Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide
This is some of what transpired leading up to my review of Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide:
Me: “So you played the beta, have you played the full release?”
My gaming friend: “Yeah. It’s fun…” he said, trailing off with a note of apprehension.
“What do you mean? Is it good or not?” I queried.
“No, I mean it’s good but it’s a little on the hard side. I’m sure you read about that.”
“Yeah, something like that. But it can’t really be that difficult, right?”
My friend was quite for a few moments. “Well, if you live beyond a couple of turns you’re doing really well.”
After that conversation I just had to try it out myself and prove that it wasn’t all as hard as everyone was complaining it to be.
Just to back up a bit, I’d played Civilization 2 and 3, and although I’d kept them around for a while, they weren’t really my cup of tea. In strategy games, I like to be able to create my leaders from scratch, defining not only their traits and abilities, but also their physical appearance, etcetera. I am also not a huge fan of combat that is played out on the macro level, i.e. on a non-zoomed in strategic map. It severely limits the amount of tactical options that you have available.
Games such as are in the Age of Wonders and Galactic Civilizations series’ allow you both customize your leaders from head to toe and front to back, but also to engage in more tactical combat when you went to war. Eventually, I grew tired of playing the same old historical figures such as Lincoln and Gandhi over and over again in Civilization games, and the diplomacy also lacked a lot of options and seemed watered down. So, when I’d heard that the new Civilization game, Beyond Earth, had a new expansion pack called Rising Tide, which offered different sorts of leaders and factions, I became intrigued and decided to try it out.
After installing the game I chose a faction and gaped at the gorgeous loading screens. Soon afterwards, I was plopped right down onto an alien landscape with my puny, fledgling colony. All we had were a few supplies and a will to survive. I’d just begun to explore my surroundings when my tiny settlement was promptly set upon, or rather slithered upon, by some rampaging creatures which looked like crosses between that slimy thing in the blob films, and something out of Jabba the Hutt’s cantina scene from the film Star Wars.
Since I’d heard this tough going in the beginning of games was the case, instead of rage-quitting I plowed on. On around game four or so, I managed to evade the voracious alien life forms since I’d landed my first colony in a more protected area and realized that this new game was all about location, location, location (and patience!).
Which brought me to my next discovery, the ability to build sea colonies. After not only surviving, but thriving for a bit, I ventured out onto the open seas, but then quickly found out that floating cities had their own pluses and minuses. On the positive side, I was able to obtain energy more efficiently as well as move the cities onto tiles which had more strategic import. Not being able to secure food as easily nor produce land units were on the negative side, amongst other things.
This helped me to appreciate the more complex, deeper-tiered strategic implications of Rising Tide. Should I commit to developing a more sea-faring faction, or choose to build a land-based empire? The latter of which would allow me to build faster, but perhaps not as strategically.
The diplomacy system is also very different from what I remember it in past Civilization games. Your rivals now regard you depending on their levels of fear and/or respect for you. Are you expanding in a gentle and relaxed way while trying to spread your beneficent culture to the unwashed masses? You may just engender some goodwill from your neighbors, opening trade arrangements and alliances. On the other end of the spectrum, players who prefer expanding too quickly and attacking everything that moves (or squiggles) may lead to other factions feeling threatened by your expansionistic ways, and might go to war with you. All of these factors are displayed to you in the form of constant feedback, so you always know where you stand with your rivals, instead of completely being in the dark all of the time.
One downside of Rising Tide that I soon discovered that the Civilization series was still stuck in its impersonal, non-tactical, overland map, in order to determine the outcome of conflicts. But on the upshot, the graphics have come a long way. Troops, giant mechs, genetically engineered alien creatures; everything is beautifully rendered, and even looking at my aquatic fortresses and their resource farms never got old. Firaxis has really done a fine job with giving their alien worlds a lived in, yet foreign feeling, as if your colony—and hopefully later, emergent empire—is really trying to scrape things out on a living, breathing, hostile alien world.
I’d recommend Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide to any armchair generals who are big on exploring truly alien worlds, love futuristic technology, and enjoy the ability to build aquatic empires, and who don’t mind the tactically-limited combat system. Rising Tide does have that “one more turn” appeal that any good strategy game has, granted your colony survives past the first few of them.
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