In the Shadow of the Colossus, the protagonist travels to a land which is home to a people whose culture and customs he has never encountered before. After traveling through time, the player is rewarded with a patch of grass, an oasis in a barren desert. In The Last Guardian, the protagonist’s companion, the Trico, has a breathing pattern that makes the player feel like they are in two places at once. These are just a couple of examples of how one culture can change drastically as it travels through time.
Gaming is at its best when it’s part of a community, and that’s what makes it so great. But it’s not just the games themselves that make this experience special. The people you play with, the stories you tell, and the memories you make all combine to make this hobby something special. There are so many great video games from so many different cultures that really demonstrate this point.
If you’re a gamer, you know that game culture is really important to you. However, while the subject of game culture is a topic that can be explored at length, it is not always clear how to keep your game culture up to date. Culture-hopping is an essential part of gaming, as you could be playing an old game, yet learn about new ways of playing it, and vice versa.
Humankind takes a sensible stance, attempting to shake up some of the 4X strategy subgenre’s roots while retaining enough familiarity to let anybody to get in and make their imprint on history.
Developer Amplitude Studios breaks new territory with it, swapping sci-fi and fantasy for a historical backdrop, putting it in the same league as Civilization. It’s a risky decision, particularly given that a more grounded approach to the game’s world provides less space for the next Horatio or Necrophages to emerge.
Endless Space and Endless Legend were both great points of entry for newcomers and rewarding experiences for veterans, thanks to unique factions, stunning graphics, and a rich depth of strategy that remained accessible. Humanity removes the first of those levels, opting for a whole new strategy.
Theme of the Game
Humankind is a historical 4X strategy game that combines lessons gained from previous Amplitude Studios games with more typical subgenre features in yet another effort to revive the genre. It is a turn-based strategy game that requires players to manage all aspects of their civilization, from economics to infrastructure, research, and military. Its claim to fame is that it does not tie players to a single side for the duration of the game.
Campaign for one player
Humankind, somewhat predictably, lacks a conventional single-player campaign. You begin by playing a low-level game to acquaint yourself with its ideas before building your own using a set of pre-defined rules.
The duration of a game is determined by factors such as the number of players, the size and kind of maps, and the turn limit. The normal speed takes 300 rotations and isn’t too lengthy. We managed two and a half matches on this setting in a little more than 30 hours, including the introductory one.
Humankind’s multiplayer offers the same game-setting choices as single-player, with the addition of the ability to invite human participants into your game. Matches may be private, friends-only, or public, and AI can be mixed in. We can’t comment on server stability since we haven’t tried it yet because it hasn’t been launched, but one thing to notice is that the in-game menu allows you to add up to 10 people, while the shop page only says 8 players.
Mechanics of the Gameplay
You begin Humankind as a Neolithic Tribe, with just one unit and a hex-based planet covered in fog. It sounds all too familiar, but in actuality, it isn’t. You may not only gather food to grow the number of troops in your tribe and hunt animals instead of barbarians, but any unit can also construct Outposts after you have accumulated enough Influence by exploring the globe. These may be developed into a full-fledged metropolis, but you are not required to do so immediately. The globe is divided into territories, and Outposts are how you secure them for your civilization, allowing you to utilize their strategic or luxury resources.
Even if you have an Outpost, you may still move on to a region with a more lucrative resource or a more secure location. Later on, cities may be linked to territories and their riches, thereby expanding their reach, making exploration and actively acquiring territory a competitive endeavor. While this doesn’t completely eliminate the fear of putting down your first colony in a less-than-ideal location, it does help.
Cities are the lifeblood of Humankind’s civilisation and the primary source of warriors. To expand them, you create specialized districts that occupy and exploit the map’s hexes for resources, receiving synergy benefits from similar districts nearby. However, each one you construct reduces the stability of your city, forcing you to strike a balance between growth and keeping your people happy.
Public Ceremonies are repeatable and offer a resource boost when required, while Infrastructure objects are invisible on the map but enhance each city’s FIMS production over time (food, industry, money, science). These are unlocked via study and may help a city develop as it waits for stability to return following a district construction binge. Food contributes to population development, industry decides the pace with which your builder completes projects, money pays for troops and purchases buildings on the spot, and science contributes to your research, which is essential for gaining access to new technologies.
Influence is a more elusive resource that may originate from a number of places, including unique structures – particularly those from certain cultures – technology, civics, and natural marvels. It’s needed not just for growth, but also for unlocking Cultural Wonders (important structures such as the Taj Mahal that give significant benefits) and Civics.
The latter may frequently go a great way toward influencing your playstyle. Paid salaries for your soldiers provide greater stability in your garrisons and captured towns, while Plundered Wages boost your troops’ strength and reward when raiding enemy areas. They’re also intended to represent your civilization’s driving ideologies, with sliders sliding along four axes to offer more.
Your choices dynamically advance them through five phases, exchanging greater stability for more specific benefits in the middle. They also had an effect on Ideological Proximity with other players, which didn’t appear to have much of an influence on cooperating with the AI, but did give Science benefits on occasion. In reality, Ideologies, like Religion, seemed like an afterthought. Certain structures, if unlocked after gaining enough followers, produce Faith, allowing you to effectively level up your State Religion by selecting additional tenets that serve as passive benefits. While it may spread to other players and become a source of conflict, it’s simple to overlook for the bulk of a game.
In Humankind, the road to triumph is paved with Era stars. Each of the game’s six eras includes 21 earnable stars split over seven categories – Builder, Militarist, Scientist, Aesthete, Agrarian, Expansionist, and Merchant – with the exception of your time as a lowly tribe. You get Fame for each one you acquire, which is the measure by which all players are evaluated. You may advance to the next Era if you get any seven.
The first time you choose a culture is when you shed your tribal origins and reach the Ancient Age, and this may happen every time you progress to a new period. Each culture has a preference for one of the seven types of stars, which doubles the amount of Fame earned while also influencing the culture’s favored playstyle. Builders, for example, can counteract the loss of stability while building districts and can channel all money and science in a city into its Industry production.
Cultures are distinguished by an iconic area and a unit, as well as a distinctive Legacy characteristic. Every time you switch cultures, the latter is maintained, possibly leading to a powerful set of benefits in the late game. You may also stick with your current culture, forsaking new characteristics, troops, and abilities in exchange for greater Fame. For each period, the civilizations you may select from are fixed in stone, and if you aren’t the first to arrive, you may discover that other people have already taken your favorite.
There’s lots of freedom even with a static cultural pool for each Era. Nothing prevents you from tasting all affinities, but you may also build a militaristic society that specializes at launching nuclear missiles at people. Unfortunately, since just Legacy characteristics are carried over, you never get the sense that you’re progressively constructing a civilisation with its own identity. Instead, you earn a slew of under-the-hood benefits, while the transitory nature of special troops makes it easy to forget that, once upon a time, the British were really Khmer who lived in huts, even though the visual remnants of your previous history are still visible on the globe.
Given the freeform culture-shifting, it’s impossible to create a coherent narrative, which adds to the problem. Narrative events do occur, and although they seldom have follow-ups, they do result in additional benefits, whether permanent or temporary. Some of them may appear at the perfect time, when you’re short on a resource, but the fact that you previously determined that the city that kept eunuchs around could retain their tradition and self-government has no effect on the overall story of your civilisation and is quickly washed away by time. You’ll have plenty of stories to tell – such as conquering the only local city with access to iron, upgrading soldiers without needing to trade, or being the first to circle the globe – but the civilization-building aspect of the game seems a little empty.
Diplomacy is another mechanism that is still in its infancy. You have access to a set of treaties as soon as you meet an AI player, which control a few important features such as open borders, non-aggression pacts, map view, and commerce. They transform into a few others after you ally with them, but the limited amount of choices makes it a boring and monotonous experience. Even when outmanned and outgunned, the AI seldom responded to our demands, despite the fact that we were outnumbered and outgunned. These may be used to urge AI to pass over a city, convert, or surrender to an ally under specific conditions (AI “taking” independent towns you were also interested in, or persecuting people of your faith).
Your degree of War Support determines whether or not you may declare war on Humankind. Several things, such as having treaties annulled or collecting complaints, contribute to a player’s meter during peacetime. You can announce a justifiable war once it reaches 80, but if you want to be labeled a traitor (with little repercussions in our experience), you may also declare Surprise Wars. Battles take occur on a section of the global map at the point where armies collide, and they may include numerous armies on both sides.
Terrain is important early on, and if there isn’t enough room to deploy all of your troops, you may reinforce throughout the battle. Battles may last several turns since each in-game round is divided into three rounds. You may even pull troops from outside the fight into the fray and change the tide with the proper research. It’s a fantastic approach to give disputes more weight while also making them seem more strategic.
You may either win by keeping the flag at the conclusion of each round or by annihilating all of your opponents. The winner has the option of making the opponent a vassal or claiming part of the cities they captured. Going beyond the city limit depletes your Influence, preventing players from annihilating one another once their semi-organized barbarian bands meet for the first time.
Humankind makes a point of mixing things up, particularly as you go through the Eras. You’ll want to break through opposing lines early on and have your cavalry crush infantry or your swordsmen destroy archers. You may assist coastal assaults with ships once sailing becomes a larger element. Artillery becomes very important in taking down defenses, even at long distances. Aircraft then complicates matters even more by allowing ground forces to travel rapidly between airfields and aircraft carriers (airports and railroads also let ground troops to move quickly), attack over great distances, and defend towns from enemy planes.
Humankind’s environment has been bright and alive with color from its beginnings as a Neolithic Tribe. Arid deserts lead to lush green meadows, while snow-capped mountains are just a few squares distant. Natural marvels dot the terrain, waiting to be found, while districts progressively spread over the map, indicating activity as you zoom in.
Your Avatar’s attire and the appearance of your districts reflect the cultural changes that your civilisation undergoes. Seeing an Egyptian administrative center surrounded by (a little too many) Khmer dwellings gently indicates the progression of your civilisation over the centuries. When seen up close, appreciating your work gives you a feeling of accomplishment, even though cities may eventually become a jumble of districts that seem a little too crowded.
You can see your cities’ infrastructure more clearly if you zoom out somewhat, and you can see which territories belong to which player and where cities are situated if you zoom out all the way. Humankind’s user interface takes some getting used to, and certain menus, such as those that show all of your cities and their production or the Encyclopedia, are difficult to browse, but after a few games, you’ll get the hang of it.
Audio & Music
Humankind’s music is stylistically diverse, ranging from somber hymns to fiddles playing to the rhythm of tribal drums to more grandiose songs including strings with other instruments. They build an aural environment that supports whatever you’re doing, but they never stand out as the Endless series did.
Units hitting each other in battle have a surprising amount of impact, but their voices are a bit too bland and don’t vary much, which is strange for a game where you’re supposed to mix various cultures into one (hopefully) magnificent civilisation.
Depending on whatever of Humankind’s seven difficulty settings you choose, you’ll encounter varying degrees of difficulty. The first game, which is set to the Town difficulty, serves as a tutorial versus a relatively docile AI. The AI will employ flanking tactics, go to war, and engage more actively in the game in Metropolis – approximately the equal of standard – ups the difficulty, without necessarily seeming like a significant danger.
Winning the Fame race on Nation and higher becomes much more difficult. Humankind’s AI is governed by many AI Personas, rather than conventional factions. These are avatars with their own difficulty level, a few archetypes such as Loyal, Wary, or Vindictive, two strengths that translate to different gaming boons, and one bonus that may see them concentrating on building their fleet or being more passive overall. Peaceful Mode, on the other hand, removes the AI’s ability to declare war and launch assaults without eliminating its capacity to fight back.
The accessibility choices in Humankind’s review build were limited. Three of the four options involve subtitles, while the fourth allows you to drag and drop pending items in lists to rearrange them.
The characteristic Amplitude smoothness is still there, allowing you to smoothly move between most menus without any pauses. It also performed perfectly for the most part, with the exception of late in the game when our i7-8700K, 16 GB RAM, Nvidia 1070 GTX @ 1080p configuration suffered framerate drops due to district-heavy cities, but never to the point where the experience was negatively impacted.
In the 30+ hours we spent with it, the game also got stuck on two times while advancing to the following round. According to the developers, refreshing the save should have solved the problem, which was flagged as a potential bug in the review build. It only worked once in our situation, and we eventually had to quit the other game.
KEY MOMENT IN THE GAME
Obtaining enough stars to advance to a new Era and experience the gameplay changes that come with it.
Humankind can’t quite match the Endless games’ blossoming individuality by going historical and abandoning conventional factions, and some of its elements, like as diplomacy and beliefs, remain uncooked. Its approach to cultures, on the other hand, allows for greater playstyle freedom than its competitors, and progressing to a new Era always seems like a special occasion. While the steady advancement of technology is mirrored both in combat and in peacetime, as infrastructure welcomes the arrival of railroads and flying, there is much to care after.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you don’t reach to the top of the Fame list, you won’t simply receive a screen telling you that you’ve failed miserably. Instead, the game will tell you about some of your biggest accomplishments. You won’t win a spot on the podium, but you may have survived (and perhaps won) the world’s longest war, or you might have a lot of farms. It’s a positive way to wrap things up when you “fail,” and it doesn’t take away from the glory of really winning the Fame race.
Humankind does reach many sweet spots, both in terms of combat and management, having enough going on to drive you to press that next round button, despite the fact that not all of its elements are as fleshed out as they might be. While it is unlikely to be a “Civ killer” – not that it aspires to be one – it is unquestionably a game that classic 4X strategy enthusiasts seeking for a fresh take on the genre’s concept should check out at some time.
Good vs. Evil
- Switching cultures while moving between periods gives you more playstyle options.
- Visually stunning
- As you move through the periods, the game’s gameplay changes to reflect technological advances.
- The ability to draw in foreign soldiers into combat adds to the epic nature of conflicts.
- Era stars are awarded for tackling various aspects of the game.
- Diplomacy that isn’t quite ready
- There’s just a sliver of a feeling that you’re constructing a civilisation rather than simply jumping from one culture to the next.
- The user interface isn’t always intuitive.
Culture-hopping Across the Ages | The world is a big place. We’ve traveled to, lived in, and conquered many places. Their cities, towns, nations, cultures, histories, and other characteristics can be found all over the world. Even the most stubbornly independent people can’t keep themselves from occasionally traveling to a foreign country.. Read more about third culture adults and let us know what you think.
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