Civilization: Beyond Earth
The game that’s out of this world
£29.99 Developer Aspyr, aspyr.com OS OS X 10.9.5 or later Requires 2.2GHz i3 CPU or better, 4GB RAM, 8GB disk space, Intel HD 4000 graphics or better, 256MB VRAM)
Beyond Earth is largely similar to Civilization V, but set against a backdrop of colonising an alien world rather than advancing through the epochs of human history. It retains the familiar turnbased mechanics, as units are spread over a world map divided into hexagons, with the player’s micromanagement skills tested with tasks from outpost building to researching technologies of the future, managing trade routes and terraforming the alien soil to improve human survivability.
It feels more than just a highly polished mod for Civilization though, since Beyond Earth keeps things fresh by adding a few new elements to the tried and tested formula. Progress along the enormous technology tree leads to humanity’s future evolving in accordance with one of three philosophies: Harmony, Supremacy or Purity.
Faction choice affects both the visual appearance of your units, and the bonuses you receive. Harmony is a path to greater understanding of the alien lifeforms, so your units become green and adopt bug-like features. Supremacy’s mechanical approach leads to a more robotic appearance.
A lot of thought has gone into the game design, but it’s all a bit complicated to start with, and takes a few games to figure out. It can feel bland at times, which isn’t helped by the lack of any real variation between the faction leaders, aside from the graphics and speech that plays when you meet them, which is limited to no more than a few oft-repeated lines.
Once you have a dozen cities and a living, breathing empire, ploughing through each turn gets tiresome. Workers and explorers can be automated, and the game becomes a lot faster when animations are turned off. But trade routes, an essential part of the economic game, still need to be managed manually. Hopefully Firaxis will be
Beyond Earth keeps things fresh by adding a few new elements to the tried and tested Civilization formula
able to improve this mechanic with a patch.
Performance is surprisingly good, and it ran really well on Iris graphics in a 2013 MacBook Pro. That said, we recommend avoiding play on the largest of maps if you have an older Mac.
Although we’ve moaned about some aspects of the game, it still has the same rewarding one-more-turn addictive qualities possessed by every Civilization game. It’s only been out a little over a month and we’ve already racked up over 100 hours of play. There are many different ways to win, and strategies to try out, but it’s disappointingly short of being a masterpiece when it had all the potential to be exactly that. Orestis Bastounis
Beyond Earth is a highly addictive strategy game, but given its heritage and setting it could have been far more.
Civilization players will recognise the hex grid but not the alien world on top of it.
Diplomacy runs the same course as Civilization V. Some of the responses are identical.