Civilization: Beyond Earth
Back to reviews
Game Reviewed: Civilization: Beyond Earth
ESRB Rating: E10
Click Here to Learn More About our Reviews
Hard science fiction is often overlooked. The ability of science fiction to make us look to our future and consider the technological, ethical, and cultural problems of our future societies is a lot of what makes it special, and many of the greatest works of sci-fi have accomplished this splendidly. Civilization: Beyond Earth seeks to be one of these greats.
The Civilization series has always been one of the greatest in its genre. Allowing the player to choose a historical civilization, it took them through the stages of cultural and technological development across millennia, allowing them to shape how their civilization will grow over time.
Beyond Earth wishes to take that concept to the stars, and raise the same types of questions in a more theoretical light. When you begin life anew on another planet, will you try to adapt as best you can to the planet? Or augment yourselves in order to rise to the challenges of your new environment? Or even take to altering the planet, disregarding its own ecosystem in favor of your own ability to thrive? These questions are the driving force behind your actions in Beyond Earth, and while there’s no story except that which you form through your actions, the result is one of the most compelling works of hard sci-fi I’ve seen in a long time.
But with hard questions sometimes comes situations that may be inappropriate for young children, so let’s take a look.
What Parents Need to Know
The player can wage war both against the alien life of the planet and against other human factions that are trying to settle there. While humans generally are cooperative and understanding at first (they all have the same goal, after all), ideological differences eventually begin to incite conflict. You can become a warmonger, or simply try to coexist peacefully while advancing your technological or cultural proficiency.
Battles show people (and aliens) dying, but there is no blood or gore.
The word “bastard” appears in one block of text.
Nothing to speak of.
As hard science fiction, this game is focused entirely on the power of technology and discovery. There are various cultures that land on the planet, some of which reflect their related religions, but there is no mention of anything spiritual.
The questions of how to thrive on this new planet bring up interesting ethical questions, and the answers aren’t always clear-cut. If you have issues with the idea of using technology to improve the functionality of the human body, whether through cybernetics or the integration of alien physiology, you will have options in the game you won’t agree with. You don’t need to go with them, of course, but they are there.
I love good science fiction. And I love a good story. So it surprised me when Beyond Earth came about, with no story to speak of, and gave me one of the most thought-provoking science fiction works I’ve seen in a long time.
The questions it poses are futuristic and theoretical, but not unreasonably fantastical. It asks how you define our humanity, and how far you are willing to stretch that definition for the sake of thriving on an alien world. It asks whether it’s worth keeping that definition pure if it means the destruction of the world around us. And it allows you to decide your position as you face the challenges of founding a new civilization in a new and hostile environment.
The gameplay is complex and in-depth as ever, featuring a system that uses your economy, population, resources, culture, technology, and many other elements of a functioning society to keep you constantly considering every new development you pursue. The addition of occasional quests and dilemmas adds to this complexity in much the same way as a moral choice system; your actions determine how you grow.
The game is slow-paced, and may not effectively entertain children used to more action-oriented games. But there’s very little objectionable here, and the sheer complexity of the game, in both its gameplay systems and its scenarios, makes for an experience I certainly wouldn’t mind giving a child.