In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I built the Panopticon, a genuine world wonder! Yeah, woo, go me! Sure, the Panopticon’s benefits aren’t exactly earth-shaking… and the fourteen turns it took could probably have gone towards more productive ends… and it hasn’t really changed my power standing among the colony leaders much…
But hey, what matters is that I got a mediocre boost to a score that doesn’t really matter in the long run in the best of situations! Yeah!
Alright, peek-behind-the-curtain time: all that previous gameplay, everything that went into those nine episodes preceding this one? That was all played in a single four-hour play session. Literally my first time playing this game, as you know, so I was busy learning and discovering the systems as I wrangled them. I threw myself head-first into an improv gameplay session, more or less, with all the ups and downs that come from that.
The time is now T+24 hours. After finishing the Panopticon, I closed down Beyond Earth (at 00:43, as you do) to go to sleep. And now, with the benefit of a rested mind and hindsight, I can clearly recognize my helpless, unfocused flailing for what it was.
Sure, I managed to do reasonably okay in the heat of things! I mean, obviously I believe that, or there probably wouldn’t even be a Let’s Play at this point. But simultaneously, my past outings all so strongly lack a certain focus. I’m chasing stimuli as they pop up, every new notification and gameplay element another Pavlov’s bell for me to salivate over. My achievements so far haven’t been indicative of an overarching plan of any kind as much as they represent which particular shiny thing had caught my attention at that exact time. It’s… a mess, plain and simple. A workable mess, and one that’s hopefully been entertaining to follow, but a mess none the less.
Obviously, my intent is to turn this chaos around, starting now. There’s a new Jarenth at the wheel, readers! So you’d better strap in tight, because we are going for a ride!
(Future Jarenth’s Note: No, this particular Jarenth never figures out his access to free roads and magrails either.)
Step one of plan Get This Show Onto Any Kind Of Road involves the Slavic Federation leader, Vadim Kozlov. I hate this guy so much. His smug square-jaw face. His immaculate hairdo. His point total that is so far above mine.
Really, though, it’s probably fairer to say that I’m afraid of him.
Jarenth Anecdote: way back in 2010, when Civilization V first came out and I bought it days after release, my first game was… well, a disaster. A combination of a slightly-too-high difficulty setting, an unfortunate starting position, poor development choices and misunderstanding Civ 5’s new systems hampered me the whole game, leaving my poor Russian Civilization stranded and helpless on the game world’s largest island while Askia Songhai and his perpetually burning city launched a rocket towards Alpha Centauri.
I’ve been worried about my skill at Civilization V ever since. I’ve never actually completed a game of it, would you believe that? Played, plenty, but won… And given that Beyond Earth is so incredibly close to Civilization V in every aspect, that low self-efficacy is definitely carrying over here.
Vadim Kozlov is space-age Askia Songhai, for me. He’s the undisputed Terra Atlantea pack leader, I haven’t even found his empire yet, and I am incredibly terrified that this Let’s Play will end on a ‘and then I lost, whoops’. And that is why step 1 of my new Master Plan is to Denounce Vadim Kozlov in front of everyone else.
No, but listen. Hear me out. I was never going to be all buddy-buddy with Vadim, here, because of all that stuff I just told you about. He’s the boogeyman! I’m predicting, right now, that this game’s victory will end up coming down to either him or me. Denouncing him globally is making him angry, but that was always going to be the end state.
But! I’ve been buddying up to a few other AI players the past… 157 turns. Samatar, Suzanne, Daoming. My hope is that my denouncement of Vadim influences their opinion of him, too. I can’t halt Vadim’s advance in many ways, but maybe I can sour some of the other AI players against him.
Speaking of Daoming…
I dunno, man. I keep trying and trying to build a friendly relationship with her, but she’s just not having any of it. We’re trading partners, doesn’t matter. I give her generous deals on Open Borders and Firaxite, worth nothing. We’re both Supremacy-aligned, and even that holds no sway. She’s just… not interested, I guess. I keep trying to get her to agree to a Cooperation Agreement, and she keeps rebuffing me, time and time again. I just don’t understand.
Now that Le Coeur has finished the Panopticon, I focus my attention on something I’ve let lie fallow for a little too long: expansion. My current set of colonies is fine and good and all, but I can think of, like, a bunch places where a new colony could be incredibly beneficial. Off the top of my head: the land bridge that connects my empire to PAC and ARC has significant strategic value, the Le Coeur Hinterlands host a mess of interesting basic resources and one large clump of Firaxite, and the southern island past Alien Bridge has several deposits of Xenomass I might want to get my hands on.
Mind you, the Le Coeur Hinterlands aren’t entirely free of aliens yet.
And for that matter, neither is Aintza, currently the last of my cities to have the pleasure to see a Siege Worm in the flesh.
The units currently devoted to holding the aliens at bay can keep doing what they’re doing, but another aspect of my refocusing plan is to stop paying undue attention to these bug jerks. As I already mentioned in previous episodes, this nonsensical war of aphid attrition isn’t actually helping me. The absolute best case outcome is that my soldiers gain a bunch of meaningless-feeling 10% Combat Damage upgrades. And that’s only possible if I don’t have them eat their promotions in a desperate bid to stay alive.
I am planning on building up my military in the near future. With respect to the other players, I’m sure I’m currently such a pushover that even all the other objective pushovers are laughing at me. I have like, what? Two squads of infantry — I keep forgetting my Rangers/Gunners got killed earlier, as you may have noticed — and two airplanes. I meet that many alien units on a bad day. My tiny army is enough to stave off alien assaults, but I have no pretensions regarding its actual power.
I’m not planning on training new soldiers just for more alien duty, though. With regard to the aliens, I have another plan in mind entirely. A plan called Ultrasonic Fence.
See, my reasoning goes like this: Aintza is currently the only city dealing with alien troubles. Seemingly endless streams of them bubble up from both the unexplored north, and from Alien Bridge to the south. The Ultrasonic Fence, once constructed, wards all aliens away from a distance of two hexes around the city it’s in. Two hexes around Aintza should be more than enough to close off Alien Bridge, keep the city itself safe, and even deny most passage to Le Coeur in one fell swoop.
And, sure enough:
Haha, wow! Look at this asshole. The Siege Worm terrorizing Aintza — it got really close, right next to the city, so I have to assume it was up to no good — got pushed out by the Fence’s activation to the nearest free space three hexes away. Except, that’s a coastal hex, and the only two adjoining land hexes are both under the Fence’s area of influence. Which means… yup, it’s trapped there forever. Enjoy life on one square mile of beachfront, asshole!
Or rather, that’s the taunt I would use if that hex wasn’t also within Le Coeur’s city strike range. As it stands, I think my preferred way of dealing with this giant, majestic, functionally harmless alien creature is to shoot rockets at it until it falls over.
Rather than expanding my military right now, though, what I really want to focus on is expanding my trade empire. Now that I have both sight lines to and Open Borders with PAC and ARC, I feel like every turn I’m not utilizing every city’s two trade route slots to the fullest is a day I’m basically wasting Research and Energy. PAC and ARC both seem to understand this, as I’m seeing their trade cars and boats show up more and more often. After Prospérité’s Clinic finishes, I queue up a Trade Convoy for immediate construction; after Le Coeur finishes work on the Colonist, I build one there as well.
Serendipitously, my renewed focus on trade and my construction of the Ultrasonic Fence come together in the beautiful symbiosis that is the Ultrasonic Fence quest. Like any other building-related quest, it’s a neat bit of lore and two reward choices. Unlike any building-related quest I’ve seen so far, though, this quest is hilariously lopsided: the rewards are either ‘extend the Ultrasonic Fence range from 2 hexes to 3’, or ‘make all your Trade Convoys immune to alien attacks, forever and ever‘.
Wait, hold on. Why are we only using this technology for Trade Convoys? Personal anti-alien shields sound like a great tool for my soldiers! An alien-immune army would… no? No, we’re just not doing this at all? Alright, fine, whatever. There’s probably some good reason for it. Maybe the personal shields are coin-operated, and only Trade Convoys carry enough small change to keep ’em working. I already stopped caring, let’s move on.
Oh, hello. What’s this, then? “Intrigue Level in Le Coeur has increased”? “A Covert Operation has been detected in Le Coeur”? “National Security Project”? Wow, that’s… that’s a whole lot of poorly-explained information, right there. I have no idea what it means that Le Coeur now has one blue diamond out of five, apparently? And clicking the little circles isn’t giving me any more information than, well, that. As part of my new forward-facing focus, I deem whatever the hell this is Unimportant Garbage For The Moment. We’ll look into it sometime later, I’m sure.
If Prospérité and Le Coeur both are working on trade, Aintza gets to focus on that other area of civil improvement I’ve slowly started neglecting: Workers. In the running tally of my battle with the aliens, no less than three Workers bit it to Siege Worm attacks. I currently have only one Worker left, happily building improvements around Prospérité. This is far from optimal, obviously: improved cities are happy cities, but my cities are far from happy. Or Healthy, but that’s another topic entirely.
Science-wise… I was actually doing pretty okay before! That’s like, the one area I found myself happy with after my nap. The Cognition study is completed a few turns into Gameplay Session Plan Awesome. And given that Cognition’s one leaf technology, Collaborative Thought, was so appealing to me, I decide to just immediately continue on with that. It’s going to take 21 turns to complete, but I think I’ll consider them turns well spent.
And… that’s the gist of it, generally! Build a new colony, focus on Trade and interesting wonder research, hold off the aliens with the bare minimum of force, make friends and influence people. Curious to see how this’ll work out in the long run.
Granted, it’s not a fool-proof plan. Some aspects are stronger than others: the whole ‘one group of Marines can take on all aliens in the northern edge of the map’ part in particular is met with a harsh reality check as the associated group of Explorers is overrun mid-Expedition.
But when my two new Trade Convoys depart, simultaneously, completely immune to alien assaults, I find I feel pretty good about my choices. And when my new Colonist successfully traverses the distance to the western land bridge, sets up shop on the borders of PAC territory…
…and successfully unfolds into the new Outpost of Fidèle, I allow myself to believe — briefly, but no less soothing for it — that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to pull out of this adventure the victor just yet.