Firaxis had a surprise announcement lined up for PAX East and that surprise is Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth. The all new Civilization title is based heavily on Civilization V from the hex grid up. It's Civilization, but in the future and in space! Really though, for recent Civilization players Beyond Earth should be very comfortable, but there are also plenty of new mechanics and changes to shake the experience up. Pick up Civilization: Beyond Earth for PC in the fall later this year for $49.99.
The biggest change between Civilization V and Civilization: Beyond Earth is a perspective shift -- players go from experiencing history to creating the future. Franchise creator and current Creative Director at Firaxis Sid Meier says exactly this in a prepared statement:
"The Civ team was excited about the opportunity to continue the story of Civilization into the future, because it allows the team to break free of historical context. We’ve always let our fans create the history of mankind, and Civilization: Beyond Earth will now let them create the future."
The difference between creating history and creating the future, however, may mainly be realized only through the eyes of the player. That is to say that gameplay in Civilization: Beyond Earth doesn't appear to be changing a huge amount. There are certainly additional feature inclusions, some of which could dramatically altetr the game, but Beyond Earth seems now to be more of an expansion on the current series rather than a reinvention.
Specifically, here are the large changes that Firaxis is touting as the difference between Beyond Earth and previous games in the series:
- Seed the Adventure: Establish your cultural identity by choosing one of eight different expedition sponsors, each with its own leader and unique gameplay benefits. Assemble your spacecraft, cargo & colonists through a series of choices that directly seed the starting conditions when arriving at the new planet.
- Colonize an Alien World: Explore the dangers and benefits of a new planet filled with dangerous terrain, mystical resources, and hostile life forms unlike those of Earth. Build outposts, unearth ancient alien relics, tame new forms of life, develop flourishing cities and establish trade routes to create prosperity for your people.
- Technology Web: To reflect progress forward into an uncertain future, technology advancement occurs through a series of nonlinear choices that affect the development of mankind. The technology web is organized around three broad themes, each with a distinct victory condition.
- Quest System: Quests are injected with fiction about the planet, and help to guide you through a series of side-missions that will aid in resource collection, unit upgrades, and advancement through the game.
- Orbital Layer: Build and deploy advanced military, economic and scientific units that provide strategic offensive, defensive and support capabilities from orbit.
- Unit Customization: Unlock different upgrades through the tech web and customize your units to reflect your play style.
I'm skeptical that the game will change in any meaningful way directly through gameplay, but there's no argument in my mind that the shift to the future in general will dramatically adjust the experience. To fly off into space, a remnant of humanity, struggling to build a society where man can continue to survive. Fighting against aliens and an unknown environment, discovering alien relics -- that's the fantasy I want to have when playing a Civilization game. Not that history isn't compelling, I just mean I'm a huge nerd. Sci-fi is kinda my thing.
Civilization: Beyond Earth is planned for release on PC in the fall of 2014. Expect more news on the next game in the storied franchise in the months ahead and certainly a ton of impressions coming out of E3. Gah, E3. Is that so soon?