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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rising Tide Raises All CivBE Ships

Last Sunday I needed a break from everything. I needed a break from the grind that is getting to upper tier ships in World of Warships. I needed a break from real people. Hell, I needed a break from RL. When such occasions have arisen in the past, I've often gone to my life long favorite Civilization V. However, last year I bought and played a fair amount of Civilization: Beyond Earth (CivBE.) It didn't fill that niche in my psyche it's Earth bound antecedent does though. After about 50 hours of game play, and the release of Elite: Dangerous and World of Warships, I stopped playing it.

However, Firaxis just released (October 8th to be exact) the first DLC for CivBE. It is called Rising Tide. What intrigues me about this $30 DLC is it allows players to found colonies on water as well as land. And I don't just mean the city can control water hexes. I mean the city itself can occupy a water hex. And players can move them. For some reason this really appeals to me. So I purchased the DLC on Steam and installed it. I then jumped right in, selected one of the four new leaders (the aquatic city one of course,) and jumped right into a game.

Brace for Water Landing
In the beginning, cities can only land in shallow seas. You must research the Planetary Survey technology to move into deeper water. Still, it is possible to land completely away from any shoreline as my Select a Landing Site screen shot illustrates above. Of course, only the new leaders Duncan Hughes of the North Sea Alliance and Han Jae Moon of the Chungsu can initially land on water unless you choose that option as one of your startup conditions. You can read about how these options work to create incredibly variable start conditions on my CivBE game setup post from last year.

But aquatic cities and new leaders aren't the only thing offered by this DLC. The entire diplomacy system has been re-imagined, and I like it much more than the old system. The first thing I want to rave about is the Personality Trait system for your leader. Here's what a completed Personality Traits tree looks like.

Personality Traits
There are four main areas and three levels for each trait you select. The Character traits are set and are equitable to the old personality settings for each leader. There are three other categories you can choose to purchase. There are 10 traits per category. If my math foo doesn't fail me, that's 27,000 possible combinations! And you can see from the traits I selected for my game they are substantial bonuses. But wait, there's more! If you don't like what you've selected, you can change them - for a price. If the game zigs when you thought it would zag, you're not locked into worthless traits. Nice.

Traits aren't the only change to the Diplomacy system. The entire system is new and different. Other leaders no longer seem so fickle in how they relate to your civilization. With the new Fear and Respect system, you can see exactly what motivates them.

Fear and Respect
This also has a bearing on what agreements you can obtain from another civilization. You pay Diplomacy Points on a per turn basis for these agreements. Better agreements cost more. And the payments come from the same pool you from which you purchase traits, so you have to make a decision on which is more valuable to your civilization. In return, the other leaders can buy agreements from you and the Diplomacy Points earned go back into your diplomacy coffer. It is a dynamic and changing system, and more than a little nuanced. You are in effect providing aid to a potential enemy in return for political hay. Choose wisely.

All these changes though can't make an NPC leader into a real person though. They still exhibit some irritating NPC behavior. In my game, the ever warlike Rejinaldo de Alencar was as unpredictable and unstable as ever, and seemed to be stuck on the same old rut of "you're doing your military stuff all wrong," which lowers his respect rating for you. I had to kick his ass a couple of times before he changed his tune. ;-)

To do so, I used some of the new hybrid units. Damn, those units are awesome. You can unlock them by pursuing two affinities and researching the appropriate technology. If your affinity levels are sufficient, and you have the technology, the game will automatically tell you there are units you can upgrade. Upgrades are immediate no matter where the unit is located. You benefit from the upgrade immediately. Here is what that looks like.

Upgrade Unit Screen

Sentinel

Champion Hybrid

CivBE Combat

As you can see on the third screen capture, each upgrade comes with two possible paths for enhancement. There are four tiers of enhancement, so each unit can have one of 16 different sets of special abilities. Some may supersede others. My Sentinel had +5 Heal When Not Embarked special ability. This was the Marine Perk Choice B. When I upgraded to a Champion, I selected the Automatically Heal Every Turn perk pack. This obviated the need for the +5 Heal special ability. You cannot go back, so plan your unit upgrades carefully.

The last big change in Rising Tide is in the exploration system. Exploration is now far more useful. It was always required to fulfill the quests that lead to victory, but now you can get even more assistance from exploration in the form of Artifacts and Marvels. I did not discover any Marvels during my game, but they are like wonders except they're available to all players. This would make them something like National Wonders in Civ5, but more limited in number. Here is what the CivBE Wikia says about them,
Marvels take up three hexes. Every biome has a unique marvel, and water has a unique marvel.
Once a biome is found, a quest begins for all players, which requires players to explore the map to find various items. Once the quest is complete the player will gain that bonus. Unlike wonders, multiple civilizations may complete these quests. Different factions can complete the same marvel quest, as well.
I look forward to completing my first Marvel quest now that I know what to look for. I did manage to dig up four Artifacts during the course of the game. However, I also lacked a complete understanding of how they worked. The mistake I made was in not waiting until I had three of them.

Artifacts Library
There are three sorts of artifact, Old Earth Relics, Alien Biology Artifacts and Progenitor Artifacts. It is only when you combine three of these that you receive special rewards. Otherwise you only receive what is shown: Production, Energy and Culture bonuses, which are also useful but not awesome. :D

Those are the game changing enhancements Rising Tide brings to CivBE. There are other changes, but they are simple additions to mechanics already in the game, or simplifications of existing mechanics in the case of trade vehicles, and don't really change how people will play CivBE. The four additions and reboots mentioned above absolutely change how CivBE plays. I find the changes most welcome, and CivBE has become a game I am more interested in investing a weekend's worth of time in exploring now. That should tell you I think the $30 price tag is worth the money. If you have the funds, I recommend purchasing Rising Tide. It makes a good game even better.

3 comments:

  1. Is the AI still crap? I played BE only until I completed it once. The problem for me was that the Computer opponents just didn't play very well. Also alien mobs seemed kinda random and underwhelming. Finally the game was very linear - it really didnt matter what tech tree you followed as the end result was fairly much the same.

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  2. I won't lie. All those issues still exist, though the mobs may be a bit better. Still, once you start increasing in tech they quickly become a non-issue. Correcting the other issues would likely require a complete re-write of the game. I don't imagine that will ever happen.

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  3. /sigh I really wanted to like BE after all alpha centauri was such a great game with a cool story behind it. BE just seems to be a let down in so many different ways.

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