-->

 

First impressions of Humankind. Endless civilization


There is perhaps no other high-profile company in the industry today whose creative evolution is as exciting to watch as AmplitudeThe creators of Endless Space and  Endless Legend do not seem to know what "commercial risk" is at all - they are constantly trying themselves in something new. Therefore, the announcement of Humankind at Gamescom 2019 caused quite conflicting emotions. Fans of the Endless series hardly expected that after years of creative research and experimentation, the band's next project would be a "regular" strategy, which by eye could easily be confused with the next "Civilization" by Sid Meier. Without a curious setting, without unique factions, unique art design, and many other things that have long become the hallmark of the studio. It was as if the source of ideas that had been in full swing for almost ten years had suddenly dried up.
However, the private presentation, which we attended in May, dispelled many doubts about Humankind - this is a much more original game than it seems at first glance. And its authors still have enough creativity to have their say in the genre: perhaps not revolutionary, but still curious in some ways.
First impressions of Humankind.  Endless civilization

Lords of all times, all countries and all seas

When I directly asked lead game designer William Dyce why people should buy Humankind when there is a conditional Civilization VI, he replied that the Amplitude project "allows you to look at the development of human civilization in the context." From the outside, such a pitch sounds a little abstract: in the sense of “looking in a cut”, how is that? Nonetheless, Dice's words capture the essence of Humankind surprisingly well - in at least one incomplete game. Unlike many other 4X strategies, here watching the growth and progress of your wards is much more interesting than just leading them to world domination. The authors sincerely try to show how many decisions - big and small, ethical and practical - people had to make at every stage of history. It's also a game where, being a native Byzantine, you can one day wake up as a Korean - and heal even better than before.
Humankind largely follows the established canons of the genre, but just as often breaks them - and in the most "traditional" aspects. So, for example, the players do not control specific nations, but rather different ethnic groups. Among them, there are both well-known nationalities like the Egyptians or the Mayans, and those that are much less common: the Mycenaeans, Ganians, Hittites, Phoenicians - a total of as many as sixty cultural groups. And all, of course, have their own characteristics. Unique perks, combat units, special buildings, and an archetype that determines the strength of the faction. For example, merchants receive twice as much money for the sale of resources, scientific ethnic groups can accelerate the research of technologies by sacrificing industry and economy, agrarians are rapidly increasing their population - everything is more than logical.
First impressions of Humankind.  Endless civilization
The devil, meanwhile, lies in a completely different detail: you do not choose one faction for the whole party, as is the case in almost any other strategy. During the transition to the next historical era, you can either preserve the old culture or convert your people to new, more advanced ones, with other features - only its unique perk will be inherited from the old one. Therefore, the mystical conversion of Byzantines to Koreans is not a joke, but a quite working way to collect the most profitable combination of bonuses. Humankind is divided into six eras, from Neolithic to modern times, so the player has enough chances to pick up the best synergy. The only question is how best to do it: take the culture, whose bonus will help right now, or the one that will bring more benefit in the future? As a last resort,
 This mechanic, to put it mildly, goes against logic and common sense, but the circulation of ethnic groups and cultures is extremely well suited to the gameplay. Humankind feels less like Civilization than a symbiosis of Endless Legend's best ideas and mechanisms taken straight from economic board games. The fact is that, in principle, there are no rigid, predetermined victory conditions inherent in 4X strategies. Scientific, military, or economic superiority does not determine the leader: the winner at the end of the game is the one who scored the most points - and they are earned for completing various achievements. For won battles, researched technologies, population growth, territorial expansion, and other successes - points in each category can be obtained three times per era.
Humankind has a lot of information that needs to be kept in mind, but the interface organizes it quite clearly - previously the studio had problems with this.  Everything most important, from personal bonuses to a complete list of achievements, is always at hand
Humankind has a lot of information that needs to be kept in mind, but the interface organizes it quite clearly - previously the studio had problems with this.  Everything most important, from personal bonuses to a complete list of achievements, is always at hand
Humankind has a lot of information that needs to be kept in mind, but the interface organizes it quite clearly - previously the studio had problems with this.  Everything most important, from personal bonuses to a complete list of achievements, is always at hand
Humankind has a lot of information that needs to be kept in mind, but the interface organizes it quite clearly - previously the studio had problems with this. Everything most important, from personal bonuses to a complete list of achievements, is always at hand
These nuances give the gameplay extraordinary dynamics by the standards of the genre. In Civilization (as in the Endless series), the plan of action for the future party is often determined even before the foundation of the first city. It is best to go to the area that is optimal for the faction, be it industry or science, and distracting to the rest strictly out of necessity. Humankind, on the other hand, motivates you to change priorities regularly. It encourages you to try different styles of play and constantly look for new opportunities, and not do the same thing for dozens of moves. Any, especially the most delicious, source of victory points will sooner or later dry up, so you need to be ready to change course in time and switch to something else. In addition, progress in new historical eras is also tied to achievements: if you do not want to remain on the margins of history,
Let me tell you how things were at my party. Towards the end of the Neolithic, I settled in a cozy region on the coast of a large island with horses, a source of salt, sage, and amber. Therefore, I began the ancient era as the Nubians, whose unique perk increases the profit from resource deposits - thanks to them, I quietly earned three economic achievements. And by that time I already had enough money to speed up the construction of the city by buying out several buildings at once and to lay outposts in neighboring regions - please, points for architecture and expansion.
To get out of the Neolithic, nomadic tribes need to actively explore the map, hunt and explore the world around them.  So the early stage of the game is relatively cheerful and does not have time to get bored.
To get out of the Neolithic, nomadic tribes need to actively explore the map, hunt and explore the world around them.  So the early stage of the game is relatively cheerful and does not have time to get bored.
To get out of the Neolithic, nomadic tribes need to actively explore the map, hunt and explore the world around them.  So the early stage of the game is relatively cheerful and does not have time to get bored.
To get out of the Neolithic, nomadic tribes need to actively explore the map, hunt, and explore the world around them. So the early stage of the game is relatively cheerful and does not have time to get bored.
By the beginning of the classical era, the borders of different states were formed: together with me, three more peoples settled on the island, who often bought my resources. The Aksumites (ancient Ethiopians) and their increase in income from trade caravans came in handy, but a bunch of old and new perks turned out to be even too effective. I used up all the points available for the economy too quickly - what should I do next? Fortunately, the neighbors from the south immediately offered an alternative: their passive aggression and the breakdown of the treaty on open borders gave me a convenient excuse to unleash a small victorious war. In the end, everything was clearly heading towards open conflict. Two-thirds of the finances were spent on the purchase of troops, but several achievements for victories in battles were completed, and under the terms of the peace treaty, the whole city also went to me.
But the situation was not as rosy as it seemed to me. While I was carried away by the "moral education" of the southern neighbor, the largest, the northeastern one, subjugated two other peoples. Thanks to the newly acquired vassals, his influence grew rapidly and spread far beyond my borders: at such a pace he would soon be able to voice his claims to my lands. Something had to be done urgently with this, so my people entered the Middle Ages as Franks. Their perk - a massive increase in food in the settlements - was not particularly useful, but the scriptoria that I quickly built in all cities, in fact, saved me from cultural assimilation.
Spheres of influence play no less important role than state borders. And sometimes they create more problems than the struggle for territories.

Winners write history

It is also gratifying that the authors did not forget to reinforce the competent game design with small, but extremely relevant narrative elements. In Humankind, your actions never remain in a vacuum. When you react to the world around you, the world around you reciprocates - with the help of small plot events where you have to make a choice from several options. Here they work in much the same way as in previous Amplitude games. Only instead of long quest chains for each faction, like Endless Legend and Endless Space, in Humankind, incidents depend on the player's actions. From the outside, this may not sound very impressive, but it struck me that the plot events really fell into context and took into account everything that happened in the state over the last few turns. Little things that I didn't attach much importance to
One stuck in my memory right in the paints. Soon after the completion of the "educational work" in the south, a complaint from a poor man came from the settlement that I had inherited for the victory. They say that for the last few years young people have disappeared without a trace - including his daughter. In search of losses, the man reached a large city near the capital and accidentally saw his child on the stage of a newly built theater. It turns out that young people fled from the devastating historical homeland, went into acting, and settled down well in a new place. Send the fugitives home and anger the progressive public, or allow them to stay at the risk of provoking protests in the captured city? It seems like a typical "strategic" dilemma, but it arose out of the blue and showed an amusing picture of the life of ordinary people.
The game makes you puzzle over a variety of solutions: from everyday issues to problems of national importance.  What pets to breed for rodent hunting?  Should gender equality be allowed in the religious hierarchy?  What to do with eunuchs?
The game makes you puzzle over a variety of solutions: from everyday issues to problems of national importance.  What pets to breed for rodent hunting?  Should gender equality be allowed in the religious hierarchy?  What to do with eunuchs?
The game makes you puzzle over a variety of solutions: from everyday issues to problems of national importance.  What pets to breed for rodent hunting?  Should gender equality be allowed in the religious hierarchy?  What to do with eunuchs?
The game makes you puzzle over a variety of solutions: from everyday issues to problems of national importance. What pets to breed for rodent hunting? Should gender equality be allowed in the religious hierarchy? What to do with eunuchs?
Moreover, events are not at all limited to all sorts of local incidents. Sometimes they create precedents for the adoption of new laws that directly affect the way of life of the entire people. About twenty moves before the incident with the theater, the city where the youth fled was not a cultural center of the state, but a small neutral settlement in the spirit of "Civilization". The infusion of money made it possible to painlessly join their possessions, but a bureaucratic problem arose: now two different language groups are living in the country, which brings confusion to trade. It was possible to oblige everyone to speak the state language, but instead, I preferred to maintain the status quo by imposing additional taxes on foreign-speaking merchants.
I like to think that this decision led to a future case of fugitive actors: they, too, were from different people and spoke a different language. This is probably what Dyes meant when he talked about the possibility of "looking at development in the context". Humankind reminds at every step that the player controls living people and not a cluster of numbers and icons on the global map. I fully admit that such a presentation of the narrative can quickly become obsolete in the release version of the game, but now it looks great - no other 4X strategy in my memory has created such interesting situations.
The adopted laws also change the position of the people on a kind of map of political coordinates.  Authoritarian - liberal, conservative - progressive, and so on: each approach brings its own bonuses
The adopted laws also change the position of the people on a kind of map of political coordinates.  Authoritarian - liberal, conservative - progressive, and so on: each approach brings its own bonuses
The adopted laws also change the position of the people on a kind of map of political coordinates.  Authoritarian - liberal, conservative - progressive, and so on: each approach brings its own bonuses
The adopted laws also change the position of the people on a kind of map of political coordinates.  Authoritarian - liberal, conservative - progressive, and so on: each approach brings its own bonuses
The adopted laws also change the position of the people on a kind of map of political coordinates. Authoritarian - liberal, conservative - progressive, and so on: each approach brings its own bonuses
In addition, plot scenes often resonate with modern ideas about ethics and pose uncomfortable questions point-blank. You can drown as much as you want for the secularization of the church or even state atheism, but at some point, it will probably turn out that burning heretics at the stake and waging crusades is very profitable. Everyone knows that slavery is bad, but someone has to build the wonders of the world. And labor camps, if you close your eyes tightly, do not fit that definition. Replay your ideal state or be guided by numbers? Both options have the right to exist: the authors do not impose their own moral compass and do not lock up mechanics for a "good" or "bad" reputation.

Let them eat the cakes

But despite a lot of positive impressions of the key mechanics, the basic, momentary gameplay of Humankind turned out to be ... acceptable. He is not bad, but he clearly lacks fresh ideas that the authors have put into the system of ethnic groups and narrative. If you've played literally any other strategy from the Endless series, then you already know how everything works: the FIDSI resource engine has moved to Humankind practically unchanged. Unless the abbreviation has changed to FIMS; Influence is no longer counted as a separate currency, and instead of space nanodust, it is normal gold. That, in general, is all. The rest of the game, again, willingly uses ideas that the studio tried out back in Endless Legend. So, the map is divided into many small regions, and in each one, you can build only one city - and you need to annex new territories by building outposts.
First impressions of Humankind.  Endless civilization
First impressions of Humankind.  Endless civilization
It's pretty much the same with urban planning - this aspect of Humankind most closely resembles a board game. Cities can be expanded as long as there is enough free space in the region: the only limitation is that buildings must be adjacent to each other. So it would be nice to surround some market with financial districts to increase their joint profit. Having built any nonsense inappropriately, without thinking about the future, you can not only break the architecture but also shake the stability of the settlement - the larger the territory of the city, the more difficult it is to keep its inhabitants under control. If everything turns out to be really bad, they will first refuse to work, and then they will go to rebel. In addition, the ability to make new laws depends on stability, so a sense of proportion is more important than ever.
Although there is no time to admire their deeds with the scale of the game, the authors pay a lot of attention to pleasant details. I built this stone circle back in antiquity, as a temple - and many centuries later, the descendants of shamans built a memorial park around the former sanctuary
And while this all sounds fun, I still feel like micromanagement in Humankind is missing something. Whether content, opportunities, creativity. It's a shame, for example, that there is no detailed government system from Endless Space 2.with parties, senators, and undercover intrigues: apparently, the scale of the game is too large for the petty fuss of the right and the left. Also, there is no (or I did not find it; perhaps it opens only in the modern era) and the global market, where, for example, commercial civilizations could speculate freely on the prices of luxury resources. Finally, there is no more or less intelligible policy, although the authors seem to be promoting it as one of the main features. On paper, AI leaders have their own habits and character traits, but in practice, everyone behaved the same and did not shine with intelligence. One genius was smart enough to first terminate the non-aggression pact, and then he himself was offended that I attacked his detachment, illegally crossing my borders.
He then also demanded reparations.
Humankind finally has direct unit control battles that the studio has been asking for for years, but ... It wasn't that much more interesting.  I hope the combat system will be better revealed in the release version of the game.
Humankind finally has direct unit control battles that the studio has been asking for for years, but ... It wasn't that much more interesting.  I hope the combat system will be better revealed in the release version of the game.
Humankind finally has direct unit control battles that the studio has been asking for for years, but ... It wasn't that much more interesting.  I hope the combat system will be better revealed in the release version of the game.
Humankind finally has direct unit control battles that the studio has been asking for for years, but ... It wasn't that much more interesting. I hope the combat system will be better revealed in the release version of the game.
All in all, Humankind is cautiously optimistic on first impressions. On the one hand, the developers did the right thing to postpone the release from April to August, and on the other, this period, probably, should have been pushed even further, at least for a year. Just so as not to patch up gaps in the basic gameplay with content updates and DLCs.
However, the ideas that should work great. And when access to the preview version was closed, I was sorry that now it would be possible to make "one more move" only in August. Isn't this the main thing in any self-respecting 4X strategy?

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post