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

In our first guide for Civilization: Beyond Earth, we gave some broad pointers to help you get off to a strong start in a new game. For this next entry let’s take a deeper dive into some of the game’s systems, with a particular focus on the much-touted affinities.

Untangling the web

Beyond Earth‘s tech web is one of its most distinguishing features, and easily one of the most intimidating at first. Even experienced Civ jockeys are likely to balk at its radiating possible pathways. There are a few easy ways to make it more manageable, however.

Related: Free from history’s baggage, the latest Civilization game finds freedom Beyond Earth (review)

In the top left corner of the tech screen is an easy-to-miss search bar. This lets you quickly find any technology, building, or unit that you need, saving precious minutes of scrolling around the web. More interesting is the drop-down menu of filters right next to the search bar. These let you look at only the technologies that are relevant to a particular resource or affinity. Is the health of your colony suffering? Just filter for health-related buildings and find the nearest solution.

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Just like in Civ V you can target a technology that is not immediately available to you and the game automatically takes the shortest path of research to get there. You can also shift-click on techs to set up your own queue.

Another brilliant solution to sorting through the chaos has come not from the developers, but from the early modding community. As it stands all unit, building, and Wonder icons are white, and the semicircle around Wonders can be difficult to distinguish from the semi-octagon around standard buildings.

Colorful Tech Web, from Steam user Glidergun, remedies this by color-coding Wonders, buildings, units, and satellites for easier at-a-glance distinction. The latest version also adds little affinity icons to buildings and units that have level requirements.

What do you stand for?

Choosing your affinity early is an important consideration when structuring your progress through the tech web. Upgrades to your basic units come from affinity levels, rather than specific technologies as in previous Civilization games, so keeping pace with your contemporaries is important if you don’t want to become vulnerable.

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Conversely, if one of your neighbors has fallen behind on their highest affinity level, it can indicate an easy target if you’re hungry for more territory. You can track everyone’s affinity progression on the diplomacy menu at the lower right corner of the screen. The AI is far more likely to get along with you if you share affinities, and be wary of you when your beliefs diverge. They will make you well aware of it by occasionally showing up to tell you how confused and upset they are about your life choices.

Keeping up with your rivals is important, but opportunities for easy levels in other affinities should not be passed up if you can afford it. Grabbing the level one bonus for both supremacy and purity early, giving your explorers an additional expedition and immunity from aliens, extends their individual utility quite a bit.

Keeping up with your rivals is important, but opportunities for easy levels in other affinities should not be passed up.

The buildings unlocked at harmony level two are also extremely useful if you have xenomass near your cities, boosting their science and energy output.

Assigning your spies to steal technologies from colonies with different affinities than you is one of the best ways to develop cross-level affinities in the mid- to late-game. It’s out of your control exactly what they steal, but with enough high-level spies out there, you start to see a steady stream of affinity levels.

The unique affinity units have named variants for their ultimate upgrade based on substituting a few levels of another affinity for a linear progression within your own. This can be a faster way to hit the most powerful units in the game than researching the expensive, tier three techs after you have taken all of the easy ones.

Purity Affinity: For the Imperium!

Purity is all about maintaining traditional, human values, and that manifests in a special focus on one of civilization’s oldest practices: Agriculture. Two purity technologies, Vertical Farming and Industrial Ecology, provide buffs to all of your farms (+1 food and energy, and +1 production, respectively). Combine those with the Ectogenesis Pod, an early wonder that boosts farms by an additional food, and your farms can buff every flat tile in your empire with +3 food, +1 energy, and +1 production for no maintenance.

You can drive that efficiency up even further with satellites adding more energy, food, production or, culture, to suit your taste. That can make even desert tiles into extremely fertile ground. Rushing for those technologies and spamming farms with your workers is a valid way to build up your cities quickly.

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Even if purity isn’t your endgame, grabbing its first level bonus at the beginning of the game, which makes it so aliens will not attack your explorers, can be a huge boon. The quickest points toward purity on the tech web lie in Genetic Mapping, which is a leaf of the immediately available Genetics. It includes one of the earliest available Wonders, the Gene Vault, which gives you +4 food, +1 culture, and +10-percent growth in all cities.

Rushing for it early accelerates your growth for the rest of the game both from the Wonder itself and from the boost of snatching up as many resource pods and expeditions as you can early on without fear of the natives, when other civs are still cowering. You can also now use your explorers to safely escort colonists when setting up your early cities, without needing to worry about a military yet.

Supremacy Affinity: Resistance is futile

Supremacy focuses on using technology to thrive, regardless of the environment, and thus is great at getting the most out of your cities no matter what resources are initially available. Two of the most useful satellites fall under the supremacy technologies of Climate Control and Geoscaping.

The Weather Controller increases the food output of tiles within its range and generates one or two new basic resources (such as silica or fiber) on unimproved tiles over the course of its lifetime. The Orbital Fabricator boosts production and similarly adds new strategic resources (like titanium or petroleum).

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The bonuses associated with some of supremacy’s other technologies help you get even more out of these newly created resources, with Power Systems giving your quarries +1 production and Biometallurgy adding +1 energy to your mines. The satellites also work over water, creating algae, coral, and petroleum. In conjunction with the Water Refinery’s +1 food and +1 production to all water tiles you can make your coastal cities into powerhouses. The 1.5x boost and extended range of aquatic trade routes is incentive enough to found your cities on water whenever possible, so this is icing on the cake.

The level three affinity bonus for supremacy is one of the most useful: pay no maintenance on your roads and magrails.

The level three affinity bonus for supremacy is one of the most useful: pay no maintenance on your roads and magrails. Building up transportation infrastructure can be time-consuming and expensive, and often isn’t necessary because coastal cities automatically establish connections with your capital if it is also on the water. Not having to pay their upkeep takes a lot of the sting off.

If you have spare workers you can freely build up a highway system around your empire, which is especially useful for shuttling around your SABRs, high level unique units with a powerful ranged attack but low movement speed.

Harmony Affinity: We come in peace

Harmony is for going native and letting the planet guide your fledgling society’s development, rather than the other way around. Don’t let the name confuse you, though: harmony is by no means an inherently peaceful affinity—just ask a city-terrorizing Xeno Titan.

Harmony’s unique buildings and technologies provide more buffs to food and health than either of the other affinities. This encourages rapid, sustainable growth that is further supported by harmony’s comfort with the choking miasma that floats atop the terrain and harms human units while healing aliens.

Civilization: Beyond Earth

The early harmony technology Alien Biology allows your workers to clear miasma, but if you are planning on going harmony for the long haul, it’s best to actually hold off on clearing it out. Alien Hybridization, a little further out the web, gives all of your units immunity and actually heals them for being in it, like the natives. The level six affinity bonus increases this healing further, such that all of your units can heal 15 per turn just for ending the turn in miasma.

The Miasmic Condensor satellite, unlocked with Alien Ecology, adds miasma to tiles within its range. Once your units are ready to survive it, flood your territory and make it extremely unpleasant for any non-harmony invaders while your own troops are hardier. You can also do this aggressively as a prelude to invasion if your target has not secured their orbital space (or you clear it out with orbital strikes from artillery).

Taking it home

Apart from Domination, which requires you to take over all of the original capitals, all of the victory conditions in Beyond Earth are very insular, requiring you to turtle up and protect yourself until certain conditions are met.

All of the victory conditions in Beyond Earth are very insular, requiring you to turtle up and protect yourself.

Purity’s Promised Land victory involves bringing settlers from Earth through a warp gate and placing them on your world. This needs space, so it might require you to clear out a station or two, or even an opposing city if land has been really tight.

Only one settler may be brought through per turn, so mostly you just need to hold your borders until you’ve hit twenty. Purity’s slow but powerful hover tanks are perfectly suited for this defensive play, particularly if you take the upgrades that increase their strength for not moving.

Supremacy’s Emancipation victory also builds a gate back to Earth, but this time for you to send units back to “liberate” your fellow humans from the toils of analog mortality. You need to send 1000 total strength through the gate, at no more than one unit per turn.

The ANGEL robot walker gets you the most bang for your buck. If you focus on producing energy, then the firaxite cost for new ANGELs cycles back into your pool so you can buy new ones to send back. The challenge here is to keep enough of a force to defend yourself from your neighbors while liberating Earth.

Civilization: Beyond Earth

Harmony has the most passive victory condition with Transcendence. You simply need to build a Mind Flower wonder that will eventually achieve total planetary consciousness. The process is sped up by having more Mind Stems, which can be built one-per-city. This means having more cities leads to a faster victory, which is supported by harmony’s strength in sustainable growth.

Going “wide” (with many cities) rather than “tall” (with a few large cities) is generally encouraged by the game as currently balanced. Internal trade routes give a strong boost to food and production to your cities, and the more you have, the more the benefits compound as trade routes crisscross your empire.

The final victory condition, Contact, also largely boils down to patience. After building and activating a beacon that reaches out to a powerful, progenitor race, you lose all energy surplus and must simply wait and hold your borders for thirty turns while communication is established.

If you aren’t out taking over cities, then the home stretch can be the most tedious part of a given Beyond Earth game. In multiplayer, your fellow humans are more likely to make you work for it, but the AI does not get more aggressive when you are close to winning, leading to long stretches of simply hitting next turn over and over again until you win.