There is something about Historical Strategy 4X games that is really intriguing. The idea of starting up your own civilisation and conquering the world through different means is exciting and a lot of fun. I love the idea and concept but I never really got into the CIV games. Then eventually, AMPLITUDE announced their Civ-Killer and magnum opus, HUMANKIND, and I immediately was hooked, so I decided to review it today on here. Enjoy!
Developer: AMPLITUDE Studios Publisher: SEGA Genre: Strategy, Turn-Based, 4X, Historical, Hex Grid Release Date: August 17th, 2021 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was purchased.
In HUMANKIND, you take control of a tribe of people and guide them on a massive and history-spamming journey from the Neolithic to the Contemporary Era. While you’d usually pick one civilisation, faction or nation in other historical 4X games, you actually start off with a tribe of nomads at the beginning and have to earn era stars in order to adapt your first civilisation. Once you complete more era stars or goals, you’ll end up either transcending said civilisation or you adapt a completely new one from a different era. The result is a combination of millions of choices, civilisations and potential paths to take and some interesting mechanics that let you theory-craft and crunch numbers until you end up with an incredibly broken combination… and that’s great.
But every journey has a beginning and every beginning is hard. In the Neolithic Era, your tribal scouts aren’t exactly strong so even deer and mammoths can pose huge risks for you. Hence, it’s important to get the early game right and scout the lands, find resources and pop down your territory before you advance into other eras. What I didn’t realise is that your Early Game is incredibly important and can really shape your control of the continent from beginning to the end. By scouting quickly early on and spreading out your claim, you can get a strong lead early on and really shape your empire, even if it doesn’t look like much yet. The beginning may look peaceful with you collecting nuts and berries, scouting the lands and setting up territories… but in reality, it’s a sprint for the best spots. You need to call dibs on areas and resources or you’ll get swallowed up by other nations before you know it. It’s brutal and difficult but once you played a run or two, you’ll know how important certain crops and resources are and how incredible it can be to get early horses and copper.
From then onwards, you’ll essentially try to amass era stars through influence, population, buildings, expansion, commerce, war or research. Different cultures have different affinities. Aesthetes, for instance, earn twice the amount of fame through influence-related stars while Militarists want to create military units early on and get to fighting and ransacking as quickly as possible. Fame is the resource that determines the winner of a game. Every era star, every moral choice and every battle contribute to your score, in a way, and have lasting consequences on the world, which is why you want to get to those era stars as fast as possible. It’s a bit of a race, overall. You may start off as the Olmecs, like I did, to build powerful buildings like the Olmec Head and amass a lot of influence and food early on. If you then want to get to a specific other culture, you’ll want to be rather quick about it as other people can pick them before you if they’re faster. I wanted to continue the influence-based Aesthete playstyle but since other civilisations picked those away already, I opted for the Huns instead, who basically are all about ransacking places and building up your forces before you then pick a fight with the nations and make them your vassals.
It’s interesting how quickly you can make those choices once you played a few rounds and while it surely isn’t the easiest game to get into, HUMANKIND managed to make it relatively beginner-friendly with all sorts of tutorials for entry-level 4X players to total newbs and even veterans. All the different civilisations that you can adapt come with “powers” that enable you to take over territories or perform other tasks. They also have special units and buildings and influence the way the world looks after you spread out your wings over the continents, islands, and the world overall. And then there’s obviously the World Wonders like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower that you can build to amass unique bonuses and even more fame. Claim them all and get a good lead before the game ends…
And well, it does end eventually and based on the difficulty and mode it can end rather quickly, actually. I really love HUMANKIND but at times I felt as if it made it incredibly hard for me to actually continue a playthrough once I got into the later stages of the game. This could very much be because of my inexperience with the genre… or it’s simply because you’ll eventually have done all the things you did. The game is addicting and fun and the learning curve may be somewhat steep yet rewarding, but the era stars feel uninspired and I would have liked more unique interactions and more personality in the game. Sure, you can run all sorts of combinations of civilisations with different playstyles, leader-perks and you may even opt-in for different civics and religions to create this super cool build… but some of the era stars just feel like more of the same: “Research X technologies”, “Destroy X units”, “Receive X territories”, etc. It feels a bit repetitive and grindy at times and unless you really know what you’re doing, you may end up getting lost and spending turns without a clue at all.
I guess for a beginner like me a bit more guidance would have been good. Gaining more fame through these affinity-based era stars is cool and all but I would have liked it if your choices in the game also reflected in the era stars and how they’re weighed or what you need to do to ascend further. I think you could say that HUMANKIND lacks a tiny bit of personality in that specific regard but otherwise, it’s glorious. I love this game after all and I’m definitely recommending it, especially because of the interesting game mechanics, the nice learning curve, the amazing soundtrack, and the lovely graphics… but I’d lie if I said that I’m not a bit disappointed with the depth of the era stars and stuff.
Overall, HUMANKIND is still a lot of fun. It’s addicting and I spent ten hours in it, just today. I’m really enjoying it and am looking forward to getting better at it. I’ll probably write more about this one and talk more about whether or not I like the era star system, especially as it was missing that incredibly cool “weirdness” of the other AMPLITUDE games from Endless Legends to Endless Space 1 & 2.
This post is part of the Blaugust 2021 event. For more information on that, check out this post!