The greatest sin of Sid Meier's Civilization Beyond Earth: Rising Tides is that he is not sufficiently charismatic and original to detach himself from his prequel Civilization V. On the other hand, many have not forgiven him for not being able to reproduce the magic and characteristics that have made Alpha Centauri a timeless masterpiece.
Despite this somewhat lukewarm reception, Firaxis loves his pupil and has continued to work hard to improve it. The result of these efforts is Rising Tide, the first official expansion of the game. As per tradition, this update does not go alongside the base game but integrates and enriches it. In this way, once downloaded from Steam, you will have to start a new game in order to try the new experience.
Thus pointing out some of the more subtle changes will be rather complicated, while others, such as the possibility of building cities on the water, will be much more evident. Let's start with this feature, since it is the one that gives the name to the whole package. In a nutshell your space settlers will be able to found a new outpost not only on the surface of the planet, but also on its waters.
This only doubles the territory available to the player, given that, apart from some interesting new buildings and resources to be used, the marine cities will be … cities on the water and therefore will have the same task and the same functions as the terrestrial ones. The only substantial differences are the impossibility of launching commercial convoys over land and the fact that culture will not expand their borders. To increase the usable squares, therefore, you will have to either move the city, “building” a move, or purchase the surrounding squares with vile money.
Later in the game the aquatic cities will assume a greater importance, since they could become real mobile fortresses able to attack the other units or to conquer new resources that were initially unreachable, but perhaps it is too little for a novelty so advertised. An indirect benefit to their introduction is the much greater importance that aquatic vehicles will have in the economy of the game, since they will now be fundamental to defend their borders and conquer new territories.
In our opinion, the biggest novelty of Rising Tide is the introduction of a new resource, Diplomatic Capital, which anticipates a rather radical change in the management of relations with other nations. This change, at the moment, is the cross and the delight of the expansion since in our opinion it exponentially improves one of the aspects that has never worked particularly well in the Firaxis series, but is also plagued by some bugs and limitations that undermine the 'experience.
Let's go in order. During each turn you will receive a certain amount of Diplomatic Capital based on your buildings or occupied squares, exactly as happens with money, health and culture. In the same way, this new resource can be used in various ways, from purchasing new buildings in your cities or as an exchange material with other civilizations.
Obtaining health or science bonuses from an ally will cost you a certain amount of Diplomatic Capital for each turn. But this also works the other way around, meaning that other leaders may pay you to get productive bonuses. This will force you to seek a certain balance between the agreements made with the different leaders so as not to see the flow of resources end. All this finally puts diplomacy at the center of the experience and will no longer be an accessory aspect of the gameplay.
The type of agreements that can be made with other leaders will depend on two parameters, one indicating the respect other leaders have for you based on your attitude and policies and the other based on military strength.
Your every action will influence these parameters and at any time you can understand what other leaders think of you. So far we have found it a rather greedy novelty, since it makes clear and obvious different mechanisms that manage the behavior of the different factions, an aspect that was previously rather Machiavellian. Now everything will be, or almost, in the sunlight and you can try to manage this aspect of the game in the best way.
The real problem is that in addition to the predefined dialogue options that the game will offer you, you will not be able to change the proposals made. You will have to decide whether yes or no, war or peace; there are currently no gray tones in Rising Tides. This, at times, leads to ridiculous situations in which you will be forced to receive an enemy city as a pledge for their surrender, even when having it will bring you nothing but economic disadvantages, given that your economy will have to try to make it sustainable, both political , given that this occupation will further deteriorate relations with other peoples.
The procedure is similar to that used to manage espionage in Civ V, making everything simpler and more schematic, but this simplification does not always work well with regards to diplomacy. Leaving the choice in the hands of the players is always the best thing to do, also because it would make the rigidity of the computer AI less obvious.Finally you can spend the Diplomatic Capital to buy new traits of your personality, which are nothing but bonuses liabilities to be applied to your nation's economy.
Ultimately, therefore, net of the problems that we hope will be solved with the next updates, the new Diplomatic system is an interesting novelty that could soon become a standard for all games of this genre.
The new diplomacy makes the actions of other leaders clearer but does not suddenly make them more charismatic. The problem of the flatness of each civilization, especially if compared with those proposed by Civ V in which we played characters of the caliber of Julius Caesar, Gandhi or Alexander the Great, remains unchanged if not worsened by the mechanics of the features, since you can upset every race kind of cultural background of a faction.
The idea of creating hybrids between different affinities is good. In Beyond Earth, in fact, the units could be affiliated to a single affinity, with the result of flattening all the troops on the map on only three paths. Now, thanks to the hybrids, not only will you be able to have units with new and very useful capabilities, but you will guarantee greater variety at every game, as you will double the possible combinations for each troop. To this must also be added a greater variety as regards alien forms of life, more numerous, varied and characteristic than in the past.
The idea of the artefacts is also pleasant. In other words, your explorers may find in their travels, in addition to culture or additional energy, also objects from the old Earth. These can be used individually or combined with others to get very special bonuses for your civilization. Thanks to these objects Firaxis has placed greater emphasis on the exploration phase, since these artifacts are able to give nice bonuses to your civilization, especially in the early stages of the game, those with historically less to do.
Among the news we also have two new types of terrain, one frozen and one on fire, new buildings, new technologies and wonders.
Being an expansion do not expect distortions from the graphic point of view, if not a nice design of the new units and planets, which make the whole game very pleasant to see, despite the technical simplicity of the production. Amazing, as usual, the music.
Overall Rising Tide is a well thought out expansion, which fits intelligently into Sid Meier's Civilization Beyond Earth, changing the right aspects to differentiate this game from Civilization V more clearly. At the present time, however, the diplomatic system, the real flagship of this expansion, still needs some adjustments before it works perfectly in any situation. You will have to live with diplomatic choices made at the table and some other small bugs, but overall the novelty works well and could become a real standard in the years to come.
Rising Tide substantially improves the entire game experience of Sid Meier's Civilization Beyond Earth and the new expansion is essential in order to fully appreciate the efforts of the American developer to improve his creature. One small short step is still missing and then Beyond Earth can also go from being Civ's poor brother to being a great 4X strategic.