If you want to compete against the most influential strategy game of all time, you either have to be a little crazy or damn talented. The developers at Amplitude Studios certainly fall into the latter category. With Endless Space 2 and Endless Legend, the French have proven several times that they understand 4X heavyweights with a distinctive touch. Its success is also based on an open development model that involves the community early on in the development process. With this in mind, Humankind is now being developed, confidently following in the footsteps of Civilization. We were recently able to see for ourselves how well this is already playing: We tried a new pre-release version of Humankind and worked on our world domination for 150 rounds. Not all of the content had yet been implemented, but the scope was still impressive: For the first time, we were allowed to ascend four complete ages and get to know 40 of the 60 cultures. With this version called "Lucy Open Dev", the developers want to get valuable feedback from the fans in order to make the ambitious 4X strategy game as smooth as possible by the time it is released.
When you play it, you notice it immediately: The basic structure of Humankind (buy now € 49.99 /€ 47.99 ) based on Endless Legend, but playfully it's full steam ahead towards Civ. Round by round we spread out over a strategic world map that is classically divided into hex fields. We establish colonies and cities, expand our territory and meet other peoples, there is negotiation, fighting, bargaining and research. The first big difference to the Firaxis model: In Humankind, we don't choose our nation at the start of the game, but we start every game in the Neolithic. There we only control a nameless nomad tribe, represented by a handful of hunters, with whom we explore the area and collect food.
Source: PC Games
After a few laps, it's time to settle down. To do this, we set up an outpost with which we can tap resources from the surrounding fields. Each hex can discard food, industry, money or research points. With the outpost we also secure the right to a complete territory, which means that nobody can settle here except us. These territories are permanently marked on the map, so unlike in Civilization, the border areas cannot simply be expanded.
Source: PC Games
When looking for food we also discover curiosities; if we pick them up, we get our first fame points for it. The calculation is simple: whoever has the most points in the end wins the game. There are no other conditions for victory, but fame can be accumulated in many different ways. If, for example, we reach a certain number of inhabitants, defeat enemies, build expensive wonders of the world or do diligent research, the valuable victory points flow into our account. In addition, we also receive so-called era stars for the successes. 21 such stars can be earned per age; once we have collected seven pieces, we can advance into the next era. In our preliminary version, we work our way from the Neolithic through antiquity and classical to the Middle Ages and finally into the early modern period. In the finished game you will be able to play up to modern times.
With the rise, the first big decision has to be made: We have to choose one of ten cultures that always fit the respective era. Every culture has a special characteristic, a special building and a unique unity. The Maya, for example, produce more industry and go into battle with spear throwers. The Goths, on the other hand, rely on strong cavalry, while the Greeks benefit from improved research. The best thing about it: With each advancement of the era, we are allowed to choose a new civilization, while our special cultural characteristic is retained and passed on to the next generation. For example, we can combine the higher food production of the Celts with the trade bonus of the Aksumites and the larger Roman troops. Alternatively, we keep our previous civilization and bag an extra load of fame for it. Regardless of whether it is a Babylonian empire, an Achaemenid great power, a Hunnic empire or a Maurya dynasty that is rigid with arms – how we reach the end of the game is up to us.
Source: PC Games
On the way to world power
Things really get going in the second age. First we have to upgrade our outpost to a city and start expanding. In our preview version you have to be content with a cumbersome menu that requires a lot of unnecessary scrolling work, especially in later games. The developers should do it again. At the beginning, however, everything is pretty straightforward: As in Endless Space 2, we primarily have infrastructure developed in our city, these are various upgrades that are not visible, but significantly improve the output. The environment also plays a major role: Depending on the location, we create granaries, workshops or fisheries in order to stimulate production and growth. After a few rounds our city will finally grow and we can distribute the new resident to one of four fields of activity (industry, food, money and research) to strengthen them. Anyone who has played Endless Legend should recognize the mechanics.
Source: PC Games
In contrast to Civilization, the surrounding hexes are not directly plowed by residents. Instead, we set up districts, which are special buildings and specializations that are also clearly visible on the map. Industrial districts, for example, accelerate our construction projects; they are often placed next to mountains or in forests, while farm areas on meadows and river fields are in good hands. Nice: When building the districts, a practical preview helps to quickly find the best place and thus to achieve the best production values. In addition, there are special raw material fields on which extractors have to be built. This is the only way to get access to iron, for example, which is indispensable for later buildings and units. But there are still a few important steps to be taken before then. So on to the research menu!
The developers don't dare to experiment here: As in many other 4X games, the research menu is structured as a vertical, linear tree that never overwhelms you with possibilities. A stark contrast to the jam-packed menus of Endless Space 2 or Endless Legend, in which overview was a foreign word.
Source: PC Games
Every beginning is easy: For example, you start with the invention of the calendar or simple wood processing. Those who research domestication instead can learn in the next step how to use wild horses as a strategic resource. You can then have mounted scouts or chariots devised, which leads to new inventions. This is how you develop from era to era, unlocking buildings, upgrades and military units. In ancient times, for example, we would replace the simple hunters with more powerful swordsmen and archers until we replace them with musketeers and other troops in later eras.
As soon as we encounter other civilizations, a simple diplomacy menu comes into play. There we can sign agreements and make demands, such as sharing map information, opening borders, making alliances or establishing trade relations. In our preview version, retail in particular still looks rather unspectacular: For example, we don't have to plan our own routes, we just click on the strategic resource from another nation and make a one-off purchase for a small amount. This means that it is permanently available to us as long as we don't mess with our trading partner. Theoretically, trade routes could also be interrupted by other armies, and there is always the risk that the opponent will lose his presence or break our contract (for which we ask him to pay). All of this promises some dynamism, but nothing of that has been seen in our season.
Source: PC Games
The wiser gives in (sometimes)
Conflicts can of course also be resolved through diplomatic channels: if an opponent attacks one of our armies, for example, we can demand a substantial sum of money as reparation. Even if you dig into new territory, your neighbors will quickly get annoyed. Depending on how you react to the demands of other peoples, the willingness of the population to go to war increases or decreases. If we keep a cool head, we can, for example, ensure that an opponent's willingness to go to war sinks to zero, forcing them to surrender. After that, we can determine the terms of the peace treaty ourselves and snatch resources or colonies under the nail.
Source: PC Games
As our empire grows, we generate influence points with each round. The more influence we have, the more pressure we can put on our neighbors and enforce our terms. We have hardly noticed anything about this so far. It is more practical to connect two territories with influence points, so remote, low-production areas can be quickly connected to our world empire. We also use influence to ingratiate ourselves with neutral peoples who bustle and settle across the map independently of the game parties. In our preview version, however, this succeeds a little too easily: It just takes a little influence and money, and we can easily bag the neutral peoples, including their territories and cities. The balancing is not yet correct here.
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