Review: Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide (PC)
If you watched Stargate: Atlantis, you know exactly what a floating city surrounded by ocean looks like. Beautiful, pristine oceans surrounding a floating platform of towering skyscrapers. Rising Tide‘s new aquatic cities are just like that. Also just like Atlantis, the cities can move.
This is the most obvious new component of the Rising Tide expansion to Civilization: Beyond Earth. In the distant future cities will be able to float on the surface of the seas, complete with underwater farms, mines, geothermal power reactors. This mobility comes at a price though: aquatic cities can’t build certain improvements and don’t expand through culture accumulation. You can either buy new tiles to work with energy or you can make the city move to a new location, gaining new resource tiles in the direction it moved, while keeping the old ones. If you move too far away tiles will be under your influence but won’t have citizens working them, so it takes a bit of trial and error to get used to moving your cities around.
The oceans are teeming with life and all sorts of forgotten ruins, resources and the like. To defend yourself you can build submarines, stealthy units that move slowly but pack a serious punch. You will need them because the ocean is teeming with alien life. Life that wants to make passionate spring-time love to your cities. Why aliens are so attracted to cities I do not know, but eventually you will have to kill or convert them to your side, depending on your affinity. They are just that annoying. In one game, even without any alien nests nearby, there were a dozen aliens swimming around and through my territory. Sorry little creatures, you all have to die horrible deaths as I convert you into XP points and bonus science for killing.
Fear me, respect me or both
Rising Tide has a completely new diplomatic system, replacing the rather lacklustre affair that Beyond Earth used. The AI now rates your actions based on things their sponsor finds important, which becomes your respect and fear scores with that faction. A militaristic nation will respect the size and strength of your units, while a more peaceful nation will respect you for trading with others and improvements built in the world. Having a large army of powerful units near the borders of a nation will increase their fear of you, something that can lead to a war if their respect is low. Every turn there is a chance of a sponsor telling you what they like or dislike about you, allowing you to react if you want to avoid war.
It makes a huge difference to know why someone hates you and why they want to go to war, besides say, having different affinities and helping the nation they are at war with. The diplomacy system also allows you to make special agreements using a new resource called Diplomatic Capital. These agreements allow you to research branch technologies quicker, or build cities with colonists instead of colonies, but then colonists cost extra. These agreements cost Diplomatic Capital per turn, adding another resource to manage. This resource can also be used to buy improvements and units in cities, leaving your energy for use to expand your cities. This is really handy if you have multiple aquatic cities.
Spies allow you to keep tabs on your opponents and what they are up to. They can also siphon off science and energy or cause military units to defect to your side. It is rather daunting to know the same might be happening to you, so keeping a few spies to run counter-surveillance operations in your cities will keep your mind at ease. One of the new factions, the Chungsu gets bonus science when spies successfully complete assignments and has access to extra spies. If you see the Chungsu, you are probably being spied on.
What’s this thing?
You can now uncover artifacts in ruined alien cities, alien nests, destroyed stations and sunken derelicts these artifacts can be used to give you a boost of energy or science or production or you can hang onto them until you can use three at a time for a unique upgrade. Having the correct mix of proto-culture, alien or old Earth technology could for example improve your city attack option to not require direct line of sight, allowing you to attack enemies that sit on the far side of mountains in your territory.
Beyond Earth’s three affinities – Supremacy, Harmony and Purity – worked for the most part for deciding how you played and reacted to the world around you. Things got a bit muddy though if you pursued technologies that required levels in different affinities, making your units feel weaker than the player who went and just researched a single affinity. Now that has changed with hybrid units with a completely unique look and play style, as well as unique units that require high levels of two affinities adds a lot of strategic replay value to the game. Golden armoured soldiers that look like the battle version of the typical grey aliens, or Protoss Zealot style soldiers and robotic warriors fall into the three hybrid affinities, borrowing strengths from both. For example, units can borrow the Harmony feat of extra movement per turn, or being immune to miasma. It makes for much more interesting battles and also makes it feel like living on an alien world affects all three affinities, not just those on the Harmony path.
Rising Tide changes a lot of the things that used to niggle me in Beyond Earth. Sponsor choice makes a much bigger impact on how you play the game and the added biomes add variety not just in eye candy, but how the aliens behave. Oceans no longer feel like hazardous wastes of space and I actually know why people are declaring war with me now. It had nothing to do with facial hair preference, it turns out. He just didn’t like my soldiers being yellow and the lack of satellites I have in orbit. Who would have known? Now if I can just set my workers to do specific tasks when automated, or have better automation in general, and I will be so happy.