Need to know
What is it? A Civ-like historical 4X.
Expect to pay £35/$50
Developer Amplitude Studios
Release August 17
Reviewed on GTX 1080 Ti, Intel i7-8086K, 16GB RAM
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There’s something weirdly mythical about the historical 4X and the dominance of a single series, Civilization, for 30 years. But Amplitude Studios has spent a decade preparing to rewrite that myth. Humankind is the result: a massive, history-spanning behemoth that’s kept me on its hooks until sunrise a few times. But in trying to make its own Civilization, Amplitude may have sacrificed too much of what made its earlier games, Endless Legend in particular, such compelling weirdos.
This is not to say that Humankind doesn’t have any bold ideas. It’s clear that isn’t the case as soon as you hop into a campaign. Normally you’d need to pick a civ, faction or race of nerdy dragons first, and then plonk down a city, but not here. Before picking a site for your first settlement, or even picking a culture, you must first explore the world as a nomadic, Neolithic tribe. During this phase you saunter around gathering food and other resources from nodes scattered all over the world, with breaks where you get to fight animals. Picking berries and beating up mammoths—a perfect Neolithic family day out.
I’m sure this all sounds quite relaxing—that’s a trap. It’s really a sprint, a particularly brutal one on the highest difficulty, where you’re competing to get first dibs on the list of playable cultures and stake your claim on the most bountiful regions. Found a place with bronze and horses? Get an outpost on that as quickly as you can, and then get back to brawling with the wildlife.
(Image credit: Sega)
Old World serves as an interesting comparison. Like Humankind, Civ’s influence is everywhere, but while that gave Old World a starting point, where it ended up was a lot more unusual. It found a new place to focus on—people—and all sorts of surprising crises and obstacles as a result, like being murdered by your nephew. While Humankind has reconsidered and reconfigured Civ’s features, it’s been more reserved. Being able to adopt new cultures and nurture continent-sized cities is certainly novel, but it isn’t transformative. It could probably do with being 20% weirder, I reckon. I’ve done the maths. And I’ve had lots of practice, given Humankind’s aforementioned love of big numbers.
The End Turn button still beckons, however, and Memphis needs more oil for its battleships. I also need to try out a lethal militant build I’ve been considering, in the hopes of quickly throwing the world into an apocalyptic war. Humankind has still spawned some great ideas that I’m not done with, and can’t wait to see imitated and iterated. But now that Amplitude has made its Civilization, I really hope it goes back to making Alpha Centauris.
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