Firaxis received a fair amount of criticism following the release of Civilization: Beyond Earth. Games in the franchise are well known to be missing a few key features here and there (such as religion, espionage, etc) that are added in with expansions. And while that’s come to be perfectly acceptable, the developer went outside of its comfort zone with something not firmly based in history and that showed a bit with the launch of the base game. Some features like Affinity felt a bit too binary, diplomacy was lacking, and it really wasn’t too exciting to explore the planet when you first landed.
All of these are addressed in some manner in the first expansion, Rising Tide. At E3, we spoke to Lead Designer Will Miller about these shortcomings and he willfully admitted to a few of them. And now, after going hands on with the first 250 turns, we’re glad to say it may be time to return to Beyond Earth.
Playing as one of the four new sponsors, Chungsu, a Korean inspired group led by Han Jae Moon Han, described as an “enigmatic leader of a dangerous organization.” It’s safe to say that’s an accurate perception considering their main trait is based in espionage. Despite not being too keen on the whole spying on folks thing, we start with one free covert agent. With each successful covert operation in a foreign City rewards 10 science per agent rank, you’re meant to be an information juggernaut. One of the more unique features about Chungsu is that it make Planetfall completely surrounded by sea, another feature introduced in Rising Tide.
You may recall this from our E3 interview:
“Building a water city is fundamentally different from building a land city in a couple of important ways. The first is the way they grow,” Miller begins, “and this is the most significant. On land, cities grow by culture. You build culture, it expands your border, and that’s how your cities grow. But on water, when you settle, you only get the tiles immediately around your city, they don’t grow.
“You have to actually move your water city: they float. You move your water city to expand. You sort of paint your territory as you move your city around.
Another civilization can just drive into your territory and claim it as their own. It’s this very interesting strategic puzzle.”
And that’s entirely the truth. Though we were playing on normal, the AI weren’t to keen on having their cities built on the water, but even contending with those really, really annoying alien krakens was a tough bout. Seriously, those things were always destroying our tile improvements.
Luckily most of the sponsors around us, including the new Al Falah and INTEGR were more than happy to lend a hand. The former chose a much more militaristic approach to both their nation and traits, something we’ll talk about in a bit. The latter aligned interests with us and was a clear favorite for allying. Doing so provided us with a bunch of benefits as each Sponsor now has personality traits that can be upgraded and bought. For example, Chungsu’s (which rewards ten science for each successful covert operation) can increase to 15 science and 30 science, respectively. These come with potential agreements that other Sponsors can initiate with you like Academic Lobby which costs 25 Diplomatic Capital per turn. Depending on whether you’re Neutral, Cooperating, or Allied, you’ll gain increased rewards. Each Sponsor can have four traits: their inherent one, a Political trait, Military trait, and Domestic trait.
Diplomatic Capital is earned from Wonders, special buildings, and by allowing diplomatic agreements to be made. By turn 30 we had enough to establish a new trait. But since we hadn’t discovered any civilizations, we chose to enact a Domestic Trait. Innovative, a trait that increases our cities’ Science yield by 8% to start jumped out at us as we had already began specializing on science production. This also unlocked the Conservation Areas agreement whereas other sponsors may also receive more science from strategic resources should they desire (assuming you approve). You’ll receive Domestic Capital income per turn for doing so.
Again, these change depending on if you’re Allied, Cooperative, Neutral, Sanctioned, or at War with each civilization. Each provides different benefits. Sanctioned for example keeps any agreements or trade routes between the two civilizations.
Espionage began to kick in as our preview came to a close, as the Chungsu we technically had it the entire time but without enough Intrigue in each sponsor’s cities, all we could do was siphon some extra energy. Each city has this level of intrigue, with higher values unlocking more valuable missions for agents to complete. Just like previous Civilization games, you can station spies in your city to protect your own information from being stolen or you can infiltrate another city and choose from a selection of missions that range from Very Easy to Hard.
Our personal favorite was the addition of Artifacts. We find one relatively quickly, a Suspended Animation Chamber (Worn) that would produce 24 science and 10 culture if immediately consumed. Each can be used up for a one time gain. But sometimes it’s better to save up to three for a set bonus and reap even larger benefits such as special buildings, Wonders, or permanent buffs. We manage to save up three Old World artifacts from various drop pods and unlock the Old Voice Archives, a building that grants +10% yields when at war. Not very useful for our planned civilization, but we go with it nonetheless.
And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a new Affinity Wheel that shows which paths and perks your sponsor has unlocked. And now that you have the ability to be a hybrid culture such as Purity/Harmony, there’s seemingly double the number of possibilities as there was before. Check out the video preview released today for more, it goes over a lot of what we’ve discussed today.
One thing’s for sure, we can’t wait to bust past turn 250 and see what lies ahead.