Sid Meier’s Civilization heads to new planets

Complicated tactics and gameplay run smoothly in Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth. Business Wire
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Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

Firaxis Games/2K Games

Only for PC

Four stars

Our planet isn't in a very good shape. The good news, according to Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, is that we'll survive for another 500 years or so. The bad news: after that, we'd better start looking for a new home.

It's not the freshest sci-fi premise – Christopher Nolan's new movie, Interstellar, has essentially the same set-up – but it gives Meier and his Firaxis Games studio a chance to expand the beloved Civilization franchise to entirely new worlds.

It’s a mostly successful transplant, though at times you might wish its scope was even more cosmic.

You begin by selecting one of the eight sponsors. The United States, Canada and Mexico are now part of the American Reclamation Corp., for example, while China, Japan and Korea have joined forces in the Pan-Asian Cooperative.

Their figureheads lack the charisma of classic Civ leaders such as Alexander and Napoleon, but their differences aren't that substantial in the long run.

You have a few other choices regarding passengers, spacecraft and cargo, each of which accelerates the game’s early stages. Then it’s time to make a landfall. Sadly, your new home isn’t entirely welcoming – some areas are drenched with poisonous miasma and the native insectoids will make a meal out of anyone who ventures away from your colony.

Obviously, we’re well beyond the dawn of man set-up of earlier versions of Civ, so you don’t have to teach your settlers rudimentary skills such as agriculture and writing. Instead, you have an elaborate tech web that starts with subjects such as physics and genetics, and goes all the way up to exotic sciences such as neural uploading and artificial evolution.

Beyond Earth provides a helpful quest structure that lets you focus on short-term goals while you figure out what it will take to conquer the planet.

The game also lets you invest in four kinds of virtues: might, prosperity, knowledge and industry. And you score points in three affinities: harmony (adapting to the planet), purity (preserving earthling qualities) and supremacy (evolving beyond human flesh). Those points are essential to your ultimate triumph, which can be achieved in several ways. Harmony, for example, can lead to transcendence, defined as the merging of the consciousness of all living things with the latent sentience of the planet.

While you’re juggling all that, you also have to contend with the demands of neighbouring factions from Earth, which you can handle diplomatically or aggressively. There are many complicated systems at play, but Firaxis makes them work together smoothly.

Players itching to build a galaxy-spanning empire may be disappointed, because once you’ve landed on your planet, you’re pretty much stuck there.

But Civilization fans looking for a new world to conquer will be over the moon.