Community Review: Humankind

Community Review: Humankind
Image: Kotaku Australia / Amplitude Studios

The spectre that’s always hung over Humankind‘s head for me stems back to a comment a mate of mine said almost a year ago.

“Why would I invest my time in something that’s not quite as good as Civilization, when I can just play Civ with its years of updates and expansions,” they asked, as part of a conversation about how Humankind was going. It was hard to tell Humankind apart from Civ at that stage. I’d just previewed an E3 build, and a ton of systems like diplomacy and the end-game were missing altogether.

There seemed like some good ideas, but from my mate’s perspective, he was thinking about it as a time investment. For them, it’s not their job to support a game because it might be good. They only have so many hours in the day to wind down, and if they’re going to play a Civ rival that doesn’t quite have all the pieces, they might as well play Civ instead. (Or Alpha Centauri as it were, which, fair.)

That’s partly why having Humankind on Game Pass is such a huge win, and it’ll be interesting to see what it does for other strategy games on the service, like Age of Wonders: Planetfall. 

But what’s hurt Humankind for my experience so far is a whole bunch of edge cases that seem like they should have been caught prior to release. Having to deal with pollution in the end-game is frustrating: the AI just spams as much pollution as it wants to quickly end the game. It’s less annoying if you’re playing the very abrupt 300 turn default limit, but in longer games, it’s a royal pain.

Post-launch patches have also fixed up issues with resource generation, which is handy. I played one game that I had to immediately bin after 80 turns because there was no copper anywhere on my side of the continent, and the speed at which the other AIs took up cultures meant I was stuck with the Romans. There was no copper to really generate an army to properly progress forward or pursue the stars necessary, so my civ was just buried deep in the shit with no means of escape.

A restart it was.

Faith and civics don’t really seem integrated into the whole experience as much as they could be, either. But like the combat and some of the aforementioned things, they’re all fixable with some substantial content updates and balance patches. Does that make Humankind worth the slog now? It’s enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. And for those who bounced off Civ in the pastHumankind might be more to their liking.

But I can’t help but think that, maybe, it’s not quite time to leave Civ (or Alpha Centauri) yet.

How about yourselves though — have you been playing Humankind? Did you buy it straight up or play through Game Pass, how have you found it, and how do you think it’ll fare over the next year?

Comments

  • Played it on gamepass for a bit. Then uninstalled. Will wait for some content updates/patches before I try it again.

  • With about 40 hours played so far (didn’t try any of the betas, so that’s all post-launch), I’m finding it a much better, more satisfying game than Civ 6.

    There are a couple of issues. As noted in the article, faith and culture mechanics feel a bit underbaked and like they don’t integrate enough with the rest of the game.

    The other issue I’ve had is that the AI just isn’t very good. I’ve only done a couple of runs so far, but I’m playing on the second highest difficulty currently and winning by a country mile less than half way through the turn limit, so… not sure the strongest AI will be challenging enough once I’ve had more time to fully learn the game. Although, poor AI has also been a problem for recent Civ games, and in HK’s defense, it doesn’t seem quite as bad as Civ 6’s.

    The complaints about resource scarcity and pollution are issues a lot of players seem to be having but neither has been a problem I’ve encountered, still hopefully they get patched relatively quickly.

    For me, these issues are outweighed by the massive number of things the game does really well. Off the top of my head;

    -The overall atmosphere/feel is extremely pleasing.
    -Battles are much more tactical and engaging than most games in the genre.
    -City development is really cool, with urban areas gradually spreading across the landscape, and stability management for expansion feels well balanced and stays engaging.
    -Expansion rush is very exciting thanks to the need to invest in the generation of influence (resource used to expand) as well as in units to defend and capture territory. Being able to skirmish with neutral players and destroy their border outposts without waging a full-on war is very fun.
    -Big, interesting maps and terrain to explore.
    -Diplomacy, both buildups to war and alliances feel less arbitrary and more natural, with clear ways to track escalating tension/closeness, and specific treaties giving the system a good level of complexity beyond ‘enemy/neutral/ally’
    -Developing your civ through different cultures in each area is really cool, allows for some interesting strategies. Because it’s a race to pick cultures BUT there’s also a score incentive to remain in each era for as long as possible, there’s some interesting decision making around when to advance in addition to what new culture you pick when you do.
    -Victory condition being based around fame allows for a good bit of diversity in playstyle and encourages players to build up their nation/empire in a way that feels more natural instead of purely focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of all others.

  • It’s good, but buggy.

    The comparisons with Civ are inevitable, and sometimes I feel it works too hard to be different.

    They do try and give viable paths to victory other than science, which Civ struggles with.

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