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Civilization: Beyond Earth – Fall Patch Released

By on December 12th, 2014 12:18 pm

Civilization: Beyond Earth | A turn-based Sci-Fi 4X Strategy Game by Firaxis and 2K Games

Firaxis Games is keeping in the tradition of releasing mega-patches in the fall. This time they chose to release one for Civilization: Beyond Earth. There was also a smaller patch for Civilization V: Brave New World that did some balance changes to Tradition and Piety by changing prerequisite paths, along with a few other changes which can be read here. However, the larger patch was for Beyond Earth which was in serious need of one to address many of the issues with the release version of the game.

The complete list of changes can be seen here for Beyond Earth (an alternative site here). The patch is fairly large as it attempts to address most of the technical and balance issues with the game. I will cover some of the highlights that might address some of the concerns people had with the game. It should be noted that many of the more deeply rooted problems, like the end-game monotony of the victory conditions, were not significantly touched, and as said in the review it will probably take an expansion to address these core issues.

The List of Significant Changes

Espionage: The exploit where a player could quickly raise their Intrigue by ‘spamming’ Establish Network was fixed (it now has no difficulty, but provides zero intrigue).

Diplomacy: Lump Energy can only be traded with a Cooperative Agreement active (similar to what Civ V does now). Also, Warmongering penalties are capped for each city and defenders receive less Warmongering when capturing cities from an aggressor. This is very welcomed as fighting a defensive war to a stalemate was the only way to avoid killing your reputation before the patch. It is also easier to see which factions are at war with which factions.

Eudaimonia Prosperity Virtue: The effects were reduced, thus reducing its usefulness as the end-all be-all of Health Virtues (other Health Virtues now provide a comparable reward, though Eudaimonia still remains a strong Virtue for expansionist empires).

Health Rebalancing: Health now has more gradual penalties and bonuses as the player acquires or loses Health. This really helps with wild early expansion as the player can’t just expand while their Health drops to -70. This also helps with really high Health, as the player will get more bonuses and not just cap off at 20 (which was easy to reach).

Sponsors and Colonists: Many of the sponsors got a balance pass, improving the weakest ones (PAU and Brasilia both received buffs) while making it harder to skip to end-game techs (Slavic Federation and Franco-Iberia’s Free Technology bonus have been replaced). This doesn’t change their lackluster nature, but it does address some of the obvious deficiencies and exploits some of the leaders had. Health rewarding Colonists (Aristocrats and Artists) had their base bonuses improved but their Health bonuses removed, making quick expansion more costly as none of the Colonist choices give a Health bonus.

Tech Rework: Wonders are now clearly visible from regular buildings, and some Satellites have been switched around making the Orbital Laser not obsolete anymore (since Planet Carvers are now harder to get). A few other items have also been moved around (mostly the Miasma Removal techniques in the early game), nothing significant however.

Stations: Better station placement and delayed arrival, thus reducing the chance for a station to land on that perfect spot before you can colonise it yourself.

Affinity Perk Change: Harmony level 1 is now more practical all-around bringing it up to snuff to the other level 1 affinities, while Purity 1 has been reduced to only offer a strong bonus to Explorers on defense against aliens. Along with the buff to Explorers’ combat value, an Explorer with Purity 1 can survive alien attacks but is no longer immune to their attention (which previously permitted the player to do some really campy things).

Quests: Have been modified to allow a smoother Affinity Growth that the AI can keep up with, and also many fixes to bugged quests or quests that asked you to build impossible buildings (now these quests will always ask for a building that has no special resource requirements). The down side is that the late affinity quests (those that prime to your highest affinity) don’t fire anymore. This is a shame as some of those quests had the more interesting flavour texts and highlighted the ideology of their corresponding affinity.

Now the player only gets the less interesting quests (such as the repetitive building quests), which is far from an improvement to the already weak immersion factor the game suffers from. It should be noted that quests are still in the code, and have been ‘fixed’ from their bugs, but they don’t trigger to prevent the human player from getting too much of an edge over the AI. It would have been more logical to balance all the affinity quests instead of having them not trigger anymore as these were actually the interesting quests that added to the immersion.

Unit Balance: Resource cost of many end game units has been reduced making them easier to field and the off-affinity requirements of hybrid-affinity late-tier units have been increased. This makes it much harder (if not a little too hard) to get these alternative variants, but it does match the slower affinity growth curves of the ‘pure’ versions. There has been several stat changes in the ongoing attempt to balance the units of the three separate affinities and the core units. The most notable were the nerfs to the Tier 1 Affinity Units.

Late Game Progression: It seems harder to skyrocket your affinity and rush one of the affinity victories now. This change comes from the cumulative effort of quest rebalancing and tech growth (by changing the output of external Trade Routes). The positive effect is it requires more effort and is harder to overshoot the AI in Affinity progress and science. This does slow down the default Contact Victory, but a lucky player/AI can still trigger this way too early.

One More Turn: Finally, the one more turn button now works when you’re beaten by the AI at one of the conventional victory conditions. About time, this was rather frustrating in the release version of the game. However, you still can’t disable the Time/Score Victory, but at least you can continue your game now.

AI: Improvements and tweaks across the board, while higher AI settings are given better bonuses. The AI seems to perform better even on Moderate Difficulty; however, it is probably due to the fact it is harder for the player to overshoot the AI in Affinity scores. This overall does give a more challenging game with a smoother progression.

City Screen: The city screen will finally say what was just built. A little something past Civilization games had and finally Beyond Earth caught up.

Trade: Trade has gone through the most changes. The UI was made clearer and previous routes have their own section on top, making it significantly easier to renew the previous route. Trade Depots can’t be speed purchased with Energy anymore thus preventing the player from creating new routes out of a freshly founded city. The Auto Plant quest doesn’t give a bonus Trade Route anymore (cities are now capped at 2). These two changes help a lot with the trade route spam of the late game.

The largest change is the yields which are much more moderate for internal trade routes and external trade routes to other major factions (making the Virtues that boost them worthwhile and Trade Routes with Stations actually meaningful even before the corresponding Virtue is taken). The only down side is that internal trade routes will always benefit the larger city first, effectively denying the player the ability to boost a lagging city or having a choice of which direction the benefits go. The reduction is welcomed, but it would have been better if we still had the ability to decide which city benefits the most.

Other Changes: Numerous bug fixes including those that were tied to quests, multiplayer fixes including improvements to stability, improved modding capabilities including the fix that lets 2D Leader art coexist with the animated 3D models (before you had to set Leader Quality to minimal to use a custom leader).

Civilization: Beyond Earth | The New Trade Screen Menu

Overall Thoughts on Patch (after playing it)

It is nice to see that Firaxis is trying to address many of the issues and is listening to feedback. Though some of the changes might be a little too ‘harsh’ while others may not feel enough, with many other elements that felt like this patch didn’t touch. However, the patch did do a lot to improve the game and it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The problems with the end-game as a whole still remain (and it might require an expansion to address them); however, the pacing was addressed, but there is still more that can be done to improve the end-game that can be easily handled with patches.

Personally, I still find it frustrating that you can’t disable the Time/Score Victory. After a patch that addressed the straight forward problems, this getting overlooked when it was pointed out many times is disappointing. Also, the Alien hostility still scales poorly due to the method it is calculated, another thing that should have been addressed in an early patch. The lottery nature of a super-early Contact Victory is still in the game, even if it’s rarer this should have been addressed fully since the fix for it would be simple enough. Lastly, seeing the more lore interesting quests gone does feel like a mistake. This shows that Beyond Earth still has a long way to go before it can proudly wear its franchise’s title.

Overall, if you enjoyed the game pre-patch and just had issues with trade routes or bugs then the patch will certainly be welcomed and make the game more enjoyable. However, if you felt the game was lacking in its core elements then the patch is only a small step. These players will certainly feel the patch didn’t do enough and may want to keep the game shelved till further patches or even perhaps an expansion. Hopefully, future patches, if they happen, will address these more deeply seated issues and other issues this patch didn’t get a chance to address.

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  1. t1it says:

    Nice of you for making this detailed post. Don’t think this is enough to bring me back but I don’t have any grudge over the game :P

  2. UncaJoe says:

    Very good review, as usual. Thanks!!!
    Overall, before I buy, I’m going to wait until the major problems you mention are addressed. I think Firaxis will deal with them, but….

  3. Smoking Robot says:

    Why is it so hard to make a good 4X?

  4. SQW says:

    A little research before release could have told anyone BE is just such a professional mod of CIV V despite all the claim otherwise. Yet, so many people still bought it either hoping for a SMAC (like wishful thinking ever delivered) or caught up with the whole Firaxis brand thing.

    Unless you are new to the franchise, there’s absolutely no reason for a Civ vet to shell out full price on this game.

    Hopefully, a few of those who got burnt would take a closer look at GalCiv III now.

  5. trix62 says:

    Yeah I got a new(er) computer for GalCiv 3 and a few other games..Still don’t think it should be necessary to only use 64 bit.

  6. Vanhal says:

    A little research could have told anyone that GalCiv III is even less different from Galciv II than BE from Civ V…

  7. Well I think most people who bought it came off of the assumption this was a progression from Civ V (BNW). As early as April it was clear the game will be nothing like and won’t even try to come close to what SMAC is. The developers quite often in many interview made this clear.

    Not to sound harsh, but if someone bought it thinking this was a successor to SMAC, I have very little sympathy for them. It was too obvious and would have not required any research to find this out. It be like buying Civ thinking it was an RTS level of lack of knowledge.

    I do have a little more sympathy for the batch that came from the expectations of Civ V BNW. Obviously, Firaxis learnt its lesson with Civ V vanilla? Right? They wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes? Right?

    The problem is they just did. If this was based more off of BNW than I’d think far less people would have been upset. A lot of devoted BNW players actually wanted that. The thing is, even those players were upset with the game.

    The crux of it lies that Beyond Earth feels like they based it off the Civ V vanilla version:

    Hyper Militaristic Backstab Happy AI: Check
    Culture only serving as XP of sorts to get bonuses: Check
    No Religion or secondary influence: Check
    No International Diplomacy: Check
    Victory Conditions are all straight-forward and mostly just rushes to a finish line: Check

    All these were things that G&K and BNW addressed. Even if one did expect a bit of a scale back in depth, but to think that they would go all the way back to vanilla Civ V feels absurd. The fact it’s using the same engine and core mechanics means there’s absolutely no reason for the roll back, especially to something that has caused heads to roll.

  8. Yeah, they were pretty clear it is only an ‘updated’ GCII. When directly asked the question the answered that they are happy with GCII and were just making changes they thought off now with more experience and bringing in techniques they learnt since then (and upgrade some technical things to match modern PC).

    So it can’t be said they are lying. They are delivering exactly what they said they will. Oddly enough many of their fans seem fine with that (not all, but there are those that are). Judging they were still making decent money off of GCII, I can understand the business reason to do so. The sales and reception of Gal Civ III will then influence their future decision as well.

    Oddly enough that is what motivated BE too. The sales of Civ V are pretty good. Both upon release and per expansion, and still is currently. The problem, as I said elsewhere, is BE feels like they based it off of the vanilla version of Civ V and not the latest version. This ensured a lot of people were going to be upset.

  9. BTJ says:

    Spot on!

  10. BlueTemplar says:

    Well, the Affinity system seemed pretty interesting.

    The issue is that since there’s barely any difference between the sponsors and Virtues are not nearly as interesting as Social Engineering, you effectively end up with only 3 Factions, 1 per affinity.

    And those aren’t even that distinct, considering that Purity has barely any benefit in “going with the Planet” and that Supremacy and Purity don’t play that much different either.

  11. lammaer says:

    They improved trade but I still don’t get why they didn’t add the possibility keep trade routes active indefinitely – and let the player change when he really wants to change.

    In my first game with 5-6 cities I got so frustrated on the trade window reappearing in EVERY turn that I uninstalled the game.
    Basically most of the turns were about renewing the trade routes, over and over again….

  12. Adam Solo says:

    I shelved it for now. The game’s state reminds me a lot of Civ5’s when it was first released, as Edward has eloquently put it a few posts above, and I’ll probably not try the game now but wait for the first expansion to come out, as I did when Gods & Kings was released.

    The worst for me is how generic the different factions feel, where differences between them come much more from affinity choices rather than from their own distinct personalities, if they even have them in the first place. I also don’t like what they did with Trade, which made it a too strong, repetitive and micro-heavy element of the game.

    I’m also not sure about the whole Miasma feature, which to me feels more like an annoying and frustrating element than a fun tactical one, at least in its present form. Lots of diplomacy annoyances, like the generic feel and dialog, the lack of information (e.g. which stations are the AIs trading with?), the unpredictable and repetitive behavior of the AI. I dislike the diplomacy element as much as I disliked it in Civ5’s when it was first released, because as Edward hypothesized, and I agree, the devs seem to have based Beyond Earth of the vanilla version of Civ 5 rather than on Gods & Kings or the Brave New World expansions.

    Then there were many minor issues that compounded into hurting the experience considerably for me. Some of them seem to have been addressed in this patch, like not being able to see what was just built, or not being able to distinguish wonders from normal projects in the tech tree. Speaking of tech tree, I’m also not sure if I like it that much. I suppose much of the problems I have with it are graphical in nature as I don’t particularly enjoy the web disposition, as I also didn’t like it in Endless Space. I found it a bit confusing and an obstacle to devising strategies.

    I also didn’t find the quest system’s implementation to be that good. Sure, it’s nice to get something else to do and receive some rewards for it from time to time, but to me the all thing just feels artificial and really just a way to give you something to do and reward you for it. I think the idea is great but the execution was not that great.

    Of course, there’s also good stuff in the game, with the biggest one being the affinity system. I think it’s a very innovative, fun and streamlined element, so kudos to the devs for its design and execution. Graphics’ wise the game is also very good. All the improvements and units look great.

    After playing Civ4 to death, especially with the BTS expansion, I found Civ5 to be a major let down when it was first released. I shelved it and waited almost two full years for the first expansion (Gods & Kings) to come out and I found that it totally rescued the game at that point. Brave New World was another great step in the right direction, making Civ V Complete Edition probably the best Civ experience ever. I’m hopeful that the same will happen again with Beyond Earth, because as of now I guess the people that are going to enjoy this game the most are new and casual players. We veterans will probably have to wait a bit. And, we will, and they know it – I guess that’s just how the deal works (and it seems to have been working so far).

  13. SQW says:

    Firaxis’s been getting lazy in the faction generating department. I meant, for the last decade or so, they’ve been riding the coat tail of 4000 yrs of human history.

    I’d like to think there was a genuine ‘oh sh*t’ moment when they realize all the experience making historical 4X count for nothing when you branch out to sci-fi. =D

  14. Vanhal says:

    Of course. I’ve never liked GalCivII, it seems bland to me, with uninteresting and dull mechanics, but that’s actually a good thing that at least some developer is acknowledging that a lot of fans want bigger and better version of previous title. Too many times continuation of a good game were either simply dumbed down or borked in futile tries of making something entirely new.
    About BE, that’s perhaps because they are already planning expansions. And nowadays way to do it is cut the content from base game then release it instead of expanding it even more.

  15. Happy Corner says:

    What Vanhal said (well, minus the bit about GalCiv 2 being dull – it’s one of my favorite 4X games). It’s best that they didn’t take too many risks with GalCiv 3. Changing TOO much is how you end up like MOO3 did.

    I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I actually like how GalCiv 3 is coming along. Yes, the basic gameplay is a lot like 2, and I can see where the “GalCiv 2.5” complainers are coming from, but they’ve changed/added enough to make it interesting again.

    For example, I particularly like the Civ 5-style affinity system. In earlier games when you had an event, you’d choose the evil choice and get a bonus, the good choice and get a penalty, or the neutral choice and get something between those two extremes. Now all the choices help you, but also grant points towards one alignment or another. So now the decision is which tree you want to unlock (and what bonus to pick next), which is much more interesting.

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