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XCOM 2 photo

This is your home on the go in XCOM 2

Meet The Avenger
Aug 20
// Brett Makedonski
The Avenger is where stuff happens in XCOM 2. It's where staff gets assigned, it's where research gets done, it's where scientists explain their roles in a new 12-minute video from Firaxis. Go ahead and get acclimated with t...
Deals photo

Civ: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide pre-order deal shores up free Steam weekend

More to do in Civ: BE
Aug 13
// Dealzon
Update: GMG's deal dropped another $3 to account for the 10% off instant savings. Pre-orders for Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide (the first expansion) went live today, and you know what that means... deals coupl...
XCOM 2 Muton photo
XCOM 2 Muton

XCOM 2 Muton is borrowing Marcus Fenix's Lancer

Jul 23
// Darren Nakamura
2K Games and Firaxis just released a couple screenshots for the new Mutons in the upcoming XCOM 2, and something jumps out right away. Is that a chainsaw bayonet? Granted, it's not like anybody could "own" the idea of attachi...
Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

Civilization: Beyond Earth getting an expansion this fall

Settle the oceans in Rising Tide
May 18
// Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth came out last year, and although I loved it, a lot of the series' hardcore fans picked it apart as being less complex than past entries. Though it doesn't nearly address every complaint,...
Sid Meier's Starships photo
Sid Meier's Starships

Sid Meier's Starships blasts off March 12 for $14.99

On iPad, Mac, and Windows
Feb 24
// Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Starships warped in out of nowhere. We had never heard anything about it until just last month, and it turns out that it will be launching on iPad, Mac, and Windows early next month. March 12, to be exact! It is r...

The first three rounds of Sid Meier's Starships are not enough

Feb 24 // Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Starships (iPad, Mac, PC [previewed])Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: March 12, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit I don't mean to hate on Starships just yet. In fact, a lot of the design decisions make perfect sense from a gameplay perspective. It makes sense for a tactical combat game to begin with only a few units rather than an army. It makes sense to enclose arenas for the combatants to actually encounter one another. These elements make for a good game, but they run counter to the narrative of taking control of the Milky Way. Starships is broken up into two distinct sections that affect one another. Resource management and area control take place on the galaxy map, while combat occurs zoomed in to a piece of a solar system within that galaxy. By influencing planets on the galaxy map, players gather resources and eventually take control of sectors. The resources are similar to those found in Civilization: Beyond Earth, but with a few tweaks to their functions. Food is still used to increase population, which raises the overall resource output of a planet. Science is used to upgrade technologies to buff starship systems. Metal (formerly production) is used to construct buildings on planets, providing specific resource increases and other effects. Energy is used to add ships to the fleet or to install new or upgraded systems onto existing ships. Credits are a new piece of the puzzle, used to convert to any of the other resources, or to buy influence on a planet. [embed]286382:56944:0[/embed] By moving the fleet around the galaxy map, the player can initiate combat encounters. These take place on a two-dimensional hex grid centered around the planet of interest, sometimes featuring moons and filled with an inordinate amount of asteroids. On a turn, players can activate their ships in any order. For each ship activation, it gets some amount of movement depending on its component makeup, and one action that can be executed before, during, or after movement. A major selling point of Starships is the customization of the titular vessels. Energy can be spent to upgrade weapons systems, armor, stealth, sensors, and more. The more stuff a ship has piled onto it, the slower it will move, so engine upgrades are key for tactical maneuverability. One neat thing: as the ships are tweaked with new parts, their stated classes automatically update. The basic corvettes can eventually become cruisers, destroyers, or battleships with the right gear. There is no strictly correct setup for a fleet. In my first run through the preview build, I engaged in a few battles that emphasized sensors, and a few others that allowed only my flagship. For my second playthrough, I beefed up my flagship and neglected my others, but came across a different set of encounters. The variety in combat missions is an unexpected treat. The objectives range from simple (destroy all enemy ships) to complex (control three outposts at once) to just strange (navigate through an asteroid maze in a set number of turns). Each round on the galaxy map, players have a certain amount of fatigue to spend before being forced to take shore leave and end the turn. This usually amounts to about three combat missions per player per round. Combat missions can run quickly, with some taking as few as five minutes, though I can imagine that when larger fleets clash, it could draw battles out. Although there is a resource management aspect, it doesn't require nearly as much micromanagement as a typical Civilization game does. There are only a few types of upgrades for a planet, a handful of technologies to research, and marginal differences between the three Affinities introduced in Beyond Earth. Upgrades are purchased instantaneously rather than built up over time. It has a certain rhythm to it. The galaxy map is a strategy exercise, where influence over certain planets and adjacency to other players is important. These strategy considerations are punctuated by the tactical battles around each planet. The constant switching between the big picture and several small theaters is a little tough to get a hang of at first, but it helps to inject some variety into the experience. After the third round, just as I felt like I was getting the hang of it, the preview build ended. Three rounds played in less than an hour, and on my second playthrough I had covered about 20% of the galaxy. Though I can't say for sure how long an average game would run, a full Starships game is definitely meant to be less of an undertaking than a run through Civilization. Therein stems the one concern I have for Starships. From a pure gameplay perspective, the board game-like combat and area control work well together. As a followup to Beyond Earth, where the playground now includes the entire galaxy rather than a single planet, the simpler scope is counter to the conceit. Conquering the Milky Way should be an enormous endeavor, but everything here just feels small.
Sid Meier's Starships photo
A taste of what's to come
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth released to mixed reactions. I loved how it took the took the classic gameplay to alien worlds, and I especially appreciated its underlying narrative about the future of the human race. ...

Sid Meier's Starships photo
Sid Meier's Starships

Sid Meier runs through Starships' customization and a small battle

Does he make it despite an estimated 40% chance of success?
Feb 05
// Darren Nakamura
Last month 2K and Firaxis announced Sid Meier's Starships, a strategy game set in the Civilization universe, continuing the story that Beyond Earth set up. With an impending spring release, it looks like it is pretty far alo...
Sid Meier's Starships photo
Sid Meier's Starships

Sid Meier's Starships is a 'tactical space combat' continuation of Civilization: Beyond Earth

Releasing early this year for PC, Mac, and iPad
Jan 19
// Jordan Devore
Civilization and XCOM studio Firaxis Games is sticking with space for its next game, Sid Meier's Starships. The studio and publisher 2K describe it as a "new turn-based, adventure-driven interstellar strategy game" (PC, Mac,...
Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

Civilization: Beyond Earth update is live, makes all my strategies obsolete

Thanks, Xenobama
Dec 08
// Darren Nakamura
A pretty substantial update rolled out for Civilization: Beyond Earth earlier today, addressing some of the issues that the more hardcore Civ fans have had with the title. I took a read through the extensive patch notes and.....

Very Quick Tips: Civilization: Beyond Earth

Oct 23 // Darren Nakamura
General tips: When exploring uncharted territory, take movement one hex at a time. Explorers get two movement points per turn, and it is smart to keep one banked in case your unit walks into an ambush (see above). Aliens are more aggressive to those near Alien Nests, or to those who attack other aliens. Stay away from them with non-combat units (especially Colonists). If possible, place your capital on a coastal hex. Creating connections between your capital and your others cities affords a nice energy bonus. Land connections must be built by Worker units as roads, but sea connections are automatically put in place between two coastal cities. Coastal cities will also have more options for trade routes later. Consider all aspects of geography when placing a new city. Mountains and canyons are nearly worthless with respect to production, but make a city more defensible from attack. Some advanced units can traverse canyons, so they are not as effective as mountains in that regard. Buildings: Build at least one of each building, even if you don't think you need it. The mission system will often augment the ability of buildings after one has been constructed, so they can gain semi-hidden abilities. For instance, the Repair Facility (required technology: Engineering) gives a minor production bonus to land units, but can also be modified to increase orbital coverage after one is built. Early on, the Trade Depot (required technology: Pioneering) is one of the most important buildings to increase energy, science, food, and/or production output. Later, the Autoplant (required technology: Robotics) can be upgraded to increase the number of trade routes a city can hold. Fill up those trade routes early and reap huge benefits over the course of the game. On that note, the Ultrasonic Fence (required technology: Ecology) is a crucial building, because it can be upgraded so that trade units are never attacked by aliens. Build one as soon as possible specifically for this ability, and others only where necessary for its standard ability. Resources: There are six strategic resources, but only half are visible on the map in the beginning. The Chemistry technology reveals Petroleum, the Engineering technology reveals Titanium, and the Geophysics technology reveals Geothermal. Gaining some or all of these technologies before building a second city can help in making a better placement decision. The other three strategic resources, Firaxite, Floatstone, and Xenomass, are immediately visible, but respectively require the Robotics technology, the Terraforming technology, and the Alien Sciences technology in order to use them. All of the more powerful units are only available after specializing in an Affinity, so it is smart to decide early on which Affinity to follow. In general, Firaxite corresponds to the Supremacy Affinity, Floatstone corresponds to the Purity Affinity, and Xenomass corresponds to the Harmony Affinity. Use nearby resources to help make the decision. Alien Nests always appear on tiles with Xenomass, and as a corollary, Xenomass can always be found under Alien Nests. If you need access to Xenomass, then you may have to do some bug hunting. Diplomacy: You can often get away with one non-aggressive act against each other civilization by just apologizing. These acts include: completing expeditions near enemy borders, placing orbital units near enemy territory, and having a spy caught in an enemy city. The AI will often suggest ludicrous trades and offer favors in return. These favors are typically only worth about 100 energy or a strategic resource when you call them in. If another civilization gets to a choice city spot before you can settle there, it is possible to gain it without going to war. Open up a deal, put the city on the table, and ask what it would cost. The price can be high in strategic resources, but early in the game those don't matter much, so it might even be effectively cheap.  Combat: Siege Worms are formidable, but it can be worthwhile to kill one. A mission early on tasks you with killing a Siege Worm, and its rewards are fairly lucrative. If one hangs out near your cities for too long, you can kill it with ten city bombardments without risking any units. The reward for killing the first Siege Worm is not adjusted for inflation, so if you wait until you have better equipped combat units, it is not as impactful. Air units work under a modified rock-paper-scissors mechanism. Strikes are ranged attacks against ground units and must be ordered each time. Intercepts will target air units ordered to Strike within range. Sweeps act like Strikes, but instead check for any Intercepts in the area. It is always safest to begin with a Sweep before trying a Strike, but that is often a wasted action. Cities can hold up to three air units at a time. Before being upgraded, a Carrier can only hold one air unit. 
Beyond Earth guide photo
Help for going above and beyond
Civilization: Beyond Earth is fantastic, but even though it does a lot through tutorial popups, missions, and the Civilopedia to help new players, it can still be daunting. With several new systems in place, even series veter...

Review: Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

Oct 23 // Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (Linux, Mac, Windows [reviewed])Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: October 24, 2014MSRP: $49.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Civilization veterans will be immediately familiar with most of the systems in place here, as they mimic those in Civilization V closely. Players found cities, within which they manage production, food, energy, culture, science, and health. In the international arena, there is diplomacy, trade, exploration, espionage, and war. Everything is interconnected in some way, and success comes to those who find the proper balance of it all. The interplay between all of the different systems and resources is complex. While the series has made positive strides with tutorial popups and the exhaustive Civilopedia it is still dense and a little inaccessible for new players. Some information is difficult to find but through trial and error. It is easy to know what Civilization is about, but it takes dedication to really know Civilization. Fortunately, getting to know Civilization is inherently rewarding. Finding interesting synergies between technologies and powers makes the player feel smart. Forming plans and seeing them through to fruition is intensely satisfying, and it is largely responsible for the series' notorious addictive quality. All of that is present in Beyond Earth. [embed]281963:55814:0[/embed] The most touted new feature in Beyond Earth is the Affinity system. Previously, unique units were tied to specific factions, but here they are dependent on a faction's level in one of three Affinities: Purity, Supremacy, and Harmony. Each Affinity represents a fundamentally different philosophy for how humanity should interact with the alien world. Purity followers believe that humans are special and should change the new world to be more Earth-like. Supremacy followers believe that humans should be cybernetically augmented in order to respond to environmental hazards. Harmony followers believe that humans must biologically adapt and become more like the indigenous life in order to survive. The Affinities are level-based and the choice is always open to increase any of the three through technological advances and mission rewards. It is generally smart to specialize in one Affinity, since the more powerful units require a minimum level, but it is possible to maintain a broad approach and take a little of each. The choice between Affinities sets the trajectory for the narrative of Beyond Earth. Though it is easily ignored for any who get into this strictly for the gameplay, the story is emphasized more strongly here than any any previous title in the series. It always starts the same: Humans wrecked Earth and have to find a new place to live. Which Affinity is focused on (if any) determines which victory condition is most easily attained, and each victory ends the story in a different place than the others. Another new tweak to the systems is in the Virtues. Breaking from Civilization V's system and instead following the same philosophy behind Affinities, none of the Virtues are mutually exclusive. Each time a new Virtue is earned, players may choose to develop down one of four trees: Might (military power), Prosperity (food), Knowledge (science and culture), and Industry (energy and production). There are benefits for generalizing as well as for specializing, and no one strategy is clearly better than another. One completely new aspect of Beyond Earth is the orbital layer. Set above the normal ground-level action, there is a hex grid layer representing the position of satellites in geosynchronous orbit. These orbital units can have various effects over areas, including increasing output of affected tiles, improving combat prowess for units underneath, or attacking from relative safety with a planet-carving laser. Placing an orbital unit near another civilization is not considered an outright act of war, though most will not take kindly to it. One memory I will keep for a long time involved General Kozlov placing a tactical support satellite near my borders, so I retaliated with an orbital laser in range of three of his cities, just waiting to be fired if he should misstep. It was the sort of cold war stuff that is often absent in games like this. The technology system received a substantial overhaul in more ways than one. Naturally, the science-fiction setting demands the imagination of new technologies. Those found in Beyond Earth range from currently existent (titanium mining) to really "out there" (constructing a giant flower that allows a neural connection between all humans and the living planet), though most are based firmly in plausible ideas for future technology. The most obvious change to the technology system is that it is set up as a radial web, expanding outward from a central point. The choice is available to set up a strong base of general knowledge, to make a beeline for any of the furthest techs, or to do anything in between. Most Affinity gains occur through researching specific technologies, so the tech web is also the arena that has the greatest effect on how a given civilization approaches the new world and how it plans to seek victory. There are five victory conditions: one for each of the three Affinities, one reliant on non-Affinity technologies, and the standard "destroy all the other civilizations" victory. Purity is attached to The Promised Land victory, which seeks to settle Earthlings who stayed behind on the new planet. Supremacy is attached to the Emancipation victory, whose goal is to return to Earth and demonstrate the power of cybernetics. Harmony is attached to the Transcendence victory, which aims to meld minds with the planet itself. Contact is the Affinity-agnostic victory; it involves building a beacon to communicate with an intelligent alien race. Narratively, each victory represents its corresponding philosophy well. The three Affinities approach the world with entirely different ideas, and their stories have appropriately different endings. However, the biggest failing of Civilization: Beyond Earth is that four of the five victory conditions feel too similar to one another from a gameplay perspective. Though the narrative reasoning varies, the basic framework for The Promised Land, Emancipation, and Transcendence is as follows: Research the required technologies, level up the corresponding Affinity to 13, build a planetary wonder, then defend it for approximately 30 turns. Contact largely follows the same path but without the minimum Affinity requirement. What happens after a planetary wonder is built varies between victory conditions, but not enough to make the individual experiences feel unique. From a balance perspective, it is easy to see why Beyond Earth adheres to this formula. It ensures a similar timeline regardless of path and it gives opponents clear warning that a player is nearing the end, allowing last-ditch efforts to race for another victory or topple the leader. For a series known for having multiple paths to victory, and especially for a narrative emphasizing just how divergent the ideologies within it are to one another, it is disappointing how similar each win condition is. There is no cultural, economic, or peace victory. There are only what amount to four science victories and a military victory. That said, the journey to get to the end does have a different feel depending on which Affinity is followed. The unique units bestowed to each Affinity interact with the environment differently and the benefits afforded allow for varied play styles. Where Purity and Supremacy fight against the planet's toxic miasma, Harmony learns to harness its power. Where Supremacy and Harmony benefit from leaving alien life alone, Purity gains combat bonuses against it. Where Purity and Harmony are geographically limited, Supremacy leverages its superior engineering in order to easily spread its influence across the map. Following the orbital escalation with General Kozlov described a ways above, he eventually did attack. After beating back his forces and teasing a peace treaty out of him, I dropped several tiles worth of miasma on his cities, just as a reminder for what happens when one messes with the African Union. He was cleaning it up for years, choking on it the whole time. Classic. In a separate encounter, Hutama of the Polystralians made note of my relative military weakness and, fueled by avarice and envy, broke our neighborly trade relationship in hopes of coming out a few cities richer. Although I was outgunned, he grossly underestimated the severe tactical disadvantage the local canyons and mountains put him at, and his forces were sunk to the bottom of the ocean before they could make landfall. That all highlights one of Civilization's greatest strengths: It provides the framework for totally awesome stuff to happen and lasting memories to be formed. Beyond Earth excels in that virtue with its new additions. Aesthetically, Beyond Earth really nails it. The three different planetary biomes add visual variety, and the rich colors pop. The palette features a lot of teal, pink, and purple, which conveys the idea of an alien world well. The soundtrack is appropriately grandiose during the climaxes and subdued during the lulls. Upon a dastardly betrayal or the completion of a planetary wonder, sweeping string pieces evoke a feeling that history is being made. In all, Beyond Earth is excellent. It maintains the secret sauce that the series is known for while adding setting-appropriate systems that change the gameplay up in interesting ways. Orbital units are inherently cool and add depth to international encounters. The narrative is thoughtful and important without being too preachy. Affinities show that the team put a lot of effort into considering how differing viewpoints may tackle the challenge of founding an alien world, as well as the consequences of those actions. If only there were more variety in the structure of the victory conditions between divergent philosophies, Civilization: Beyond Earth would be a perfect game. Even with that dissonance, it is damn close. The Civilization pedigree holds a lot of weight after all these years, and Beyond Earth more than lives up to its name.
Beyond Earth review photo
"Civilization, but set in the future on an alien planet." That is really all Firaxis and 2K needed to say to get people excited for the next entry in the long-running turn-based strategy series. There is a fair amount of new ...

Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

The intro cinematic for Civilization: Beyond Earth is actually pretty touching

Showing off the narrative backdrop for leaving Earth
Oct 15
// Darren Nakamura
I have been working on a review for the upcoming sci-fi strategy game Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, and one of the things I could not wait to talk about is the introductory cinematic. It seems silly, but for a seri...
Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

Civilization: Beyond Earth trailer outlines the new features

Sci-fi strategy coming later this month
Oct 01
// Darren Nakamura
Last week I detailed a lot of the new experiences that Civilization V veterans will find in Civilization: Beyond Earth. I loved what I played of it and you can read about that if you want, but those who are more visual ...

Civilization: Beyond Earth makes weekends disappear

Sep 26 // Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (Linux, Mac, PC [previewed])Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: October 24, 2014MSRP: $49.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Those who have played Civilization V will see a lot of similarities right off the bat. Cities need food to increase population, production to build new buildings and units, money (energy in Beyond Earth) to maintain improvements, culture to expand borders and progress virtues, and science to enhance capabilities. A colony's health rating replaces happiness, but functions similarly: Healthy civilizations produce science and culture at their full potentials while unhealthy civilization receive a penalty. All of these pieces interconnect, and building a successful civilization means balancing each well. Single-tile stations replace minor civilizations but function in the same way. Non-sapient alien lifeforms take the place of barbarian tribes. This is where differences start to emerge. Where players in Civilization V can take on barbarian tribes with relative ease, and the tribes disappear from the map over time, aliens in Beyond Earth are much more formidable, and they can be found from the beginning all the way until the 250-turn mark that signals the end of the game. One such alien is the Siege Worm, which Dale was able to take down but generally should be avoided because they can one-hit kill most units, and they take very little damage from any military units before upgrades kick in. Pictured above is the lovely instance in which three Siege Worms decided to burrow up right in between two of my cities, wrecking my road between them and generally ruining my plans for about a hundred in-game years. [embed]273190:53373:0[/embed] Another hazard that life on alien planets presents is miasma, a ubiquitous terrain feature that saps the hit points of human units but restores those of aliens. Depending on the terrain generated, some alien nests may be even more fortified than others, with miasma surrounding and protecting them. What is interesting is that there are three philosophical schools of thought in how humanity may deal with the threat of alien lifeforms and miasma. Those who subscribe to the Purity ideal want to remain human while transforming the environment to suit their needs. Those who follow the Harmony and Supremacy ideals instead believe that humans must be adapted to survive in the world, though Harmony dictates that the adaptation should be done through biology while Supremacy dictates that it be done through technological augmentation. A civilization on the Purity path will be more likely to clear out miasma from friendly territory to allow for better control of resources, while a civilization following either Supremacy or Harmony may develop research that allows them to benefit from its existence. The trichotomy brings to mind the Sir David Attenborough quote "Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it's time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment." Despite there being three fairly distinct philosophies, there are not hard limits on what any civilization can choose. In general, advancing steps in any one branch involves researching a related technology. Since scientific growth follows a radial web rather than a linear tree, it is easy to broaden one's scope and take on traits from any or all three of the ideas. That said, it is generally beneficial to specialize in one philosophy. Some buildings and units require certain levels in one of the three branches, and unit upgrades are governed by the highest level affinity, so maintaining balance affords a greater breadth of abilities, but focusing on one grants more powerful abilities. Another aspect of Beyond Earth that diverges significantly from previous entries in the series are the various victory conditions, which stem from the three affinities. While domination (control all capitals on the map) and time (have the most points after a set number of turns) are in play, there is no longer a strict technological victory, cultural victory, or economic victory. Instead, there are victories tied to each affinity. Purity followers want to try to contact Earth to bring the rest of humanity to the newly conquered planet; Supremacy followers want to contact Earth in order to wipe out the lesser beings left there; Harmony followers want to develop a neural connection with the living being that is the planet. Each of those conditions requires at least level 13 with its respective philosophy. What results is a game where just about every victory is a tech victory. As a game based in science fiction, it makes thematic sense that technology is important for winning, and as my preferred path, it works for me, but it could be off-putting to those who prefer other avenues or a more balanced approach to civilization-building. On that note, victory by any means other than having the most points when time runs out seems especially difficult (at least in the preview build). Even in a lush environment to maximize production and with my cities and trade routes set to crank science out at their maximum levels throughout the game, the closest I have come was completing the Wonder necessary for the Contact victory by turn 246, after which another 30 turns were necessary. Presumably the timer will be increased in the final product. Another new element emerges from Civilization: Beyond Earth due to its setting. Where previous titles in the series have been basic retellings of Earth's history, Beyond Earth is now telling a potential story of humanity's future, which allows for more freedom in that department. To help shape that, missions now pop up from time to time, which provide optional objectives to work toward and offer a glimpse into how humanity got to this point and what it learns from this new planet. There is a scientifically important narrative to be discovered here, but it requires some effort and is just as easily ignored. The terrain variety is impressive in some ways, but a little disappointing in others. While there are several options for generating the world layout (Protean is one large landmass, Terran has several Earth-like continents, Atlantean features many smaller islands, and other advanced options), the biomes from world to world do not seem very different from one another. The lush worlds have more plant life than the arid ones, the taiga has more unusable tundra, but the same terrain types can be found on most worlds; only their proportions change. The same aliens are present regardless of which world is chosen. From a gameplay perspective it makes sense, but from the perspective of wanting to explore vastly different alien worlds, it is a bit of a letdown. Graphically, Beyond Earth maintains the standard set by Civilization V, but it has the added benefit of extra color from being set on an alien planet. Seas are a vibrant green and mountains have an orange tinge. Individual civilization color schemes are futuristic, with a lot of teal, purple, and pink. A special note should be made about the soundtrack, which swells with intense string crescendos at the right moments, and otherwise sets the mood for interstellar exploration, which feels grand and important. All in all, Civilization is looking as good as ever with Beyond Earth. It scratches that itch for building a workable engine and outshining one's neighbors, while introducing a lot of new mechanics that change up the general strategy. The preview build seems pretty full-featured, but next month's full release should remove the hard turn limit. Perhaps then the other victory conditions may seem more attainable. In the mean time, starting up a new game cannot hurt, right? (Send help please; I cannot stop on my own.)
Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Yep, that is Civilization all right
The Civilization series is famous for playing out in unplanned marathon sessions, where "one more turn" quickly turns into five more turns, which turn into another hour, before the player finally looks away from the screen to...

Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

AI construct 'Master Control' walks through a turn of Civilization: Beyond Earth in this PAX video

Grinding, chitinous beak
Aug 30
// Darren Nakamura
Steven got to play Civilization: Beyond Earth with the help of an "actual scienceman" not long ago, but the 2K and Firaxis still brought something new to show at PAX Prime this year. Earlier today at the Firaxis Megapan...

I took a field trip to play Civilization: Beyond Earth's first 100 turns

Aug 28 // Steven Hansen
[embed]280195:55442:0[/embed] Firaxis released the above first fifty minutes of Beyond Earth with commentary from Firaxis' Pete Murray and David McDonough. It delves into setting up your Civ game, ending before a few turns have passed. There are a bunch of decisions to make early on, including picking your sponsor (affects bonuses you'll get throughout your game), colonists (to reinforce your sponsor choice or to try and balance things out). You can also choose from pre-determined planets geared for veteran Civilization players -- this definitely is quite a bit of "Civ 5 in space" -- or roll random planets of three categories: Terran (Earth-like -- large swaths of sea and land), Protean (one ocean, one large landmass), and Atlantean (small, connected islands you can sail between on gondola to support the tourism economy).  Going Atlantean was an easy decision, but then I had to keep clicking away at the randomizer to get a planet name I liked. I saw "Nye," a science name, but my finger was faster than my brain and I clicked again and lost it. I did the same for "Funk." However, I needed to lay claim to planet Funk and so I cycled through all of the randomly generated planets until it came up again.  I landed on Funk and began my great conquest of getting ravaged by siege worms. There are three basic affinities to align yourself with. Harmony thinks you should adjust and adapt to alien ecosystems. Supremacy thinks you should conquer them. Purity just wants to have its own little slice of old earth. It's more brute force than Supremacy, which turns to cybernetics and technology as humankind's key to survival.  One hundred turns is not a lot of turns to play out in Civilization. I barely got any trade routes going and didn't get to engage in much diplomacy beyond one gent that suggested we have open borders, to which I, aware that I would never reach his borders before my time expired, agreed to. Still, Harmony might be my preferred route. It is not advisable to go after local alien wildlife. If you do, it will get angry and kill you. Even if you don't, a Siege Worm might still decimate every single structure you've built before enough volleys of missiles from your city center shoos it off. Early on, you don't have a lot of choice but to coexist, so leaning in on Harmony makes sense. Then again, all of the affinities can be pretty isolationist early on as you just focus on domestic infrastructure, save for sending explorers to excavate fallen satellites and other wreckage.  The biggest difference Beyond Earth has over Civ 5 is the sprawling tech web (42:08 in the above video), which groups generalized ideas in extending directions (and more specialized, resource intensive subsets below them). That and the bonus for upping Virtues across the board, rather than filling them out sequentially. Also that you're in space this time and don't have to deal with Gandhi. 
Civ Beyond Earth preview photo
Space is the place
Civilization: Beyond Earth isn't just a missed opportunity for transmedia synergy by way of the family Smith's After Earth. It's a game about space. About space colonization, specifically, because the Earth is a goner (w...

50 mins of Beyond Earth photo
50 mins of Beyond Earth

Boldly go 50 Minutes into Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

Begining game choices that will set the stage for your sci-fi civilization
Aug 26
// Rob Morrow
Firaxis has just released over fifty minutes of beginning-game footage of its science fiction-themed entry into the Civilization series, Beyond Earth. And, as an added bonus for the Red Team, Firaxis would like you to k...
Firaxicon photo

Civilization, XCOM dev doing its own fan convention

Aug 26
// Steven Hansen
Firaxicon sounds like an expensive drug for lumberjacks. Or a bad sci-fi original film. But it's actually a new convention put on by Firaxis, developer of the Civilization games and the recent, real good XCOM reboot...
Deals photo

Play Borderlands 2 for free on Steam this weekend

Shoot and loot like it's 2012
Aug 21
// Jordan Devore
As part of a 2K sale on Steam this weekend, the publisher is giving folks a chance to play Borderlands 2 for free on Steam today through Sunday at 1:00pm Pacific. Borderlands 2 has also been marked down to $4.99 to own, or $9...

Preview: Sid Meierís Civilization: Beyond Earth

May 20 // Dale North
[embed]275105:53951:0[/embed] I started out in an area called the Lush Biome where the idea was to take the explorer unit from my base and go explore, with the hopes of finding anything that could help us. But these guys are not a combat unit at all so they were quickly trampled by the green miasma-eating aliens that spawned up from a point just above my base. Angry at dying so soon, I sent my only combat unit up to take care of business, but they were quickly surrounded and whittled down to just a few members. It wasn’t but a couple of turns before my one little hex of nearly dead troops was surrounded.  Down but not out, I quickly generated new units and used my base’s defenses to hold the little guys off. That almost dead unit was able to level up and become stronger, too. I was eventually able to take out that troublesome alien spawn point, get a new explorer unit to start exploring nearby ruins, and even build up some defenses. Meanwhile, leaders of other factions were knocking on my door, and none of them were willing to play nice. If that wasn’t enough, I quickly got to a point to where massive Siege Worms were drilling underground and then coming up to attack my base. The plan I had to build a beacon to distract them and then take them out from behind was never going to be realized. Tactical satellite building? Psssh.  I was going to have to leave this demo session without achieving anything.  The three or four dozen turns I had to play Civ: Beyond Earth weren’t enough to dig down deep. I barely got to touch the massive web of a tech tree that the game brings. In this web you start out in the very middle with habitation and expand outward. Even with only a few moves I was able to branch out into some deep science fiction ideas. Computing could quickly move into things like transcendental math, terraforming, or synthetic thought. Going off on a completely unique path would be very easy in this game. Quests? Nope. Not enough time. Some popped up, but I had my hands full. Taking on these quests are how you’ll dig into the story and learn more about humanity’s new home.    I also didn’t get to interact much with any of the leaders or learn their affinities and preferences for humanity’s future. But from what I saw in my brief session, that stuff is pretty interesting. Some groups want humanity to preserve itself without the use of cybernetics, while others think that humanity needs to evolve into something like a native species. What’s clear is that none of them agree. Each’s factions beliefs are reflected in their talk, military units, and even their architecture. I would have needed much more time to begin exploring these approaches. Hopefully I can do that soon. But I was able to take out a single Siege Worm before my time was up. This is a city-sized beast that takes multiple units to take out — one we were directed to avoid. I took it down with desperate measures and felt a bit better about myself. In my game, humanity was probably still screwed. But at least I accomplished something on this harsh alien planet.   Civilization: Beyond Earth launches on PC, Mac, and Linux this fall. has relaunched with new information on Beyond Earth today.
Civ: Beyond Earth photo
I killed a worm and I liked it
I tried to help settlers colonize a new planet (Earth becomes uninhabitable after we screw it up in a big way) in our first hands-on with a pre-alpha build of the upcoming game Civilization: Beyond Earth early last week. I wa...

Firaxis designers speak on Civilization: Beyond Earth

Apr 20 // Darren Nakamura
Destructoid: Anything you want to say about Civilization: Beyond Earth right off the bat? Miller: We've been working on this game for a while, and to announce it today in front of some of our biggest fans is just the coolest thing. It's a really fun game. You know, it's Civilization in space! Our fans have been wanting this for a long time, and this is it. Destructoid: What sort of challenges are there converting Civilization to sci-fi? McDonough: There are lots. It's really exciting. Civ is a game with a great legacy, but it's almost all historically based. Among that legacy are Alpha Centauri and XCOM. This game is inspired by all of those.  The things that make Civ fun, when you play Civ you always want to go "one more turn," but the world around it is already set. Without history we have to make up technology trees, alien worlds, and that has been one of the bigger challenges. Destructoid: We were curious about how you would handle technology in Beyond Earth. How much is based off of what scientists are saying may be possible and how much is more like "hey this would be really cool if we did this"? McDonough: It's both! We did a lot of research on modern day scientific thinking and we thought it was important that our game start in reality, in a plausible setting. For the rest, we were inspired by a lot of current science fiction. But the best sci-fi is also scientifically real, so hopefully we have the best of both. [embed]273489:53496:0[/embed] Destructoid: Take me through the timeline. Where does this start? Is it present day onward? Miller: It's 200 to 250 years after present day. So we're imagining an earth in the future, and things good and bad have happened, and it culminates in an event where nations around the world are sending out expeditions into space to different planets to colonize, to spread the roots of humanity beyond our planet. So, like David said, we start in a very familiar place based on actual science, and we want to be able to draw a clear line from science that we know today and space travel we know today. We're very inspired by things like SpaceX and the new Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson, we just love all that stuff. So we're taking all of the inspiration from that and keeping it very plausible, and starting from a new place 200 years from now and kind of just going wild. Destructoid: You said you've been working on this for a long time. Exactly how long have you been working on this? McDonough: Unfortunately we can't say specifically, but I think Will and I have been designing it in our heads for a really long time. Whispering in some ears around Firaxis. Miller: That's kind of how games get made around Firaxis. XCOM was Jake Solomon's baby for a long time, and he whispered in the right ears, and it eventually became a great game. We were given our shot at this, and it was the right time. We had a team that really wanted to do it, and it fit in our schedule, and we're so fortunate to be able to make this game. Destructoid: Did it start out as "Hey, wouldn't it be rad if we made Alpha Centauri?" and went from there to "Well, we can't really, but let's do basically that"? Miller: It's always been a reality to us that that IP is just sort of off limits, and I don't know if we would have used it if we had it, honestly. This game is such a different thing. It's definitely inspired by Alpha Centauri, but it's also inspired by a lot of other things too. It's a very different game and it has very different characteristics. It feels a lot different. I think it started as "Would it be cool if we could take Civilization into space? What would that game look like?" and then we went from there. Destructoid: Is there any chance for any sort of crossover with XCOM? Miller: The two games exist in their own fictional universes. That gives us the most flexibility, but I think you could expect some nods and winks and homages between the two. McDonough: One of the things about sci-fi is you can make easter eggs with no problem. Destructoid: So you're going off and exploring alien worlds. What's the variety going to be like for that? Strenger: We spent a lot of time making the map so that it isn't just like, earth and then purple earth. So everything in the map generator like landmass features to other crazy things to the alien life that is populating that map can change. We have a lot of different biomes, like an arid biome or a wetter jungle one. So the combinations really make it so every time you play, it's a unique world with its own challenges. Destructoid: You guys seem pretty excited for this. McDonough: The panel today was unbelievably cool, to see the reactions from the fans. We've been waiting a long time to be able to show it. We've been waiting a long time to come back to Civilization in the future. Miller: This game really is for our fans. For so long, our fans have been asking for a remake of Alpha Centauri or Civ in space or whatever, and this really is our game for them.
Firaxis interview photo
Possible crossover with XCOM, inspiration sources, and more
Last weekend during its panel at PAX East, Firaxis announced the next big project for the Civilization franchise: Civilization: Beyond Earth. After the announcement, Destructoid took some time to talk to some of the designers...

Civilization Beyond Earth photo
'We start in a very familiar place based on actual science... and kind of just [go] wild'
To take a brief aside from videogames: are you watching Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey? If not, you should be, especially if you are not particularly scientifically literate. It is filled with a lot of important information abou...

Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

Civilization explores the final frontier with Beyond Earth

Firaxis announces new direction at PAX East
Apr 12
// Darren Nakamura
We knew Firaxis would be announcing a new game at their panel this morning at PAX East, and now we know what the team has been working on. Civilization: Beyond Earth is taking the series past future tech and into space explo...
PAX East photo
PAX East

2K is bringing Borderlands 2 for PS Vita, Evolve to PAX East

Gearbox and Firaxis announcements too, it sounds like
Apr 04
// Jordan Devore
Evolve. Now there's a game I've been hoping to try out for a while now. PAX East attendees will be able to get their hands on the Turtle Rock Studios-developed multiplayer game next weekend as well as Borderlands 2 for PlaySt...

Review: XCOM: Enemy Within

Nov 11 // Chris Carter
XCOM: Enemy Within (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease Date: November 12, 2013MSRP: $29.99 (PC download upgrade) / $39.99 (Console disc) Enemy Within is still the same great turn-based strategy game you played last year, but with a number of added maps, customization options, enemy types, and missions mixed in. It's a really weird way to approach an expansion (almost like an RTS, blending in new and old), and when it was announced I was apprehensive. At first, I thought I'd have to play through the same game again, with the occasional bit of mixed content -- but as I soon found out, there was a lot more added than I had previously assumed. Enemy Unknown was the original title of the game due to the fact that you literally had to discover how to vanquish XCOM's alien menace with very little knowledge going in. Gradually, you would research corpses and live specimens, slowly developing the skillset and upgrades required to best them. It was a unique way to tie in a mechanical crescendo in with the narrative, and it worked out wonderfully for Unknown. But now, the new Within moniker refers to a new enemy -- your own kind, the human race. Instead of simply dealing with an unrelenting horde of extraterrestrials, now you have to deal with organizations on earth trying to put a stop to the XCOM Initiative and bringing you down. While this may not seem like a huge change, it significantly alters the narrative in the sense that everything is a lot more bleak -- which has ramifications not only on the way the story is told, but actual gameplay as well. For starters, a new foe emerges in the form of EXALT -- a super villain-like organization that will stop at nothing to shut you down. They're a thorn in your side in many ways than just physical altercations, hacking your mainframe and raising hell across the world in the form of enhanced panic (if a country reaches a panic level that's too high, they pull out of the program, which contributes to a game over). Missions of the EXALT variety are more covert affairs, kitting down your troops into a more subversive toolset, with pistols and sneaking equipment. The new human AI opponents are fun to fight and do a good job of mixing things up for when you get tired of fighting aliens over and over. Beating EXALT is also a game of cat and mouse, as you eventually have to find out where they're located and shut them down permanently -- or just deal with them, or ignore them entirely with the consequences in tow. You'll have to slowly hunt them down Clue style, and accuse a country of harboring them. Accuse wrongly, and that country pulls out of the program (see a pattern, here?). You'll also have to deal with new alien enemies like the Mechtoid (you guessed it -- an alien mech), and the squid-like Seekers, which can cloak, fly, and strangle your party, among other foes. In short, the game is absolute hell, and is working to crush your spirits around the clock. On Iron Man mode (a setting that prevents re-loading saves) and a high difficulty setting, it's one of the hardest modern games ever created. It's this madness that contributes to the magic of XCOM, and why so many people find it so appealing in an age where games constantly hold your hand and tell you how to win. Having said all that, it is possible to beat the game -- you have the technology! A new substance called "Meld" is now hidden on almost every map, which allows you to perform two new major upgrades on your troops -- exoskeletal cybersuits (MECs), and genetic enhancements. MEC soldiers, at the cost of ripping off their arms and legs for cybernetic implants, have their own tree, weaponsets (like flamethrowers), and unique movement properties, not to mention the fact that their hulking physique looks damn cool on the battlefield. The other big upgrade is the ability to genetically alter your team with options like superior eyesight and Bioelectric skin implants. These upgrades allow you to, as the game calls it, become a "little bit alien." The over-the-top modifications are not only fun to play around with, but they make the world more harrowing and real. Now, the people of earth are significantly altering their bodies just to avoid extinction, to the point where they can barely even be classified as human beings. It all serves to add to the allure of the XCOM universe and add a sense of hopelessness. Another great thing about these two upgrades is that it all feeds into the core game's central tenet of allowing you to play the way you want to play. If you want to only help out certain countries, build an army of MECs, and have an all-female unit -- you can do that. If you want a tactical team of genetic super soldiers all named after Saturday morning cartoons, you can customize that too. With the new additions in Within, the sky is the limit. In addition to that, there's further amounts of customization to get lost in like new outfits and national accents which help give you a sense that the conflict is a real worldwide affair, and not within the confines of a US-centric sphere. There are also a number of interface and mechanical changes, most notably a new tutorial for the Within features, as well as tougher AI, more skills, and 47 new maps that are mixed in throughout the entire game. Controller support on the PC still works great, and I used it throughout my entire playthrough. If you haven't played the newest XCOM yet, now is a perfect time to do so with the Enemy Within package. For all the XCOM veterans out there, you'll find a solid amount of new activities to engage in, as well as an unprecedented amount of squad customization. In other words, this is now the definitive Enemy experience.
XCOM: Enemy Within photo
It almost feels like a sequel
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of my favorite games of 2012. As a fan of the original franchise back in the '90s, I felt like it did an excellent job of not only re-introducing the once-beloved franchise back into the fold ...

Ex-Civ devs start studio photo
Ex-Civ devs start studio

Mohawk Games founded by former Civilization developers

Backed by Stardock
Nov 06
// Joshua Derocher
The lead designer of Civilization IV, Soren Johnson, has started up his own studio called Mohawk Games. If one Civilization veteran isn't enough to make you happy, the co-founder of the studio is Dorian Newcomb, the art direc...
Oxide Games photo
Oxide Games

Ex-Firaxis and Microsoft devs create new 64-bit engine

Giant brains want to create shiny graphics
Oct 28
// Joshua Derocher
A group of game development gurus have banded together to form Oxide Games, and their first plan is to make a 64-bit game engine called Nitrous. This new engine will focus on taking better advantage of multi-core processors, ...

XCOM for iOS gets multiplayer, on sale for $9.99

Normally goes for $19.99
Oct 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iOS has received a new update that brings in asynchronous multiplayer. Additionally the update brings in iOS7 optimization and a newly implemented leaderboard. The game usually goes for $19.99, but it's on sale for $9.99. Check out our review to see why the mobile version is worth picking up. 
XCOM photo

XCOM: Enemy Within trailer shows the Exalt faction

This substantial expansion is set for release on November 15
Oct 09
// Alasdair Duncan
I've put 30 hours into XCOM: Enemy Unknown and I still suck at it. I'm losing soldiers left, right, and center but maybe that's the game's appeal. Still, I'm hankering for new enemies to fight so the upcoming Enemy Within lo...

Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within

Oct 09 // Steven Hansen
XCOM: Enemy Within (PC [previewed], Mac, PS3, 360) Developer: FiraxisPublisher: 2K GamesRelease Date: November 12, 2013 Enemy Within expands the original content on two levels. Down in the trenches, in XCOM’s turn-based, solider-controlling gameplay, we’re seeing new additions like solider modifications and new enemy types. It isn’t just new aliens that look like a mix between the mechanical squids of The Matrix and the alien ghosts from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. There are scummy jerks in fedoras, too. Well, they probably own fedoras. Exalt is a comically evil paramilitary secret society that is down with the aliens’ genetic perfection aims. It intends to rule over the world using alien technology and genetic superiority. It is basically a facile, extra occult Nazi party, but with a name that has an “ecks” instead of a “z.” You’ll have to fight with Exalt members in covert operations, which are two new mission types within the expansion. Their AI has been tuned differently than the aliens, too, allegedly making them more cooperative and tactical enemies. In Covert Extraction, you send a plainclothes solider into a scheming Exalt cell, then go pick them up, ensuring they live through the process (and you hack a com relay). In Covert Data Recovery, your solider on the inside doesn’t need to make it out alive but you need to protect two different assets. The first can be sacrificed if you want to hole up and protect the second, but you get less money. I ran a Data Recovery mission -- successfully, in fact. My covert op, a Russian armed with only a pistol, actually managed to hit every overwatch shot and made the final kill. Unfortunately, I lost two in the process soldiers, including a dependable Italian heavy, Maurizio Mancini, who was close to my heart. I mention the soldiers’ nationality because soldiers now speak in their native language, rather than everyone having the same handful of American English combat barks. It’s a subtle addition, but I liked it a lot. On the macro level, Exalt changes your day to day operations as XCOM commander as well. First, Exalt cell attacks are another event you’ll have to respond to. Fail to do so and it can hinder your progress in some way. Exalt will run Propoganda attacks to raise panic, Research Hacks to slow your lab’s research progress, and Sabotage attacks to directly drain your money. You don’t have to take Exalt’s shtick lying down, however, just foiling them in retaliation. For a fee, which increases each time, you can scan the world for potential Exalt activity. An exposed Exalt cell won’t be able to begin its attack, letting you choose whether or not to engage it or to let it go back underground and prepare another attack. Stalling is always an option if you’re not presently up to a challenge. Engaging with Exalt, whether through planned covert ops or otherwise can also yield clues to where Exalt is located; for example, you may learn Exalt is not in Africa. With enough clues, you can take a stab and accuse a country of housing the cell, or collect more clues until you're sure. A wrongly accused country pulls out of the XCOM project, as they are well enemy within their right to do. Choose correctly and you get a shot at Exalt’s challenging, fortified base. Playing Enemy Within reminded me of how good XCOM: Enemy Unknown is. After playing it, I had to go home and start a new game of Enemy Unknown, x-completely aware that to experience Enemy Within’s additions, I’d need to start a new campaign. Maybe next month it will be time for that Classic Ironman run, with an added twist.
XCOM Enemy Within photo
XCOM expansion has me xcompletely excited
If you haven’t played the eXcellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you should. However, now there is a caveat to that. You should play it, but you should probably wait until November 12 to do so because that’s when the Enem...

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