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Beyond Earth’s Rising Tide lifts all Civilizations

The dark expanses of space are about to get a little more crowded–and a lot wetter–with Rising Tide, the first expansion to Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, set to arrive this fall. More than just a content dump, Rising Tide follows Firaxis’ tradition of releasing huge expansions that add whole new game systems and fundamentally rebuild others, altering the gameplay in sweeping ways.

Fans who have played Civilization V from its first release in 2010 know that it was a very different game than the final product we have today. Two major expansions added religion, espionage, trade routes, tourism, works of art and culture, the world congress, and dozens of new civilizations, wonders, technologies, and scenarios, in addition to substantially overhauling many of the game’s core systems such as culture and combat. Many fans found Beyond Earth a little lacking when it came out last year, but much of this was from an unfair comparison to the fully-iterated Civ V. When held up against “Vanilla Civ V”, Beyond Earth looks much more robust. It took the lessons learned through three years of Civ V development and rolled back the clock for a clean start.

Related: Civilization: Beyond Earth review

Where some saw a diminished imitation, I saw a savvy reboot, bursting with potential to branch off into its own, exciting new directions. I’m thrilled to share the first details Beyond Earth‘s bright future.

Take to the sea!

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Firaxis/2K

The most obvious addition of Rising Tide, and the one that lends the expansion its name, is the ability to build floating cities on the oceans. Civilizations will be able to build cities in any shallow waters, which will be more numerous away from the coasts. As further incentive to settle at sea, there will be new aquatic resources for you to harvest. There will also be dangerous, new, aquatic aliens who might not take too kindly to you settling in their territory. You will have new seafaring units as well, though, to help protect these new settlements.

Related: Making planetfall: Here’s our guide for the early hours of Civilization: Beyond Earth

Ocean cities will be distinct from their grounded counterparts in more than just location, such as being better at producing naval units. Harvesting resources and expanding territory will also operate differently in ocean cities. The developers have not yet shared details on all of the ways in which ocean cities will differ, but promise that the sea will not just feel like “blue ground.” In general, Rising Tide will just add a whole lot more to do in the water, making oceans much more interesting and worth controlling, rather than just gulfs between useful land.

How can I put this delicately…

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Firaxis/2K

The second, and perhaps more important, major change introduced by Rising Tide is a complete overhaul of the diplomacy system. At first launch, Beyond Earth‘s diplomacy system was a literal copy/paste from Civilization V, sharing all the same functions, interface, and default messages (“Being on such good terms, I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve become friends with X. I have done the same. Perhaps this makeshift alliance will lead to great things in the future?”). While the system worked for Civ V, the designers found that fans did not respond nearly as well to it in Beyond Earth.

“Something is lost when you take away the historical figures from Civ,” explained co-lead designer Will Miller. “Players use those historical figures as a heuristic for how the characters are going to behave.” Players expect Ghengis Khan to be a bellicose bastard, or Ghandi to be a pacifist peacenik (until he really isn’t, of course). Without that built-in familiarity, the leaders in Beyond Earth were ciphers, exposing a pretty bare-bones system that was only useful for border control, trading resources, and declaring war/peace.

Related: Everything you need to survive the long game in Civilization: Beyond Earth

Rising Tide introduces a whole new system for diplomacy, replacing the implicit characteristics of Civ’s historical leaders with a gamified system of diplomatic attributes that evolves over the course of a given game. Leaders’ personalities will be made more transparent through traits, which will evolve dynamically over the course of the game, giving you another axis of progress and another way to express your personality. The new diplomacy will be much more integrated with the game’s other systems, adding a new way to leverage power and compensate for any weaknesses in your civ. As a result, engaging with diplomacy will be less optional, but more effective than it currently is in Beyond Earth.

O brave new world, that has such people in’t!

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Firaxis/2K

Four new sponsors will be sending missions to settle and compete for dominance over humanity’s new home. The first of these revealed by Firaxis is Al Falah. The Middle East was particularly devastated by The Great Mistake–the game’s ambiguous human-caused disaster that provoked mankind to seek greener pastures among the stars. While many fled with mankind’s exodus, some returned to reclaim their homeland. These people, the Al Falah, eventually built their own starships and followed behind the others. Unlike the first round of colonists, however, the Al Falah did not go into cryogenic slumber for the journey, but instead built a generation ship to carry and sustain their people across the void of space.

By the time that the Al Falah arrive at their new home, the original colonists have long since passed away, and their heirs, led by an Egyptian woman named Arshia Kishk, have only known life among the stars. This combination of Middle Eastern heritage combined with generations of interstellar wandering gives the Al Falah a unique character, although we do not yet know how this will translate mechanically.

Artifacts, hybrid affinities, and more

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Firaxis/2K

In addition to all of those major additions, Rising Tide will also flesh out the game’s extant systems with more content. There will be a whole new chains of quests and expeditions to enrich your civilization’s story. These will be further enhanced with the addition of artifacts you can discover, such as relics from old Earth or strange devices from Progenitor ruins. Artifacts can be either cashed in for a quick boost, or saved up and gathered into sets, which can then be exchanged for greater rewards.

Two new biomes will allow for greater diversity of the world’s you colonize. The primordial biome, above, is a raw, untamed world, rife with volcanic activity.

Related: After taking humans Beyond Earth, Sid Meier blasts off with Starships

Lastly, where before players were encouraged to specialize in just one of the game’s three affinities (Purity, Harmony, or Supremacy) in order to maximize their benefits, now hybrid affinities will allow for a greater diversity of strategies. New units, buffs, and abilities will unlock when you achieve certain combinations of affinity levels, opening up more options for how to create the exact futuristic civilization that you want.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide will be available on Windows PC this coming fall for $30. Presumably it will follow on Mac and Linux a few months afterwards. We will eagerly share more details with you as Firaxis reveals them in the coming months leading up to release.