TL;DR – A real improvement but it does not fix many of the problems from the base game and all of this for a very steep price
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Rising Tide is the first expansion to Beyond Earth that includes 4 new sponsors, aquatic cities, new artefacts, a redesigned diplomacy system and a bunch of other content. I want to love this games I really do, it is a turn based 4x game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) set in space with all those Sci-fi trappings produced by Firaxis Games one of my favorite game developers, this should be my jams but I don’t know, the love is not there.
The basic premise of the game is in the not too distant future a series of natural and manmade events cause ‘The Great Mistake’ fracturing the world and remaking it both physically and politically. Six hundred years from now the world is finally getting back on its feet when scientist discover ‘The Inflection Point’, that in the very near future the Earth would only not be able to sustain reasonable standards of living, but soon any chance of exo-planet colonisation would be lost. So many of the world’s leading States and Corporations worked to create ‘The Seeding Project’, a chance for some to escape Earth and maybe a chance for the Human Race to survive. So after a long ride in cryo-sleep, the colonists prepare to shape their new planet into a new home or have their new planet shape them.
Firstly the good, because there is a lot of good things with this expansion. The new sponsors are interesting and have a bit more personality to them. The music for this game is amazing, it truly is, and most of the art really good and that helps with the immersion. The new hybrid affinities is an interesting idea. Also, it is good to see an attempt to fix one of the big problems I had with the first game the lack of lore/personality. There was a lot of cool writing in the base game but most of it was hidden away in the Civilopedia, and while this is fine for Civ, I know what the Pyramids are, it really impacted my engagement with the base game. But through the artefacts and other little small things and the diplomacy all of a sudden this world feels more real and brings a little more of that ‘one more turn’ feel to the game.
One of the big change from the base game is a diplomacy overhaul and it is long overdue. One of the weakest aspects of Civilization 5 was its diplomacy and when that got ported over to Beyond Earth in its entirety is somehow made it worse. They have completely revamped diplomacy by adding traits, diplomatic capital and relationship statuses, which really bring that part of the game to life (once, of course, the first patch fixed many of the glaring errors with things like the War Score mechanic).
Now the bad, while the expansion fixes two of the problems I had with the base game (diplomacy and lore/engagement) many more of the problems that simply drag this game down are still there. The victories are still really poorly implemented. Firstly all bar one of the victories are achieved through science/technologies, which means you have only a science focus throughout the game (which given how your military units only gets stronger by unlocking infinities by tech, it is all science or nothing), which really limits the potential of the Tech Web because you end up only picking the research that gets you to your victory. As well as them being mostly all science based, once you actually get to them it is really anti-climactic, oh you have just built the mind flower, after all that research and building ok cool, now just sit and wait for 30 turns for you to win …. Sigh.
Also, the wonders just are not wonderful, and that is even after they have actually given them look and for once there are actually interesting bonuses for building them. Look I am a builder and in my games, I prioritise Wonders (as anyone who I have played multiplayer with can attest to) because they are an achievement but in Beyond Earth I just don’t care if they get built or not. The main reason for this I think is that when you do build them you just get this weird blueprint outline and a quote that does not actually relate to the building, so what did I actually build, meh I don’t know it just gave me free workers, that just not engaging.
The AI still feels lacklustre, you have to play of the very high difficulties when the AI basically gets to cheat before they become a real problem. The maps feel empty because even though you can now settle on all the water they still have it coded that you can only have a max of 8 players on a map and the AI rarely expands. The aquatic cities while interesting, and indeed it is most amusing to steal a city from a civ and they march it away back to your territory, if I had a choice of picking a 1 tile island or the water to found a city, in most cases I would probably pick the 1 tile island. The artefacts are really cool but there is a finite supply, so get them quick or they are gone, which is not the best way to implement them. Also, a lot of art for the new sea resources feel a bit samey, and it is a pity that there was no hybrid art for cities.
Also just in general it really feels like this game needed a month or so for a balance pass, bug test and final features lock. From Wonders to resources, to artefact rewards to tile improvements all of it needed a bit more time in play testing before release. Also, the first release was really quite buggy. In this regard, I think 2K is more to blame than Firaxis because it is clear that Firaxis they needed more time but they didn’t get it (the first patch out added a major feature that should have been in the base game but missed the release window).
In the end, the big issue is the base game is that did not feel like it was worth the full big ticket price ($80aus). Frankly even the expansion does not really feel that it has the content to match the price ($50aus) and this is because with all the content from the expansion Beyond Earth is only now really feeling less like more than a reskin of Civ 5 and a game in its own right and something I am prepared to pay full price for, however at this point I feel that I have spent too much on this game.
It is clear that Firaxis Games want to turn Beyond Earth into a franchise, in fact, there are hints in the game that this may not be the last expansion (non-progenitor alien remains & the expansion is referred to as expansion 1 in the game code). However, Firaxis needs to spend a little time to step back and think about the game and maybe get some fresh eyes to help out and to give it a look over. Also, they need to get 2K Games to spend some real development money on the game and let them actually finish the game before release. There is a fantastic game in here somewhere I know it, and I hope one day we all get to see it.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Lead Designers – David McDonough & Will Miller
Lead Producers – Dennis Shirk, Stuart E Zissu & Andrew Fredertkeen
Developer – Firaxis Games
Publisher – 2K Games
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: E10+; Ireland: 12+; NZ:PG; UK: 12+; USA: E10+
Disclosure – I am a moderator in the site Civfanatics of which several staff and players are members of the ‘Frankenstein Testing Group’, Firaxis Games internal play testing team. I am not part of this team nor do I have any further links with Firaxis Games or 2K.