Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth preview: boldly going

By Ozzie Mejia, May 20, 2014 8:00am PDT

Even after the planet Earth expires following the Great Mistake, mankind will find a way to carry on, most likely by venturing into space and colonizing whole new worlds. The Civilization series moves into the future with this goal in mind in the upcoming Civilization: Beyond Earth. Shacknews recently had the opportunity to go where no man had gone before and attempt to make a thriving civilization in parts unknown.

Just as in previous Civilization 5, Beyond Earth sticks close employs turn-based strategy and has players attempt to build along a field of hexagons. The object is to build a prosperous land that allows the human race to thrive by investing in futuristic sci-fi technology and engaging in relations (whether friendly or hostile) with the planet's aliens and fellow human colonies.

Creating a peaceful, thriving civilization isn't easy. The unfamiliar world is rife with hazards. Much of it stems from the planet's terrain, which is filled with green mist, magma, and alien nests, all of which pose danger to careless explorers. Aliens will often prove hostile, showing themselves to be one of the wild cards on the path towards success. But depending on a colony's path, it is possible to live in peace with the planet's natives.

Just like on our former world, diplomacy matters in Beyond Earth. Players must first consider how to deal with the native aliens by selecting an affinity system to specialize in. Selections include Purity, Supremacy, and Harmony. Those that elect to embrace Harmony will choose to attempt to live among the aliens and become part of their world. Supremacy players will favor a technological path that aims to dominate the aliens and their environment. Purity players will eschew anything alien, in favor of trying to make this new world as close to life on Earth as possible through science and research.

Firaxis is setting aside Civilization's traditional tech tree in favor of a new tech web. The tech web acts as symbol that humanity's path is unknown and its future is uncertain. Beyond Earth's tech web can reflect any of these three affinities, with players allowed to pick one node that reflects either Harmony, Supremacy, or Purity.

Players can go down their chosen path through tech web selections, but will also run into dynamic events that pop up over the course of the campaign. While running through my allotted 50 turns, I encountered instances in which trade routes popped up, exploration opportunities arose, and diplomatic leaders made their presences known. Some of these events were accompanied by choices, such as one instance that asked whether I wanted to build a scientific facility to focus on research or focus more on homeland defense. Quests will also pop up in order to give players direction, as well as move the overall narrative forward and push players towards necessary resources. These quests vary from opening old relics to the public to establishing a spy agency to conduct recon missions in unexplored areas.

As noted in the game's original unveiling, players must create initial alliances at the start of their journey from among four human factions:

  • The Pan-Asian Cooperative: Led by Daoming Sochua, the Pan-Asian Cooperative specializes in culture, energy, and science, while downplaying military, diplomacy and religion. This faction is based on the People's Republic of China and bands together many former Asian nations like South Korea and Japan. The PAC emphasize in the technology, housing high-tech corporations and high-level research and development.

  • The Peoples' African Union: Led by Samatar Jama Barre, the People's African Union embraces diplomacy, growth, and health. Exercising the principles of self-reliance, the united African nations downplay production and religion. With ample mineral and biological resources, the African nations are now a haven for exploration beyond its borders.

  • Kavithan Protectorate: Led by the prophet Kavitha Thakur, the Protectorate believe in religion, growth, and culture. Having set aside any need for military, infrastructure, or science, the Protectorate houses one-sixth of planet's population within its borders and seeks to spread the word of their prophet across the entire world.

  • American Reclamation Corporation: Led by Suzanne Majorie Fielding, the ARC focuses on science, infrastructure, and production, concerning itself less with culture and religion. The ARC is the world's first and foremost megacorporation, comprising the third-largest economy in the world. Using their vast resources that includes gobs of capital, the ARC can fund just about any scientific endeavor.

The player's colony will be represented by any of the selected factions above. The colony will also receive a special starting bonus, depending on which sponsor is chosen, sending them on the road towards one of the three affinities. Other colony leaders will introduce themselves over the course of the game and players will have to choose how to engage them. They can either establish friendly relations, open their borders, exchange resources, or go to war.

Each of the affinities will also feature their own end-game conditions to victory. For example, Harmony players must awaken the planet's central intelligence, thus completing their path to ultimate enlightenment. Purity players, meanwhile, can complete a task called "Promised Land," which sees Purity colonies liberating the remaining population on Earth and finding homes for them on their new planet. The opposite approach is "Emancipation," which sees Supremacy colonies returning to Earth and enslaving the remaining population under the banner of a new order. Players define what it means to be human and those definitions change, depending on which affinities they adopt over the course of their campaign.

Sid Meier's Civlization: Beyond Earth is early in development, but the game is targeting a fall release for PC.

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