Civilisation Beyond Earth: Does it deserve a second chance?

Borty The Bort

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Remember this game? You know, that one Civ game that no-one seems to remember ever existed, even though it had a phenomenal trailer, pleasing aesthetics, a great soundtrack(in my opinion) and a promising cast of leaders and nations, with many people likening it to Alpha Centauri(which I personally have never played, though from the sounds of things, it was a pretty good game.)

I have been playing it recently with the Rising Tide expansion, since I got it in a Humble Bundle and I have come to some conclusions.

[ul][li]Balance is all over the goddamn place. I always find myself steam-rolling the AI, just because I decided to do nothing but amass gold and purchase an army with it, with no drawbacks to this strategy. If Firaxis had spent more time managing the nightmarish amount of buildings they added to this game, they would have had, perhaps not good gameplay per say, but at least have made it seem more understandable and interesting.[/li][li]The Tech web is...quite simply cancerous. I never have any idea what technologies I should choose, because of how overwhelming it is, and I tend to find myself without a basic unit for the entirety of the game(I once spent right up until the end game without fighter planes.)[/li][li]The diplomacy system with Rising Tide is intriguing, even if experimental and lackluster. It provides an interesting concept that perhaps could have been implemented into a future Civ game and expanded upon. Trading powerful bonuses for "political capital" is a system I am a big fan of, and makes the game feel like a lot more of a power-struggle. Problem is, AI gets very angry at every little thing you do, or nonsensically ecstatic with you just for having a good production output. This could be better, I must say.[/li][li]Late-game is awful. It is a pure slog to pull through, and could have been so much better. This is the point in the game were 3/4 of all the civilisations are conquered by me, yet the last few are on aquatic cities on the other side of the world, and I have no navy. There are certain units, like Armour units which can upgrade to levitate on water and fight as normal, but they are useless against modestly powerful ships.[/li][li]The AI is below average. Some of their actions make sense, such as their surprisingly intelligent military manoeuvres; understanding how unit synergy works, making me attack their units with defensive bonuses, hiding artillery at the back of their lines etc. etc. They even seem to have a vague understanding of unit upgrades(looking at you, Civilisation VI) and how the affinity system works. This would be effective had the AI understood how the Tech Web works, which is where it all collapses. On Medium difficulty, the AI falls behind and stops growing at about the 300 score mark, no matter what sponsor they are playing as. I don't know why this is, but my theory is because of the Tech Web and how it works, the AI has difficulty with their prioritisation, and they start getting techs all over the place which they don't really need, like a tech that only really benefits aquatic cities, even though they are on land. They are very keen on building defensive buildings, but they neglect their civil buildings in the process. I think that the AI is very close to being a challenging opponent, it's just that, unfortunately, they are hampered by the game's own design. I believe that that Tech Web was hands-down game-breaking[/li] [/ul]

Those are the few things I noticed about 30 hours game time.
So. Do you think that Beyond Earth could have been a decent, if not great game?
Do you think that Firaxis should have abandoned it?
These are the questions I would like answered.
Discuss.
 

Saelune

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The biggest problem for me is, I dont know what the fuck Im doing ever.
 

Recusant

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Could Beyond Earth have been a decent game? Sure- if it had been an expansion-pack sequel to Civ 4 (or possibly 6; I haven't played that). But it wasn't. It was an expansion-pack sequel (hereafter EPS) to Civ 5, made without fixing any of the massive problems underlying Civ 5. 4 was a departure for the series; it made some big changes and clearly wasn't afraid to wake waves. More than once, reading through the manual, I winced at some of the implications of what I'd read, afraid that the relatively lackluster 3 had inspired some very stupid alterations- and I was wrong. Boy howdy, was I wrong. 5 made even bigger changes, altering core gameplay elements that had been in place since the dawn of the series. Going in, I was concerned, but confident. I quickly became bemused and baffled; the change from squares to hexes (which doesn't actually affect much, since the series has never had spherical maps) is the one and only change that wasn't for the worse. Even the seemingly-harmless "have the leader splash text spoken in the leader's language" idea backfired when they used Arabic for both the Persians (which almost makes sense- or would, if Washington spoke French) and the Egyptians (which is a massive extended middle finger to the Copts). I mean, they found someone- they found a voice actor- who spoke Nahuatl, but Avestan was just too much to ask?

You didn't ask about Civ 5, I know; you asked about Beyond Earth. But Beyond Earth was to Civ 5 what Alpha Centauri was to Civ 2- an EPS. The difference was that Civ 2 was basically just a refinement of the original, and Alpha Centauri expanded on that with depth, character, story, a fascinating tech tree based on projected real-world science coupled with absolutely horrifying real-world implications, and a sizable increase in in-game abilities (don't have a navy to reach your enemy on another continent? Just send out your formers and build a land bridge! Lost your last land-based city and forced back to your aquatic holdings? Pump up your industry to cause global warming, then melt the ice caps and flood the world! Can't reach the enemy production city that's swarming with aircraft that keep destroying your formers and their escorts? Wipe them all out with quantum laser helicopters launched from your submersible aircraft carriers!). Alpha Centauri was a "pretty good game" in the same sense that the surface of the sun is "hot".

Beyond Earth, on the other hand, took ideas that didn't work and... didn't actually do much to change them. They took a combat engine that didn't work, and was only allowed in because the AI went from being "easy to exploit and defeat" in the earlier games to "cataclysmically retarded", so it didn't matter. They did bring in the quest events from Beyond the Sword, and expanded on them- a little. They fired more consistently, but were always the same, and the rewards were laughably unbalanced. The AI nations still reliably behaved like lunatics, so there was no real point in even trying to work with them. The Wonder-equivalents (I don't remember what they're called) don't do anything interesting, aren't worth the cost, and have lousy movies. The exploits were still exploitable, the combat still didn't work, and the "builder" part of empire-building still doesn't work when you keep a running cost to actually have buildings. What Beyond Earth deserves is to be taken out and shot.

And for pity's sake, the tech tree sucks. "Sucks". Say it with me. It is not "cancerous". "Cancerous" describes several medical conditions that cripple and kill people in horrible ways. Watch someone you care about die from cancer and you would happily play through "Master of Spore-ion 3: Big Rigs Over-The-One-Percent Racing" to get them back- or even just to let them go quicker and more peacefully. Save the hyperbolic bullshit for things that deserve it.
 

meiam

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It actually has a few interesting stuff going for it, but overall, no it's not worth it.

The most interesting aspect is the late game unit are super interesting, especially the hybrid unit, they all have some special function, like stealth or AoE damage and things like that. It's stuff you'll never get in Civ so it's fun to play with them... unfortunately they come in really late and the AI is quite simply too trash to make it interesting, I'm used to civ AI being bad, but beyond earth take it to ridiculous level.

The artifact system is also pretty cool, it give you incentive to explore and keep producing scout ASAP, so it's place some pressure on you not to slack off with your build order. Some of the stuff you can make with it is incredibly strong.

Rising tide actually introduced a huge problem, with aquatic city you never actually run out of place to build city, so there's never much pressure to attack each others and you'll quite often find yourself in a situation where you literally have no border with another faction. It's kinda weird cause it feel like your just playing alone and just occasionally have a war declared on you, but the AI is just so bad at them, they'll usually declare war before they moved there unit to you, so they'll spend 3-4 turn getting to you and they'll pick fight the alien on the way there so they show weaken and over a few turn.

The tech tree was a dumb idea, by having it sprawling there wasn't a real feeling of progression you just get random stuff here and there. Instead progression is supposed to come from the alignment system, but it's terrible, if you get lucky with the discovery you can rocket pass everybody else and have upgraded unit while everyone is using old unit. Because there's only three tier upgrading a unit is like going from classical to renaissance, it can completely shift the balance of power in a war. Especially since all unit upgrade as soon as you pass the threshold, so you can double or triple your army power in a single turn for no cost.
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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Recusant said:
And for pity's sake, the tech tree sucks. "Sucks". Say it with me. It is not "cancerous". "Cancerous" describes several medical conditions that cripple and kill people in horrible ways. Watch someone you care about die from cancer and you would happily play through "Master of Spore-ion 3: Big Rigs Over-The-One-Percent Racing" to get them back- or even just to let them go quicker and more peacefully. Save the hyperbolic bullshit for things that deserve it.
As someone who has watched loved ones (and strangers) die from cancer, I think cancerous is an apt word for describing the effect Borty feels the tech web had on BE. The term implies an aberrant mutation that festers and slowly destroys the functional organs around it, which is a valid way to watch the tech web. I wouldn't be quite that harsh in my criticism of it, but the tech web is clearly at the core of many of BE's shortcomings. The idea of a web of techs where you work your way towards the better techs at the edges can allow for a lot of tailoring your civ, but the poor execution and bad UI in BE means that the tech web feels more like a hindrance then a cool system. You can, as Borty notes, go through an entire playthrough and not have vital units or buildings, because you failed to spot the tech that gave them or because it was on the wrong edge compared to what you were prioritizing.

The AI seems unable to grasp the tech web and many of the BE patches were explicitly aimed at getting rid of the Tech Web abuse that allowed people to unlock late game units around turn 100, effectively breaking all notions of balance. Had it been more focused and offered some kind of pathing it might have been salvaged. Even in its' current iteration it could have been decent for the player, at least, had the UI not been atrociously bad, which meant that you had to memorize what each tech unlocked or be forced to spend way too much time searching the tech web for what you wanted to research.

As much as I want to like the tech web, I can't. However, I still think that BE's biggest failing was that it wanted to be different and alien, yet didn't dare take the step fully. BE wants to have a mood of exploration, wonder and mystery, yet as soon as you realize the basic systems are all Civ 5 it all evaporates. BE could have been so much better had more resources been poured into making Beyond Earth seem less like Re-skinned Earth and with mechanics that actually reinforced this notion. As it was, it was not a good Civ game, nor was it a very good sci-fi game. Alpha Centauri prospered because it dared to be Not-Civ, BE faltered because it tried to be Civ IN SPACE!
 

Mangod

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From a "bottom-up" perspective, as Gethsemani said, the game is just poorly designed.

From a "top-down" perspective, the game is completely soulless. Nothing about the game stays with you; the factions are interchangeable, with no defining personality worth speaking of; none of the writing is memorable, much less quotable; the f***ing wonders are a massive step down from Alpha Centauri, with the pithy quotes and thematic videos [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evs0nFCufNM] replaced with a blueprint and a wall of text [https://www.gamecrate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/beyond-earth-review-4.jpg] read aloud by someone freebasing sleeping pills; the Affinities just feel like you're ticking off boxes on a checklist...

It's sad that Alpha Centauri still manages to be a more memorable game, despite all the advantages in tech, experience and money that CivBE had over it.
 

Nickolai77

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I actually quite liked the game. It's far from perfect but I've got got around 120 hours of generally enjoyable gameplay out of it.

I think the game universe was well thought out and quite original. I liked how they considered how scientific developments in the future may influence political ideology. It made warfare more interesting mid to late game. You weren't just fighting war over territory, you were fighting for a political cause and your own civilisations way of life. My grievances with the vanilla game was that the 'health' system was kind of broken and it forced me to research technologies focusing around genetics to keep my population healthy. The Rising Tide update fixed that to an extent and added some more factions that were badly needed and also increased the number of resources in game. I'm not a fan of the new diplomacy system they forced on you- it doesn't really add anything interesting to the game. I've personally never really had any problems with the tech-tree though- but I would complain about the shallow 'virtues' tree and the lack of impact wonders seem to have on the game.


The game isn't as good as the other Civ games though I can see that, which is why perhaps the game gets a lot of bad press.
 

Borty The Bort

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Nickolai77 said:
I actually quite liked the game. It's far from perfect but I've got got around 120 hours of generally enjoyable gameplay out of it.

I think the game universe was well thought out and quite original. I liked how they considered how scientific developments in the future may influence political ideology. It made warfare more interesting mid to late game. You weren't just fighting war over territory, you were fighting for a political cause and your own civilisations way of life. My grievances with the vanilla game was that the 'health' system was kind of broken and it forced me to research technologies focusing around genetics to keep my population healthy. The Rising Tide update fixed that to an extent and added some more factions that were badly needed and also increased the number of resources in game. I'm not a fan of the new diplomacy system they forced on you- it doesn't really add anything interesting to the game. I've personally never really had any problems with the tech-tree though- but I would complain about the shallow 'virtues' tree and the lack of impact wonders seem to have on the game.


The game isn't as good as the other Civ games though I can see that, which is why perhaps the game gets a lot of bad press.
There's a mod on Steam, Echoes of Earth (the author is called Machiavelli) it fixes alot of the balancing problems. I think you need Rising Tide to play it though, but there might be a version for the vanilla game.
 

Mcgeezaks

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I pre-ordered it and I think I've only started it up once. As if ordinary Civilization wasn't hard enough.
 

Nickolai77

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Borty The Bort said:
There's a mod on Steam, Echoes of Earth (the author is called Machiavelli) it fixes alot of the balancing problems. I think you need Rising Tide to play it though, but there might be a version for the vanilla game.
Thanks for the tip. It's a game that certainly benefits from mod support. Another good one I like is the 'social engineering' mod that does away with the virtues tree and instead gives you more detailed way of shaping your civilisation, so you can role-play it as anything from, say, a socialist state to corporate autocracy to a fascist police state or boring old liberal democracy.
 

nomotog_v1legacy

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Yes, but mostly because I want to see civ branch out into doing more then just earth. I would kill for them to do a fantasy version of civ.
 

Borty The Bort

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Nickolai77 said:
Borty The Bort said:
There's a mod on Steam, Echoes of Earth (the author is called Machiavelli) it fixes alot of the balancing problems. I think you need Rising Tide to play it though, but there might be a version for the vanilla game.
Thanks for the tip. It's a game that certainly benefits from mod support. Another good one I like is the 'social engineering' mod that does away with the virtues tree and instead gives you more detailed way of shaping your civilisation, so you can role-play it as anything from, say, a socialist state to corporate autocracy to a fascist police state or boring old liberal democracy.
Played it before, wasn't really a fan, and I can't really use it anyway because I tend to have overhaul mods on which conflict with the social tree. I like Echoes of Earth, mostly because it feels challenging regardless of the AI's shortcomings. I have yet to get out of 0 gold per turn, despite constantly growing my economy, because the more I grow my economy, the more buildings I end up making, and it all goes downhill from there. I really have no restraint when it comes to Civ.