Experiment with the history of the culturally marked and excellent Civ challenger Humankind.
I have probably never hated anyone as much as the hateful leader of Brazil. And then I do not mean in reality now, even though I am hardly a fan of Bolsonaro. No, I mean in Humankinds cultural melting pot to the strategy universe, where my poor high-tech Japan fought in vain to catch up with the brass’ many great deeds.
Yet not a single arrow, not a single rifle bullet, was fired between our nations. It was a cultural war, and a battle for raw materials. Plus plenty of sarcasm in all our many failed diplomatic meetings.
Humankind is a 4X strategy game in the same spirit as Civilization, but instead of a typical struggle for world domination, the various nations engage in a long cock-measuring competition through the millennia. Military world domination can certainly be a goal, if you decide to do so.
But it could just as easily be building the most lavish wonders, making the most money or being a diplomatic genius who tries to ride a free ride on all your allies. And it is not at all certain that you will actually win just because you own the most land and have conquered the majority of the other civilizations.
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What is it?
A strategy game in the Civ spirit that focuses a lot on cultures.
Intel Core i5 7600k
16 GB RAM
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In Amplitude’s ambitious strategy game, it is achievements that count, which in turn give stars and points. The one who has scraped together the most points when the game is over wins. The game ends, for example, when you reach a certain turn (300 turns at normal speed), if you are left alone after conquering everyone else, or if someone has grazed the entire research tree. So even if you conquer a culturally prominent neighbor, it is not certain that you will have time to surpass his achievements before the game is over. The only thing that counts is who has made the biggest impression in history, not who happens to be the strongest when the game is over.
This also makes it more fun to play even if it goes badly. Few things are as frustrating as fighting headwinds Civilization. It can often feel run relatively early. IN Humankind there is still a pretty good chance of still getting an okay placement and doing well even if someone else happens to be better. It is almost as if you compete more against yourself and your own goals more than your opponents. To a certain limit.
Because that was the thing with the brass. They conquered their entire continent early, and were then able to rake in a huge number of stars and points by becoming filthy rich and militarily strong. I started very strong, but unlike the brass (which throughout history was everything from Celts to Spaniards), I lost momentum when I started a protracted war with a neighbor. Since my focus was not on the military at all, it mostly diluted my resources. If I had stuck to becoming my first goal to be a research giant, I probably would have won. Towards the end, after all, I was approaching, when I returned to my main track, but the lead for the incredibly hostile brass was too big. We competed to get the few oil resources that existed in the world, but they always had time before. They were also the only ones who managed to seize plutonium, and could threaten me with their nuclear weapons, the pigs. I would have done exactly the same thing if I could, but that does not belong here.
There are about 60 cultures to choose from, divided into a number of different eras. You start out as a nomadic nomadic tribe, but soon you have your first city and get to choose your first culture. Everyone has their benefits, with bonuses, special abilities, as well as unique buildings and units. Thus, you can choose to build an extremely specialized civilization through the millennia, and try to always choose, for example, cultures that focus on science, or on military strength. This means that it can be extremely tough to target a nation that has focused on the military, but it works. For example, if you have researched better units, the battlefield will level out quickly to your advantage, for example.
The way you choose cultures is entirely up to you. You can choose to create a specialized “culture-build”, or to plug in weaknesses and make a more all-in-allo culture that is decent in most things but not the best in something. Or you can try to create cultural developments that feel interesting for different reasons.
For example, Goths and northerners are included as early cultures, while Sweden is one of the ten cultures that can be chosen when you reach the last epoch. The Swedes are science-focused, and it is actually with them as a final culture that I have succeeded best. My Japanese were defeated, but the Swedes became the foremost culture in history in that replay. Quite reasonable, of course.
It is fun to try to create a kind of semi-logical development from primitive Viking figures to modern Swedes. The only problem with this is that both northerners and Swedes have ships as special units, and naval battles are almost pointless in Humankind. At least in the replays I’ve done. Opponents rarely care about trying to own the oceans, so you do not have to.
Almost the best
Now I certainly have not played so much with military domination as a goal, as the battles are the weakest part of the game overall. When it comes to battle, the game zooms in and creates a tactical, turn-based battlefield. In the beginning, it is very simple, and is mostly about trying to take in and keep litters to get defensive advantages. But over time, there will be greater sieges of cities, with artillery of various kinds. In other words, it gets more interesting with time, but it’s still a somewhat rigid system that does not reach the same interesting heights as the rest of the game. It’s not a waste, but it feels like it would have felt good to be further developed a little more. However, you can choose to skip the turn-based battles and let the computer decide the battles for you. However, expect that you will then risk losing more units than if you play the battles yourself.
By the way, you can also create your own avatar, which acts as your alter ego through the game. You can also choose different behaviors for your avatar, so that other players can then use your avatar as an AI opponent in their game, if they want. It is a ingenious little community function. Promise, however, to be kind to my avatar if you encounter him in the wild. He’s a sensitive type.
It is a pity that the battles are not more than functional, but it is obvious that the developers have been more interested in the cultural aspect of the game. And it does not matter to me, because that is where the game differs the most from the competition. Humankind definitely has that “just one more round” feeling that does Civilizationseries so sickly addictive. But despite the many similarities, Amplitude definitely adds something to the genre.
There is a solid foundation here, which I hope can lead to future expansions or sequels that take the concept even further. Because even though I have fun with the game, it still feels like there is a lack of that little extra cape to take the game to the very, very highest levels. But just like in the game, it’s not all about winning, or being the biggest and best. Sometimes it goes a long way to have a lot of fun with your odd little creation as a nation, even if it does not lead to world domination in the end.
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Three other games that mix strategy and narrative elements in an excellent way.
- Old World – This overlooked strategy game left early access not so long ago, and has many similarities Humankind. Create a dynasty of rulers over the years in a way that mixes Crusader Kings and Civilization.
- Crusader Kings III – And speaking of which, it is Crusader Kings III impossible not to be on a list like this. The game is packed with interesting little stories, in addition to all that you create yourself by just playing the game. Already a modern classic.
- Xcom 2 – Actually, which can Xcom any place here, but the premise itself provides Xcom 2 a small cape. Earth is conquered and lives under the oppression of space creatures. The plot of the game is linear, but as you create ties to your best soldiers, you create small fantastic stories yourself – with both great triumphs and scathing defeats.
Bubbler: Wildermyth – It is a role-playing game, and does not qualify for the list for that reason. But the way it mixes tactical battles with fantastic character building and narrative makes me have to mention this anyway.
An interesting variant of a familiar concept, and a really fun strategy game in its own right.