It's time to get the Civilization: Beyond Earth expansion train rolling. You knew it was coming. Maybe you didn't know when, but I'm sure when Beyond Earth released last fall you heard the first distant toots as it rounded tracks in the distance.
It's all-but-expected with the Civilization series at this point. Base game: Decent, if stripped-down, foundation. First expansion: Fixes some of the gripes. Second expansion: Hailed as a masterpiece. Every. Single. Time.
Even Civilization V, now the standard to which all 4X games are compared, was belittled on release for not reaching the same complexity as Civilization IV. And on it goes.
I spoke with 2K last week about the first (and presumably not the last) expansion for Civilization: Beyond Earth, subtitled Rising Tide. As you can guess from the title, its main focus is on oceans — although there are some changes coming to factions and diplomacy as well.
Sailing the seven seas
To be clear, I haven't seen Rising Tide in action yet. But one of the first things I asked was "What makes Rising Tide different from 'More Civilization'?" It was one of the most pervasive complaints about Beyond Earth, and rightfully so — in many ways, it felt like a reskinned version of Civilization V.
The complaint was so pervasive, it even came up during a GDC postmortem on the game. Discussing the game in March, Beyond Earth's co-lead designer David McDonough admitted "a little bit of lack of ambition" with Beyond Earth's base game. It didn't push far enough. It wasn't quite the bold Alpha Centauri successor everyone expected.
With Rising Tide, McDonough thinks they're rectifying some of those issues. "Sort of across the board with the expansion we're specifically making plays from the position 'Never been done in Civ before,'" said McDonough when I spoke to him last week. "We're really trying to redefine what Beyond Earth is and ground it in what it ought to be, which isn't just 'Civ in space' but 'Civilization of the future.'"
Central to that is naval gameplay. Oceans are now fully open to colonization, with cities and territories able to extend into the seas. It sounds like you could even have an entire faction with only naval cities. Along with these new capabilities comes new naval military units, amphibious units, and aquatic alien life.
McDonough also stressed that this is more than an extension of the land-based game into the oceans — in other words, you couldn't just achieve the same effect by playing an all-land Beyond Earth map. That's a claim I'll need to see in action before verifying, though.
And while the naval additions are at the center of Rising Tide, I must admit that two other changes are far more interesting to me and took up most of my interview with 2K.
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