Monday, 14 April 2014

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Returns - Civilization: Beyond Earth

Well, it's about damn time.

For as long running and lauded as the Civilization series has been, one title which has always stood out has been Alpha Centauri. Following on from one potential ending from Civilization II, the game saw a players taking control of landing forces attempting to colonise an alien planet. Hostile to foreign life and with ideologically opposed factions of humans vying for power, it was everything a sci-fi Civ needed to be. More importantly, while it shared many assets and aspects of the original game it was not a mere clone with a new coat of paint. Along with tailor made units, the ultimate victory conditions were entirely different to previous titles and the world was far more hostile than other games.

Now it seems it could be returning under the new name of Civilization: Beyond Earth.

While little has been revealed thus far, what we know does resemble a great deal of the old game. The cinematic trailer depicts humanity having advanced to its technological apex on Earth but is forced to abandon the planet thanks to overpopulation and an event known as the Great Mistake. Similarly many screenshots, such as the one above, feature human forces combating alien wildlife which appears to be linked to the planet somehow. While there are no signs of fungal growth thus far, both are very good signs.

More importantly, comments by a representative of the developer have confirmed that 
"The factions do have named leaders that are representatives of their group." However, unlike the previous game you will have much more control over their overall identity. While it certainly means that the groups involved may not be as strong, it does show they are trying to do more than simply replicate what came before. It's a possible sticking point given the impact certain leaders and their characteristics had, but there's not nearly enough information to damn the game just yet.

Another interesting innovation is the idea that you have far more choice about how you begin. You choose the spacecraft, colonists and cargo you arrive with and unlike past games you are not simply locked into a single world. Instead your craft and colony are one of hundreds if not thousands which have been scattered throughout the galaxy, allowing for more random events. It's likely this exact point which is going to cause a divide among old and new fans as, rather than having the main driving story of the original, the tales within games are going to be driven by a quest system. Something which the developers have claimed will lead to emergent and random storytelling.

The final and perhaps the most important point in terms of gameplay is how the technology tree will work. Rather than the linear system we had before, apparently there will be a "tech web" which will allow you to research in three of its different branches. Each one will coincide with a different win condition but we know little beyond this at the moment. This could either be a comparatively minor change to the game or completely transform how you progress. While innovation is certainly something to be lauded, this could be seen as the developers attempting to fix what isn't broken.

Still, for any concerns here this is definitely good news. The screenshots so far look fantastic and seem to be sticking to the game hex based system as Civ 5. It's definitely going to be something to keep an eye on in the coming future.

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