Jarenth Plays Civilization: Beyond Earth — Episode 26: A Door Closes, A Window Opens

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I brought the fight to Vadim Kozlov. I spent turn after turn blasting away at the walls of Konechno, desperately trying to break through to Vadim’s domain so I could stop him from… bringing settlers over to Earth, I guess? I’m still not 100% on the details of this master plan, but as far as I can tell, Vadim is trying to fulfill the promise of finding new homes for the people on Old Earth that we started the Seeding with… and I’m trying to stop him from doing that. Which means that, yeah, it’s a good thing I already had my ‘I am 100% the villain’ realization a little while back. Rescuing the stragglers of a broken world, huh, Vadim? Not on my watch.

Oh, your Earthling Settlers already have a small town on the surface of Terra Atlantea? We’ll just see what my giant death spider has to say about that.

Because if I’m gonna go the ‘horrible monster’ route, I might as well go all the way.

You know… part of me would like to be able to say that after taking Konechno, this battle between me and Vadim stretched on for a while. That we had a final conflict worthy of the history books, a back and forth of powerful armies and brilliant tactical minds, a send-off worthy of Vadim’s status as my long-form boogeyman nemesis. I would like to be able to say that, because it feels like that would have been the right way to go.

It doesn’t, though. In reality, what happens is that taking Konechno for the second and final time throws the Slavic Federation lands wide open. My navies absolutely dominate the coastline, and every ship Vadim manages to buy or produce is bombarded into shrapnel the moment it leaves port. His land army doesn’t fare any better, in that it seems equally nonexistent: while taking back Konechno the first time seemed like a good strategic move at the time, the reality of the situation is that it exposed the remainder of Vadim’s otherwise decent ground forces to my destructive naval bombardment. And as far as air forces are concerned… yeah, let’s not even joke about that.

Vadim has nothing. Earthling Settlers, that’s it. And with the incredible reach and mobility of my Vindicator fleet, I’d already started softening up Uspekh before Konechno even fell.

To say that it is ‘ripe for the taking’ does not do the situation justice.’

Not to say that Vadim doesn’t try. He puts up admirable displays of resistance, that one. New Earthling Settlers keep appearing in the Exodus Gate, in spite of — or maybe heedless of — the robot army on their doorstep. And a simple mistake in positioning my Angel is punished immediately.

That’s a quarter of my unique super-unit’s hit points being drained in a single shot.

And on the other side of the world, Suzanne manages to scare me half to death, with… well, this:

“Suzanne? Can I… can I talk to you about your giant army of tanks *right outside my city*?”

Those tanks aren’t there to hurt me, of course. They couldn’t be. They’re allowed passage into my realm because Suzanne and I have an Open Borders agreement, and that would also mean they’d all get teleported to the nearest hexes of ARC turf if Suzanne did declare war on me. No, it turns out Suzanne is still fighting her feud with Daoming and PAC. Which is… more important than Vadim’s end-of-the-world plans, I suppose. I guess when Suzanne holds a grudge, she holds a grudge.

No, but for real: Suzanne actually does the thing I balked at doing, taking Daoming’s capital of Tiangong and wiping the Pan-Asian Cooperative off the map. Tiangong was their last city, it turns out, which puts Daoming’s earlier city gift peace offering — and my subsequent burning of it — in a whole new light.

Daoming gambled that I was likely the bigger threat to her well-being than Suzanne. She chose *poorly*.

Who would’ve thought it wouldn’t have been me to first eradicate an entire civilization? I’m honestly a little proud of Suzanne for this. Remember when she was the absolute last contender on the score board? And look at her now: easily top-three material. Top-two material once I’m done with Vadim, maybe. Because I’m not too proud to reject a perfectly serviceable idea like this, even if it did come from my erstwhile companion. Did you learn that ruthlessness from watching me, Suzanne?

You might like this one, then: bombing a transportation gate currently being crowded by unarmed civilians.

It takes me three turns after the fall of Konechno to conquer Uspekh as well. And honestly, most of those turns is spent carefully moving a melee unit into proper position. Uspekh and Khrabrost have overlapping fields of city defense, so it wouldn’t do to just move a unit into those killing fields willy-nilly. But once I get one unit of Apostles up to Uspekh’s doorstep…

Before deciding what to do with a captured city, you’re given the opportunity to look at its city screen, see what buildings the city has and what kind of resources you’re looking at. And while looking over Uspekh this way, I discover my earlier assumption was wrong: it’s this city, not Khrabrost, that the Exodus Gate is based out of.

Somehow.

Well. There’s only really one thing I can do with that bit of information, is there? I put the city of Uspekh to the torch, both in the vain hope that doing so will bring down the Exodus Gate and because it allows me to make a hilarious and not-at-all-super-dated Kings of Leon reference joke.

“Yeah, oooh… Uspekh is on fi-re…”

The Exodus Gate doesn’t topple because of this, obviously, because it wasn’t designed by JRPG villains. Which is to say, it wasn’t designed by me. The Exodus Gate doesn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry to topple from anything, honestly: I’ve been bombarding it with an Ambassador for several turns now, and its hit points are clearly in the red, but it just… persists. Extra attacks from a nearby Executor, airstrikes from my distant Seraphs, and even a blast from a passing Angel, all don’t manage to bring it down.

Vadim uses this brief interlude to offer me a desperate peace.

This is, of course, because I am stupid. The Exodus Gate doesn’t play by unit rules, it plays by city rules. Low hit points are a prelude, a necessity to destroying it… but the actual crescendo only happens when I remember to move a melee unit into the portal. And once I do…

*Pop*

I’d have expected a little more fireworks, but sure, I’ll take it. With an unceremonious pop, the Exodus Gate disappears from view. I’ve stopped Vadim Kozlov’s plans for game domination! I celebrate by running military units over the various Earthling Settlers still milling about the place, which turns them into Franco-Iberian Workers… yes, essentially enslaving the handful of Old Earth survivors that made the crossing. Like I said before, I’m not a nice guy.

As for the Old Earth survivors that didn’t make the crossing yet… man, I’d love to have been a fly on that wall.

“Boris, hello! Fancy seeing you here!”

“Oh hello, Yuri! You managed to get a ticket for today’s crossing into the new world too, I take it?”

“You betcha! Took me a while to save up the funds, but I can’t wait to see the wonders of Terra Atlantea with my own eyes.”

“Yeah, me too, Yuri. I’m curious how much of what we’ve heard about it is true, honestly. Did you hear there’s supposed to be so much raw titanium over there, you can just pick it off the ground?”

“The line isn’t really moving though, is it, Boris? Does the crossing always take this long?”

“You know, I don’t think it does? I remember hearing that these crossings are supposed to go by pretty quickly. But I guess maybe something happened?…”

“Something happened? Like what?”

“Well, you can sort of hear the radio contact between central office here and Uspekh on the other side, yeah? And I guess there was some chatter where… the people on the other side started shouting incoherent stuff about fighting in the distance, and an encroaching robot invasion army, and giant metal death spiders incinerating everything in sight.”

“Huh.”

“And just before you got here, there was this… thump, came from the gate, this really deep bass sound that moved the ground and the air for meters around it. And then the Gate glow kind of fritzed out after that. And it hasn’t been back on yet.”

“Hmm. You think this is some sort of prank they play on all new settlers?”

“I hope it is, Yuri. I hope it is.”

It isn’t.

After destroying the Gate, there’s only really one thing left for me to go, is there? I can’t rightly leave Slavic lands now without destroying Khrabrost. Otherwise, what’s stopping Vadim from just building another one? Plus, and this is also quite important: Khrabrost is a massive, magnificent city, resplendent with health and wealth and Wonders, and nothing would bring me more happiness than to rub Vadim’s stupid face in the burning ashes that remain after I torch it.

I’d love to do that, but reality intervenes: while I obviously manage to conquer Khrabrost just fine…

Because, be real, how was Vadim *ever* going to stop me now?

…it turns out you’re not actually allowed to raze capital cities.

Something about giving players the chance to get their capital back, I guess? I settle for turning it into a puppet of my regime, that works too.

And with that… this war is more or less over. I’ve destroyed the Exodus Gate, I’ve taken two of Vadim’s major cities, and I burnt a third to the ground. From today on out, the Slavic Federation is basically over as a major power.

Unlike PAC, the Slavic Federation still exists as a faction. Vadim still has a handful of cities. I think he has two, to be precise: Vadim tried to trade me Stanimir for peace, earlier, and an outlying Prime CNDR unit was just bombarded by a city called ‘Serik’.

(Future Jarenth’s Note: And going by this list of Slavic Federation city names, those two cities are even more likely to be his last two. Remember how Vadim tried to found a city on my land? That one was called Svyatoy. I’m assuming Vadim wouldn’t be crossing his Colonists over half the world if he still had room to settle locally.)

Part of me wants to hunt down and eradicate the last vestiges of Vadim’s army and civilization. But honestly, part of me just wants to go home. I won, I beat Vadim, it’s over. And villain though I may be, I don’t particularly enjoy rubbing salt into wounds. And on top of that, it won’t take too long before my own Emancipation Gate is finished… and whatever happens when I bring that thing online, I can only imagine I’ll want to have my army around. Knowing Beyond Earth’s AI, the other players’ll probably be way less lenient about me trying to win.

I offer Vadim a lenient peace deal, even going so far as to refuse his offer of Stanimir a second time. You can keep your last two cities, Vadim. Elodie out.

I start moving my units back into Franco-Iberian lands. And while this would normally take the ground forces another three weeks of travel, I only just finished a technology I was really hoping to have finished before war’s end: the Phasal Transporter satellite. This satellite, which I just put up in-between Le Coeur and Aintza…

I don’t think I ever decided on a cutesy nickname for this stretch of land, huh? It’s not the Hinterlands, it’s not Alien Bridge *or* Alien Island… what is it?

…allows me to — if I’m reading this right — teleport any of my units, standing in any of my cities, to the seven-hex area directly underneath it.

Yeah. It’s basically a teleportation platform in geostationary orbit. You can see why I’d have liked to have something like this a little earlier, can’t you? I mean, I’m not sure how I would’ve achieved orbital coverage over Vadim’s lands in the first place. But if I’d managed, the whole of Episode 24‘s ‘and then my troops traveled three oceans while I sat and prayed that they weren’t too late’ would have been a much less dramatically satisfying tale. ‘And then I magic’d my troops over to Vadim, the end’.

(Future Jarenth’s Note: Yeah, I don’t know how you’d have achieved orbital coverage over Slavic Federation lands either. It’s not like high levels in Supremacy give you free orbital coverage over any and all Firaxite tiles, which Vadim’s lands have *plenty* of. Man, that would’ve made things a lot easier.)

I move an Angel into Khrabrost and hit the teleportation button. Success! The Angel appears in the selected hex immediately, a little exhausted, but otherwise no worse for the wear. I start moving other units into cities and teleporting them: a CNDR here, an Ambassador there, an Apostle to this one… all of them cross the time and space divide to the safety of my lands in a heartbeat.

Units thus teleported, I end my turn. And doing so causes the last, final casualty of the Franco-Iberian – Slavic Federation war: the Apostle I just teleported… dies because I teleported them into a Miasma tile. That that existed between Le Coeur and Aintza, and I’d just forgotten to ever clean it up. And the Apostle, the particular unit that took and burned Uspekh, was still really injured from battle.

‘R.I.P. Apostle. He survived the ground war and sailing the seven seas, but the air got him in the end.”

While my ground units get to enjoy space-age teleportation, my fleet necessarily takes the long way around to home. They pass Suzanne’s ever-expanding domain while doing so, and it’s in this way that I learn that Suzanne has started working on the Mind Flower project. Harmony’s final victory condition. Oh, Suzanne, you really have gone from the gutter to the stars.

I respect her can-do attitude.

If you’re expecting me to declare war on Suzanne over this… well, that would actually be in-character, so that’s a pretty safe bet to make. But I’m actually not going to. For one, I like Suzanne, even if she’s long since stopped liking me. I’m also not entirely sure I could take her army as easily as I took Vadim’s? Our shared land space is relatively large, and far out of reach of my kickass navy. I do have Angels, multiples of ’em at this point… but Suzanne has floating tier-4 Harmony tanks. It’s not a match I’m necessarily confident on betting on, is what I’m saying.

I do briefly contact Kavitha, my sister in Supremacy arms, to see what she thinks abo-oh my god, Kavitha, what the hell happened to your eyes?

Don’t change the subject on me!

Eesh. I’ve seen Harmony implants and Purity clothes before, but… is this what Supremacy does to people? Is this what I look like now? Wow. No wonder people got so hesitant to hang out with me after a while.

(Here’s a list of looks for Elodie, the Franco-Iberian leader. At this point in the game, I would have looked like the lower right one. So, yeah. *Pretty* intense robo-eyes. Check out the rad earrings, though.)

Well, regardless. I do contact Kavitha, but decide against pursuing yet another war almost immediately. I don’t want to, and I’m worried about the outcome, but more than anything else…

…I don’t need to. I have such a head start on Suzanne, and I’ve been adding Manufactories to Le Coeur constantly. There’s no way she manages to get that Mind Flower operational before I open up the Emancipation Gate.

And sure enough…

Bing!

It takes over four dozens turn of waiting, moving units around, and researching technologies I don’t really need for upgrades I don’t think I’ll ever actually use anymore. I’m yelled at by Rejinaldo, growled at by Vadim, scoffed at by Hutama, scowled at by Samatar, and even Suzanne drops her friendly disposition halfway in. You think she figured me out? Only Kavitha is still in any way nice to me, and even that might only be because she needs allies to fight Rejinaldo.

But in the end, I pull it off. I finish the Emancipation Gate. A mirror to Vadim’s Exodus Gate, but glowing bright yellow instead of his ominous red, the Emancipation Gate stands ready to…

…do what, exactly?

Hmm, let’s see. Quest log, quest log… here. I’ve build the Emancipation Gate, that’s step three of four… so now step four is…

…huh.

This is… er…

The Exodus Gate’s function was to bring the dispossessed settlers of Old Earth to Terra Atlantea, to grant them the chance for a new life. But any doorway goes both ways, and the Emancipation Gate’s function is as much a mirror of the Exodus Gate as its look is: rather than bring people from Earth to Terra Atlantea, I am to… send military units from Terra Atlantea to Earth. To forcibly ’emancipate’ them from the drudgery of non-robotic existence. To drag them into my glorious supreme future at gunpoint.

I’m going to conquer the Earth with an army of robots.

In retrospect, I *thought* messages like this looked a little ominous.

Yeah. Turns out it wasn’t just my imagination making me the bad guy of this story.

You know what? I suddenly don’t think that cybernetic-Elodie look I linked earlier is accurate, anymore. Maybe my portrait should have been less ‘yellow eyes and a bluetooth headset’ and more something like this.

Next episode: “What do you wanna do tonight, Brain?” “Same thing we do every night, Pinky…”

6 comments

  1. “Citizens of Earth! This is Overseer Elodie v30010b7926. You shall be liberated. No more must your bodies grow old and decay. Upgrade Centers shall be constructed, with compulsory upgrades in alphabetical order. ANY who fail to comply shall be killed. That is all.”

    “We got this audio message two days ago, when it was transmitted across the globe. The people are in panic. Mr. Chairman, what do we do?”

    “What do we do? Send all Earthern forces to the Gate, and pray that we’re stronger than they are.”

    “And if not?”

    “If not…well, I hope you like metal.”

  2. A good point is raised here – how exactly do the gates work? Presumably there must be some infrastructure at the other end, and one would assume it’s the same kind of gates you have at your end. They’re not cheap, so I assume you somehow persuaded a government somewhere on Earth to put it together?

    This has now got me wondering what exactly the Great Mistake that caused you to leave was. It can’t have been that bad, as Earth maintained the ability to run a space program, and to build a big ol’ warp gate. I’m beginning to wonder if Earth governments got together and drastically oversold the effects of the mistake, and used it as an excuse to blast their troublemakers off to the other side of the galaxy.

  3. This is a criticism of basically all turn-based strategy games, but I don’t like how non-interactive most of the non-military win conditions are. It feels like you either win by declaring war on everyone and defeating them, or you win by them attempting a non-military win condition and you declaring war on them and defeating them (whilst you achieve arbitrary task and the game then declares you the winner).

    I don’t really feel like the conditions ever fulfill any of the gameplay purposes they’re designed for. (I guess diplomacy victory can make sense sometimes)

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