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Humankind

Humankind

Patrik has delved deep into this so-called "Civilization Killer"

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World history and strategy games are a common combination and Civilization is the series that above all others carried the mantra of exploring this. From mankind's early use of fire and tools to the present day, Humankind has self-titled itself via advertising as a Civilization killer. So I've been diving into Amplitude Studio's latest work to see if this title is also a heavyweight in the strategy genre.

If you've tried any of the developer's previous games such as Endless Legend and Endless space then you'll recognise it. The first thing that struck me was how unfamiliar the user interface, fonts, and design felt. I also like the cutscenes between time periods and the narrator telling things. At the same time, there are bits of DNA from Civilization which also seems to have been a big source of inspiration. Basically, Humankind is about the same journey as Sid Meier's famous series. Although the goals are a little different and the journey there is an experience, standing on its own two feet.

Humankind
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The first thing you're faced with when you start is what your avatar will look like. You design and name your leader. At the moment it's mostly looks such as hair, lips, noses, and mouth. You also get to choose your empire's symbol and color. As you play, the clothes on your character will change depending on the civilisation you choose and the time period. The clothes are something that Civilization did away with as early as its third title. An aspect that I still welcome as I miss it.

For new players, there is a text-based tutorial during your first match depending on the difficulty level you choose. I found that it, unfortunately, makes the same mistakes as many others in the genre. Instead of a followable and easy-to-follow introduction, we get a bit too much text, information, and the like. However, I was so familiar with this form of entertainment that it wasn't a problem for me to dive into the different systems. Another solution they have come up with is that you can watch some specially made videos if you need to understand how to play. They are well done and will guide you as a newbie better. It's still a shame that the strategy genre struggles with a good training mode. At the same time, it's nothing I'm complaining about. The tools are there and the game is user-friendly.

Humankind

You can also create a game with your own settings if you want to decide everything in detail. It's similar to any other rival in the genre. You have lots of options like level size, lakes, continents and much more. My big criticism right now is the level size. You can only have one level suitable for 10 players. I've got a taste for the fully titanic levels we can create in Galactic Civilization 3 and Stellaris. However, what is available is robust and gave me all the options I wanted to create a good game, although I miss mod support and a level designer, which is coming at a later point.

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Humankind begins by giving you a couple of explorers in a time before humans settled in cities. You don't have a city, but you'll be picking up plants, finding food, and trying to build up a resource called "influence". With this resource, you can then create an outpost (the forerunner to a city). This outpost works in several ways, it can once you build up enough influence become your first city. When that happens, you also get your first territory. You then get to choose your first civilisation. The choice gives you different game mechanics, opportunities for war, diplomacy and the like so choose wisely.

The map, just as in Endless Legend, is divided into regions and you can have a maximum of one city or outpost in each. In the cities, you can then construct buildings and districts that focus on economy, influence, production, or food. The whole thing feels like a hybrid between several games in the genre. It works smoothly and I quickly found it user-friendly and easy to navigate. Each city also has a population and varying degrees of discontent. It's also easy to reposition residents depending on what you want the city to focus on. You can manipulate the output in detail using these features which allows you to specialize your cities to your liking and needs.

Humankind

Once the first city was built, it felt very natural to connect outposts to my first city and increase territory. There is an important difference here worth pointing out. You can't have infinite independent cities without some sort of punishment though. The system is similar to the restriction on colonies in Stellaris. By linking outposts to a city, they become part of that city and you bypass this limit. Instead of two cities, you get one more productive city. Outposts can be built more cheaply than cities, and even if it's not part of your territory, they can be used to obtain resources in bordering regions. It's these regions that the power play between our civilisations is all about.

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I would argue that Humankind is at its best when empires are competing for resources with their neighbors after a few hundred rounds. That's when the various civilisations' own unique gameplay mechanics come into their own. The impact of industries like pollution and other things becomes part of the equation. Once wars break out and sea, air, and ground forces battle under the threat of nuclear detonations, it's all pretty exciting. Unfortunately, the computer is usually dead or so weak by the time you enter the modern era that this is not a dilemma. However, if you have strong neighbours left, things can get pretty hectic at the end of the game if you're enemies. Unfortunately, I haven't come across a UN system that could avoid that collapse. On the other hand, diplomacy is usually robust enough to handle any situation.

I love that we don't play as a civilisation, but we choose one after we achieve specific criteria to advance to the next time period. You do this by overcoming what can best be described as challenges. Explore a certain number of technologies (more than in Civilization 6) or, for example, build enough districts. When you reach enough, you get to choose a new civilisation that existed in one of several time periods. These come with their own building style, unique bonus, unit, and or building. You can also stay with the one you have, it's rarely good if you're not behind in terms of profit requirements.

Humankind

To win the whole game, you collect something called "Fame". Everything you do is based on this. Depending on luck, circumstances, and your choices, you generate points. For example, a miracle can generate 100 points. You can also chase special deeds that earn you points. These deeds can only be completed once and it is first-come, first-served for the points. Your goal is to score as many points as possible within a predetermined number of rounds. You'll make your nation as famous as you possibly can. Instead of worrying about different winning requirements like in other titles of the same style, you don't have to worry about choosing a specific style. It felt quite easy and worked very well during my time with Humankind. Everything you did had some sort of significance whether you were discovering natural wonders or building your own.

Speaking of wonders, Humankind probably has the best system I've come across. You never have to worry about someone else building yours. Instead, you buy the exclusive right to build these stately buildings with influence. Then no one else can build the same as you, and you can build yours whenever you want. However, you can only unlock one at a time, so you'll have to build it to choose a new one. The more you build and the further ahead in time you get, the more these cost. The system is great and it becomes very relevant during the early portions of the experience when you have to prioritise costs between expansion, community, and diplomacy. It's these choices that add to the game's strategic depth.

Humankind

The diplomacy works a bit like a mix between typical diplomatic systems in the genre and something from Paradox. You can make a diplomatic request, then you have to pay resources to make more requests or wait for five turns. This results in a slower diplomatic system something that feels more at home in say Stellaris or Europa Universalis. Another important aspect of diplomacy is that you have something called a grievance. This is similar to a system used in Grand Strategy where you generate causes for war. These can touch on many aspects ranging from religion to disputes over less neutral states. If you get one, you can demand the other player to pay damages or hand over a city. Some computer-controlled opponents are quick to hand over cities and others flatly refuse. The computer can also generate these and can demand things from you or get a cause for war. I think the diplomatic system offers a good amount of complexity without being too cumbersome.

In addition to technology, expansion, diplomacy, there is something called "civics". These are unlocked with ages, technological advances, and other things. In short, it means you go into a separate menu and can choose how you design your civilisation in terms of laws and governance. The changes are number-based and point your civilisation in any direction. For example, you may be asked whether you should enforce a free press or propaganda. You spend more and more influence here and then get an opportunity to choose bonuses that stick with you until the end. The choices you make also shift how your civilisation is, for example, between an autocratic and liberal state.

Humankind

War is also part of a 4X and that is true here as well. The war aspect is similar to that of Endless Legend. You can build up units with several squads of soldiers in each. Say you have three groups of spearmen and two archers in the same pile. When you fight, you zoom in and get to fight your opponents. You position these groups and then fight without charge sequences. You have a number of moves you get to make per turn. You can also move more units from other directions into an ongoing battle, this can be effective if you want to flank. Each unit has something to add to the battle, and more advanced units affect the battle in different ways. The environment also has an impact as it takes into account rocks, altitude, and rivers. A simple system that works well even in this title.

The sieges are a bit more advanced and take a bit more time. You can choke off trade routes and surround towns to starve out your opponents over time. You can also attack using siege equipment. If you do so, as the attacker you should capture a flag. It's far more complex than Civilization but not quite as visually impressive as Total War or Stronghold. War also brings with it costs, diplomacy and merit. But you need the support of the population to fight. If the meter you can see in the diplomacy window drops to 0, you are forced to declare a peace, which means you need to make sure you have the people with you if you start a war that takes time.

Humankind

The AI is also no better really or worse than its rivals in other titles, however, it is hilariously difficult to catch up on harder difficulty levels. It gets all the bonuses you can think of. That means it's really hard to master at the higher levels. They have different personalities but you don't get the same character focus as in Civilization. Instead, you get a group of created characters that are a bit more anonymous. You won't talk about these like Gandhi with his nuclear weapons. However, if you like creating and dressing up your own leaders, there is that option here as mentioned earlier. The options for the computer I described initially in the review and it impresses more than in Civilization. The computer has a little trouble at times making the right decisions but on higher difficulty levels it often doesn't matter if you're passive. The hardest difficulty level was too difficult for me right now. But there are many difficulty levels to choose from, so all kinds of players have options.

Humankind

It may seem like a very complex game, and to some extent it is. However, if you can handle Civilization or Endless Legend, you won't have much trouble experiencing this. So is this journey through human history worth your time? I can say, despite some cheesy 2D cutscenes (at every Civilization change), that it's filled to the brim with great gameplay. I wouldn't argue that Sid Meier's award-winning series loses its crown in the end but this is competent, clever, beautiful, has depth, and engaged me. It has that magic that makes you want to play another round. I personally think it's the studio's best title today.

That's not just because of all the game mechanics working in harmony, but because history engages me more than fantasy and science fiction. I liked Endless Legend, Endless Space 1 and 2, but I liked this one much more. Humankind is well worth your time if you're looking for new turn-based titles in the 4X genre. There are few experiences that leave such a good impression on me right away. I can see myself continuing with this for hundreds of hours to come alongside the other giants.

09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
+
Its narrative is well scripted, its mechanics offer depth but are easy to grasp, the narration is solid.
-
The AI doesn't present much of a threat during its later stages. It lacks a robust tutorial.
overall score
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Humankind

REVIEW. Written by Patrik Severin

Patrik has delved deep into this so-called "Civilization Killer"



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