Civilization: Beyond Earth is a pretty interesting iteration on the Civilization V formula, but it needs work in several areas.
- The sponsors seem to be a lot more geographical than ideological. This makes sense from a “Civilization V space victory leads to this” perspective, but unfortunately there isn’t a lot of fluff to impart personality to the factions. As a result, you have to fall back on cultural awareness, which doesn’t help you if you don’t have a good grasp of the cultures amalgamated into each sponsor. The minimal-effort solution to this problem would be giving each sponsor a few paragraphs of fluff on the sponsor selection screen, similar to the civilization text provided when starting or loading a game in Civilization V.
- The interface is pretty small and not very friendly to users with limited vision. This wouldn’t be an issue if information were bundled up, but as it is everything’s pushed as far apart as possible. You’ve got the affinities in one corner, faction output and health in another corner (along with the minimap), unit information in a third, and all in 8-point fonts.
- There’s an unfortunate lack of depth to Beyond Earth’s fluff. Part of this is, I suspect, a result of trying to be a broad “settling a new planet” game rather than focusing on one planet in particular, as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (SMAC) does. On the other hand, not a single wonder has an FMV associated—it’s all wireframes all the time. I rather miss the videos that Civilization II, and particularly SMAC, gave to its wonders, because it imparted a sense of the culture that gave rise to that wonder. Additionally, the voice clips the game has to offer don’t really offer a lot of shading…and can’t, because there isn’t a lot of shading to give in short, one-or-two-sentence clips.
- This game’s currency is hugely inflated and there’s not much to use it on. It’s far too easy to amass thousands of units of energy, and the only way to really use it is by purchasing units and buildings…and tiles. Civilization V ultimately resolved this problem by severely reducing the amount of wealth acquired, albeit in an expansion, and even before then wealth could be used to influence minor factions (called City-States in Civilization V).
CivBE isn’t a complete waste of time, though; there are things to like, too:
- You not only customize your faction at the start of the game, you also gain perks for buildings and units as the game progresses. For instance, shortly after building your first Vivarium, you are given the choice to add a science boost or a food boost to that building for the remainder of the game. With units, however, the upgrades come as you gain new affinity tiers.
- The tech web is another great way to nudge players onto different paths, since there are thirteen techs per affinity which grant an affinity level. Rather than research ALL THE THINGS, you end up having to go for only the techs relevant to the victory path you’re aiming for.