Civilization: Beyond Earth has the honour of taking the 23-year-old strategy game franchise out to space, while keeping its fans grounded and glued to their PC screens.
For the first time, the battle for world domination takes place among the stars, as you play the leader of a space-expedition team looking to colonise new worlds to keep humanity alive.
Gone are the historical figures of Genghis Khan and Alexander The Great. Instead, you choose from eight expedition sponsors who represent the new power brokers on Earth.
Daoming Sochua, the Chinese-Cambodian leader of the Pan-Asian Cooperative, offers you a 10 per cent bonus to your speed of building Wonders and a 25 per cent bonus to the speed of your workers. She also speaks perfect Mandarin.
Indonesian-speaking Hutama, on the other hand, is the leader of Polystralia, a new territory formed by the union of South-east Asia, Polynesia and Australia. Choosing him lets you set up an extra trade route, useful for those who prefer the strategy of trading to war in the beginning of the game.
Veterans of the Civlization franchise will find the gameplay of Beyond Earth familiar. Like before, you need to send out scouts (now called explorers) early to explore the map. Resource pods and expedition sites are strewn across the alien planet you land on, and beating other computer-controlled players to these resources will offer a huge boost early in the game.
Early exploration, however, is now more challenging, as many of the areas have miasma in them. This alien vapour damages your units.
Instead of facing barbarians, your explorers now have to deal with aliens, which feel significantly more powerful than the former. The siege worm, in particular, will take out any of your early combat units without suffering even a scratch.
Like in all previous Civilization games, you need to grow your population fast and build a strong economy.
Food is needed for population growth. When you have more people, you will have more citizens to work on building and you will research new technologies faster than your opponents.
Instead of money, the currency of the game is energy, which is needed to pay for the maintenance of your army and buildings. If you have energy stockpiled, you can buy units and buildings immediately instead of waiting many turns for them to be produced.
The technology tree has also been revamped, and you will spend many hours studying the new Tech Web, to figure out which technologies to focus on to gain a competitive advantage.
As the name suggests, research paths are no longer linear, but arranged in four concentric circles like a spider's web. So, instead of having to research more than 20 prior technologies before you secure the advanced technology you desire, you can now get there in just three to four steps.
You can also send units into orbit, as planets have their own airspace. If you control the orbit, you can unleash orbital strikes, send solar collectors to increase energy accumulation and even remove miasma.
Also new is the concept of Affinity. If you embrace "purity", your aim is to develop your planet so it feels like Earth, where your friends and family can live. "Supremacy" players focus on robots and cybernetics, and aim for humans to evolve into machines. If you choose "harmony", your aim is to be one with the alien flora and fauna.
Your chosen Affinity also determines the special combat units you can build. "Purity" players will have access to the best ranged units, while "harmony" players can create monstrosities such as the Rocktopus, a flying octopus which can teleport instantly to nearby cities. They also have the Xeno Titan, the most powerful melee unit in the game.
If you are a fan of Civlization, then this is a must buy.
This article was first published on Nov 5, 2014.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.