Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide Review

Screenshot of Beyond Earth - Rising Tide
Oh that cannot be good.
  • Developer: Firaxis Games
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Release Date: 9 October 2015
  • Time played: 24 hours

When the base game Beyond Earth was released the game received positive reviews from the critics but received mixed reviews from the gaming public with a 52% (Mixed) rating on Steam from over 13,000 reviews. Despite the game not being the next Alpha Centauri I liked the hard science-fiction backdrop, the epic soundtrack, the greater Civ customisation options and the non-linear tech tree. Consequently the game rated well on Choicest Games, receiving an 8/10.

So when Firaxis announced they were releasing an expansion pack called Rising Tide, I was pretty excited. After purchasing the expansion pack and playing for about 24 hours (which consisted of a few games in single player and multi player) I am now ready to review it. So is the expansion pack as good as the Steam user reviews make it out to be (83% of 404 reviews) or have they irrevocably ruined the original formula?

Plot (5/5)
Rising Tide is actually meant to be set an undefined number of years after the first wave of colonists have made planetfall and consists of factions that were more focused on fixing Old Earth instead of running away from its problems (such as INTEGR and North Sea Alliance) or decided to leave too early before better propulsion technology was developed (such as Al Falah who left on generation ships instead of cryogenic "sleeper" ships). Factions such as the North Sea Alliance (NSA) also bring better colonisation technology such as floating cities (which gives them the ability to start the game with an ocean city).

Just as it was with Alpha Centauri and Beyond Earth, Firaxis have done their homework and each faction, leader and technology has a fleshed-out story behind them. What's even better in Rising Tide though is how discovering Old Earth artifacts adds to your knowledge of what happened to Old Earth. Discovering an ancient coffee machine is especially hilarious.

"Discovering an ancient coffee machine is especially hilarious."

In Rising Tide, each planetary biome has their own chain of quests which when completed will confer benefits to you (such as certain hexes having increased yields). This is not only a pretty choice gameplay mechanic but it also makes each planetary biome you play on somewhat unique which in turn helps with immersion.

Gameplay (4/5)
There's been quite a few changes to the core gameplay formula, similar to what happened between Civilization V and its expansions. The main changes I'll talk about though are the Diplomatic Capital/Traits system, artifacts crafting and ocean cities.

So, the biggest change to Rising Tide is how diplomacy has been revamped. Gone is the diplomacy system that was just about copy+pasted from Civ V, and instead we have a system that is reliant on an intangible commodity called "diplomatic capital". Diplomatic capital reminds me of faith in Civ V, probably because just like faith, you can use diplomatic capital to purchase improvements and units instead of energy. Also, certain improvements and wonders can generate diplomatic capital, similar to how religious buildings created faith in Civ V. "What exactly is it used for?" you're probably asking. Well, besides rushing things in the build queue as I mentioned earlier, you also need it in order to "level up" your relationships with other leaders (provided you have the requisite "fear" and "respect" ratings) and you also need it to sign up for diplomatic agreements that grant benefits to your faction, such as increased city strength or free workers. Finally, you can also use the diplomatic capital to level up your personality traits.

Each leader has four personality traits: political, domestic, military and one that is unique to your faction leader (for example, Daoming Sochua's unique ability is that the first wonder built in a city is free). Each of these traits have three levels and each time they're upgraded they become more powerful. So Rising Tide really gives you greater opportunities to mould your faction and even more strategies to experiment with.

Another change that Rising Tide brings to the table is the ability to craft benefits to your faction once you find some artifacts to merge together. Depending on the quality of the artifacts and what the artifact actually is (you're able to discover Old Earth, Alien and Progenitor artifacts) you'll receive different benefits such as a once-off bonus to your units or the unlocking of a new improvement to build in your cities, such as the Frontier Stadium. It's a good mechanic in that it actually encourages the player to explore the planet even more, as that's what you should be doing when discovering a new world right?

The final change I want to talk about is the addition of ocean cities. Since the maps in Rising Tide now have new resources to gather from the oceans, you're now able to build floating cities. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, floating cities expand their borders by moving the city itself instead of acquiring hexes through culture (you're still able to purchase tiles though). I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, it seems like a waste of time to move your city, especially early on in the game, as the number of turns it takes to move a city means you can't build anything in the city during that time. However, since you gain a few more hexes each time you move the city, that seems better than the one hex at a time you get through culture. It does offer some interesting strategies too since you could technically move your city around as if it were a mobile bastion!

Overall, I feel the gameplay in the expansion is by no means perfect, but it's definitely an improvement over the base game.

"Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, floating cities expand their borders by moving the city itself..."

Sound (5/5)
Voice acting is of high quality and as good as the original. Also, they seemed to have fixed the issue with repetitive greetings being uttered by the leaders or at least it seems so (although that could just be the result of the new diplomacy system).

Music (5/5)
I'm impressed they were able to add so much new music in this expansion; in fact, you're able to download a whole new soundtrack when you purchase this game, just like you were able to with vanilla. The "Three Gs" (Geoff Knorr, Grant Kirkhope and Griffin Cohen) return with a soundtrack that sounds more alien than the original yet also more hopeful and optimistic too. The soundtrack is on par with the soundtrack that accompanies the base game; a truly epic sci-fi soundtrack.

Graphics (4/5)
Graphics are on par with vanilla Beyond Earth although it's good to see more artwork in the game in general. Since you're able to settle cities in the ocean now, there's obviously a lot more detail in the oceans too. Victory screens are now actually cut-scenes too, although they're rather basic and nothing like the awesome introduction videos.

Replay (5/5)
In total, I've played Beyond Earth vanilla for 47 hours and combine this with the time I've played Rising Tide, then that's 71 hours, which isn't too bad. I'm also tempted to replay since Rising Tide offers not only more achievements to hunt down, but also more diversity with the maps you play (as different biome types results in different side quests and aliens) as well as multiple trait customisation options with your faction leaders.

Polish (4/5)
Rising Tide seems to be more polished than the vanilla version of Beyond Earth although there are still some minor annoyances such as notifications cutting quotes mid-sentence and the fact there's no way to choose which diplomatic agreement requests to ignore (seriously, how many times do I have to say "no" to your request for "free" workers?).

Score – 9/10

For those that thought Beyond Earth lacked character, Rising Tide brings it in spades. The addition of leader traits, artifacts crafting, an uplifting soundtrack and even simple things like more artwork, helps immerse the player into the sci-fi future conceived by Firaxis and ensures each play-through is unique. A must-buy if you already own Beyond Earth.

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $29.99 USD?: No. Despite this being a much needed expansion to Beyond Earth a fairer price would be $20 USD (considering the exchange rate is no longer at parity any more).

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[ LINK: Official Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide Website ]