Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide Impressions: Making Planetfall

Shacknews goes hands-on with the Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide expansion and claim the seas in the name of our empire. Here's what we found in the ocean depths.

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The upcoming expansion, Civilization Beyond Earth: Rising Tide, promises to take players to an all new world. It's still a matter of taming a dangerous alien world, but now there's a lot more of it. As the title might indicate, Rising Tide makes fuller use of the planet by allowing players to settle and develop the oceans alongside land. However, that's only part of what the expansion has in store. Fans can look forward to having their games practically remade from the original.

There are two new biomes for players to settle: Frigid and Primordial. Although they may seem like straightforward tile swaps, these new biomes have a significant impact on gameplay. A Primordial world is one that is at its early stages of supporting life. That means one large Pangaea continent surrounded by water - all of it teeming with alien life. Meanwhile, the frozen surface of a Frigid world is harder to cultivate, but on top of that, you have aliens that are used to living in a harsh environment. They move a little slower, but can endure a significant amount of damage.

Rising Tide also features four new sponsors, but unlike those from the main game, they don't represent any sort of governmental body. They might have been considered political extremists on Old Earth, and they certainly represented organizations and interests that go beyond nationalistic borders. The introduction of these new leaders, including the newly announced Han Jan Moon (who likely ran a private spy organization from the Korean Peninsula), are some of the ways Beyond Earth will bring some more personality to its leaders.

Furthermore, players will be able to gather a new kind of cultural resource called Political Capitol, which custom defines a leader's personality and motivations. For example, if you want your leader to focus on Production, you can select it as an emphasis for your social agenda and use your Political Capitol to purchase bonuses. You can change your focus at any time as your priorities change, so long as you have enough resources. Capitol can also be used more directly to establish diplomatic ties like research or trade agreements.

Players also have a new reason to explore the vast world with an all-new artifact system. Explorers, which are now amphibious, discover both Old Earth and alien artifacts as they excavate sites or clear out mass. Players have the option to exploit these artifacts, which will usually give a small bump in energy or production. However, up to three artifacts can be researched together. If players can hold out until they acquire three to combine, then a whole new field of long-term bonuses become a available. Researching three artifacts can unlock unit upgrades, new units, and even new Wonders to benefit payers.

Beyond Earth players may also be happy to learn that Rising Tide will also make the rigid Affinity system a lot more flexible with Hybrid Affinities. It might sound strange and contradictory when talking about opposing Affinities like Harmony and Purity, but you have to remember that the new leaders think outside the box. Therefore, there are is a range of all new units with features and stats that combine some of the attributes different Affinities have to offer.

Lastly, there's the big star of the expansion, which are the new aquatic colonies. Although they might appear to be straightforward cities dropped into the water, they actually represent an all-new style of play. Aquatic colonies do not expand their borders according to culture. Instead, players need to take a more hands-on approach if they want to expand their sea territory, like purchasing tiles. But the most effective means is through moving the city. Each water city will move at a different rate, depending on its size and production capabilities. The act of moving by itself is a production request. As it moves, it claims all territory in its path. So, a single move can acquire three new tiles.

Players are faced with a tough decision. They can either put off claiming sea territory in favor of building up a city, which is important given how the ocean a lot more populated and active, especially on the Primordial biome. Or they can try leave their cities small and try to lay claim on as much territory as possible. That way, there's more room to spread out when you finally decide to settle. It can also create choke points, so other leaders will have to negotiate with you for the right to travel through.

There's a lot more to consider in Rising Tide, but it's a welcome kind of complexity. In playing, I found myself paying more attention to my Explorers as they searched the world for artifacts. Playing on a Primordial map meant that there was a lot of alien life to contend with, and a ton of miasma along with them. As to be expected, these aliens don't seem very eager to share their world.

Although the aquatic cities open up a new level of gameplay by being able to lay claim on groups of tiles at once, it's a remarkably difficult thing to do, at least during the early phases, when the city's production is low. I can see the potential to exploit moving cities later on, when players have the resources to buy key production facilities, and try to lay claim to as much of the ocean as they can. However, by that time, most factions will either be allied or at war with each other anyway. I'm not yet convinced that the Political Capital system helps to define each leader's personality, but it does make the diplomacy system considerably more straightforward, and the bonuses that can be acquired by specializations are more than welcome.

Rising Tide is shaping up to greatly improve on the Beyond Earth experience on almost every level, but is it a must have expansion? We'll find when the game releases on October 9th.

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