Since it’s free this weekend, a few helpful tips from someone who has won the game once on the easiest setting. Two important things before we get to the official list. One, remember that on your Steam library it’s listed as Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth. It’s not under C, or B, it’s under S. Two, watch the opening cinematic, it’s great.
One: This Is A Civ 5 Mod
Beyond Earth is specifically a mod for Civ 5. It’s Civ 5 in space. It is NOT Alpha Centauri, although it has a few nods in that direction. It helps a lot if you have played Civ 5, or Civ 3 or 4 or even Civ 2, but Civ 5 in particular really helps. The hex movement, the lack of stackable units, the philosophy of balancing expansion with happiness, all of these things carry over. It’s also really easy to understand the energy economy and the health economy if you map them to gold and happiness in Civ 5. You should play Civ 5 before playing BE if possible because Civ 5 is easier to understand, I think, and has less bugs and is easier to beat (hint: airports.) And it’s a great game.
But probably the most important difference between the two games, besides how science works, is to do with food: food and population growth was the wonder drug in Civ 5, and it was relatively easy to keep your growing population happy. Not the case in BE: health drops like a stone and is much harder to maintain. And everything pulls it down, and it pulls down everything. In Civ 5 you could easily trade things off, in various ways: one big city is easier to keep happy and healthy, but crap for science. In BE, every new city counts against your culture AND your science acquisition AND your health…but new cities are the only way to gain precious resources to keep up with the curve.
Two: Don’t Sweat Your Nation
Faction choice and other start-up questions don’t make a huge difference in your strategy choices. Yes, Pan Asia is the best because they build the fastest. Brasillia is good for war. But BE is a game that rewards generalism for the most part (except see below). You cannot ignore any part of the game, and confluence is your friend. What can make a huge difference though are the last two: Spacecraft in particular. Putting out new bases is vital to controlling resources, and the Tectonic Scanner lets you find resources before you research them. For me that is a huge relief and makes planning much easier. So much better than seeing the coastline or alien nests. Start up bonuses are all good, choose here based on what you like to do in your first few turns. I prefer a worker or a soldier, but because of the health issues, a Clinic can be a big deal. If in doubt, go energy – and that’s a good rule always. Energy in BE is like money in Civ: it buys things. And thus an excess of energy can save you from a lack of anything else.
All the personalities are annoying and poorly written, it’s not just you.
Three: There Are Four Kinds of Science Now
One of the major differences in BE is the tech web. The biggest impact you can have on the game – on winning, not just how it plays out – is choosing which techs to get when. Some of this only comes from experience. Be wary of going down leaf techs. Almost all of them are unnecessary in certain situations, some are hardly ever needed. Do not chase down Wonders, either. Unlike Civ, they are no longer the game winners. Look out for Genetics (1st circle) and Bionics (2nd circle), they lead to health buildings which you will need a LOT. Computers allows you to get city-breaking artillery and spies AND boats, so is a hugely useful get. Let the circles be your guide – don’t pick one direction and go that way, but get almost everything on tier one, most things on tier 2, etc.
Most importantly, understand the “four kinds of science”. In Civ 5, science generally led to good things in one of the areas – it would give you culture, or happiness, or money, or warfare. Science in BE is much more specific – once you have the basics, it’s very much about what victory path you want to go down, which is based on which philosophy you pick. The only way to ensure military victory (or not military loss) is to constantly get upgrades to your troops and the only way to do that is to chase down your Affinity of choice (and that is when you buy leaf tech). It is entirely possible, especially when chasing the victory of contacting aliens to get heaps and heaps of technology and still have a military stuck in the stone age because none of your tech gave you an Affinity bonus.
Four: Affinities Are Fun and Powerful
Everything in the game comes down to pursuing an affinity. You ignore them at your peril for both winning and having fun. If you want a lobster the size of the Chrysler Building, you need to go down Harmony. That said, like the tech web, level one for all of them are very useful and level 3 for all of them are handy. Lvl 1 for Purity and Harmony are almost must-haves because Exploring is so important. Watch your quests, these are good ways to pick up points in affinities without having to do slow research. If a quest is vague on its completion, check the net – a LOT of them are vague as hell. That said, chasing a quest that seems to have no value is an easy trap to fall into. Just because it says to do it doesn’t mean you should do it. Do NOT hunt worms until you are in the mid-game.
One big change between Civ and BE is the need for specific resources has been ramped up. As you chase your affinity you will use stacks of your signature resource (Harmony uses Biomass, Purity Floatstone and Supremacy Firaxite) but you’ll also need the other two and you will need Petroleum for almost anything orbital. For my money Titanium is the least useful, in the sense that it just improves things. Guard your resources well, and only trade for good deals for the things you need.
in case it’s unclear (and it can be): Harmony is believing that humanity should become like the planet (alien-human hybrid sexy times), Purity is making the planet suit humanity (mech-suits and hover tanks) and Supremacy is going “fuck biology we’re going to put our brains in giant robots”. You can think of Harmony like the Zerg, Purity like the Humans and Supremacy like the Protoss if you are a Starcraft nerd.
Five: Explore and Make Friends
You can win Civ 5 with one city, and only trading for cash. You can win without talking to anyone else, even. BE thrives on trade and that means exploring. Trade is a massive source of money, tech and (between your own cities) food and production. Get Pioneering up fast (it’s a tech), build trade houses everywhere, build trade ships everywhere. Make sure after you build the Ultrasonic Fence you select the choice that protects your trade vessels from alien attack. You cannot afford not to trade as much as possible. That said, that’s different from making diplomatic deals. This now works a bit better than in Civ because with favour trading you can force people to come to your aid in a war and such, but the AI doesn’t make any deals that don’t heavily screw you over. Don’t give in to them, they can shove it.
But DO consider trading for open borders because exploration is also really important. Not only are heaps of quests attached to exploration, it also has huge bonuses from finding satellites and buried tech. A dip into Supremacy to get extra expeditions is handy. Exploration will also help you quickly find those precious resources I mentioned, so you can nab them with new cities. You could win Civ without oil or uranium or iron if needed, you need almost everything here, and sometimes lots of it: some of your favourite warmachines will eat up 4 resources PER UNIT. Because more cities make everything harder, there are lots of reasons to get more cities, and all of them are resources. The expansionistic Civ gets the worm.
That should get you started. Watch out for aliens, they’re tough as hell, and miasma will kill you quicker than you think. Good luck.