Tons of Civilization: Beyond Earth announcement details!

Last Updated July 29th, 2021

At the PAX East convention on Saturday morning 2K and Friaxis Games officially announced the next game in the venerable Civilization series: Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth. 

In a departure for the series, Beyond Earth won’t follow the development of historical civilizations from the stone age up through the modern era — instead it will apply a similar strategic formula to a futuristic science fiction setting, with players taking control of colonists leaving behind a ruined Earth in search of a new home beyond the stars.

Long time fans of Firaxis Games and Sid Meier, the father of Civilization, will immediately recognize the influence of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri in this new title. That game, which was originally released in 1999, had represented Firaxis’ sole attempt to combine the Civilization formula with a science fiction setting. Now, fifteen years later, they’re trying it again. Firaxis doesn’t control the Alpha Centauri intellectual property, so Beyond Earth can’t be an official sequel to the game, but the panelists made it very clear that the new title will represent as “spiritual sequel” in many ways.

The announcement began with the debut of the following trailer:

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The trailer set the tone for the discussion to come, as the Firaxis development team on hand spoke at length about how Beyond Earth will be a game that explores the destiny of humanity as it leaves Earth behind. The mechanics of Beyond Earth – the basics of which will be familiar to anyone who has played Civilization V – have all been designed to naturally create a story about the future of humanity as you playCentral to that are the three main “Affinities” that lie at the heart of the game, and which function as a sort of combination of ideology and religion.

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The Affinities

As you discover technologies and make decisions about the way your faction of humanity deals with the challenges of their new home, you will earn points in the different Affinities: Harmony, Supremacy, or Purity. Each Affinity represents “an attitude of what humanity ought to be,” according to Firaxis, and each will have its own version of an Affinity victory, where the player will essentially be determining which possible future humanity will embrace.

Harmony focuses on ways of adapting humans to their new world, along with understanding and making peace with the indigenous alien life forms. Progress far enough in Harmony and you may find yourself with an army of genetically modified alien soldiers at your disposal.

Supremacy builds upon the idea that humanity has always survived thanks to its tools and technology, and focuses on the development of advanced machines, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. Following the Supremacy path could see players ultimately leaving organic humanity behind, in favor of a purely technological existence.

Purity rejects both of the previous paths, and instead represents a dedication to the idea that humans should remain as “human” as possible, not changing themselves to suit their new world or becoming one with their machines. Somewhat counter-intuitively, given the name, Purity represents the most militaristic Affinity, as Purity factions develop “perfect” human soldiers through genetic modification and advanced weapons and armor to impose their will on a landscape they see as essentially hostile.

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Victory, Strategy, and Story

In addition to the Affinity victory conditions, there will be the expected conquest option, where you win by being the last faction standing on the planet, and a Contact victory, described as the game’s version of a diplomatic victory, in which a faction makes contact with an intelligent alien civilization on another world (the alien life on the planet of Beyond Earth is apparently more animalistic than intelligent).

Right from the start of a game of Beyond Earth, players will need to start making decisions that will set the stage for the rest of the game. In addition to choosing your particular Earth “sponsor” nation — the game will launch with eight, and the ones mentioned in the presentation were the “Pan-Asian Cooperative” and the “American Reclamation Corpratocracy” — you will need to decide what kind of spacecraft, colonists, and cargo came together on your colony ship, all of which will have effects on your faction’s strengths and weaknesses.

The story of Beyond Earth begins some 250 years in the future, after a mysterious and disastrous “Great Mistake” — an intentional reference to the work of science-fiction author Dan Simmons — plunged humanity into a 200 year dark age. That dark age saw massive migration and a re-structuring of the nations of the world, which allows Firaxis to craft interesting and distinct sponsor nations, rather than being constrained by the facts of the  world as it now exists.

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The Old and the New

Beyond Earth is a game built on “the bones of Civilization,” Firaxis said. They’ve taken the basic structure of the modern versions of the Civilization franchise and created something exciting and new on top of it. Completely new game mechanics exist that were never possible before, including an “orbital layer” over the world map where players can deploy satellites that affect the terrain beneath them. The traditional technology tree has been abandoned in favor of a web structure, allowing for more lateral movement in technological progression.

The game will also feature a “quest system,” prompting players to complete specifics goals in order to obtain rewards. These quests will be randomized, and are designed to flesh out the existing way games of Civilization create natural, procedural stories. The panelists compared the quests to the “flavor text” that appears on the bottom of Magic: The Gathering cards, in that the quests will provide a more detailed glimpse into the world of Beyond Earth. 

There will be much more to come from Firaxis and 2K in the next few months about Beyond Earth, as the projected release date of Fall 2014 isn’t that far off. Personally, as a huge fan of the Civilization games and Alpha Centauri, this game has just jumped to the top of my most-anticipated list.

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