As an Alpha Centauri veteran I was enjoying this game despite bugs, UI issues, idiotic AI, lack of wonder/victory movies, and other nitpicks. I was appreciating innovations like 1UPT, affinity, quests, ranged combat, trade, and virtues, and I was loving the science fiction setting, the map animations/unit design, and the minimalistic art style of the tech web. Although the atmosphere wasn't as rich, I felt Beyond Earth had potential to be a worthy spiritual successor to SMAC. I thought it would provide hundreds of hours more entertainment. But then the first patch was released...
The patch felt like it nerfed everything: trade routes were sometimes worse than useless and buying trade depots no longer possible. Level 4 unique units were suddenly redundant, and covert operations not worth the candle. Changes to the trade route UI which were meant to help, only cluttered things further, and the botch job done to the tech web where smears of colour were applied to the crisp black and white icon artwork felt to me like the defacing of Ecce Homo
. Meanwhile that damned explorer animation bug remained.
The game I was playing one day, was drastically changed the next. Instead of a polished game, it now felt like I was playing a beta.
We could argue all day about balancing issues, and I admit the game was easy even on the highest difficulty setting providing one enjoyed a good start location (there was challenge if the start location was less than ideal or on small maps with limited real estate), but such a dramatic adjustment so early leaves me little confidence in the development team. It feels like an overreaction to appease negative feedback, rather than a measured effort to fine tune an already solid system. A change necessary of this magnitude should have been weeded out long before release.
My conclusion is that Firaxis depend too strongly upon fan feedback, rather than the talent and vision of their own game designers. It should also be noted that Firaxis seem unable to deliver polished games without the need of subsequent expansion packs. Therefore I do not recommend this game, and I will certainly avoid getting sucked into any hype regarding the inevitable Civilization 6. I can only hope that as with Civilization V, Beyond Earth eventually finds it feet, and that those who preferred the original design get their game back.
Edit in reply to comments:
As stated, I was enjoying the game before the patch. I think I played the patched game for an hour or two before quitting. So it would be safe to say that 320 hours were logged before the patch. If all the first patch had done was fix the 'Cultural Burden' quest and the Explorer animation glitch, I'd probably have logged 500 hours by now.
Later patches I'd have liked to have seen trade route management improved, e.g. a sorting option from best to worst yields, and a means to automate trade routes entirely. Also I think the affinity victory conditions should have been pushed back to level 16 or even 18. Level 13 was way too early, and left much of the tech web unexplored. But in general I was very happy with the game.
I avoided Civilization V entirely because it had a similarly rough start. Therefore this was my first TBS game since Civilization IV. All the innovations since that game, including graphical improvement, explains the 300+ hours. I was playing Beyond Earth every opportunity I had and was suffering one more turn syndrome like a junkie hanging for a fix. This was no reskin for me.
Then the patch ruined everything. Instead of having confidence in the original design, I feel that Firaxis hastily kowtowed to upset fans who thought the game was too easy. In my first experiments with the patch, I felt handicapped to the point of absurdity. For example
, I built a trade route that gave me zero in return, and provided my rival with one energy. That is some nerf!
No doubt one could learn new ways to overcome such a disadvantage, but why should I put effort into learning a new system when the developers could up and change everything at the drop of a hat once again?
Therefore my complaint and bad review is not so much against the fundamental game, which I still believe has potential, but the way Firaxis have handled things.
I also question the validity of this review with the hours logged, esp just in the last 2 weeks. Are you going to revise your review after playing the latest patch or what? What's the deal? Downvoting.
When the game comes to a final state, perhaps after an expansion, I'll certainly revise my review. I'm still hoping further patches might arrive at more elegant solutions than what has been implemented thus far. I'm more hopeful that mods will improve gameplay, but that won't be to the credit of Firaxis.