Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide is the long awaited expansion pack for Civilization: Beyond Earth – a spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – and there’s a particular reason why it’s been ‘long awaited.’ You see, Beyond Earth was first released to a positive but muted response for several reasons, most notably due to a lack of complexity and personality. As such, there is hope amongst fans that Rising Tide will help Beyond Earth fulfil its potential, much in the same way that Civilization V slowly evolved into a masterpiece only after the release of several expansions and updates.
Indeed, there is a lot of new stuff to be found in the Rising Tide expansion pack. There’s new aquatic gameplay, including ocean cities and sea monsters. There’s new units, such as the patrol boat and submarine. There’s even a new diplomacy system. The main question though is whether these changes are substantial enough, or whether Rising Tide is a misstep rather than a great leap forward.
Your typical game will start with your colonists landing on an alien world, eager to begin an intergalactic empire. What should stand out to you immediately in Rising Tide is the increased activity within the planet’s seas, whether it’s resources or ocean-dwelling aliens. Assuming your city isn’t destroyed by alien hordes, you should soon be able to construct an aqua city. Aquatic cities are built by either purchasing new hexes or moving the entire establishment into watery territories, which is ideal for those who have ever dreamed of owning a floating fortress.
Truly, the inclusion of aqua cities really does improve Beyond Earth’s gameplay in an enjoyable and intelligent way. Of course, the watery cities have both advantages and downsides, which provides a number of interesting tactical dilemmas. Whilst being on the open seas means you won’t face terrain problems and energy will be easier to obtain, you will also have to deal with problems such as rubbish food growth and a possibly crippling inability to produce land units efficiently.
Another tactical quandary that you’ll have to consider is whether you should fully develop the areas you own before moving your aquatic city across the planet’s oceans, or whether you should expand your territory as fast as possible in order to secure a short-term gain. You’ll also have to consider whether you want to fully invest in a land or water empire, or have a balance between the two. The aquatic gameplay, then, offers a much needed layer of depth gameplay. although it’s difficult to foresee whether it’s substantial and nuanced enough to ensure many months of riveting gameplay as Civilization V can.
Perhaps the second most important addition in Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide is the revamped diplomacy system, which attempts to make rival AI players appear more human and logical. This has been achieved by assigning each leader with a Respect and Fear value. What that means is that you can now actively track how much a rival leader respects or fears you and then tailor your actions accordingly. The North Sea Alliance doesn’t want to trade because they don’t fear you? Then build a terrifyingly massive army and they’ll soon be open for negotiating.
The obvious consequence of this addition is that negotiating with rival leaders has now become an easier process, and one that is less likely to be plagued by seemingly illogical and frustrating decisions. Another, perhaps unintended, consequence of the new diplomacy system is that the game’s leaders now have a lot more personality. Each leader has their own quirks that you can appeal to in order to increase their respect and fear values. Some admire military strength. Some admire wisdom. The new diplomacy system allows you to become more engaged with the leader’s character and personality traits, which means Beyond Earth’s leaders are no longer dry nobodies.
Aside from the inclusion of aquatic gameplay and a new diplomacy system, Rising Tide really does provide a number of well-thought out improvements. There’s the new artefact system, which allows you to cash findings in groups of three for a bigger return. The tech web is also now colour-coded and easier to use. Additionally, Rising Tide has improved the affinity feature by introducing hybrid affinities, which allow you to merge two affinities together to create new specialized units. For the most part, these improvements have been handled very well and make the game a much more enjoyable and fluent experience.
Despite the improvements and new features that Rising Tide introduces, some of Beyond Earth’s most glaring problems still remain in this expansion pack. The lack of replay value is a big issue, because there is no real incentive to play as all the different civs. Even though the leaders have more personality here, they all feel the same in terms of gameplay and the campaigns you play through are very similar in nature. Also, whilst the aquatic gameplay is a fun addition, it doesn’t change things enough to provide a huge number of varied playthroughs. Additionally, alien species remain just an annoying obstacle, despite having a lot of potential to impact the gameplay in meaningful ways.
Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide can be considered a success if you enjoyed the game it enhances. It improves on almost every aspect of the experience and offers enough new features to make it worth re-visiting. However, if you found Beyond Earth dry and lacking in complexity, then there isn’t much here to change your mind. Rising Tide, then, is a solid expansion pack – it’s just not the great leap forward that some people will be expecting.
This review is based on the PC exclusive, which we were provided with.
Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide is an enjoyable expansion pack that offers numerous new features and improvements. However, it's not quite the leap forward that some Civilization fans are hoping for.