Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising Tide Review: The Call of the Sea

Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising Tide takes your extraterrestrial empire to the ocean, where vast resources and opportunity await. But is it enough to bring new life to an game that was held back by its rigidity and forgettable leaders? Our review. 


Nearly one year ago, humanity took to the stars with Civilization: Beyond Earth. Although we knew the journey would be challenging, we didn't know at the time that it would be marked with a daunting tech tree, boring leaders, and a maddening amount of alien miasma. The developers, Firaxis, have worked to fix some of the gameplay issues, leading up to Rising Tide, Beyond Earth's first major expansion. It successfully broadens Beyond Earth's gameplay and fixes many of the of the issues the main game has with new features, but causes a few of its own problems while doing so.

Starting Over

Rising Tide expands the field of alien world colonization by including four new leaders who aren't necessarily bound by the rigidness of running a nation. They come from trans-national organizations that would be considered radicals and spies on Old Earth. Although the blank slate personality system makes them hard to tell apart, they have some very good faction bonuses. My favorite is Al Falah, which has a 150 percent yield bonus from city productions.

What the leaders lack in personality can be compensated using the new diplomacy system, which uses a new currency called Diplomatic Capital. This new resource is acquired by certain buildings and can be used in a variety of ways, including personality bonuses that help drive how your empire grows. These personality traits can be switched out as priorities change, which leaves a good deal of unpredictability among leaders. It can also be used to purchase agreements with other nations or even units and structures.

Although the new diplomacy system looks streamlined at first glance, it actually feels incomplete. You can set up a bunch of different agreements, and use your Diplomatic Capitol to form alliances, but I couldn't find a way to do any of the classic moves like send or request money, denounce an opponent, or tell someone to stop spying on me. Instead, diplomacy is based on vague Fear and Respect system, where rival leaders act according to your personality traits, Affinity, and military might. But these factors are difficult to manage. Things get trickier as time goes on and rivals become angry at you for seemingly no reason. It's extremely difficult to save a degrading relationship, especially when you draw close to winning.

It's hard to tell why an opposing leader dislikes you, and the missing diplomatic options make it impossible to appease them with gifts. You can use Diplomatic Capital to propose an agreement to stop things from reaching a state of war, but there's no guarantee that a leader will accept it.

Conquering the Sea

But all that can be overlooked given Rising Tide's main attraction, which is the ability to construct ocean colonies. What was once a huge swath of unusable space is now a literal sea of potential. The only catch is that sea colonies cannot grow their territory with population and culture. You have to move the city using production or purchase tiles in order to expand. That way, you can stake a claim on practically every tile on the planet, but the added territory means you'll have that much more to defend. Explorer units automatically come with amphibious abilities, which is a feature that's so fantastically useful that it should be in the main game, not limited to the expansion.

Even with these major features, Beyond Earth more or less plays as it always has. Aliens and miasma are a pain to deal with, and so are opposing leaders. Perhaps more so than before, because you could at least predict who was going to hate you in the main game based on their Affinities. With Rising Tide, there are Hybrid Affinities, so a player can choose mixed traits between Harmony, Supremacy, and Purity. The new hybrid units add a great deal of much needed variety to the game, as does the new Artifact research system, which unlocks special units and structures. Both the Primordial and Frigid biomes also present new challenges, like how there are fewer and slower creatures on a frozen world, but they're a lot tougher.

The Future of Humanity

When I first played Beyond Earth last year, I knew that the game had a lot of unrealized potential that a few expansions would fix, and Rising Tide certainly proves that. Sea colonies open up whole new strategies for expanding an empire. One that isn't restricted by mountains, deserts, or whatever other obstacles the alien landscape has to offer. You'll still have to defend against a host of sea monsters, but it's a risk worth taking. Even the new diplomacy system feels like stumbling step in the right direction. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Beyond Earth fully captures the feel of the Earthbound Civilization games yet, but Rising Tide makes for a far better game than the original.

Managing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 8, 2015 5:00 AM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising Tide Review: The Call of the Sea

    • reply
      October 8, 2015 5:02 AM

      kinda wish there was a bit more detail presented in that review.

    • reply
      October 8, 2015 1:20 PM

      I really tried to like C:BE. I kept hoping it would grab me like AC did. It just never did. I haven't looked at if they've done any patches. But, I don't think I'll get this just to try to get the game the way it should have been in the first place.

      Am I missing out on patches that make it all better?

    • reply
      October 8, 2015 2:08 PM

      Metacritic indicates that this is Gods and Kings of BE, and not the Brave New World we hoped for.

    • reply
      October 8, 2015 2:12 PM

      unlocks at 12:00 AM EST

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