If there’s one game that’s guaranteed to suck away entire days out of my life without me noticing, it’s Civ. To quote a helplessly addicted friend of mine who recently visited and squandered a whole night on a “quick game” of Civilization V: “That game is evil, pure evil!” For what it’s worth, I agree, even though I found the most recent addition to the series, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth a little underwhelming. Try as it might, Beyond Earth just felt like it was missing that unique gimmick that would keep me hooked just like it’s predecessors had. Now, almost a year after the game’s initial release, Firaxis has seen fit to bless us with Beyond Earth‘s first expansion pack, Rising Tide, which expands the game and finally turns it into an experience worthy of the Civilization mantle.
For those who’ve never played the base game, Beyond Earth is Civ with a twist: instead of guiding a small tribe from the dawn of time until the modern day, you’re the leader of a colony on an alien planet, shaping the future of mankind in an unfamiliar world. Rising Tide takes advantage of this premise by implementing a bunch of new features that have never been seen in a Civ game before – things like mobile aquatic cities and sentient alien sea-fungi which wouldn’t make sense in a historical game feel at home in a scenario set in the far future, addressing the base game’s main problem of not feeling “different” enough from previous entries in the series, despite a radically different setting.
The main gameplay additions in Rising Tide, aquatic cities and hybrid affinities, are real game changers, each adding much needed strategic depth to the game. The brand new sea cities (just imagine really gigantic ships that are the size of an entire colony) alone will make you re-consider how you play Civ, since unlike land cities they can move at will around the map. Accidentally found your city in a bad location, or want to disrupt an opponent’s unit formation? For the cost of some production, you can actually relocate your city to another tile, instantly claiming the territory around it. Choosing where to build your cities has always been an important choice in Civ, but now it can part of a constantly evolving strategy.
Meanwhile, hybrid affinities added a bunch of new ways to progress through the game. Where most strategies in Beyond Earth simply focused on beelining to certain parts of the tech tree to get as many affinity points as possible, it’s now much more viable to simply play and make decisions based on the current needs of your civilization as it organically evolves. In the base game, having points in two separate affinities was a bad thing, as it simply meant you were behind someone else who was focusing on a specific victory, but in Rising Tide this is just another way of playing the game. To support the new hybrid affinities, Firaxis has also changed up the tech tree so that almost every tech gives points in at least two affinities, encouraging you to dynamically explore the tree and try out different things instead of your progression being governed by your chosen affinity. Now it feels like your civilization is actually on a quest of discovery as it adapts to the alien planet, not a linear race to the finish line.
Aside from the new gameplay mechanics though, there’s not actually a whole lot of new stuff in Rising Tide, which some may find annoying, given the 30$ price tag. You get a handful of new civilizations with their own interesting gimmicks, and a couple of new maps (the Primal and Frigid biomes), but that’s it. There aren’t any new technologies, wonders or buildings. You don’t get any new scenarios to play. There’s a much needed overhaul of the diplomacy system, but it feels like something that could have been in a free patch. Worst of all, there are some pretty nasty bugs that have been introduced to the game, such as trade routes breaking when you move the new aquatic cities. If you compare Rising Tide to any previous expansion for a Civ game, it definitely feels a little thin.
If you love the premise of Beyond Earth and just want a little more depth in the game, this expansion has got what you need, but little else. It’ll finally turn your game into a worthwhile Civ experience – but only if you’re bored of Civilization V.
Check out Rising Tide on Steam.