Let’s set sail.
I’ll kick off this review with an admission – I am a huge Civilization fan, and I have played a lot of Civilization V. I also put some time into Beyond Earth. As a sci-fi themed spin-off to Civilization V, a lot of things about Beyond Earth appealed to me. Because of this, I found the game pretty enjoyable, albeit not to the same standard as V or some of the other more seminal games in the franchise’s storied history.
As such, I was pretty pleased to have the opportunity to get stuck in to Beyond Earth’s first expansion, Rising Tide, and discover what it had to add to Beyond Earth’s overall experience.
One reason why, to many, Beyond Earth initially felt a little uninspired was because of the inevitable comparisons it drew to Alpha Centauri. With its sci-fi theme and indeed, its very name, the game was initially touted as an heir to Alpha Centauri. Undoubtedly fuelled partly by nostalgia, these early comparisons generated a lot of hype and expectation; expectations that Beyond Earth quite simply didn’t live up to.
Because of this, Beyond Earth’s first expansion needed to have a big impact. It needed to revitalise the base game, and allow it to stand on its own two feet. Fortunately, Rising Tide delivers on both counts.
One more turn?
In terms of Rising Tide’s content, there are species to discover, refined systems to play with and new technologies to research. The biggest improvement comes in the form of a completely redesigned diplomacy system, which features a resource called Diplomatic Capital. This allows the player to level up personality traits (such as Cultured and Industrialist), whilst also gauging how rival leaders are likely to respond to the player’s own Civ depending on their disposition.
This bold redevelopment has a positive impact on Beyond Earth in at least two significant ways. Firstly, it adds a sense of ingenuity and distinctiveness to diplomatic encounters in the game; traits that were largely absent the first time around. Secondly, the player is now tasked with actually negotiating with rival AIs that feel a lot more like real people: they have personalities, and those personalities evolve depending on the choices made by the player when interacting with them.
The other big change Rising Tide brings to Beyond Earth is the ability to build cities upon the seas, rather than merely cross them. Beyond Earth’s expanded real estate development opportunities don’t just stop there – cities built upon the sea aren’t just static entities, they also have the ability to move (at the rate of one tile a turn) and develop alternative technologies.
Everything also looks very nice. The oceans of Beyond Earth: Rising Tide, with all the new potential they hold, now really feel mysterious and unearthly. The addition of two new biomes also add to the new sense of scale and distinctiveness Rising Tide brings to Beyond Earth.
Despite all the tweaks and new additions Rising Tide brings, all of which were necessary and are certainly welcomed by this player, questions do remain about the long term replayability value Beyond Earth holds.
In the short term, there’s definitely new life here. How long that novelty will last, in terms of hooking the player with the classic ‘one more turn’ addiction, is up for debate. This is particularly true of the more cosmetic changes brought in by Rising Tide, and even the redeveloped diplomacy system can result in some rather puzzling judgements at times.
At the end of the day, Rising Tide accomplishes precisely what it needed to for the Civilization franchise: it provides a good reason for those players who drifted away to potentially jump back into Beyond Earth, and it provides a timely injection of new content for those players who needed something more to continue sticking around.
There are still flaws with the overall experience, but based on this reasoning alone, Rising Tide must be considered a success. This expansion doesn’t completely eradicate all of the elements that led some to accuse the base game of feeling a little stale. However, thanks to new systems, biomes and characterisations, Beyond Earth now at least has an identity that feels much more genuine.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.