Civilization_Beyond_Earth_cover_artThe latest instalment of Sid Meier’s god-game moves the popular franchise from Earth to a new alien world packed with new lifeforms and challenges for the surviving members of the human race who settle there.

Moving to a new world should have allowed the title’s designers to radically overhaul the game, but instead what we have is effectively Civ 5 with a paint job and some new tech/unit names.

On the plus side this means that experienced players should quickly feel at home and be able to crack on with building their empire, but the game doesn’t feel like the radical refresh the change of scenario and setting would have allowed.

The addition of a new ‘orbital layer’ boosts the game’s strategy element and it’s great to see the in-game choices from Civ 4 – should we allow X to marry y? – make a welcome return.

Both elements help move the game away from Civ 5’s pared back ‘move, trade, fight’ approach but it still feels limited compared to some earlier titles in the franchise.

Most disappointingly the game doesn’t feel anywhere near as different from recent incarnations of Civ as Meier’s breakaway Alpha Centauri did from the Civ branded games of the day.

The new graphic design is pretty marmite and personally I found myself wishing the designers had applied more restraint and gone for a more detailed, realistic look and feel.

As with Civ 5, tech trading is impossible and culture has taken a back seat meaning that war remains the most likely way to dominate other Civs and win the game.

There have clearly been deep coding changes behind the scenes, but the similarity with Civ 5 means Beyond Earth often feels more like an expensive scenario pack than a whole new game.

Hopefully many of these issues will be addressed in add-on packs and future updates but for now the game has a sadly average feel about it.