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25 February 2016 @ 12:45 pm
Starships & Beyond Earth  
So i mentioned a couple weeks ago that i was trying out Sid Meier's Starships and Beyond Earth.

Good news, i was eventually able to work my way around the bottleneck and win my first game!

More good news, in my second game i was able to win a One City Challenge on Easy... eventually. And it wasn't as easy as that difficulty setting makes it sound!

In less good news, The My2K connection between Beyond Earth and Starships has been totally busted ever since the launch of XCOM 2 =P

Totally random news: That prompted me to do some Master of Orion, at which i got my ass kicked!

So shortly after my last post about Beyond Earth i got back to the game and eventually, through a long hard slog, i managed to push past the isthmus corked by a settlement and get my troops out into the rest of the continent.

It took even longer after that to clear out an a large enough area for me to find a new settlement spot. This process was compounded by the discovery that i needed to keep troops permanently stationed on old Alien Nest sites if i didn't want them respawning behind me.

But i did eventually mange to found a second city, and then a third. At which point i decided to stop since 3-4 cities was the sweet spot for Civ 5, and i presumed the same was true here. After that it was a fairly smooth cruise to victory, according to the victory requirements tab the AI was closer on my heels that i was usually used to in Civ 5. I'm not sure if that's because it wasn't as easy to track how the AI was doing in Civ 5, or because i was bottled up for so long, or just because of the differences between Civ 5 and BE.

So after all that i discovered that unlocking the tie-ins between Starships and BE doesn't just require having both games installed on the same machine, you have to create a My2K account and log into it with both games.

So i went ahead and did that, and then discovered that you need to actually accomplish the relevant achievement while the My2K connection is active. Luckily as usual i have a pretty extensive set of saves, so it wasn't too hard to go back to the necessary points and redo the relevant actions to get the achievements.

But while i was redoing all those achievements i discovered some additional achievements that i wanted to unlock so i started a new game.

This time i was still going to be on Easy, but i was going to be a different faction and aim for a One City Challenge victory right from the start.

The first step of this was starting the game multiple times until i got a landing spot with the "necessary" resources in range.

So this is the first big problem. there are, if i recall correctly, six strategic resources in the game. There is one special strategic resource for each of the three factions, and three regular strategic resources, petroleum, titanium, and geothermal.

The faction resources are generally required to build the faction specific units, the faction specific buildings and wonders, and the faction specific victory requirements.

The general resources are needed to build some wonders and buildings and launch some satellites. (I'm not sure if they're ever required for specialized units or not.)

Strategic resources do not need to be within your city radius to be acquired, but they do need to be within your cultural borders. But even so getting more than one or two of them for a start location can be tricky.

I eventually settled on a starting site where i would have one tile of the faction resource i was planning on going for within my city borders and one tile of Titanium within what i hoped would be my cultural boundary. It also happened to include two tiles of resources for another faction, which provided either the opportunity to build some buildings of that style on the side, or switch my planned victory path entirely if it turned out one tile wasn't enough.

So i'm not usually a hardcore player. One of my favorite things to do in Civ games is set it on Easy, do a One City Challenge, and see how many of the Wonders i can nab for myself. I can't recall if i've ever succeeded and getting 100% in any of the Civs, but i've certainly come very close on multiple occasions.

So it's hard to draw definite conclusions after just two games, but that is not a thing that's going to happen in BE. There are several reasons for this.

The size of the tech tree. There are a lot less "primary" nodes in BE than there have been in the previous Civ games. However each primary node has a number of secondary nodes beneath it, which don't progress you through the tree (or rather bush) but give you additional goodies. A lot of the Wonders are in those secondary nodes. Sometimes they're the _only_ thing in those secondary nodes, and other times they're bundled with stuff you don't really need.

That means that if you devote the time to getting those secondary techs so you can build the Wonders you're missing out on techs for useful buildings or tile improvements. As opposed to earlier Civs where progressing through the tech tree in a normal manner would naturally and by definition unlock all the Wonders.

This is compounded by the fact that there are far more total techs than i think anyone will be able to research in any game of normal length, regardless of how many cities they have. Which in sum means that if you try to chase down every Wonder, even assuming you can beat the AI to all of them, long before you finish the AI will have gotten to the "win the game" technologies.

So if that isn't a big enough problem by itself, you have more problems if you limit yourself to just a single city. As mentioned before, some of the strategic and special resources are needed for Wonders. So if you don't have one or more of the resources in your territory (which is guaranteed to be the case with a single city) you're going to need to trade for those resources with other players.

In addition, one of the biggest sources of bonus science in production in the game is trade routes. Internal trade routes, routes between your own cities, give you the best bang for the buck, but if you only have one city obviously you can't form any internal trade routes. Foreign trade routes seem to really suck. At least all the foreign routes i had available gave a relatively mediocre benefit to myself and a _larger_ benefit to the other player.

So if you're doing OCC as many of your trade routes as possible are going to be with "Settlements", the Beyond Earth equivalent of Civ5's City States. And finding enough Settlements either on your continent or on the shoreline (if you have a port city) is difficult enough. And then if you do get those trade routes established you have to worry about the AI players deciding they want to conquer the Settlements. Even if you're on great terms with an AI player there's no way to ask it to leave your trader partners alone. If the AI decides to go after a Settlement you need the only partially effective ways to dissuade them i've found are A: get them involved in a war with someone else or B: entirely surround the Settlement with your own units.

So in short if you're doing a One City Challenge, you don't have the trade routes you need to get the resources you need to build and research things quickly, and even if you _did_ have the resources there are more techs available than you could possible research in a single game anyways, and you won't have the strategic resources to build all the Wonders and buildings even if you could research all the techs required.

I understand that playing with just one city was never the original intended design of the genre (though there _have_ been achievements included for that in some games) and there's an argument that those choices by the developer may increase the strategic depth of the game (well, maybe not the trade routes, but aside from that) but i'm still sad that i can't easily play Beyond Earth in the simple and silly way that i've played so many of the previous games in the genre.
 
 
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