e3 2014
Civilization: Beyond Earth Hands-On: Sci-Fi Skinned Strategy - Update

Greg Tito | 10 Jun 2014 21:46
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Affinities are similar to the ideologies choices of Brave New World in that other civs will gravitate diplomatically towards factions who think like them. "The affinities are existential perspectives on what humanity is going to be," McDonough told me. "The Harmony affinity which involves you examining the planet as your new home and trying to make yourself an ideal lifeform to live there in symbiosis with the planet. There's the Purity affinity which says that humanity needs to be preserved. We need to bring our culture and our past with us and keep it safe and make the planet into a place where humans belong. The Supremacy affinity says that humans are saved through technology - it's how we got off of Earth and it's how we're going to survive wherever we have to go from here. They embrace computers and robotics."

You don't outright choose your affinity in a dialogue box, but your choices will influence which philosophy your civ leans toward. As I said technologies will have a large part in that, but how you complete or interact with quests will also push you down a certain track. The random nature of the quests seems like it could backfire, but the designers had already thought of that. The game AI is smart enough to see which way you are leaning, and offer quests and storytelling moments which reflect your choices to give you the opportunity to fully embrace an affinity. Once you go Harmony or Purity or Supremacy, the architecture of your cities and buildings changes, and the appearance of your units might also be altered so there is visual feedback as well. Of course, there will be special units and powerful wonders only open to specific affinities.

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I was peaceful in my first playthrough. I found some ruins near the city with my explorer and set up building an architectural dig to find what was underneath. This consumed my explorer, but it didn't matter as I received 200 energy (gold) which would allow me to build another unit or rush a building in my capital. The dig also popped up a quest to explore some other ruins, far to the south. I was intrigued, so I headed there with my soldier. The quest system was a little rough in its presentation, but was an interesting addition to the Civ formula. I had a proper quest log like in World of Warcraft, and I used it to check to see what my objectives were or what I had already completed, along with story description text from the previous steps in the quest line. After I found the ruins site, the quest said the next step was to found an outpost there.

It was time to found my first city, so I calmly built a settler and made my way south. Once at my location, I pressed "B" to give the age-old command to found city. But here's the catch, the city (or outpost as it's called in Beyond Earth) didn't get founded immediately. Each turn, a new hex joined the city's working radius until it finally was founded 6 turns in. This delayed founding of settlements can be used to my advantage in war, as an incomplete outpost isn't yet owned by its faction. That means you can attack them with impunity! File that one for future backstabbings.

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On the next playthrough, I decided to go full warfare. I built nothing but military units, researching technologies to allow cavalry, ranged units and eventually air superiority. I decided not to avoid the aliens this time, but shoot on sight. That allowed my units to gain experience and when they gained a level I had two choices - heal them to full or give a permanent +10% combat strength bonus. If you have the requisite technologies, you can also upgrade your soldiers to have specific traits such as marines to make amphibious assaults easier once they level. The devs told me in that way the units you have at the start of the game could end up being devastating by game's end, if they survive.

Before long, massive siege worms appeared that looked straight outta Dune. When you first see these beasts, a quest pops up asking you to kill one of them. After attacking with ranged fire from two units, my city, and two melee soldiers, I finally destroyed a siege worm and got a big pile of science points for my efforts. Those points can go towards researching better technology to upgrade my armies, thereby ensuring a pure offensive strategy is extremely viable in Beyond Earth.

I asked the next question that came to mind: "Do the siege worms always provide that science boost or was it just for the first time?" "Every time."

I'll be checking for wormsign when Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth comes out on PC in the fall.

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