In CivBE, there are still a finite number of starting points, but gone are the days of picking just one preset leader from a short list. CivBE starts with choosing one of eight sponsors, the organization footing the bill for your interplanetary spacecraft. These sponsors provide certain inherent bonuses as listed below. Selection then proceeds to selecting one of five colonist specializations. These provide more civilization wide bonuses. The next choice is what type of spacecraft they will use. These spacecraft give a colony founding bonus, some of which last and others don't. They all seem aimed at giving your first city a particular advantage though. And finally, you get to pick a specific cargo the colonists will take beyond the basic survival package. Cargo provides a specific starting advantage to your first city.[caption id="attachment_3484" align="aligncenter" width="1086"] CivBE - Start Options[/caption]
The game retains the food, production and culture concepts for civilizations from Civ5, but replaces money with energy. However, energy still functions the way money functioned in Civ5, providing the commerce aspect of the game. There is one addition that is different. Cities now appear to have a health rating and this affects whether they get a pre-set bonus or not (and I'm certain other things as well.) Whether this is a direct replacement for happiness I don't know. I've not read or heard that anywhere, but it seems right. If anyone knows for certain please link in the comments. And what's that about orbital units? Looks like a new dimension of play to me. ;-)
Overall, I like this game setup system much more than Civ5. In Civ5 there are 43 leaders total including all expansions and downloadable content. In Civilization: Beyond Earth there are way more than that. Just multiply all the options together to get the total number of possible results: 8 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 1000. That's ONE THOUSAND possible starting conditions. Just thinking of it makes me drool a little, and I haven't even taken planet selection (the same as map selection in Civ5) into account yet.
So, for start-up variability in CivBE, Firaxis gets two thumbs up. This game just keeps looking better and better to me. I foresee many a cloistered winter weekend spent fending off aliens and human competitors alike.
And for those who would like to watch the entire presentation (and I recommend you do!,) here is the YouTube video of the broadcast. Good stuff!