In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, all my neighbours watched me trade my starting Explorer for one free population unit in Le Coeur. This was definitely a great plan that in no way will negatively impact my ability to explore the rest of Terra Atlantea, and I think you’ll find all my future history books will mention it as an inspired, intentional masterstroke. I am 100% certain this will not come back to haunt me later down the line. Or even later down this episode.
The event of Le Coeur’s population rising — farewell, Explorer, your legacy will be remembered — prompts Beyond Earth to give me the tutorial on Health. ‘Squiggly green line’ from two episodes back. Health is basically a yardstick of my society’s overall progress at surviving this strange alien world: it gradually lowers the more citizens and cities I have, and I can raise it with certain buildings, upgrades, and ‘virtues’. My starting Health is 9, owing to the Mercury difficulty level I’m playing on, and my current Health is 3.
My positive health helps my Outposts grow! Whatever those are! I remember the equivalent Happiness being quite hard to keep up in Civ 5, so let’s see how long I’ll manage in Beyond Earth. And what happens when I fail at this.
I also finish researching the Ecology of Terra Atlantea! This grants me access to the Vivarium and Ultrasonic Fence buildings, and an orbital unit called Miasmic Repulsor. Checking this one out in particular, I find that it’s a satellite that… clears miasma? Wow, that could have been useful a few turns ago.
What to research next?…
I stare at the massive web of interconnected nodes for a while, willing myself to find the right answer. Come on, I should be good at this! In the end, I opt for the second leaf of the central Habitation node, ‘Planetary Survey’. This technology will allow my Workers to improve water-based resources, and provides all my units with the power to embark on water, at will, anywhere. Presumably by carrying Capsule-Corp style personal boats around. This seems like an important upgrade to have on an atlantean-class planet.
Oh, and speaking of Workers:
Ah, Workers. The perennial Civilization unit. They didn’t even bother to rename these in Beyond Earth. They’re that core to the franchise.
For those of you entirely un-versed in Civilization games: Workers are non-combat units that exist to improve the areas around your cities. They basically build all the stuff a civilization needs to survive that can’t reasonably be abstracted away in a single city tile: farms, mines, roads, that sort of thing. The connecting tissues of society. In game terms, these improvements improve the resource yield of the tiles: Farms improve Food production, Generators improve Energy production, Mines improve Production production, and so on.
Crucially, Workers can also build particular buildings on tiles with special resources, allowing you to claim those resources for your empire. And also improving the resource yield, yes. It’s a double whammy.
For instance: ADVISR suggests I move my Worker to one of the Tuber fields close to Le Coeur. Once there, the Worker can build Plantation, increasing Food production by 1, and making this particular tile — which currently already produces 1 Food, 1 Production and 2 Energy — a prime spot for Le Coeur’s (limited) population to work on. It’s possible I can later build special buildings inside the city to capitalize on these Tubers as well.
Production of the Worker being done, I now command Le Coeur to build… a new Explorer. Yeah, it turns out I’m not actually done yet with exploring this planet! And building an Explorer only takes five turns anyway, so it’s not even that big of a setback.
Oh ho ho, what’s this purple button in the bottom right? 20 turns in, it seems I’ve amassed enough France-Iberian culture to develop a new ‘Virtue’.
Leaving behind the now-familiar tune of ‘Civ 5 players basically know this’, Virtues are essentially talent trees for your civilization. Or, in terms that aren’t equally obtuse if you don’t play a lot of RPGs: they’re linked lists of passive upgrades. There are four Virtue ‘paths’ in Beyond Earth, and each path is presented as a small flowchart of thematically connected boosts to your civilization’s prowess.
The four Virtue paths are called Might, Prosperity, Knowledge, and Industry, and they look like this:
My Franco-Iberian society produces Culture points over time. One per turn now, but that number can grow. Once my Culture hits a certain predefined points — 20 points for the first one — I get to pick one new Virtue. I can only pick one of the top four ones, right now, but I assume that — in true talent tree fashion — higher choices will unlock lower ones. Additionally, there are bonuses to be had for investing enough points into each of the paths, or for investing enough in each of the horizontal ‘tiers’ of upgrades. It’s an interesting system, that weighs specialization against generalization for different effects, and my choice for first Virtue could not be clearer.
There’s a Knowledge Virtue path. This path doesn’t only boost Science, but also improves Culture gain — in effect, amplifying the speed at which I’ll get new Virtues. For a Science-focused Franco-Iberian player, the society that gains free technologies every ten Virtues, there’s really no other choice.
A new Quest pops up as I exit the Virtue screen. Virtue-triggered, somehow? No… it’s apparently entirely unrelated to what I just did. Called ‘Station Charter’, this quest makes me provide land to one of two Stations, allowing one of them to ‘establish their operation’ near me.
I still don’t actually know what Stations are. Or do, for that matter. But sure, I’ll pick one. Let’s see… ‘Shackleton’ provides Culture, Science and Production to cities that trade with it, while ‘New Babylon’ provides more Culture and Energy. One of these has three of my favourite things, the other has one. Welcome to Terra Atlantea, Shackleton!
Shackleton mysteriously materialized a few hexes outside of Le Coeur. It doesn’t land or anything, it just… appears.
Also, hold no. What’s that thing, to the lower right of Shackleton? It looks like a crashed satellite of some description. That wasn’t there before, was it? Was it? I check my older screenshots — no, really, I actually alt-tab to look over the screenshots I’ve been making — and sure enough, it wasn’t there before. Did a satellite just… crash here? While I wasn’t looking? It’s not my Solar Collector satellite, that one is still happily in orbit over Le Coeur. How did I miss a falling satellite in my territory?
Boy, building an Expedition on that fallen satellite sure looks interesting. If only I’d have had the foresight to order a new Explorer be constructed, like exactly five turns ago.
With this new Explorer out and about, I decide to take my first (quest-suggested) step towards planetary expansion: I’m going to build a Colonist. Doing so will take 21 turns, and all of Le Coeur’s city growth will be halted. I deem this worth it.
Speaking of quests: I just got another one! This quest, marked by a green building-icon, apparently involved the Trade Depot building I just constructed. I’m given a cute little bit of narrative about how the Depot has allowed me to ‘amass many resources’, but the gist of it is basically a binary choice: how do I want to permanently upgrade the Trade Depot building? ‘Send the resources to our factories’, to boost Production, or ‘give the resource to our merchants’, to boost Energy?
I don’t actually know what Energy is good for, yet? Production, ho!
A bunch of turns pass relatively uneventfully. I research the Planetary Survey tech, giving me access to the water I hadn’t actually planned to access yet, and proceed to research the Physics technology, which unlocks a few Science-related buildings and the Ranger combat unit. I finish one Tuber farm and start construction on another. I start an Expedition on the Miasma-free crashed satellite. I look at the aliens as they run by, still equally content to leave me the hell alone. I talk to Daoming Sochua, given that she’s actually pretty close to my colonies, but she doesn’t seem interested in working together. All in all, a peaceful time is had by all.
Two additional civilizations come down from space during this time, actually. First, the American Reclamation Corporation, led by English-Spanish CEO Susanne Fielding, whose name I actually remember seeing on the tech blurb for Planetary Survey.
And second, the ‘Kavithan Protectorate’, led by… Kavitha Thakur?
Turn 33. Salvaging the fallen satellite yields no interesting information — again — but the scrap metal left over is quite useful, boosting Le Coeur’s production of the Colonist unit by 80 Production points. Or ‘eight turns’, as I go from 11 to 3. Nice!
Not surprisingly, the Colonist is actually completed soon after.
Ever-friendly, Beyond Earth’s ADVISR suggests several locations I could set up a good colony. Maybe to the east, near the food-less desert? Or to the west, where an ARC Explorer roams? But I have another plan: the northwest coast line of my little island is home to a large Firaxite deposit, and building a city there will get me a new port on — possibly — a new sea.
I receive an enigmatic new quest. ‘For Your Eyes Only’. ‘Research Computing to provide the Culper Cell with the infrastructure it needs for covert operations‘. I don’t actually know why I’d want to provide the Culper Cell with this infrastructure, so I file the knowledge away for later.
With this Expedition completed, I briefly send my Explorer to check out the area around Shackleton. There are many aliens around Shackleton.
The north beach also holds a Resource Pod, however, holding ‘goods and luxuries from Old Earth‘. The +15 Culture in it actually propels me to the next Virtue level: I select the Field Research perk, which gets me bonus Science from completing Expeditions. There’s also an Expedition site here, see…
…but it’s not until after I pick the Virtue that I realize I can’t actually access this Expedition. Not just because there’s a bunch of aliens walking all over it, though that doesn’t help, but also because my Explorer is out of ‘Expedition Modules’. Yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either. I’ll have to build a new Explorer to get this one, I think? Dejected, I send my Explorer to comb the south-east beach for goodies.
I’m actually surprised by how well-behaved the aliens are! Groups of wolf beetles have been running laps around my Explorer all day, but I haven’t seen a single aggressive action between the groups of them. They’re just… almost like packs of playful dogs. I’m a little wary about sending my Colonist unit out alone, but it seems to be doing just fine as well.
My not-attacking-the-aliens-for-no-good-reason stance actually earns me commendations from Rejinaldo, Daoming and Samatar, all of whom comment that “…we appear to share a benevolent approach towards the alien life on this planet“. While Rejinaldo seems to mostly be humble-bragging, Samatar’s friendliness appears genuine: not long after his initial message, he appears again, this time to offer me a Cooperation Agreement.
I’d actually been testing the diplomatic waters with my new neighbours a little, chatting to each of them as they arrived and offering Cooperation Agreements to a few of them. A resounding chorus of ‘no, thanks’ has been my only reply so far, though. Samatar now extending his hand to me seems like a great opportunity, and I’m quick to take it.
And so, my influence over this little part of Terra Atlantea slowly grows. I build a Vivarium in Le Coeur, which improves the city’s Food production in general, and once again on Desert Tiles. Once that’s done, I start work on a Trade Vessel: now that I have so many well-off neighbours, maybe we can start greasing the wheels of commerce a little? I finish researching Physics, and — once again at the behest of my Science advisor — start studying the alien Genetics, and the ways I can keep my Health up in this new environment. I build a mine on a hill outside Le Coeur, preferring to put off domesticating the giant chitin beetles for as long as I can.
When my Colonist reaches the north-western coast of my island, I unpack it. In one of the more interesting departures from Civ 5, activating a Colonist doesn’t actually immediately get you a new City in Beyond Earth. Rather, it gets you an Outpost: a small, defenseless proto-city that only claims one nearby tile. It slowly expands its reach from inception, based partially on the Food it can gather from the tiles it’s already claimed and partially on static values I don’t understand; only when it gets its grubby hands on all seven surrounding hexes does the Blue Fairy visit to turn it into a real city.
And my south-west-bound Explorer uncovers all kinds of interesting stuff. The area ADVISR suggested for an Outpost isn’t actually as barren as I thought: on closer inspection, I see petroleum bubbling up from the ground, and large hotspots of geothermal energy. Also, more, different giant bugs.
Further down south, I find puddles of the alien Xenomass resource. I also spot a Resource Pod with scientific materials, which aid my study of Genetics immensely and allow me to move into advanced Engineering. Giant glowing chasms block my path. And giant, acid-spitting wasp-like aliens buzz past my Explorer with what I happily assume is the same general lack of malevolence all other alien creatures have thus far shown me.
What in the goddamn hell, aliens?
I just got that Explorer, too. I’m never going to be able to convince anyone else to join up now.
“Join the Franco-Iberian Explorer Corps! See the world, have adventures, die an exciting death! Will you be ordered to stand in lethal poison? Will horrible alien monsters spit bone-melting acid at you? What other awful surprises does this planet hold? Sign up now!”