The next game in Sid Meier’s iconic turn-based strategy series Civilization will take place on an alien planet. It’s called Civilization: Beyond Earth, and in many ways it’s a spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. The game is developer Firaxis’ first attempt at a sci-fi 4X game (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) in nearly 15 years. Firaxis has said that while the game does draw a lot from the ’90s classic Centauri, they are aiming to go in their own direction whilst still allowing players to explore, colonize, and fight other factions in an attempt to navigate uncharted sci-fi territory.
Each new game of Civilization: Beyond Earth begins with players customising their aircraft (in terms of colonists, cargo, and the aircraft itself) and preparing for the expedition to the new alien planet. These initial preliminary decisions have huge bearings on the rest of the game and players will not simply arrive as a “pre-baked factional identity”. In addition, players now take on the role of futuristic fictional factions such as the “American Reclamation Corporation” rather than historical empires and this, coupled with varying initial loadouts, provides a plethora of different gaming experiences. Sadly, aliens are not currently included as a playable faction and are simply NPCs that can either be ignored or cleared out if need be.
Importantly, the tech tree for the game will be non-linear and should be seen as more of a web than a tree. Effectively this means that rather than progressing through early tech levels to reach more advanced stages, players can dynamically change paths and vary their selected technologies. The developers had the following to say regarding the tech tree:
“Once you go to ecology, for example, that can lead into technologies for terraforming, and for advance satellites, and for geoscoping. Whereas if you go down the engineering route, that leads to civil support, cybernetics, and other technologies instead. You can advance in many different directions, and at any point you can go back and say, ‘OK I’ve gone enough down this branch for now,’ and go back and focus on other things.”
Linked to these technological choices is what the developers are calling “affinities”. These are effectively the post-human identities that players can adopt as they progress and will generally be a result of the overarching theme of their choices up to that point. The affinities have been classified as purity, harmony, and supremacy.
“Purity is very concerned with maintaining the glory of old Earth and the tradition and the culture. They’re kinda rejecting these new influences on the alien planet. The harmony affinity embraces genetics and alien life forms on the planet and tries to integrate with the planet. And then supremacy does the same sort of integration and moving past what humanity was, but they do it in a technological direction. So they implant cybernetics into their own bodies, and they link up their minds to neural networks.”
Quests and side missions will be made available to the player as they explore the planet and players can also expect to discover mysterious alien relics (much like in Alpha Centauri). As usual, players will also be given the opportunity to build trade routes and establish alliances with other factions – right up until the point where they declare war and attempt to kill everyone on the planet in a maniacal attempt to gain control.
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is expected to be released for PC, Mac and Linux in late 2014.