Civilization: Beyond Earth Review - Analysis Paralysis

Greg Tito

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Sep 29, 2005
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Civilization: Beyond Earth Review - Analysis Paralysis

Even on a different planet, the rules of Civilization still apply.

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Jandau

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Considering that a lot of people (myself included) found Civ 5 to be overly stripped down, the very thing you list as a downside (plethora of choices, decisions and mechanics to manage) will likely be a good thing to quite a few players. Not every game has to be tuned to be "Baby's first strategy game" and it's nice to occasionally see one without all the streamlining and hand-holding.
 

Cowabungaa

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Jandau said:
Considering that a lot of people (myself included) found Civ 5 to be overly stripped down, the very thing you list as a downside (plethora of choices, decisions and mechanics to manage) will likely be a good thing to quite a few players. Not every game has to be tuned to be "Baby's first strategy game" and it's nice to occasionally see one without all the streamlining and hand-holding.
Yes, but for some reason I have the feeling that Civ5 as it is now with the expansions is a lot more complex than Civ:BE is now, at least from this review. Besides, streamlining is not a bad thing. The word has gotten a bad connotation but going back to its original meaning it's pretty awesome. Streamlining doesn't necessarily mean stripping away features, it can also mean presenting all your existing features in a different way. More intuitive, for instance. That's why I never managed to get into Alpha Centauri; it's UI is so poorly designed that it nearly gave me a headache.

But what's more important is whether the choices you make are meaningful or not. This review is making me a little wary that a lot of them don't seem to be. I'll be awaiting other reviews, but I do feel a little let down.
 

Jandau

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Cowabungaa said:
Jandau said:
Considering that a lot of people (myself included) found Civ 5 to be overly stripped down, the very thing you list as a downside (plethora of choices, decisions and mechanics to manage) will likely be a good thing to quite a few players. Not every game has to be tuned to be "Baby's first strategy game" and it's nice to occasionally see one without all the streamlining and hand-holding.
Yes, but for some reason I have the feeling that Civ5 as it is now with the expansions is a lot more complex than Civ:BE is now, at least from this review. Besides, streamlining is not a bad thing. The word has gotten a bad connotation but going back to its original meaning it's pretty awesome. Streamlining doesn't necessarily mean stripping away features, it can also mean presenting all your existing features in a different way. More intuitive, for instance. That's why I never managed to get into Alpha Centauri; it's UI is so poorly designed that it nearly gave me a headache.

But what's more important is whether the choices you make are meaningful or not. This review is making me a little wary that a lot of them don't seem to be. I'll be awaiting other reviews, but I do feel a little let down.
I agree that Civ 5 in its current state might be more complex than Civ:BE, but let's be fair here, it's had two expansion packs. At release, it felt like a lobotomized version of the older Civ games. As it is right now, it's alright, but it took a while to get there and not all of the changes were for the better.

That being said, streamlining isn't always a bad thing, but we often get too much of it, and I'd list Civ 5 at release as an example of that. Granted, it did draw in a lot of new players, but it also alienated some of the older ones. I'm not saying it's inherently a bad move (or a good one for that matter), just that I personally was disappointed by it and that I'm glad that they are doing something with a steeper learning curve and more upfront mechanics.

Not every game needs to be balanced the same way and all I meant with my previous post is that the tuning level which Tito complained about in his review will likely turn out to be exactly the thing a lot of people wanted. You can't please everyone all the time, but you can cycle through the various tastes, pleasing everyone eventually :)
 

StHubi

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That is a really good review although I will probably rate the game higher (2 stars extra because of fanboyism :)). There seem to be some issues with the game. Though I must say that it never bothered me that I could not forsee the consequence of each decision. Perhaps this makes a decision an interesting one? But that is probably also a question of personal taste...
 

Cowabungaa

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Jandau said:
Well, to rephrase myself then; the cutting of features is not necessarily equal to streamlining. Civ5 at launch was very much an example of both; the UI was a thing of beauty, and what they did offer they offered in a wonderfully clear and intuitive way. However, while its presentation was top notch, it didn't exactly present a lot yeah. Civ 5 indeed felt incredibly bare bones at launch.

And yeah that's why I'm waiting for more reviews; is Civ:BE a case of simply suddenly offering a lot more stuff, or is it a case of cluttered presentation? I still sort of fear that Civ:BE will still feel very bare bones in which case I'll wait for content updates and stick with Civ5 for now.
StHubi said:
There seem to be some issues with the game. Though I must say that it never bothered me that I could not forsee the consequence of each decision. Perhaps this makes a decision an interesting one?
I wouldn't think so. If anything it takes away vital player agency and input; you'll end up making arbitrary decisions. That ain't a good thing.
 

Gibbatron

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"An overall solid turn-based strategy game that suffers from information overload resulting in analysis paralysis for the player"

I can't help but feel this criticism only applies to the first few times you play the game. The game is designed to be played repeatedly, as you yourself said you would be doing, so once you've learned the rules information overload should stop being an issue as you get better at the game.
 

webkilla

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So... its not Alpha Centauri - but judging from TB's review then the startup bit where you choose sponsors, colonists and cargo looks quite nice. That seems to be a neat feature


The orbital layer/units seems neat. But it seems to be the only real difference from Civ5


And it doesn't have the unit customization of Alpha Centauri - nor the social engineering options, though the supremacy/harmony/purity thing seems to imitate that slightly - with the virtue system being VERY similar to Civ5's more historical themed social policies - but they're named purely as passive stat buffs... while in civ5 there was at least some fluff on it.

And the usual civ happiness system has been replaced with health. Ok... looks a bit weird - but I guess they wanted to look different.

That said, that the supremacy/harmony/purity affinity system unlock different ending options is really cool. And that the affinity system also ties into unit upgrades - that's neat

Though the range of units seems very limited - reminds me of that other game, Pandora: First Contact


Overall impression: Alpha Centauri is still more diverse and interesting - but this looks nice and I'll likely give it a go, but not at full price
 

Greg Tito

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Gibbatron said:
"An overall solid turn-based strategy game that suffers from information overload resulting in analysis paralysis for the player"

I can't help but feel this criticism only applies to the first few times you play the game. The game is designed to be played repeatedly, as you yourself said you would be doing, so once you've learned the rules information overload should stop being an issue as you get better at the game.
Yep, that's why I said fans will still enjoy it. Heck, I've put in more than 50 hours already and will play a ton more. I still think there's issues with the design though.
 

Ark of the Covetor

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Honestly I find a lot of the critiques you have a bit baffling.

You criticise the initial process of putting together your "spaceship goodies" because you don't have enough information to make choices, because you can't know what to take unless you know how the game will play out - how is that any different from picking a Civilisation in any of the previous Civ games? Literally the only difference I can see here is that in Civ:BE you get to choose what mix of benefits you get, rather than picking from a list of Civs each with a selection of fixed starting benefits. So how did you pick which Civ to play before? If you picked purely on which historical cultures you found interesting, maybe a sci-fi version of the franchise just isn't for you, which is hardly a fair reason to mark it down; if you picked a Civ based on which combination of benefits sounded good together or which fit the theme of how you were planning to play out the game, then exactly the same decision making process applies here you just have more flexibility.

In fact you seem to knock off two whole stars from your score based on a single point that you repeat over and over and apply to different areas of the game; "I don't want to have to make all these decisions, why isn't the game playing itself for me?".

I'm not a "Civ guy", Civ5 was the first one I've actually sat down and played seriously on my own, rather than just having a shot for a wee while round at a mate's house, so this is an honest appraisal not a reflexive reaction; I really do think giving it three stars on the basis that it was more complex than you personally expected it to be is unfair. For a lot of people that's not a negative.
 

dWhisper

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Civ 5 had a lot of similar issues at launch, being both stripped down and with a lot of tedious options for the stuff that was still there. It was one of the few games that was vastly improved through the DLC, going from a fan game to an all-holy time suck of a game. Hopefully we can see that here too, or see a lot of fan mods and the like to improve it as well.
 

Gibbatron

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Greg Tito said:
Gibbatron said:
"An overall solid turn-based strategy game that suffers from information overload resulting in analysis paralysis for the player"

I can't help but feel this criticism only applies to the first few times you play the game. The game is designed to be played repeatedly, as you yourself said you would be doing, so once you've learned the rules information overload should stop being an issue as you get better at the game.
Yep, that's why I said fans will still enjoy it. Heck, I've put in more than 50 hours already and will play a ton more. I still think there's issues with the design though.
I was wondering how long you'd played it for. Is it getting better?

I'm downloading it as soon as I'm uncapped, which is in a few hours. I'll be able to give my own take then. Of course, being a Civ game it will probably suck me into a different time dimension until I finish the first game.

One thing I have to ask. Does it suffer from the same UI lag that Civ5 did or does it feel more polished?
 

WouldYouKindly

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I'd advise anyone looking at this game to take a look at people who've been given pre-release copies. As much as a nearly hour long review can tell you, watching someone go through 300 turns both gives you an idea how to play and a much more complete view of the game if the player is competent.

That being said, most of the things Greg didn't like are exactly what I look for. Give me all that data, I'll sit and crunch through it while smiling.
 

StHubi

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Cowabungaa said:
I wouldn't think so. If anything it takes away vital player agency and input; you'll end up making arbitrary decisions. That ain't a good thing.
If I understood correctly the "mathematic consequences" are visible, but the effect on the game play is not always obvious (please correct me, if I am wrong). That makes a decision interesting. I could also imagine that a decision between two bonusses just branches into two different play styles. But whatever I cannot really judge this withour having played the game... Just 8 hours 24 minutes... I am waiting!
 

Greg Tito

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Gibbatron said:
I was wondering how long you'd played it for. Is it getting better?

I'm downloading it as soon as I'm uncapped, which is in a few hours. I'll be able to give my own take then. Of course, being a Civ game it will probably suck me into a different time dimension until I finish the first game.

One thing I have to ask. Does it suffer from the same UI lag that Civ5 did or does it feel more polished?
The information overload gets slightly better with each playthrough, yes, but the ramp up is not as quick as you'd expect.

I'm not sure what you mean by UI lag, but Beyond Earth definitely takes a long time to cycle through turns in the late game. The maps can be very big and the large number of units and aliens means there's a lot to process. Switching off unit animations helps but part of the fun of a new sci-fi game is watching them move and attack.
 

Belaam

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Looking forward to this unlocking tonight, but I'm a little confused by the question "Will it matter if this building gives +1 health or +1 science over the course of the whole game?" as it seems the author has experience with other Civ games. In Civ V, a granary gives +2 food, and I don't know that anyone questioned the value of building a granary.

It certainly sounds as though this game is a lot less friendly to players new to the genre, but as a rule of thumb, I don't expect to really understand the value of my choices in a Civ game until I have played quite a few games.
 

Xeorm

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Ark of the Covetor said:
Honestly I find a lot of the critiques you have a bit baffling.

You criticise the initial process of putting together your "spaceship goodies" because you don't have enough information to make choices, because you can't know what to take unless you know how the game will play out - how is that any different from picking a Civilisation in any of the previous Civ games? Literally the only difference I can see here is that in Civ:BE you get to choose what mix of benefits you get, rather than picking from a list of Civs each with a selection of fixed starting benefits. So how did you pick which Civ to play before? If you picked purely on which historical cultures you found interesting, maybe a sci-fi version of the franchise just isn't for you, which is hardly a fair reason to mark it down; if you picked a Civ based on which combination of benefits sounded good together or which fit the theme of how you were planning to play out the game, then exactly the same decision making process applies here you just have more flexibility.
In most civ games that I play, there's usually various levels of choice depending on how much the player wants to customize their choices. Here it's not an invalid criticism to say "you're having me make decisions that I have no idea about", and is why many civ-like games offer standard choices.

In fact you seem to knock off two whole stars from your score based on a single point that you repeat over and over and apply to different areas of the game; "I don't want to have to make all these decisions, why isn't the game playing itself for me?".

I'm not a "Civ guy", Civ5 was the first one I've actually sat down and played seriously on my own, rather than just having a shot for a wee while round at a mate's house, so this is an honest appraisal not a reflexive reaction; I really do think giving it three stars on the basis that it was more complex than you personally expected it to be is unfair. For a lot of people that's not a negative.
Reading it, I feel that the review is less that he's complaining about complexity, but more that the game is having him make decisions that aren't very interesting. My impression is that the decisions tended to be about math, where he didn't have enough context to be able to make an informed decision, or that they were tedious and boring and non-decisions. Too much of that can kill a game for anyone that's not into playing spreadsheets.

Compare, say, to early civ games. I start with a single combat unit, and a city that can build something. My build options are pretty limited, but not too dissimilar. For an expert player, building a warrior instead of a barracks (for example) can be a large choice, but still allowing for a newbie to make a choice without a huge possible impact. In not too many turns the difference will be pretty small because now he can build the other option if he wants. Meanwhile, if a building offers a game-long choice, that's a pretty important decision with long term effects. The player will want, because he knows that it will occur for the rest of the game, to make the "right" decision. But he can't, because he lacks the necessary game knowledge to make an informed decision.

That, and from all I've read of the game the main gripe I've heard is it lacks that sense of flavor. The game has a myriad number of choices, but they lack the sort of oomph that gave previous games that bit of life to them to make them more than a playable spreadsheet. I know that sometimes I thoroughly enjoy playing a spreadsheet game, but was hoping that this one wouldn't be like that.
 

Rastrelly

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Cowabungaa said:
Jandau said:
Considering that a lot of people (myself included) found Civ 5 to be overly stripped down, the very thing you list as a downside (plethora of choices, decisions and mechanics to manage) will likely be a good thing to quite a few players. Not every game has to be tuned to be "Baby's first strategy game" and it's nice to occasionally see one without all the streamlining and hand-holding.
Yes, but for some reason I have the feeling that Civ5 as it is now with the expansions is a lot more complex than Civ:BE is now, at least from this review. Besides, streamlining is not a bad thing. The word has gotten a bad connotation but going back to its original meaning it's pretty awesome. Streamlining doesn't necessarily mean stripping away features, it can also mean presenting all your existing features in a different way. More intuitive, for instance. That's why I never managed to get into Alpha Centauri; it's UI is so poorly designed that it nearly gave me a headache.

But what's more important is whether the choices you make are meaningful or not. This review is making me a little wary that a lot of them don't seem to be. I'll be awaiting other reviews, but I do feel a little let down.
I can't play the game yet, but what I see from review goes like 'OMG, they made Civ V too hard to play, that's bad' while Civ V even now is incredibly weak when compared to Civ IV or even III.
 

L. Declis

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Honestly, I just want a good, solid base game which I can have fun with and explore. I'm more irritated that Mac's cannot play, as I was going to have my first game with my fiancee. Now we have to wait.

On the plus side, I am disappointed that diplomacy seems to be lacklustre; in Civ 5, you have to be careful on who you piss off due to the happiness issue, but if favours really don't do much, then it seems a bit meh.

But maybe this is one of the those things which the expansion will fix; maybe they'll add a British Commonwealth race option as well.

Also, Greg, have you played any multiplayer games yet? How are those?

Have they finally fixed the Pitboss issue?
 

gamegod25

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"A good general or leader uses the information available to decide what to do, and I felt I was forced to make important decisions in a vacuum just to see what happened."

Um that's life, you can't always know exactly what to expect. Especially so if your leaving for an unexplored alien wold. As someone else pointed out, you don't know what the situation is going to be like either when picking what civ you want in the previous game. The only difference is you are making your own custom civ rather than picking from a handful of premade ones with predetermined bonuses.