are all updated at the same time. If I sound a little too excited about that, it is because I almost always lose track of a unit or two and wind up with a random archer during the endgame. My other favorite part of Beyond Earth is more of a Civilization tradition than an actual mechanic, but I have been having a blast picking out the numerous pop culture references throughout the game. The Steam achievements alone contain references to FireflyMass Effect, and Dune among others. Are you a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fan? Perhaps you can pursue the “42” achievement and learn all techs in the techweb. Do you like Ender’s Game? Then maybe you will appreciate the option to build an ansible fairly late in the game. Plus the aliens are mostly bugs, even if the Formics weren’t green.

Overall I definitely feel like Beyond Earth is a strong addition to what is already a successful series. There are times where the game feels a bit more like Civ V than I would like, but who can fault Firaxis for sticking with a good formula? The quest decisions keep players engaged, and the new affinity system coupled with the tech web ensures that each playthrough will offer something new. Considering how much the Brave New World and Gods & Kings expansions served to change the gameplay of Civ V, I am excited to see what Firaxis has planed for Beyond Earth.

The Good

  • Engaging quest mechanics
  • Customize your own civilization
  • Upgrade units all at once

The Bad

  • Occasionally feels a little too similar to Civ V 
  • Steep learning curve for new players

The Score: 8