First of all I must acknowledge that I might be a bit biased in favor of “Beyond Earth”. I love science-fiction and all things robots, genetic manipulation and space. I'm a true disciple of strategy games and especially of the turn-based variety and quite the veteran of many, many rounds of “Alpha Centauri”. I've been very hyped
This said as introduction I'd first like to say that I like the design of Civilization 5, although I consider it a seriously dumbed down game, up to the point of it being the mentally handicapped little brother of its predecessors. But is it fair to use such harsh words? Maybe I should come to peace with the fact that Civilization 5 just isn't the same as the other games and in certain ways it did improve. Despite being dumbed down it isn't an easy game to master when you face human players that operate with the same meta as you. So it didn't get boring too quickly.
“Beyond Earth” kept the best of Civilization 5 (nonstackable units are debatable) and added a whole bucket of goodness to create a truly amazing game with an atmosphere that puts your mind at peace, while focused on the task that lies before you: survive on an alien world.
I love the addition of the affinity system which visually expresses the philosophy you embrace, which means you either play as Col. Quaritch, Robocop or Ray Kurzweil. Additionally you can select virtues divided into might, prosperity, knowledge and industry (basically a different sort of social policy system, but improved as it rewards both beelining as well as grabbing many boni from one section, or combining sections as well as tiers... and so on). I'd wish for “hybrid” affinities that let you embrace 2 main affinities for special units, but I don't see the developers doing that anytime soon. One can still embrace 2 affinities, in rare cases it even pays off (for example the Prime version of the Aegis mech of the purity affinity [Humanity ♥♥♥♥ YEAH!] needs 10 purity affinity and 3 supremacy affinity [resistance is futile, puny meatbags!]. I found out that for units it pays to have up to 5 affinity levels of a secondary affinity, however affinity influences much more than just units, so I'll have to experiment around a bit. I for one enjoyed going Purity as my primary affinity and Supremacy as my secondary affinity in my first game.
Beyond Earth added quests, better neutral city state mechanics (called stations now), better barbarian mechanics (b-but aliens aren't barbarians! They are different! Yes they are. This makes it better, dear reader. That's what I talk about!), better victory conditions and it feels much better writing possible future history, instead of reenacting history in the most ludicrous ways (nuking ancient Egyptians as Gandhi!). AND SPACE COLONIZATION! Is that nothing?
Last but not least you select your colonists' loadout: that is sponsor, equipment and type of colonists. This is a very great addition as it lets you customize your starting conditions in a more unique way than in Civ 5, adds the feeling that you have more control and ownership over your colonists and allows different strategies instead. We'll see more than a couple of viable strategies that will be quite different to each others. A bit irritating is the fact that the sponsors do not include a Northern European race. Sure, Russians are Caucasoid, but so are some North Africans strictly speaking. I'll play the French for now. What I am missing is a member of one of the Nordic, Anglo Saxon and Germanic race. It is quite likely they'll send people to space, although the developer might have wanted to show us a grimdark future where mass immigration replaced the European people almost completely with the grand daughter of Marine Le Pen leading the last Front National enclave of the French into space. Who knows.
Apart from this the personalities and background of the sponsors don't appeal to me. They are quite bland persons. That said it allows the player to use his imagination more. Still given how fleshed out the characters are, one could imagine them to be at least a bit interesting. Yet they are not. The most important issue however is balance. So far I believe all sponsors have their viable ways of working well, so as of now I think Firaxis did that one well.
I could drone on a bit more but this is lost time that I could have used playing this game!
Do I recommend it? Yes, I do. The atmosphere is just great. The scifi turn-based strategy genre is quite sparsely populated so even a game with some imperfections would get a rather positive review from me. I think Beyond Earth actually earns the good vote. It's not actually a breathtaking game, but while it looks like a small step for the turn-based strategy genre, it is a great step from Civ 5.
7.5/10 – It's okay.