It’s 2601 AD and I’ve just landed on a poisonous planet. Miasma seeps from corroded vents and Starship Trooper style aliens dart in and out of the fog. Welcome to space. At first it feels as if these differences are merely surface level, as if the latest in Sid Meier’s legendary turn-based strategy series could pass for a Steam Workshop skin-swap job. Take the settler, once guy with donkey and now guy with rover. Or covert ops, which are effectively spies. Or energy, the gold substitute that lets you purchase units, tiles and buildings. Or random resource pods, which fill the role of goody huts. But whatever their outward appearance, these are  Civilization  staples, in the same way that Monopoly’s Park Lane is always pricey whatever edition you play. In many ways,  Beyond Earth starts where Civ V ends.

Consider the four very new victory conditions. There’s Contact (discover an alien signal), The Promised Land (launch a satellite to find a new Earth), Emancipation (liberate Old Earth from a worldwide disaster called The Great Mistake), and Transcendence (research transgenics, nanorobotics and swarm intelligence). New technologies, new prospects, new goals.

Affinities are also new, overarching philosophies that shape technological advancements. Harmony stresses a symbiotic co-existence based on alien domestication and genetic modification.

Supremacy is about dominating the planet with cutting-edge units and technology. And Purity is a blend of both, based on terraforming the planet. I identify with Stephen Lang’s character in Avatar, so I go with Supremacy.

But I’m not alone out here. On turn 15, General Kozlov of the Slavic Federation erects a colony near me. There are eight leaders in all, and before each game you’ll align with one to act as your expedition sponsor. Each of the eight leaders has an affinity, too, and this governs how they’ll handle diplomacy.

By turn 30, I’ve started to blaze ahead in technology, which has been completely restructured. It’s all about leaves and branches now branches are expansive and represent broader tech leaps, while leaves are specific and cost less research. Under the Ecology branch, for instance, sit the Geophysics leaf (reveal geothermal pockets) and Alien Biology leaf (workers are immune to miasma). Later there’s even an orbital layer, in which players can deploy satellites that provide military, economic
and scientific support. Finally, there are social policies, here called Virtues.

Hardcore militant that I am, Might wins out over Knowledge and Industry. My game finishes at 50 turns and, like the best of  Civilization , I’m left wanting more. No mere expansion, Beyond Earth is worlds apart.

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