Addendum Added: 11/8/2015
Rising Tide is the first expansion for Civilization: Beyond Earth (hereafter referred to by its adopted name, Civ:BERT). The expansion brings many new features to the base game: four new sponsors, a revised diplomacy system, aquatic cities, two new biomes, a few new aliens, hybrid affinities, lots of balance and bug fixes… okay, not so much of the bug fixing, actually. Overall though, Rising Tide was intended to save vanilla Beyond Earth. Did it? That depends on who you ask.
So, what’s new?
The most obvious additions are the diplomacy system and the new sponsors: Al Falah, North Sea Alliance (NSA), INTEGR, and Chungsu.
Al Falah is a generation ship faction which means they are the descendants of the original colonists born in space. Their ability to adapt gives them a 150% bonus to city development. The NSA is a second-generation faction that had to adjust to life on “old earth” and, as a result, they can settle on water and get a 50% city strength bonus and a 50% reduction to city movement (production) cost. INTEGR is the diplomatic faction, so their agreements cost 50% less and their purchases save them 25%. Chungsu, the “espionage faction” starts with a free spy and a bonus for each rank of their spy corps.
Diplomacy, in general, has been overhauled. The addition of diplomatic currency changes the entire playscape. As faction leaders enact various diplomatic missions, they get diplomatic currency – somewhat similar to Endless Legend’s influence system. This currency can be used to create new treaties, improve relations and bolster/improve your faction leader through a customizable bonus system. Leaders can be modified with traits that have been added as part of the new diplomatic system. Customizable leaders add to replayability in an otherwise static experience. These traits are diverse but aren’t permanently locked in during any single playthrough, as they can be reset for a fee.
Diplomatic missions can be used to further increase diplomatic currency through backroom-type favors and the bonuses you earn can be applied to your entire civilization. As your relationship changes with the other factions, more interesting missions become available and can lead to full-blown alliances or war. In the Civ franchise, war is a favorite, with or without Gandhi.
Then there are the aliens and biomes. In BERT, two new biomes have been introduced: primordial (a barren rocky surface) and frigid (a frozen world with ice-choked seas). Aliens have also been upgraded – their coloring and behavior will change based on the world they are on. Four new alien types have been introduced, as well. The Scarab Beetles and aquatic Ripper Swarms are somewhat weak, but make up for it with sheer numbers. The Hydracoral is an obstacle in the ocean that grows but is susceptible to ranged attacks since it can’t move. The Makara is an amphibious beast slightly less powerful than the kraken and siege worm, but still powerful enough to be painful to deal with. At the end of the day, these new planets are no longer lifeless and the additional aliens are a welcome adversary.
New hybrid affinities and their respective units really help diversify your potential affinity choices. Have you ever wanted a supremely harmonious soldier? How about a harmonious purist battleship? A purist supreme tank? These are all possible now and can really add to the overall flavor and composition of your armies.
Firaxis also added a new Artifact system. Explorer units, which once dug up crashed satellites and explored ancient ruins, can also now discover relics. These relics can be combined to give unique unit bonuses, buildings and city/faction perks.
New buildings and wonders abound in BERT. With the addition of the aquatic gameplay (yeah, I know how that reads), unique naval buildings have been added. Let’s not forget the wonders – they have some new additions, as well, in both aquatic and terrestrial varieties to really flesh out the faction city differentiation.
The new graphics and musical tracks are among my favorite additions to BERT. The worlds look equally alive or dead, depending on what’s most appropriate for the biome. The hybrid units jump out of the screen as you traverse these beautiful maps while listening to the new soundtrack. In this regard, Firaxis really hit the proverbial nail on the head.
So, What’s Changed?
With the new additions listed above, the diplomacy system has really matured. No longer are you being denounced for pressing the return key too many times or staring at the diplomat. Now diplomacy is conducted with the aforementioned diplomatic currency. You must deal with others to improve your own station in life. Want to make an alliance? Then you better make concessions. Want to improve your trade agreements? You will need to conduct all sorts of diplomatic missions with the others factions. Bugs aside, the system has some serious potential but this system isn’t tested and there are various gameplay problems as a result.
The updated tech web is much easier to read. Color-coordinated, with affinity-specific tech being much easier to identify. However, the modding community did a much better job when they originally implemented this idea as a mod, so I am somewhat surprised that the easily-fixed aspects of the UI weren’t given more attention. In another change, the affinities have been focused in specific parts of the web. No longer are they peppered all over the place. It’s an improvement, but it’s not perfect yet. The Supremacy and Harmony sections are somewhat organized, but the Purity tech is scattered. Another issue is the late affinity-specific techs are so far down the web that by the time you reach them, they are all but useless and highly underpowered. More balancing work needs to be done with Technology.
Trade has been simplified. You don’t need to keep track of dozens upon dozens of units conducting commerce across the planet every few turns. Now, a single unit will hover above water and land, and you can set up auto-renewal for trade routes, too. This is a welcomed change that should alleviate prior concerns about the need to micro trade routes. Unfortunately, internal trade routes make the stations obsolete.
A quick word on multiplayer: our buddy, Eystein “the wise”, tells me that MP gameplay has improved with some small “under the hood”-type changes. But he also notes that faction balancing is needed since Polystralia is currently the strongest MP faction by far. With 262+ hours played, many of which are probably MP, I will take Eystein’s word for it since I seldom play MP myself.
What Hasn’t Changed
Problems out of the gate: that’s what hasn’t changed. The AI, oh the sad maligned AI, is up to its old tricks. Basically, it’s terrible. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Firaxis hasn’t recruited AI specialists to fix the Civ 5… er, Civ:BERT AI just yet. Though diplomatic interactions have improved and combat strategies make more sense, the AI mostly just sits there. I have seen aquatic cities migrate aimlessly. I have seen factions neglect to defend themselves from espionage, and many an alien creature just wait around for the slaughter. The AI-led factions still inundate you with diplomatic requests, new treaties and cancelled pacts all the time, but at least the constant denouncements and backstabbing have seemed to stop. The empire expansion, however, is weird at best. Lots of prime and non-invasive settlements spots are left open. Is the AI actually trying to win the game? I don’t think so. It’s just there as a placeholder.
Speaking of placeholders, Independent Stations are just as useless as before. They are mostly there to give a simple bonus to a single tile, advance a quest or give your city some additional income. In reality though, they are easy targets for rampaging AI and angry aliens alike. Once they are wiped out, you can send an explorer to excavate them. What happened to the city-states of old? I guess they were left behind on “old earth” to drown. Too bad, there is yet another missed opportunity here.
Besides the AI and some poor design choices, the biggest persistent problems that I have faced have to do with the War Score mechanic, capturing of Capital Cities and some Aquatic city growing pains.
The War Score mechanic is an attempt to bring some deeper meaning to making war and peace in the Civilization franchise. Paradox Interactive uses a similar mechanic in their games, but the Firaxis attempt seems half baked. Currently, if your War Score, hidden behind a black box system, is too high, your demands for the enemy’s surrender will go unanswered. Why? Because! Your opponent will not give up its cities to you. In previous games, you could force a truce after trouncing your opponent, but now the black box mechanism decides the terms and the AI refuses to give up cities since it has to give up ALL of them. So, what does that mean? Simple. Once a war starts, it won’t stop until you completely and utterly annihilate your opponent.
The other problem with combat is that you can’t raze capital cities. Sure, that’s always been a thing, but players cannot raze a new capital either. So each time a capital jumps to another city (due to loss of the original capital), that city can’t be destroyed, either. Boo!!!
The problems inherited from the Civ franchise persist with the end game. You are either clicking to the rhythm of a timer, turn after turn until you win, or you are waging a war to wipe out the opposition. There is nothing in between, really. The early and mid-game are amazing, but the end is bland at best. I do like the voiceover and “cinematic” of sorts when you win, but otherwise that part of the game is a total drag. At least the end game can be relatively short, thankfully.
What Needs Further Attention!
Bugs. No, not the alien variety but the gameplay sort. If I could make one request of developers, it would be this: please, do not release buggy games! Test the hell out of them before release. Use your community, not just the developers on hand. Nothing more needs to be said about this because it’s obvious.
As I mentioned above, the AI is still in need of serious improvement. In a single-player game, the AI is probably one of the most crucial components and, unfortunately, Firaxis isn’t updating theirs. The AI simply can’t play Rising Tide very well yet. I am hoping that this will change, but I am not very optimistic right now.
Then there is the boring quest system. There, I said it. The mechanic is just not engaging at all. “Do this, or build that” quests are dull. The text is not bad, but there is no diversity at all. Within a game or two you’ll see almost every quest. What’s worse is that the quests are identical and have mostly uninteresting outcomes. A +1 to this, or a 10% bonus to that. Pure numbers do not make a fun game. Another missed opportunity here.
Adding insult to injury, you also have some poor design choices with the aquatic cities that make them less viable. You must move them to expand your area of influence, but moving them is expensive and time-consuming, so you might end up not using them at all. All of this should have been fixed prior to launch, or with the first patch after launch, except it wasn’t.
The aliens, ah the poor poor aliens. They are nothing more than paper tigers. At first, you quake at their presence, but quickly come to realize that they’ll hardly ever attack. They don’t do a very good job of defending themselves either. What happened to a global consciousness controlling the aliens and their need to protect their planet? Gone, well, no, it was never there in the first place. That’s just too bad.
What I would do to fix them is to merge the progenitor cities with the coral minds. The ruins would constantly eject miasma that would spread across the planet creating new nests that spawn nastier and nastier monsters when pressured. The coral brains would constantly create new hydrocoral infestations that would block the shipping lanes and produce its own miasma too. The nastier miasma would, in turn, seed new nests. As the game progressed, only the biggest and baddest aliens around would be left. I would also toss in a mechanic that would randomly upgrade unmolested minor aliens and a veterancy mechanic for survivors.
You would be the unwelcome invader making the planet mad and you’d feel its wrath.
Civ:BERT, I love this acronym, is a mixed bag. The new content is absolutely thrilling, but, at the same time, the game is a bug-filled mess. The new diplomatic system, on paper at least, appears to fill the gaps of typical Civ diplomacy. Yet the constant haranguing of the AI and its non-sensical cancellation of deals continues to baffle me. Why offer me a deal if you are only going to cancel it a few turns from now? There is still so much left to fix.
Another issue is the lack of AI. I can’t state this enough. I know that 4X games are very complex. I also know that AI programming isn’t easy, but when you have such talented programmers and a massive player base, why not utilize both to make a challenging, yet fun game? I just don’t get it.
What about the bugs? The game “shipping” with the War Score bug is not acceptable. A game of this size from a developer like Firaxis should not launch in this shape. I don’t think that the lessons of Civ:BE have been learned all that well. The content is there, but not the polish. I think another round of proper balancing, bug fixing, and optimization would do Civ:BERT a world of good. I’d hate for Rising Tide to not get its due.
Rob’s Additional Perspective:
Having written the review for Beyond Earth, readers know of my dislike for the base game. Does Rising Tide make Beyond Earth a better game? It does, actually. I really appreciate the new affinity paths and the diplomacy system. While a bit uninspired (they basically pulled the influence system from Endless Legend and the war-score from Europa Universalis), these features do add a few more meaningful choices. The new hybrid affinities are fun, too. However, the game still feels like it’s lacking a soul in many ways. The factions are still short of personality and the world just seems somewhat sterile.
Furthermore, BERT’s biggest new “feature” essentially makes it impossible to end a war you haven’t even started despite winning it handily, and the expansion does very little to add any real surprise to encounters with competing factions. It’s starting to feel like Firaxis doesn’t remember how to capture our imaginations like it might have once upon a time. It seems like for every couple steps forward there’s one rather large step back, leaving the players lamenting the missed opportunities.
Can I recommend Rising Tide? That truly depends on whether or not you’ve already purchased the base game. If you have, and you have $30 to spare, Rising Tide finally gives you a better game that you can enjoy. However, I’d 100%, WHOLEHEARTEDLY RECOMMEND, that you wait until they fix the War Score issue before giving them your money. It’s frustrating as hell, in my personal opinion, to have to play the game with such a crucial mechanic broken. The game is nearly impossible for me to enjoy right now.
On the other hand, you don’t have the base game already or you don’t have $30 burning a hole in your pocket, or you simply despise Beyond Earth, I cannot recommend Rising Tide at the moment. The price of entry for the new player, some $70 USD, is absurdly high for what this game is. If it goes on sale and you can get both games for $40 or below, then I’d be able to recommend buying it. For people that were on the fence, Rising Tide does provide new ways to enjoy the Beyond Earth universe, but it’s simply not enough to convert those that hated the whole idea to begin with.
I hope we’ll see another expansion that will add soul to the faction leaders, improve our interactions with them and create opportunities to learn about what drives them. I’d also like to see them add more features to the endgame. My wish list is surprisingly long (or perhaps NOT surprisingly, if you’ve been reading my comments) for what I want to see in an another, almost certainly final, expansion for Beyond Earth. However, I have very little faith that we’ll see a second expansion. I’m predicting Civilization VI will be Firaxis’ next Civ project instead of more Beyond Earth. I hope that Firaxis has learned a lot from what does and doesn’t work in BE. If they can, I have faith that the next iteration of the Civilization series will be the best ever.
When we published our review for Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide on October 20th (2015), we had no idea that Firaxis was not only hard at work on a patch, but that it would be released later that same day. This patch did a fantastic job of not only fixing some of the major issues with the newly introduced Warscore mechanic, but adding some novel espionage features as well.
As discussed in our review, the Warscore mechanic was bugged at launch. When you were pulled into a war, you would often be unable to extricate yourself because the terms for peace were unrealistic: your enemy would either demand your capital plus multiple cities or be forced to surrender its own and neither was ever really acceptable. The patch fixed this mechanic. You can now trade tech, resources, energy, diplomatic currency and cities. What you can get or have to give up will depend on how well you’re doing in the war, of course.
The patch also added a new mechanic for acquiring missing resources using espionage. Originally, you would have to make war on your neighbors in order to secure those crucial resources so that…. you could then make war on your neighbors. Now you can send spies into the newly heralded blackmarket to fill those special needs (similar to Sid Meier’s Starships).
As a result of this patch, we have high hopes for the continued support of Beyond Earth and Rising Tide. BERT was a moderate step in the right direction and, with a patch or two more like this one, and a hopeful additional expansion, we could see Beyond Earth truly rise above its mediocre beginnings to something worth recommending unequivocally.
For a more detailed overview and analysis of the patch and how it effect CIV: BERT gameplay, check out the AudiX for Civ:BERT.
TL;DR: Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide introduces many positive new features as well as a few overlooked bugs. A game that could have been a definitive hit is now a mediocre almost-was. Fans will love it or wait for a second expansion that might never come. Naysayers will say nay. We think it still has a ways to go before reaching Alpha Centauri fame.
You Might Like This Game If:
- You liked Civilization: Beyond Earth and Civilization V.
- You wanted more “cool” units with mixed affinities.
- You enjoy exploring new worlds and searching “goodie huts”
- You want to try a new Diplomacy system.
You Might NOT Like This Game If:
- You want to feel challenged by an AI opponent.
- You want a bug-free experience.
- You wanted to play a modern version of Alpha Centauri.
- You want an innovative 4X endgame experience.
Nate played for 45+ hours with a public build plus an additional 10+ hours with a review build (for a grand total of 55+ hours) on a Macbook Pro 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7 with 8gb ddr3 RAM using OSX 10.10.5.
Rob played for 70+ hours across both review and retail builds.