Civilization: Beyond Earth Looks Out Of This World
I had my first chance to get some hands on with Civilization: Beyond Earth at E3 2014, and I'm impressed. If you've played Civilization 5 at all, you'll be fine to jump in immediately and dig in. That said, there's a lot of new tweaks and nuances that make the process of colonizing a planet a whole new game from its predecessors.
Here's one of the big ones. As players progress through the game, they're going to choose one of three affinities to gravitate to (you can certainly move into all three trees, but it's probably a good idea to focus). These affinities (Harmony, Purity, and Supremacy) are rooted in how you feel that the human race should deal with the whole process of alien planets and culture. Each of these affinities comes with associated special units, bonuses, and even win conditions, so it's arguably a much more interesting system than the legions of iron age units ramming into each other in any given Civ game.
Everyone can win the game through the classic "domination" victory condition, but each ideology has its own ways to win. Fun fact: things were in pre alpha, so one of the unit upgrades actually had a corgi as a placeholder.
The tech paths in the Civilization series have always made logical, linear sense based on human history. But since we don't really know where the future is going into space, these techs do not follow a straight-line path, but rather a diverse web. Players can move through the web at will, taking one or many aspects under the central hubs. It looks like it's going to be a lot of fun to play around with and perfect routes.
Here's the final "big one": Quests. Quests function as additional motivation to complete tasks to gain additional rewards and also shape the route of your "story" in each game.
The "barbarians" of Civilization: Beyond Earth have been replaced with aliens. These aliens will function differently from the classic early game aggressors by having relationships with players and cultures and not acting as a simple, manageable nuisance.
Civilization lovers, you can relax. Beyond Earth looks like it's going to be a smooth launch into space.