In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I stopped Vadim Kozlov’s plans for world domination and advanced my own plans to operational status all in one fell swoop. Yeah, that’s efficiency for ‘ya. I hadn’t really been keeping up on the narrative direction the Supremacy victory path was going, but it turns out my self-identified villain role in this narrative was amazingly serendipitous: the last step of Operation Emancipation is to send a sizable army of battle robots to conquer Old Earth, and to forcibly convert everyone there to the Supremacy Affinity. To upgrade them, if you will, to a new kickass robotic standard of living. Under my command, yes, but hey: what’s a little thing like free will and bodily autonomy when compared to the end of all death and disease, superior intellect and the destruction of language barriers, the incomparable sense of unity that can only come from being networked to every mind on the planet at once, and built-in jet boots? Old Earth’s humanity may be putting up a fight right now, but they’ll thank me once I complete my conquest.
If I complete my conquest. Remember: Vadim Kozlov may be down for the count, but I’m still not the only one playing for all the marbles.
Much like last episode, I’d like to be able to tell you that the last stretch of Beyond Earth was as tense, shifting, and filled with unpredictable turns and last-minute comebacks as the rest of it was. But to crib a quote from the incomparable Tom Francis: in the end, it wasn’t close. I won by miles.
I can see how the Emancipation victory is supposed to be tense. The last step of the plan, after constructing the Gate, is committing your military forces to the conquest of Old Earth. Which means actually, physically sending them through the portal. You can transmit one unit per turn, at most, and you win once your total committed Unit Strength exceeds 1000 points. And while that doesn’t sound like a particularly large army — not when literally conquering a planet is at stake, anyway — believe me when I tell you it usually takes a bunch of high-level units to get that far.
In theory, then, the Emancipation victory provides this tense trade-off between working towards your victory and preserving your military strength. The logical underlying assumption here is that once you construct the Gate, broadcasting to everyone else that you’re making a move for the endgame, everyone else will be gunning for you. Particularly when playing with other human players, this seems like a no-brainer. And really, one thousand points of Unit Strength is a lot: it’s a number you’re unlikely to have in your army in the first place — unless you have foreknowledge of this victory or if you’re building up to the military Domination victory — let alone having that much units to spare while also fighting wars of survival. You need to commit your units through the Gate to win, but you also need your units on the front lines to survive long enough to win. What’ll it be, for each new soldier you produce? Fight of flight?
The tense fight-or-flight trade-off is the intended Emancipation victory experience, I’m pretty sure… but for two particular reasons, my final set of turns was much less ‘desperate battle for survival’ and more ‘cakewalk’.
First, and only a little surprisingly, nobody declared war on me when I completed the Emancipation Gate. Nobody. Much like with Vadim’s bid for planetary settlement in Episode 24, the other AI players just don’t seem to care that much if they win or lose. Sure, they make their own little plays for the throne, as we’ve seen with Vadim and Suzanne’s Exodus Gate and Mind Flower, respectively. Or Samatar, here, bravely working towards decoding the alien Signal even as the end draws palpably near.
But none of them seem overly perturbed by anyone of our number trying to score that final goal. They still keep on doing their regular stuff, talking and trading and wheeling and dealing, as if we didn’t enter the final stretch of recorded history. They just don’t seem to care.
And, again, while I can kind of cruft my way around Kavitha being okay with me winning this…
…I just cannot understand why people like Rejinaldo, Samatar, and even Suzanne happily continue trading with me.
At least Vadim and Hutama stay in-character a bit, respectively condemning me for warmongering and outright refusing to talk to me. As for the rest… it’s like there’s nothing wrong. They treat my imminent planetary conquest and victory the same way a five-year-old would treat a scary dog across the street: closing their eyes and hoping that makes it go away.
In fairness, I do think our situation would’ve gone sour at some point in the future. Samatar and Suzanne both are now more hostile towards me than they’ve ever been, and I kept expecting them to declare war on me at any moment.
(Future Jarenth’s Note: And by that I mean that I replayed this bit afterwards and delayed my victory for a dozen turns, and Samatar *does* totally declare war on me fairly quickly. Oh, Sammy. You really called me wrong all the way at the start, huh?)
But otherwise, the other players ignoring and even supporting my bid for dominance makes everything much easier than it would otherwise have been.
And second… building a thousand points of units the traditional way takes time. A lot of time. Even in Le Coeur, clad in Production as it now is with its half-dozen Manufactories, building an Prime Angel — which is worth a little over 100 Unit Strength — takes something in the vicinity of ten turns to build. I’ve already built a few of them, and the fact that I’m not in any wars right now means I’m free to commit most of my current standing army immediately, so that’s about five hundred points of strength right off the bat. But even then, manually building the remainder would keep me occupied for a good several dozen turns.
Except I don’t have to build everything manually. Remember the Second Hutama War? Remember how I grew my army overnight not through honest hard work, but simply by buying units outright? Now look at this following screenshot, taken just after the completion of the Emancipation Gate. Look to the top right corner. Look at my current Energy Supplies.
Those of you who were keeping track of my Energy income over the past few episodes might be a little surprised by this. Wasn’t I hemorrhaging Energy just last episode? Hell, I was a little surprised by this. How did I suddenly get rich?
The twofold answer is this: one, once formerly-Slavic Konechno and Khrabrost came out of civil unrest, their drain on my Energy was converted into a significant boost. Khrabrost in particular is a massive Energy powerhouse, owing in no small part to the five-or-so Wonders it houses. And two, espionage made me rich: once I stopped being interested in research, technology and warfare, I basically converted all my active spies to Energy-siphoning machines.
With four or five spies working Energy operations in tandem, I basically got a decent payday every five turns or so. And a ‘decent payday’ means about 500 Energy per operation success. People are all gung-ho about the trading routes in this game, but for my money, dropping a few spies in unprotected out-of-the-way cities and having them run Energy ops back-to-back is almost tantamount to cheating.
So, yeah: at the start of Operation Emancipation, I had almost five thousand Energy stockpiled, and an income of close to 100 Energy per turn. Prime Angels, my absolute strongest units at 102 Unit Strength, take 1390 Energy to buy outright.
With no meaningful opposition and more Energy than I can shake a stick at, I simply march Angel after Angel through the Emancipation Gate. Le Coeur is within one move of the Emancipation Gate, it’s really that easy. I’m initially a little worried that doing so will cause my Firaxite to run out, except I get the invested Firaxite back after the Angel crosses over. Which makes a certain kind of internal sense, I suppose, if you think of it in terms of supply lines and upkeep costs. Or if you just accept it as a gameplay conceit.
It feels right, in a way, to achieve this victory with almost only Angel units. What better unit to champion the cause of Supremacy than the absolute pinnacle of human-robotic engineering? And I’d have loved to see the Old Earthlings’ faces when the first Angel emerged from the new portal. I like to imagine I opened it at the exact spot where Vadim’s Exodus Gate stood earlier. Do you think Boris and Yuri were still waiting in line when it re-opened? I wonder what they think of this for a prank.
I march Angel after Angel into the Emancipation Gate. Nine hundred, eight, seven, six… It’s only around two hundred points that my Energy and my Angels run out, and I resort to sending some Ambassadors and Apostles as backup. Might as well have some humanoid robots there, no?
And when I finally send through the last unit, cross that 1000-Strength threshold, and win, Beyond Earth rewards me with…
Yeeeaaah. Beyond Earth has rightly been lambasted for the frankly lackluster endings, which forego any kind of spectacle or narrative climax in favour of… well, this. A single concept art popup with one paragraph of ‘lore’. Thanks for playing, player! Want to play again? What do you mean, ‘unsatisfying cop-out victory’?
Obviously, I didn’t write fourteen weeks of Let’s Play to have my story fizzle out like this. So let’s take a closer look here. Sure, I ‘conquered the Earth’. But what does that mean? And how is this a ‘victory’ for me, when all my enemies and erstwhile friends are still out and about?
Consider, though, that I didn’t just conquer the Earth. I converted it. My goal was not to exert dominion over the exhausted hunk of rock that was once the birthplace of humanity. My goal was to bring the vast masses of humanity still living on that rock into the bright future of Supremacy. Or drag them into it, kicking and screaming, if I so had to.
Despite all the easy jokes we’ve made throughout this Let’s Play, Supremacy isn’t just ‘cool robots’. Supremacy is cybernetics, nanotechnology, human augmentation, neural networking, upgrades and artificial enhancements and yes, also cool robots. And ‘uplifting humanity into an age of Supremacy’ entails more than just telling them about it. The core of Supremacy is the incredible adaptability of the human race and technology: I am, in essence, forcible upgrading Old Humanity into a new cybernetic model.
The upgrade isn’t easy, of course. People will resist, because people always resist change. What did you think the giant robot army was for? But humanity will understand the good I am doing for them once the upgrade is complete. Once everyone is free from hunger, fear, disease and death, they’ll understand that Supremacy is the way of the future. And once that’s done…
The Supremacy victory path seems counter-intuitive, initially, because I’m projecting my military might away from the planet I’m on. How is returning to Old Earth going to help me win the game of colonies on Terra Atlantea? Can’t my enemies simply waltz over my weakened remnants and destroy Franco-Iberia while my attention is elsewhere?
Well… they can try, sure. But remember that the door goes both ways. The Emancipation Gate is a two-way street. And once the Old Earth Upgrade is complete, not only will that gate regurgitate the army I sent to Earth to begin with: with it will come the enhanced masses of Old Earth, a cybernetic army seven billion strong. A veritable tidal wave of steel, plasma and Firaxite. If ever there was a place to use the words ‘force multiplier’… let’s see Suzanne’s weird goop tanks stand against the Supreme People of Earth.
I went to Earth not to gain dominion. I went to Earth to get an army. And now that I have that army, none of these other petty squabbling leaders will be in any position to influence me.
Could I have been stopped? Sure. Vadim Kozlov’s plan, for instance, was a good one. Again, and forever, a mirror of mine: instead of going to Earth to upgrade humanity into Supremacy, he would have brought humanity over here in service of Purity. Vadim’s initial resettlement attempts were small-scale, and only focused on his sponsoring countries… but if he’d gotten a large enough foothold on Terra Atlantea, I have no doubt that the Slavic Federation would have managed to unite Old Earth behind their cause with little effort. And as ‘simple’ as it was for me to upgrade the defenseless masses of Earth into cool killer robots, it would have been even easier for Vadim to form them into a Purity army. The core of Supremacy is humanity and technology, but the core of Purity is simply humanity. Any regular human can be taught to wear power armor and fly a mag-lev tank. And no amount of robotic battle power could have stood against seven billion well-equipped zealots.
Suzanne’s Mind Flower project came close as well. Here, this is what it looks like:
I’m a little sketchy on the details, but as far as I understand, the completed Mind Flower would have united the minds of the Harmony-affiliated humans, the aliens, and even ‘the planet itself’ into some sort of massive shared consciousness. Which, I mean, you can do that with a wireless network too, but sure. I don’t know if the flower blooming would have taken our individuality along with it? But regardless, I don’t think I have to explain to you how a planetary consciousness dedicated to stopping me would have made Operation Emancipation difficult. We’ve already seen some frightening examples of what the biosphere of this planet got up to on its own, Miasma and Wolf Beetles and Siege Worms and whatever horrible creatures lurk beneath the oceans. Can you imagine what horrors it could get up to with human imagination to guide it?
And Samatar, poor optimistic Samatar, he was definitely on to something too. An alien communication signal bouncing around the planet… we’ve already seen amazing examples of the progress and technology these precursor beings possessed. But if we’d found definitive proof they were still around? If Samatar’s scientists had managed to decode that signal earlier, really unambiguously demonstrated that humanity is not alone among the stars… I don’t know. Earlier, before we drove ourselves this far apart along ideological lines, that might have been enough to unite us. Really unite us, not as any sort of group, but as a species. If only…
Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. We are united now, in the glorious neural network of our linked Supreme intent. Soon, the upgrade of Old Earth will be completed. And when we return to Terra Atlantea, no force on that planet will be able to divert us: not Vadim’s and Hutama’s and Rejinaldo’s desperate desire for humanities past, not Samatar’s alien intelligence, not Suzanne’s collective insect consciousness. If their armies oppose us, we will destroy them. If the planet itself rise up against us, we will tame it. If genuine alien intelligences are out there, we will we ready for them.
We will upgrade Old Earth, we will return to Terra Atlantea, and we will unite the planets into humanity’s grand future. And then we will move beyond, and we will spread Franco-Iberia’s glorious Supreme Culture all the way across the stars.
Thank you for reading, everyone! I had good fun writing about this occasionally interesting game, and I hope you had fun reading about my adventures into evil robot overlord-ship. Beyond Earth isn’t a great game to tell interesting stories about, particularly near the end: savvy players will have noticed that I started skipping a lot of basic upkeep functionality in the latter half. But I’m still pretty happy with how this Let’s Play turned out.
Once again, thanks to everyone for reading. If you enjoyed this Let’s Play, be sure to stick around Ninja Blues for the next one! And it would be remiss of me not to mention that if you’d like to make me feel all warm and appreciated for this hard writing work, appreciative comments here and/or donating to our Patreon are pretty effective ways of making that happen.
Hope to see you all next time!