Diplomacy is a weak point in Beyond Earth, more even than other Civilization games. It's the same static system we've seen in past Civs, except this time without even the benefit of interesting leaders. Diplomacy might be boring in Civilization V, but at least there's a certain novelty to seeing Gandhi wage rampant warfare on his neighbors, et cetera.
By contrast, Beyond Earth's leaders were all-but-interchangeable. There was the sort-of French leader, the sort-of American leader... Honestly I'm having a hard time even remembering the different factions while writing this.
"We have a rich sci-fi setting, we have a rich fiction that we authored, but there's very little avenue for players to absorb and appreciate it," said McDonough when I asked about it. "As a result, they don't identify, they don't invest emotionally in their own civilization the way they did in, say, Alpha Centauri where those leaders were painted in much brighter colors."
Which brings us to Rising Tide's overhauled diplomacy. Producer Andrew Frederiksen jumps in. "This a new diplomacy system, not just a couple of new options. Every leader is going to have a small set of traits and these traits can both evolve or be changed throughout the course of an individual game," says Frederiksen.
I remark that it sounds like Crusader Kings II, which also revolves around leader traits. "CK2 is one influence but we didn't take perhaps the direction they did," Frederiksen continues. "It's a combination of determining what the leader's character is in an AI sense, what they're actively going to do with their own Civ, and what their entry points are for you to make deals with them from your own side."
Each character will have a unique trait, but over the course of the game will acquire traits that affect the way they run their faction and interact with others. Frederiksen gives me a quick example. "If I'm interacting with a leader that has a trait that favors people that engage in trading, and they see me trading, their respect for me is going to grow. That's going to open up newer or better options with that leader. Conversely if they see that I'm not trading, they're not going to respect me."
It's an interesting twist on the classic Civilization diplomacy, though I'm still curious how extensive the system is in practice. In other words, how much it feels like "a new diplomacy system" the way 2K claims instead of "tacked on to the old system." Definitely something I'll be exploring when we get hands-on time with the expansion.
Last but not least, 2K is adding hybrid affinities. One of Beyond Earth's biggest additions was affinities — a system that encouraged your faction to go down a specific technology path to unlock unique units and win conditions. For instance, the Harmony affinity eventually leads to your faction mind-melding with the entire planet, becoming "more than human."
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