Preview: Civilization: Beyond Earth

At this year’s E3 Expo in Los Angeles Game Console’s Darren Price was treated to a special behind closed doors preview of 2K’s Game’s upcoming Civilisation: Beyond Earth.

The original Civilization is one of those games that, for me, heralded a golden ages of computer games.

On my trusty Commodore Amiga I’d spend hours and hours engrossed in building an empire and expanding my dominion across an ever-increasing map.

It’s great that twenty-five years later not only is the Civilization franchise very much alive and kicking, but also the developers, Firaxis, are still able to inject new and exciting ideas into the series for veteran players to enjoy.

Civilization: Beyond Earth takes the same concepts that we know and love from Civilization V and sends us to the stars. I was lucky enough to take a look at an alpha version the game in action at this year’s E3.

Following a cataclysm the human race has left Earth to start again by colonising alien worlds.

As the demo started we were introduced to a lone explorer on a world covered with magma filled ravines and clouds of dangerous green vapour called Miasma. An alien creature, a manticore – which has a ranged attack – lurked to the north.

The alien life on the planet is a faction of its own, so if players chose to attack the native fauna they need to be ready for the consequences when the rest of the planet turns on them.

The explorer wasn’t equipped for combat so he left the alien be and proceeded to a resource pod sent by Earth in advance of the colonist’s arrival.

Nearby a siege worm – similar to the sand-worms in Dune – emerged from the ground. These devastating creatures can be guided to attack enemy cities by the use of attractor technology.

Lush Alien landscape

After exploring the skeleton of a huge alien beast, the likes of which can yield research, resources and/or alien units, the explorer headed south to the capital city. Around the city farms produced food for the colonists.

At this point we were shown the game’s quest system, a new addition for Beyond Earth. The idea is that the quests provide the game with its narrative, based on the choices and actions of the player.

The active quest was to spy on a neighbouring city. As you’d expect you are not the not colonists on the planet.

Each group of these star-fairing human colonist have adopted one of three affinities: purity, harmony and supremacy. Colonists of the purity affinity wish to protect the human race as it was on Earth, whilst those of the harmony affinity have mixed their genetics with those of their adopted planet. Colonist that have embraced the supremacy affinity will use whatever augmentations they need to in order to prevail.

The demonstrator’s colony was of the supremacy affinity and this choice was visible in the angular lines of the city and the look of the troops.

Supremicy City

A colony’s affinity depends on the player’s research choices using the tech web. Instead of the usual technology tree, players start in the middle of a web and work their way out. Different technologies draw on different affinities.

Back in the demo, a huge army had been amassed next to the capital city of a harmony affinity colony. The city was built near a large amount of the valuable resource firaxite, which is required to expand our army. Unfortunately diplomacy had failed and so we were tasked to liberate the colonist from under this stubborn leadership and get the firaxite by force.

The game’s combat looked pretty standard fair. There was, however, an interesting addition in the use of orbital satellites. These can support the ground troops, but they can also be used to clear the miasma vapour and aid the collection of resources.

Explorer

Following an attack by infantry and mechs on land, and a good torpedoing from the sea, the enemy city was liberated and the demo concluded.

The demonstration was brief and without any actual hands-on interaction, difficult to judge how it’ll play at release. We were watching an alpha version so, no doubt, there will be many changes before it’s on the shelves.

Friaxis has still got a few months to tweak Civilisation: Beyond Earth, but from what I saw, it was most definitely Civilization and shaping up to be very nice indeed.

Civilization: Beyond Earth is out in New Zealand on October 24th.

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