Helsingin Sanomat is the largest daily subscription newspaper in Finland and the Nordic countries. They very rarely review any video games, but this Saturday they published a review of Civilization: Beyond Earth. The following is my translation of the review, originally written by Juhana Petterson. His text is pictured below but also available online.
New Civilization takes player into space
The ghost of colonialism haunts in the newest version of the classic world-building game.
Faith into mankind's technological progression has always been at the core of the Civilization games. Technological progression is a tree where everyone must start at the root: without wheel, animal husbandry, or mathematics it's impossible to become the ruler of the world.
In the new Civilization game Beyond Earth the tree has been replaced with a spider web.
Beyond Earth is a scifi game set in the future. The player leads a human colony on another planet. Beyond Earth's basic formula as a game is already familiar from the previous Civilizations. This time again you progress, build, and wage wars. The player must find a balance between the health of their citizens, industry, entertainment, and other factors to keep up with the competition, controlled by the computer or other human players.
Even though there is a lot of details, the player is exempted from the worst micromanagement. The computer can make the trivial decisions by itself.
Unlike in the previous Civilization games, this time technological progression doesn't start from the root, but from the middle of a web with numerous choices. Two competing colonies can be even, yet very different based on the direction of their progression.
At first the difference doesn't look like a significant one, but in the end it guides everything that happens in Beyond Earth.
In the beginning the player's colony arrives from space into a new world. While building the first settlements you must select your approach. There are three ideologies: nostalgy towards Earth, technological supremacy, and adaptation.
Progression and ideology are tightly coupled with each other: one choice is whether you want to terraform the planet or adapt man.
The Civilization series has had spin-offs before as well. One of them is called Colonization and it is about the conquest of the North American continent.
The ghost of colonialism also haunts in Beyond Earth, even though it's weaker.
On the new planet there's already life. Conveniently it appears that the local creatures are neither intelligent nor sentient. So they can be wiped out without worrying, in order to make room for your own settlements.
In the light of the world history the decision is disquieting. When Europeans conquered new areas, it was customary to dehumanize the indigenous peoples. Perhaps in a sequel it will be revealed that the aliens were intelligent after all and are now plotting an anti-colonial guerrilla war.
Civilization has always been an addictive game and Beyond Earth makes no exception. My first attempt at playing it immediately stretched to thirteen hours.