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SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH:  Firaxis Games  AMD Gaming  Take Two Software (Steam)

   

Many years ago I used to spend what seemed like every waking hour (and probably a few sleeping hours too) playing Civilisation on my home computer. Many was the time that my wife would go to bed, saying “Good-Night” on her way only to wake several hours later to say “Good-Morning” to me still there exploring, building and trying my hardest to get an Ancient Monument before one of my friends built it. Several of us were playing on different PCs in our own homes but talking to each other by telephone – no mobile phones in those days, at least none we could afford.

Over the years Civilisation became Civilization, with a “z”, and new developments brought new versions of the computer game to our PCs, though none of these gave us anywhere near the satisfaction that the first edition did – for most of us it was better than the boardgame. Then Eagle Games brought out a massive boardgame called “Sid Meier’s Civilization” and that gave the old PC game a new lease of life – we still mostly preferred the original PC edition though some of us had submitted to the lure of playing the newer PC edition. It was still Civilisation as far as we were concerned though, a little prettier a little slicker but still the same game.

   

Well it appears we ran out of Earth to explore and conquer and now we have headed towards the stars. “Beyond Earth” is a game of colonising a new, unnamed, alien world in a similar way to how we went about colonising Earth in the original Civ’. Of course in space there are different problems to face, such as Miasma and Magma – two substances that will kill over-time – and the giant earthquake-inducing worm that can destroy buildings and decimate a complete military unit with ease.

Earth has sent out resource pods which have landed on this new planet but which can only be located by sending out explorers. Unfortunately explorers are of no use when it comes to fighting so if they encounter any resistance on their journey you are going to be missing one explorer unit pretty quickly. It is therefore commonsense to send a military unit ahead of the explorer and ensure the explorer follows the same path exactly.

   

Okay I’m jumping ahead of myself a little here, so let’s take a step back. The game begins with an excellent introduction movie where the animation is as good, if not better, than Pixar-style movies seen in HD at the cinema; the multi-rocket launcher for example is simply amazingly detailed. Once you have gone through the video your choices of gameplay and game-style begins. However, at this point there are some Mods available to you that will allow you to modify your game experience. These Mods have no guarantee of working but Take Two specifically state that they are taking no responsibility should they cause you any problems. There is also something called “Civilopedia” which has the latest news, plus there are replays, credits and the Hall of Fame. 

Now we have the game options: Single-player, multi-player, set-up game, load game, save game etc. You are helped in making decisions by the ADVISR (Advanced Integration and Simulation Resource) which offers full guidance or advice only as required. You can accept a Random setup, not really a good idea if this is your first game even if you are au fait with Civilization V which is apparently the nearest and latest Civ’ game to “Beyond Earth”.

   

NOTE: The screen may seem to freeze but as long as you can see the large arrow shaped cursor take a good look at it, there should be a spinny within the cursor showing that the game is in fact still loading. Of course if you can’t see the spinny then you may actually have a problem.

   

Setting Up The Game:
 There are three Affinities that you may align to, though your actions and decisions throughout the game you will almost certainly be adjusting the values of these. They are Purity, affinity to the Old Earth, Supremacy, the newly independent force for this planet, and Harmony where the player is learning, using and evolving a new form of humankind. You cannot actually choose an Affinity.

You need someone, a major company, to sponsor your journey or a portion of the Colonisation and you do get to choose this. 

The basic, cut down version of these is as follows:

ARC (Covert Ops), Pan Asian (Production), Franco Iberia (Virtue), Slavic (Orbital Unit Upgrade), Polystralia (Trade), Kavithar (New Cities, Outposts), Brasilia (Military) and African (Food).

Planet Type: Terran (like Earth), Protean (Panacea), Atlantean (mostly small islands). Your original Colonists can be Scientists (Science), Refugees (Food), Autocrats (Energy), Engineers (Production) or Artists (Culture).

Choice of Space-craft:  Continental Surveyor (Shows complete coastlines), Retrograde Thruster (Wider choice of landing area), Techtonic Scanner (Locates Petroleum, Geothermal, Titanium deposits), Fusion Reactor (+100 energy to begin), Life-form sensor (locates Alien nests). Cargo may be: Hydroponics (Population), Laboratory (Technology), Raw Materials (Clinic), Weapons Arsenal (Soldiers) and Machinery (Worker).

One of the main things you should always keep ongoing is research. You begin with a certain amount of knowledge but from then on you need to keep upgrading and improving. There is a spider web style of listing that shows the routes you can take beginning from the centre. You follow one of the lines to the next block of research which comprises of one major skill and one or two associated skills. Travelling from line to line you can eventually traverse the entire web  but you must always research the top knowledge of each. Every piece of knowledge gained is another string to your bow and it is often here on this web, generally amongst the associated skills, that you will add points to your Affinities.

   

Your first view of the new planet is a section of land overlaid with hexes. Outlining a number of these hexes is a thick red line and each hex within this has a number of icons determining the resources in that hex. One of the hexes within the red area is your landing site, it’s your choice. The space-craft (complete with ID Name: FRXS) lands and your main complex is built. 

The game then takes on play more along the lines of StarCraft than Civilization, at least as far as I remember Civ’. You spend your time building units, explorers, buildings, military units, all the same or similar things that you build in StarCraft and other games of that genre. Of course in Civ’ you build units and buildings and continue to expand your empire but from my memory (which I have to admit isn’t as good as I would like it to be) there wasn’t as much conflict and combat as there is in “BEYOND EARTH”.

Depending on your choice of setup there are a number of other countries also exploring the new alien planet. You will receive continuous reports and requests from the leaders of these countries, offering friendship deals to begin with but then as they expand their own empires the deals become less favourable until they declare war on you. If you can, try to ally with as many of these countries as you can because if the deal with them is strong they will help defend you if you are attacked. Of course this is reciprocal so if they get into a war you have to help them; failure to do so will soon have them, and probably others, against you. This is the part of “BEYOND EARTH” that I am not so keen on and which, as I say, doesn’t remind me of the Civ’ I used to spend hours and hours playing.

“BEYOND EARTH” is a much faster paced game than the Civ’ of old but that doesn’t mean that it is a game you will be finished with quickly or indeed will finish quickly, though it is quite likely that the opposing forces will gang up on you to force your surrender. The opposition A.I. isn’t particularly bright but it is clever enough so that countries which were previously opposing each other will begin to work together.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015