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Friday, October 23, 2015

Rising Tide Review: Red Sky at Night.

Remember, turning humanity into a collective hive-mind is a "victory" scenario.

But first things first, lemmie set the mood:

I may have been a early booster for Civ: Beyond Earth, but eventually I came around to the consensus. The folks who claimed it was an overpriced re-skin of Civ V became more right than I wanted them to be. But I really liked the dense and overwhelming tech tree and little things like how your military upgraded itself for free was a huge relief.

And unfortunately, Rising Tide is not the momentous step forward it's biggest detractors want. But it fixes my biggest and most personal problems I had with the game. So if I'm being perfectly honest... two of the best games I've ever had in "Civ" were with Rising Tide.

The most obvious changes are the overhauled diplomacy system and aquatic settling. What's something the original Civ, shackled to human history, could never do? Cities in the ocean! While it is a neat trick and potentially makes the most boring part of Civ worth fighting over, it's no where near as game changing as what happens when your supposed trade ally drags you into a war on two fronts.

Pretty and functional.

But lets get the little stuff out of the way. For one, the tech web is much more user friendly. Stuff like wonders and units are now color coded and there's a handy search bar if you just can't remember what to research to get those handy solar collectors. I always forget those. Also most techs give a little affinity xp instead of large payouts and you can combine affinities to unlock special upgrades and units. Want your gunners to be able to heal automatically every turn? How about a dedicated medic unit? They make defensive builds much more fun

AI players also won't bee line to the easiest victory anymore, resources are much easier to find, and you can mod your leader's traits to upend the vanilla game's draconian restrictions on health. I reached a point where I was sending out three settlers at once with a 40 health level when I was finished! They'll uh... probably patch that out eventually.

It also seemed like I was just making more money (scuse' me,"energy") in each game overall. Even jacked up the difficulty to see if that changed anything. Loosening the purse strings just made the game more fun. Though certainly not any easier. No, my biggest enemy is still not having a plan for the end game. But I haven't even touched upon the best part of this... slightly overpriced expansion.

I say slightly because the soundtrack is honestly worth $20 to me. Two more glorious hours of work from 3 amazing composers. Kirkhope, Knorr, and Cohen completely outdid themselves again. But they still aren't the best thing about RT. That would be the completely overhauled diplomacy system.

Diplomacy is now all about deals. Every Civ generates diplomatic capital that can be spent on deals with other nations. Give Bartra 10 DC per turn and have your outposts grow 30% faster. They'll also ask you for such an arrangement netting you more DC... but possibly giving them a severe advantage. The thing, the brilliant thing, is that these deals get stronger if you ally with that country. There are deals such as "every trade route that nets resources now nets 3 times as many" that are totally worth defending the weakest player in the game from a war on multiple fronts.

Polystralia was single-handedly bankrolling my entire military's supply line. I couldn't support a force half my size without him. The AI felt threatened by a couple players, saw how much the others feared me, declared war, then promptly hid behind my skirt.

I thought I had that game in the bag. For once, the end game became the most interesting part. I made peace with some leaders, bulldozed over others, and that was singularly the best game of Civ I ever played. Rising Tide made that possible.

I'll never forget it.

Though I wish the leaders would text me less in between turns. They're all really clingy.

Easter egg of the year. Right here.

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