Plopped onto a planet with little idea what to expect, we find ourselves falling prey to the native wildlife. A giant worm rampages nearby, destroying the tiles it touches. We have a quest to take it down and have been tasked with doing so for more than one hundred turns, but it’s still way too strong. We decide to avoid it like the plague. In the meantime our colony is making efforts to explore the surrounding land. This process is taking considerably longer than it usually does in Civilization. This partially makes sense as we’re way Beyond Earth, but what was once easily accessible and arguably too guided is now a little complicated for even the most hardcore Civ players.
Prime example: the tech tree is gone. Replacing it is a tech web allowing you to head in any direction and change your mind at any time. Within each broader technology is a couple of research areas based off of the larger discoveries lending it an embedded feeling. It’s incredibly tough to understand what exactly is worth dedicating time to, especially with no knowledge of what any of this actually is and how the new Affinities play into our decisions.
Choose Supremacy and you’ll likely be leading your branch of humanity towards a dominant existence, making the planet your own and destroying any opposition. Those who are more Harmonious will find themselves adopting the native inhabitants and adopting their positive traits while embracing the new planet for what it is. In the middle lies Purity, where your goals are a little less clear. All of these are backed up by a Quest system where the game will give you various objectives, such as tasking you with completing a building or discovering resource pods, or making decisions such as whether the invasive crop should be allow to grow out of control or if the outbreak should be contained. Each of these give you small rewards but build up towards an inevitable victory condition.
Unfortunately at first glance the lead up to the match feels a bit lackluster compared to what Civ V spoiled us with. Because there are no historical connotations to your decisions, everything feels slightly less influential. Instead of choosing a leader, perks, special units, etc. you know select the region you’re from, what type of colonists you bring with you, and what tech accompanies you on your trip. After this you select from a group of three planets knowing little else than what its type is – Atlantean, Pangaean, etc. All of this leads to a very disconnected first experience in the game.
We wanted to be utterly fascinated by what was going on, instead we were left trying to piece together exactly what was going on and what it would mean in the future. However, we were simply forced to expect that more of it would become clear as we continued to play the game. Before you automatically knew tanks were better than rifleman, but at a glance we have no clue as to whether or we should research Genetic Mapping or Alien Biology.
Much like landing on an extraterrestrial planet likely is, setting foot on Firaxis’ next title is a little inhospitable at first. There’s a lot to learn, to adapt to, to understand. We only had 200 turns and try our best to do so, but without the full experience it’s hard to tell exactly how quickly we’ll be able to do so. For now we have more questions than answers. We’re used to inferring a lot from the information 2K releases, but we’ll be darned if this time around we’re just waiting to see more since we have no clue what to expect this time around.
Alpha Centauri fans should be pleased with how the developers have merged the two series. Civilization vets on the other hand will have some adjusting to do as their history grounded experience is uprooted and thrown into the stars.