Civilization: Beyond Earth is Civilization in space. Right there, I bet half of you stopped reading this and immediately pulled out your wallet. By this point, the franchise has earned its spot as an automatic buy for a large group of gamers, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Arguably the best turn based strategy franchise going, it’s become a staple in the collection of any respecting PC gamer. However, there’s only so many times make the entire Earth bend its knee to your power. In a lesson learned from pretty much every cheesy horror movie franchise from the early 90s, sometimes you just gotta go to outer space.
While there are blatant aesthetic differences between Civilization: Beyond Earth and Civilization V, that alone wouldn’t necessarily be enough to merit a purchase. And while it’s blatantly obvious that they share the same engine, there’s definitely enough that’s changed here to garner your interest. If you’re expecting an experience unlike anything you’ve ever played before, you’ll be disappointed. However, almost every mechanic seems to have been touched up and retooled, mostly for the better.
The most glaring change has got to be the tech trees. Previously choosing scientific research programs was a pretty straightforward ordeal, and the tree would ultimately lead to a single point. This time around, technology is based on a sprawling radial web with multiple routes and possible “end” goals. This approach really allows you to tailor your civilization to your personal specs. If you want to make a mad dash for the end techs, you’re more than welcome to make that investment, or you could just as easily spiral your way out from the center, giving yourself a very strong base in just about everything without ever mastering anything.
The tech web doesn’t just stop at deciding what units and buildings you’ll have access to, it’s also integral to unlocking affinity points. While you can definitely unlock points through quests or other semi-random events on the map, without picking up points from certain techs it’s pretty much impossible to reach the end game affinity stuff against a decently skilled opponent.
That being said, the expanded tech web is also a major source of frustration for me, mostly due to how it’s organized. The implementation of it is damn near perfect, but it can be incredibly frustrating to hone in on what exactly you’re looking for. During our review sessions, the search function seemed almost broken, and the best we could tell on a regular basis is that the tech we wanted was indeed somewhere on the tree, but damned if we knew where. There were some early mods that helped this by recoloring certain elements to help distinguish between different abilities, but this seemed like something that should have been handled from the start.
Affinities are the other massive change to the formula, and these too are a bit of a mixed bag. In the past, each nation would have their own unique units. This time around, all of the unique units are hidden away in three separate affinity groups: Purity, Harmony and Supremacy. Each of these affinities represents a fundamental change in the philosophy of your colony.
Followers of Harmony believe that humans need to adapt to the world around them, going as far as changing their biology to better blend in with the indigenous life. Space hippies if you will. Supremacy followers would argue that humans do need to be altered, but that’s so humanity can better respond to their new home. Purity is the more “aggressive” of the philosophies, believing that humans are a special breed and that the new world should adapt to them, as opposed to the other way around.