“Beyond Earth:” Failure to launch

Boy, relapse can be painful sometimes.

The games in Sid Meier’s “Civilization” series are dangerous for college students to play. Once a game is started, the hours just disappear without any trace. Its formula manages to be thought-provoking and infamously addictive, and the latest sci-fi themed entry, “Beyond Earth,” is no exception.

However, it lacks the depth of its more grounded predecessor, and while it presents a few cool new ideas, it’s still hard to see it as a good value.
A game of “Civilization,” be it alone or with friends, plays out exactly how it sounds like. The player’s goal is to form the most prosperous civilization out of them all, and the ways this can be accomplished varies from game to game. This time, however, the game takes place in the fairly distant future, where humanity is just starting to settle on a new planet, so this offers up a few new opportunities for one’s civilization to best them all.

In “Beyond Earth,” there are five ways to win a game. The first option is simply to conquer all of the other civilizations. The second option is to make contact with an older, sentient race that left the planet in the past.

The third, fourth and fifth options entail a new branching system that allows players to follow one of three ideals: purity, which seeks to convert the planet into a state similar to Earth; supremacy, which seeks to become more mechanized to survive the planet’s harsh climate; and harmony, which seeks to preserve and merge with the planet’s wildlife to create a new consciousness.
All five of these options allow for great new strategies of play, enhanced further by the new futuristic toys at players’ disposal this time. It still feels grounded in the ideas of the “Civilization” franchise, but it’s still allowing itself to expand to new horizons.

However, it’s probably not worth purchasing in this state. Compared to the last entry, “Civilization V,” and its expansions, there simply is not that much depth. The last entry toyed with topics like religion, culture, diplomacy and the arts, and those concepts offered the series a lot more depth than anything “Beyond Earth” is able to offer at the moment. Perhaps when it gains a few expansions of its own, it may be worth checking out — after all, “Civilization V” was hardly worth checking out until it gained some expansions — but compared to the last entry in its current state, “Beyond Earth” feels barebones.
Players who can put up with the lack of depth — at least, at the moment — will find a lot of rewarding new things in “Beyond Earth.” The new victory conditions are solid, it’s still as addictive as ever and the thought of what a few expansions may bring is greatly exciting. But for now, it’s probably not worth the space jump.

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Game: “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth”

Developer: Firaxis Games

Release Date: October 23, 2014

Platforms: PC, Mac and Linux versions coming soon

Rating: 3