by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
NEANDERTHALS IN SPACE
When I saw the absolutely off-the-wall announcement trailer for Amplitudes’ new game Humankind, I was ready for anything. Besides some brief snippets of gameplay that we see at the end of that trailer, there really isn't too much of a clue as to what we’ll be getting. We know Humankind will be Amplitudes take on grand historical strategy, a 4x that takes the influence and lessons learnt from all their previous 4x work on Endless Space and Endless Legend. But Humankind is trying to be more — labelled by its creators as their ‘Magnum Opus’ the game that 8 years of development has led up to, it’s looking to innovate the genre as well.
I didn’t get to play any of Humankind, but I did get to see a presentation given by Romain de Waubert de Genlis, the Creative Director and General Manager at Amplitude Studios. In the presentation we were shown pre-alpha gameplay and given an overview in relation to many of the mechanics.
The gameplay started in much the same way as any historical strategy 4x — we were shown an absolutely gorgeous campaign map upon which there was a unit of tribesmen. These will effectively act as your settler, but to create your first village you will need to either gather food, thus multiplying your tribe, or gather knowledge. If you choose to gather knowledge, you will then be able to gain a legacy trait, which will add a bonus to your civilization going forward. After building a village you can monopolize on tiles, building districts in much the same way as Endless Legend, based on what resources are available on each tile.
But of course the most special thing about Humankind is that you can combine cultures to create a unique combination. As each era passes you will be able to choose a new culture with different benefits, which will allow you to differentiate playstyle depending on the current challenges you are facing in your campaign. We weren’t given a huge amount of information on how these cultural combos are expressed through mechanics, which was disappointing, but we did see visually how they work. While most of the city will change to reflect your current culture, there will be buildings left behind that act as symbols of your past. Altogether your chosen cultures accumulate through each era, creating a civilization whose playstyle truly reflects your own.
In terms of battle tactics and aggressive play, Humankind uses similar mechanics to Endless Legend — one unit essentially represents one army which will expand upon entering combat with an enemy. There’s no problem with this, as that battle system is great. But one cool thing is that if you don’t finish a combat within three turns, other reinforcements can show up, whether nearby allies or enemies, meaning that battles can escalate and become pretty epic affairs. Another interesting inclusion is the ability to build outposts, which will put an influence ring around an area. This means that if an enemy wants to colonize that area, they must first eliminate the outpost, so it represents a cool way of buffering your cities against enemies. Humankind will also have a 8 player multiplayer mode, and will allow for either randomly generated maps, or maps from our world.
BEFORE AND AFTER
I like the idea of Humankind — Amplitude have such a good history of 4x innovation that I am more than willing to trust in the quality of this game. Also from what I’ve seen already there are some minor innovations which will make it more interesting that most grand historical strategy 4x. But there are issues with the concept for me — Humankind is supposed to be about cultural combination, but at the moment the way that is represented is one culture after another, the only thing they leave in their wake being a physical remnant. It doesn’t look like it’s about creating new cultures, but literally role-playing cultures one after another, which is a slightly more specific version of what Civilization games already do, allowing you to use elements from a variety of civilizations.
It’s hard to say until we know more about the effects that combining cultures will have, but if it’s just a physical remnant and a buff, that might be a little disappointing. I think this could probably be improved with less obvious visual cultural segregation in the cities, so they actually resemble a multicultural city, and not just one in which cultures are so clearly separated into before and after. Either way, with Humankind releasing next year, we should know more soon enough.