Civilization: Beyond Earth Review


Civilization is one of the oldest PC gaming series out there. Starting in 1991, the original Civilization was a pioneer of the strategy genre, and the newest title, Civilization: Beyond Earth is the 20th release in the series (if you’re counting expansion packs and remakes, that is). Going along with that, Civilization: Beyond Earth is a new game with a decidedly old-school approach. The game is put in front of the player as a challenge to figure out – as your civilization advances on a dangerous new planet, trial, error, and adaptation will be a large part of your gameplay experience. I’m going to tell you up front – gamers that are new to the series will have a hard time knowing what to do with the sheer amount of options placed in front of them. But for veterans of the series or gamers looking for a true test of their wits, Civilization: Beyond Earth may be just what you’re looking for.

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Civilization: Beyond Earth starts with a short cutscene, outlining what has become of the Earth in this possible future. You aren’t told much, but enough to understand the premise: the Earth is doomed, and your civilization has set off in search of a new planet to colonize. As soon as you start up a game, you are dropped onto a new planet, and from there you must expand your civilization by researching technologies, building cities, expanding culture and raising armies. For new players, this is a daunting task. Even with the pleasantly British-accented tutorial turned on, many basic things about Beyond Earth are simply left unexplained to newcomers.

This leaves newcomers in a position to either guess and fail or comb through a very dense ‘Civliopedia’ that, while thorough, isn’t easily searchable. As someone who hasn’t played a Civilization title in a few years, figuring out the mechanics of the game took me a few run-throughs. I am an advocate for learning curves in games, but Civilization: Beyond Earth gives even the most eager learners very little to work with – something that will surely turn off less dedicated players.

Even with the pleasantly British-accented tutorial turned on, many basic things about Beyond Earth are simply left unexplained to newcomers.

Which is a shame, because once you make it past that curve, it opens up into an incredibly deep and entertaining experience. Civilization as a series has always given its players as many options as possible. Unlike other strategy series like Age of Empires or Starcraft, players are presented with non-combat options that shape the way the game is played. Players have always been given the ability to choose technologies to research and appropriate for their civiliazation, but Beyond Earth takes these options even further than past titles in the series – instead of technology trees that can be fully unlocked over time, there is a technology web that branches out in all directions. Because of the way it branches, building every  technology becomes impossible, and that’s a good thing: players are forced to choose what direction they want to develop in, making specialization an important facet of success.

Play Your Way

Quests also help shape a play-through. While some quests are simple indicators to research a specific technology, some quests give you more meaningful choices to make, such as trade-offs in technology, culture, or production. Many quests also reward you with Affinity. This new addition to the Civ formula revolves around how your colony chooses to interact with its new world. The Purity, Supremacy, and Harmony affinities create a new level of choice for players that used to only be available at the race/civilization select screen. Now instead of having one set of specialties built purely into that initial choice, picking an Affinity will further specialize your playstyle for that game. If you’re looking to try every combination, or just want to find your ideal setup and perfect it, Affinity gives you more ways to play. Each Affinity also has its own unique victory condition – a nice touch that once again supports specialization in one Affinity over the others.

The other big change that makes Civilization: Beyond Earth stand out is the introduction of alien life to the playing field. In earlier games, barbarians were a nuisance that got dealt with from time to time, but took up very little mental energy. If they showed up, you either talked them down or killed them. The new alien life, however, is distinctly primal. It doesn’t always act logically, and while that sounds frustrating at first, it makes interactions with alien life fascinating. Running by a group of aliens will be no big deal one time, while another time your units may be devoured the very next turn. And to top it off, there is a bit of a hive mind at play; killing a group of aliens early on may not do much at the time, but as a group, aliens remember how hostile you’ve been. If you’ve been aggressive towards them in the past, they’ll be more apt to attack you opportunistically.


Civilization: Beyond Earth is a dense, challenging, and rewarding game. Despite clearly being built on the bones of Civilization 5Beyond Earth gives players a new set of toys to play with in nearly every case. But even with these changes, it’s not the quantum leap of Civilization 4 to Civilization 5. Much of the game feels similar which is far from a bad thing, but its lack of front-end accessibility and strong new innovations were frustrating at times. That said, if you are a more veteran Civilization player than I, those frustrations may not be present to you. If you’re an old hand at Civilization this latest installment is almost certainly worth your money. But if you’re not looking to invest a lot of time into learning a new game, it may behoove you to do some more research or watch some footage before making a purchase decision.

(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.)