I have been a fan of the 4X genre since the early days of Civilization. I used to play long sessions, trying to dominate the world with my culture of choice, diving into games that lasted countless hours as I slowly extend my reach. So when I heard about Humankind, a new 4X title from Amplitude studio I was excited. The game in screenshots looked fantastic, and while it had a similar look to Civilization I went into the preview with an open mind, and a desire to learn more. I am glad I did because Humankind delivers, offering a game in the 4X genre that while keeping with the core tenants, brings new elements that make it feel fresh, new and exciting.
Humankind sticks to the core elements of the genre — explore, expand, exploit and exterminate — and has you navigate a grid-based map as you explore and expand your culture. You will still need to manage your culture, ensuring you don’t get crushed by opposing factions, and work to build your empire to take over the globe. But the core win condition has changed, giving a clear concept of your path to victory: you need to be the most famous.
Fame as a measure of success is determined by your overall impact on the world. As you approach the end of the game, the goal is not to have the biggest military, or even to be the most science-loving people, in Humankind you win based on how you leave your mark on the world as you advanced as a culture.
In the demo I played during the event, Fame can be earned through things like growing your population, engaging armies in war, or enacting civic policies. You can also build Fame by being the first to discover areas of the map or significant locations. Some missions will even grant you Fame based on the culture you are playing.
The best part of the Fame system in Humankind is it is morally neutral. You can build Fame by doing good to the world, or burning it to the ground. As long as you leave a mark as you advance, you will slowly rack up the fame points. Should you want to be a dominating military force bent on causing nothing but destruction, it is a viable win scenario, but so will working to advance humanity into a new golden age. The choice is up to you, giving a near-endless amount of possibilities.
The game at launch will be split into six different eras, and each era has ten cultures. When you start the game, all cultures are equal and everyone will start as a wandering tribe. As you move through the eras, you will get the choice to pick your culture out of a list of 10 options, but each culture can only be picked once. This lends a new level of strategy, making the choice to advance faster to get a specific culture a viable strategy. But earning more fame during the current era is also important, so it works as a balancing act and is an interesting addition to the genre.
Starting in the Neolithic era, I eventually worked my way up to selecting my culture out of the four on offer in the demo and set our to build my civilization. Each culture selected has different aspects they have more affinity for, be it being industrious, military-focused, or even better at science, they all act as focus that helps you as a civilization reach the fame you so desperately need to win.
It is also interesting to note that each subsequent culture will be an amalgamation of what came before. So while you may want to play as Romans, their culture will differ based on what cultures preceded them, making some truly exciting combination possibilities. While I have not tested it first hand, the Humankind developers mentioned there are a million different combinations of cultures in the game.
Battles are also different than in other 4X games, giving a real sense of scope and scale in the later game. As with most 4X stye games, armies you are moving are made up of multiple units, and once you get into battle these split, giving you control of each one. While it is hard to say how vast these can get, it was interesting to see in the short two-hour demo, and made me excited to see more about this aspect of the game, and what that can lead to as the game progresses.
It is hard to say how Humankind will fair as it nears release, but what I have seen in the short two-hour demo left me with hope on how the game will look and the potential for the series. The team at Amplitude Studios’ have made something very exciting, filled to the brim with potential. The Fame system alone could shake up the 4X space in a fun, new way. But with it being early, and only experiencing a small slice of the full scope of the title, it is hard to say how it will look upon release.
Whether it will topple Civilization is hard to say, but if the Sega and Amplitude Studios’ keep up this effort, it will be a 4X game to keep your eyes on, and one I am very excited to sit down and play once it hits PC’s everywhere sometime in 2021.