Civilization: Beyond Earth, a sequel of sorts to Civilization V, was fun for maybe my first three or so gameplays. After that, the game didn’t really feel like it offered too much, and I was a little underwhelmed with it. It takes place in the distant future, when all of Earth’s resources have been used up and humanity must colonize various alien planets in order to survive. Incidentally, some of these planets are named and designed after real exoplanets discovered by NASA, such as one of the Kepler planets. Beyond Earth’s expansion pack, Civilization: Beyond Earth—Rising Tide, also added a few new worlds as well, such as an icy Hoth-like world and a more volcanic Mustafar-like planet (perhaps for all of us Star Wars fans), and did a better job customizing the alien life to better fit each biome, which certainly helps the game’s enjoyability.
Unfortunately, while, overall, I really do like Beyond Earth so much better thanks to Rising Tide—seriously, this expansion is one of the best improvements I’ve seen for any game—there is still something off about the game that makes playing it less enjoyable than it should be.
As I said earlier, I wanted more from this game. It’s fun, but it doesn’t really take advantage of all its opportunities. Despite alien worlds opening up a lot of options to move the story forward, neither the original nor its expansion really go anywhere. Civilization V is a game that I can play for hours and hours, over and over again. When it comes to Beyond Earth, that isn’t the case. The five different victory paths, while fun to finish at first, become old really fast, and that’s probably the game’s biggest failing. There’s little to no variation in how you win—you just end up playing the same story over and over again, only on different maps with different settings.
The game utilizes different affinities—Harmony, Purity, and Supremacy—which can unlock really good upgrades and abilities for you, and now with the expansion pack, you can even combine your affinities. Your explorers can also discover artifacts, which can grant you new buildings or abilities as well. Then Rising Tide added a complete overhaul to the game’s diplomacy. After gaining enough diplomacy points, you can unlock new bonuses for your civilization and create trade deals with other civilizations.
As the game also implies, you now have the ability to colonize the ocean as well. This is both awesome and annoying. Outposts normally gain new tile space over time through culture and expand on their own. Ocean-based cities do not. So while you are introduced to new basic resources and can now explore the deep ocean, you actually have to spend production moving an ocean city to a new location in order to conquer land, or you have to buy new hexes individually.
The game also added a different set of ruins—you can discover ancient alien cities, massive ancient alien bones, or even odd sea creatures. Studying these can also unlock new bonuses for you and let you learn something about the planet you’re on, or even some of the history and biology of the aliens who built the cities—who incidentally are part of the Contact Victory.
When you take into account the different quest options you have, the different victories, and all the affinities, Beyond Earth has a lot of potential, and yet it still fails. As I said, there is something off about the game, and that would be the story and the different victories. But there’s no variation in winning. It doesn’t matter what world you land on, or what faction you chose to play as, you get the same story over and over again. All the alien life looks the same, every planet has the same resources, and picking one world over another does very little to impact your victory progress. Rising Tide does not change this, even though it has plenty of opportunity to do so with all its new added features.
On top of all this, despite all the religious undertones in Beyond Earth, the expansion still didn’t add religion into the gameplay when it would very easily fit. At this point, not only would religion make the game more inclusive, it would also hopefully help make multiple playthroughs feel more unique and less repetitive. I had hoped for a long time that Rising Tide would finally introduce religion back into the story, but after watching all the trailers for it, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Nevertheless, it’s still annoying. The idea that religion won’t be a thing in the future is rather insulting, as if religion and science are completely incompatible with one another. That is also thankfully not an idea that this game holds to, which makes it strange that religion is not incorporated in the gameplay, when it is most definitely incorporated in the story.
Take a look at Beyond Earth’s opening sequence:
In the video above, we see a young Muslim girl chosen to be a settler on a new planet. We also see a priest blessing the spaceships she and all the others are leaving in. The girl even tells us that “the great ships were the embodiment of each nation’s ingenuity, courage, and faith. And they sent us to the stars in search of a new home.” That same girl is also the narrator for Rising Tide’s opening sequence. So for all intents and purposes, it seems as though religion should be part of the gameplay.
The game also begins right after landing on a new planet, which means that all your settlers are people originally from Earth, who hold onto Earth’s ideals and ways of life. However, with the way the game progresses, you’d think that wasn’t the case. As if somehow, when people arrived on the new planet, they simply decided to forget everything about their own history. In some ways, I feel as though there is another game missing between this game and Civilization V that would help explain how humanity got to this point in its development.
It wouldn’t even have to be a completely new game. Maybe another expansion pack for Civilization V that added onto the end of the tech tree could explain this to us. To be honest, I would much rather have had that then Beyond Earth, because as it is, Beyond Earth is lacking. Its story doesn’t go anywhere and not keeping religion in the game was a sure mistake.