Players have already conquered the Earth in every way imaginable across the five "Civilization" titles, but now they'll get a chance to take humanity into the farthest reaches of space. "Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth" brings the acclaimed turn-based strategy series into a sci-fi setting while preserving the addictive free-form gameplay that series fans adore.
Tom's Guide had a chance to go hands-on with "Civilization: Beyond Earth" from Firaxis Games at E3 2014. Even though we are turn-based-strategy neophytes, we did not have too much trouble getting our civilization set up. At first, we had only a modest settlement, an explorer and a troop of ill-equipped soldiers, but half the fun of "Civilization" is seeing your outpost grow into a mighty city.
As with previous games in the series, "Civilization: Beyond Earth" takes place on a hexagonal grid, in which a potential surprise lurks in every hexagon. Workers can claim undeveloped land for farms or rock quarries, soldiers can clear out dens of hostile alien life and explorers can investigate mysterious bones or ruins.
The joy of "Civilization: Beyond Earth" is that every map is randomized, so you'll never know what you'll find until you explore. You could wind up surrounded by vital resources or bloodthirsty insectoids, and how you develop land and deal with threats is totally up to you.
Civilizations also advance over time, but "Beyond Earth" puts a new twist on the old formula. Rather than developing technology in a linear fashion (old tech gives way to new tech, as in the historical series), players can access a "tech web," which lets them customize their settlements however they see fit.
For example, our society learned chemistry and biochemistry in order to harvest petroleum, but we could have just as easily learned pioneering, which improves exploration, or astrobiology, which helps identify strange creatures.
Each civilization must also make an important choice about whether to develop along Harmony, Purity or Supremacy paths. Harmony races try to adapt themselves to the planet they live on. Purity races must preserve the cultural legacy of Earth. Supremacy races conquer both the land and their foes by any means necessary. Each one provides a very different set of win conditions and gameplay focuses.
"Civilization: Beyond Earth" seems like a promising new direction for a beloved series. The game is currently set to launch in fall 2014 for PC.