In many ways, Beyond Earth cribs from the Civilization 5 formula. However, there are enough differences that people who have played a lot of Civ 5 might find themselves a bit lost at first. I took notes through my first few games and decided to share them in the hopes of helping others over that initial learning curve. Enjoy!
Setting up & Early Game
During game setup, you might notice a lot less faction-specific bonuses, and a lot more choices to make. This philosophy of “customizing” your Civ stretches through the entire game. Instead of picking a particular preset of special units and buildings, throughout the game you’ll be asked to make choices that customize the benefits of various technologies and buildings.
The early game has been given an overhaul, mainly due to more aggressive non-player hostiles. Barbarians have been replaced by aliens, but these aliens make barbarians look like elementary school children. Where you could generally clear out a barbarian camp with a couple of units, aliens are far more numerous and more powerful. They don’t tend to attack unprovoked, but they will certainly take advantage of undefended units.
Pro Tip Aliens can be made friendly, but you have to have a nest within your borders for a long time before this happens. They eventually change colors, although the color shift is subtle. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it to wait them out or just wipe them out instead.
Miasma is a new addition – tiles covered with it will cause damage to your troops before you research the relevant technologies. There are also orbital units and worker upgrades available to clear it.
Ancient ruins have been replaced by supply pods. They’re functionally identical. There are also sites that can be investigated by explorer units. This is similar to Brave New World’s archaeologist mechanic. Each explorer can only undertake a limited number of expeditions before it must return to a friendly city to resupply. The explorer units are also very vulnerable to aliens. Unfortunately, you can’t stack an explorer with a military unit to give it support.
Pro Tip This 1-2 punch of aliens and miasma mean that exploring very far in the early game is extremely difficult. Miasma will sap your units’ health, and then the occasionally hostile alien units will finish them off. Rank 1 of the Purity affinity makes your explorer units immune to the aliens, though.
Cities & Tiles
Cities and tile terrain are pretty similar to the way they were in Civ 5. Plains, grasslands, hills, rivers, mountains, they’re all here. Cities still produce units, buildings, or wonders. Workers still improve tiles in mostly the same ways.
Pro Tip In the upper right hand corner is the mini-map. There’s a tiny eye icon in one corner of this map. If you click this, you can toggle certain elements on the map. For instance, turn on the Resource Icons option and you’ll be able to see the resources on the map and hovering on the resource icons will show you what that resource does for you.
Technology and Virtues
The “Tech Web” is a replacement for the tech tree, but with more options open at any one given time. Once you’ve researched a node on the web, some number of sub-technologies also unlock and can be researched. Getting to a new node in the web is generally cheaper than the deeper research under each node. Also note that you can research any of the sub-nodes in any order.
Pro Tip Techs you can currently research are highlighted in purple, while techs you have already researched are in white and techs you are missing prerequisites for are in gray.
The social policy trees of Civ 5 have been replaced with a more streamlined “virtues” system. There are four virtue trees, and three tiers to each tree. After investing enough points in a particular tier or tree, bonuses can be unlocked.
Some Affinity for Affinities
Affinities are a new addition, and they impact several areas of play, so I’ll explain them next. There are three affinities:
- Purity, which represents advancement while keeping the human race “pure”
- Supremacy, which represents a future of humanity embracing technology, cybernetics, and robotics
- Harmony, which embraces the alien nature of the new world, working together instead of against it
Gaining points towards affinities raises their level. You can gain affinity points by completing quests or by researching technologies.
Pro Tip You don’t have to be exclusive to a particular affinity, although gaining ranks in non-dominant affinities gets harder as you progress. Each affinity has a rank 1 bonus, and especially the Purity one is worth it. As I mentioned above, it makes explorers immune to aliens. Since units can’t stack, this means you can protect ranged units or unarmed units by blocking aliens with your explorers.
Questing for Glory
Quests are a new addition, and they’re similar to (but broader than) the things city states would ask of you in Civ 5. Some quests will ask you to explore ruins, or kill aliens, while others want you to research particular technologies or build certain buildings.
Pro Tip If you neglect quests, you’ll be at a disadvantage when it comes to your affinity level. As we’ll see, affinity level is tied directly to your military strength as a Civ, so it pays to do what it takes to wrap these quests up ASAP. I have had some quests that asked me to do things that were impossible (ie, build a building in a city that requires a resource that city doesn’t possess, for example).
Some of the strategic resources in the game have been aligned with these affinities. The first three: titanium, petroleum, and geothermal, are useful to all factions in some way or another. They chiefly help you to build affinity-agnostic buildings and orbital units.
However, the second set of strategic resources are visible on the map from the start, and each aligns with a particular affinity. Harmony has Xenomass, Supremacy has Firaxite, and Purity has Floatstone. These resources are used to build powerful end-game units and buildings. These require a minimum affinity level, a minimum rank with the corresponding affinity, and the required resources.
Pro Tip These affinity-specific resources are always visible on the map right from the start of the game. If you know early on which affinity you will be following, it pays to claim these resources as early as possible. Also, resources for an affinity you don’t plan to use are pretty worthless – consider selling them to your neighbors.
Speaking of units, they have been simplified considerably, and they too align with affinities. The unit choices have been reduced to their fundamental archetypes. There’s a “melee unit” (ie, Warrior), a “ranged unit” (ie, Archer), a “siege unit” (ie, Catapult) and so forth. Ranking up your units is a matter of gaining levels in your chosen affinity.
Pro Tip All of your units are always at the highest level available. There’s no need to buy new units or upgrade your old ones, the changeover is instant. This can be devastating during a war – the change happens even in enemy territory!
Playing Well With Others
Diplomacy and spying return, and they’ve been tweaked somewhat but are still somewhat similar to how they were previously.
The biggest change to diplomacy is the “favor” system. The AI will offer you favors during negotiation, especially in situations where it is asking for a handout. If you accept, you can cash that favor in during a later negotiation to get the upper hand. The value of a single favor varies, but it’s nice to finally be able to get something in return for the AI’s outrageous demands.
Espionage allows you to undertake a variety of actions on foreign cities. Agents can be assigned to a city, and from there they can act depending on the “intrigue level” of the city. Cash and technology can be stolen at the lower levels, while at the higher levels it’s possible to do major damage to a city or even take it over.
City-states have been replaced with stations. Most of what they’re good for is trading with. Trading is fundamentally the same as it was in the later expansions to Civ 5 – warts and all. Get ready to send the same caravan to the same city for the 90th time…
Finally, we arrive at victory conditions. There are 5 total, and three are affinity-specific.
- Domination – same as it ever was. Take everyone’s capitals and you win.
- Contact – this is the odd one out in that it’s new and not affinity-related. With the right combo of science and a lot of cash, you can establish a beacon. 30 turns (normal speed) of it consuming all your excess funds and you win.
- Emancipation – this is the Supremacy victory. First you construct a gateway back to Earth, then you send 1,000 strength worth of units through it in order to win.
- Transcendence – this is the Harmony victory. Create a giant flower thing, and then earn points towards becoming one with the planet.
- The Promised Land – this is the Purity victory. Build a gate to Earth, then bring colonists from Earth and settle them. The colonists’ settlements act like stations do.
Pro Tip If you luck out and discover the signal early, Contact can be one of the easiest victories to pull off. It doesn’t require any high levels in any particular affinity, although not having a high affinity level will mean your military is probably not up to snuff.
The affinity-specific wins all require specific steps and specific technologies to pull off. You’ll want to watch the quest screen to figure out what the next thing you need to do is.
Pro Tip If you need to build something, but you don’t know the prerequisite tech, use the search feature on the tech web screen. It indexes the units and buildings in addition to the technology names.