Back in August, I was able to check out Amplitude Studios’ Humankind, a 4X strategy game which the company considers its magnum opus. Akin to Firaxis’ Civilization franchise where you chose a faction that progressed through various technological eras, Humankind instead boasts a million different combinations as you go along. In a way, it’s like how our own people started from humble beginnings, assimilated new cultures, and reached for the stars.
Recently, I had the opportunity to try Humankind‘s Lucy OpenDev scenario which consists of the first four eras. It’s playable up to 150 turns. As far as impressions go, I was already blown away.
In Humankind‘s Lucy OpenDev scenario, you start as a Neolithic tribe. You’re basically a bunch of nomads just looking to explore an unfamiliar world. If you’ve tried other kinds of 4X games, then this beginning is already jarring (in a good way). After all, it’s like you’re playing as roving barbarians without a settlement to call your own.
Eventually, by razing villages or foraging (i.e., killing wild animals), your tribal army will have new units. Next, you’ll roam around and build outposts as a means of establishing your territorial claims. Again, this mechanic was quite a surprise. Remember how games in this genre gave you an initial settler, colonizer, or city and you just scouted your surroundings afterward? Here in Humankind, you scouted first and, during the course of your exploration, you might find ideal spots for your first couple of cities. Obtaining new units was a gradual process as opposed to churning them out immediately based on your build order.
Choosing a culture and Legacy Trait
As you accumulate Era Stars and Fame (think of these as a combination of scientific/tech advancements, score, wealth, and overall progress), you’ll be able to reach the Ancient Era. It’s here that you’ll get the chance to choose your starting culture.
For Humankind‘s Lucy OpenDev scenario, there were 10 choices available during the Ancient Era. These include the Hittites, Mycenaeans, Nubians, Babylonians, Olmecs, Phoenicians, and Zhou. Each one has several “uniques” — an Emblematic District that can be built on a hex and a combat unit — available only to that culture. There’s also a Legacy Trait that becomes very important early on.
The Legacy Trait confers boons to your chosen culture. But, it’s also passed down to the “descendants” (any culture you choose down the line). Given that idea, synergy becomes of utmost importance in Humankind.
Do you want to start out with the Mycenaeans, a military-focused culture, during the Ancient Era? Sure, you can do that. But will you eventually switch to something that has science boosts? How about picking the Harappans who have perks related to food generation and population growth, and then continuing onward with another culture that also focuses on the same things?
Humankind‘s Lucy OpenDev scenario: Perk combinations
The latter was exactly what I did. Now, the Harappan Legacy Trait and Emblematic District both provided food bonuses. As such, my goal was to either “transcend” as the Harappans (you get more Fame if you stick to your original culture but your unique unit would become outdated), or select a Classical Era culture that followed that trend. The latter pick came in the form of the Celts. The Celtic culture’s trait and district both provided extra food, leading to healthy growth in population.
Population, too, is extremely vital. In games like Civilization, “pops” are primarily used to determine how many can work tiles/hexes in a city, as well as to generate new settlers. In Humankind, pops are required to recruit new units.
Apart from perk synergy, I also had to keep strategic resources in mind. My starting location, sadly, didn’t have a lot of copper or iron, and I only had one node with horses. That meant choosing certain “civs” like the Romans, Huns, or Goths was out of the question. I wouldn’t have the resources to recruit a lot of their unique units (the Praetorian Guard, the Hunnic Horde, and the Gothic Cavalry respectively).
In the case of the Celts, though, I need not worry since those requirements weren’t necessary for the Gaesati. I was happy given that perk synergies and unit requirements were good to go.
The more I played, the more I marveled at Humankind‘s presentation. Obviously, certain mechanics like the tech tree follow the concepts you’ve seen from various 4X offerings. Still, a few others were very refreshing to experience.
For instance, rather than just a civics/policy tree, you’re presented with a dilemma. Your choice here for your civic leads to boons related to science vs. stability, centralized vs. decentralized bonuses, or money/gold vs. industry/production.
Religious expansion, meanwhile, is dependent on how many pops follow your beliefs. If you focus on a faith-heavy game, you’ll unlock more tenets to suit your playstyle.
As for wonders, these don’t come from the usual trees. Instead, you accumulated influence and used it to claim a wonder (i.e., the Pyramids of Giza or the Temple of Artemis), preventing other factions from building it. I was also amazed since I constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in one of my cities (Mohenjo-Daro), yet I could have my capital (Harappa) share in the construction work as well. Production is merely transferred to hasten the process.
Humankind moves forward
Evidently, Humankind still needs a bit of work. Since this is only an early access/pre-release build, it doesn’t showcase the game to its fullest extent (I don’t think 150 turns and the first four eras could do that since it’s a massive venture).
Still, I’d point out that the UI needs some polish since it can feel too cluttered and confusing at times. Likewise, I have a feeling that newcomers might get overwhelmed by all the details and information. Furthermore, I would very much appreciate it if new voice actors join the project. As it stands, all factions from the Egyptians and Assyrians to the Greeks and Mauryans have an English accent that can be detrimental to immersion.
Overall, though, I still enjoyed Humankind‘s Lucy OpenDev scenario. The developmental process may still be ongoing, but I can tell that the game shows a lot of promise. It already has refreshing ideas and unique mechanics that set it apart from others. It looks like it’ll carve out its own identity within the genre, and it might just scratch that itch for “one more turn.” I’m hoping that Amplitude Studios manages to fully deliver once the game releases on April 22, 2021.