On October 24th, 2014, the world received one of the most highly anticipated Civilization games of all time – Beyond Earth. A Sci-Fi take/spin on that classic and storied Civilization franchise. From its announcement, to now, the correlations and expectations compared to Alpha Centauri has been made left, right, and center. In looking at the mods available for Beyond Earth since its release, many mods include factions from Alpha Centauri. But before we get into the Alpha Centauri vs. Beyond Earth comparisons, let us look strictly at Beyond Earth.
Beyond Earth runs on the same engine as Civilization V. That should be widely apparent based off any game screenshots, let’s plays, and other means. And that isn’t to say that is a bad thing. Civilization V got a lot of things right, and it looks stunning. It has power in all the right places, and features the Civilization franchise hasn’t seen. Beyond Earth takes place “some time in the future”. The team behind Beyond Earth did not want to root the game in story, or limit the open ended-ness of the future. Like in any Civ game, you pick a “Civ”, or in this game, a sponsor, along with other features, and you attempt to found humanity on an alien planet. You do this through the typical city builder, army builder, turn based game we have loved over the years. While you collaborate with and against other factions on the planet, you also have to survive against aliens, and navigating through and around the planetscape, including “miasma” – a poisonous gas that damages your units.
All things considered, Beyond Earth is a solid game. But that is primarily because it is rooted in Civilization V, which was a solid game as well. For fans of Civ V, I hands down recommend Beyond Earth. It is a new take on the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours dumped into Civ V. However, if you are tired of Civ V, or need a break, than Beyond Earth may not be for you. Those of you looking for a re-hashed, re-skinned Alpha Centauri may be disappointed, however.
Beyond Earth, as widely touted, is the spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri. It isn’t Alpha Centauri 2. The two games play differently, even though conceptually they are very similar. The disconnect some may have with Beyond Earth versus many other games in the Civilization series, and/or with Alpha Centauri, is the fact that Beyond Earth has very little lore and definition. It was intended on being something like a Create-Your-Own-Adventure type game. But this strength is also its weakness. Before, we always knew that the Spartan Federation will always be a militaristic faction, and that Gaia’s Stepdaughters will try to harmonize with the planet, etc. etc. Now, there are very few constants in Beyond Earth. Brasilia, with its militaristic bonus, isn’t always a warmonger. A fan favorite in Civilization is to be funny and ironic. What isn’t to love about Gandhi hoarding dozens, if not hundreds, of nuclear missiles? That irony doesn’t exist in Beyond Earth since there’s no context behind the sponsors, the leaders, and the factions. And that is okay.
My one gripe with Beyond Earth was that it didn’t carry over any sort of unit concept like Alpha Centauri had. You have a very limited amount of units in game. And though there are a few upgrades for them, there is no system such as a create-your-own-unit like in Alpha Centauri. Instead of researching chassis, armor types, weapon types, etc., you are stuck with a few type of units with no personal way to change them per your own design. For me, that ability to create variety was paramount for my Alpha Centauri experience.
Beyond Earth is not like any other Civ game out there. If you need that historical or background context, Beyond Earth isn’t exactly for you. However, if you want to conquer a random planet in space under your own story that you create upon launching, Beyond Earth is perfect for you. It is a good game worth looking into. If you still aren’t convinced, spend a little time and watch this game review that expresses things I tried to capture in this review.