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E3 2014: Sid Meier's Civilization Beyond Earth Preview: A whole new world

Sid Meier’s Civilization Beyond Earth Screenshot - Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

Sid Meier's Civilization is easily one of the more popular turn-based strategy franchises available. But with Beyond Earth, Fireaxis is taking things in a new direction. It's a sci-fi entry that tells the story of how you lead a colony on an alien world to write the next chapter for humanity. Intrigued by this change in approach, I stopped by 2K booth to get a brief look at the newest entry in the series.

The demo opened with an explorer from our colony out alone in the lush alien terrain. The first thing I noticed was how beautiful this exotic environment is. Surrounding our explorer was all sorts of threats: pockets of green poisonous miasma gas that can result in damage over time, a deadly Manticore guarding an alien hive, and a siege worm, one of the most powerful aliens in the game, and something you don't want to attack unless you have a giant army backing you up. It's worth noting that the aliens in Beyond Earth will react to your aggression, so if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone.

Unequipped to face danger, our explorer went south where we were introduced to a few other features. We came across a resource pod, which is basically a supply drop sent from earth to help us out. It provides energy, which is the currency in Beyond Earth. We also saw a station, a place where your an establish a trade route with and, depending not he station, you will receive different kinds of rewards. Our demo was a military station which gave us siege units.

Continuing on our adventure, we encountered an enormous pile of bones. When playing Beyond Earth, you'll find different structures -- alien ruins, downed satellites, etc. -- which can provide you with a reward. For example, you can be rewarded with an alien that fights for your side.

Civilization Beyond Earth

Something new to Civilization Beyond Earth, which was pointed out to us when we reached the capital city, was the new "quest" feature. Quests help tell the story of your play through. Traditionally, narrative in Civilization is told through the players. That's still true in Beyond Earth, but quests will give your story a little more context, provide you with meaningful decisions and make "every story, every time you plan the game a unique experience."

A new quest that was triggered when we built a spy agency -- called "For Your Eyes Only" -- involved sending a spy to another faction's city. So we opened the covert ops panel, selected the spy, selected the city, and sent him on his way. Once there, he gathered "intrigue." The more he gathers, the more operations become available to perform, ranging from "simple to complex."

Another new feature, and perhaps the core of Civilization, is something called "affinities." These represent a different vision for mankind's future as well as an opposing philosophy. Affinities are vital and touch on every system in the game. As you make your affinity stronger, your military will become more powerful, your city will become more prosperous, and you'll figure out what resources you'll need to go after. As an option, each affinity has a "victory condition" tied to it.

In our play through, we took on the "Supremacy" affinity which looks to make mankind independent of the world we live on. This is all about making humanity a little more robotic through augmentations, technology and cybernetics. Affinity can be developed through resource pods and alien ruins, but the main way is through the tech web. This web includes a ton of tech upgrades for your city. There's a primary tech and underneath that are a leaf tech that you'll find contain an association with an affinity. 

Civilization Beyond Earth

Other affinities mentioned include Purity which look to change the alien world into a new Earth. They want to maintain the cultural legacy and history of Earth that we know today. Then there's the Harmony affinity which wants to change humanity and turn them into a native species of the planet. THey want to tie themselves down to the one planet. As a Supremacy faction, we basically hate that. And seeing as how this faction also controlled a point on the map that housed a resource we need, we attacked them. 

Combat is similar to past Civilization games with a key difference being tactical satellites up in orbit. Satellites provide bonuses to the troops within its range.  Not all satellites are military related, but in this case it provided our units with bonuses, health regeneration, and combat effectiveness. So we started the attack and long story short, we dominated. 

Anyone who has played a Civilization game knows how extremely in-depth and complicated they can be. This was but a taste of what I assume Beyond Earth will offer us, and I'm eagerly looking forward to more information. I don't consider myself a hardcore Civ player at all, but I think fans of the series will find great enjoyment in this newest installment. Civilization Beyond Earth is due out this fall 2014.

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Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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