Humankind certainly has a lot on its table. After all, trying to cover the course of known human history in the span of just one game is no easy feat, but after attending attend a media event that discussed some of the finer points of Humankind, it does a good job at offering plenty of creative freedom in the course of that history. After the event, we were given a hands-on experience with Humankind that let us play a couple different of time periods and scenarios. Humankind certainly feels familiar with the Civilization series and other 4x games in that genre, but with a focus on character creation and building your own culture, it adds new caveats allowing for more creative freedom throughout the course of each playthrough.
Culture is the Key
During a question and answer session at the event, I had a chance to ask the developers what they thought the biggest element was that would differentiate Humankind from other games in the genre. The answer was simple yet complex: culture. Culture has the ability to grow, shift, and change each time you play through Humankind. During my time spent with the build, a brief 24 hours, I could see their point about culture. At the beginning of each new era, you get an opportunity to change and modify your culture. As is the case with history, cultures will change and morph, but some of the base benefits can stick with your civilization over a long period.
As I progressed into the Ancient era, I could push toward a culture such as the Zhou or the Nubians, just to name a few. While there are some aesthetic differences as you “gain” a new culture, the big impact is the various effects each culture can benefit from. Some cultures are agrarian, while others are driven by war and conquest. Benefits range from increased food to bonuses in science and technological advancement. These perks, and the fact that your culture can change over the course of time, seems like it will lead to a lot more variety each time you play Humankind.
Fame Has Its Perks
One of the more notable game mechanics presented to us was the notion of fame and its role in Humankind. Fame appears to be the metric by which you’ll end up winning a game, but it’s not entirely clear if there are other methods you can choose for a win condition. Really, it seems similar to a scoring system that factors in a variety of different metrics, such as science or culture, and that will ultimate determine if you “win.”
Fame is an interesting concept, as it might appeal to people not interested in just waging war, but it should allow players to utilize their civilization’s cultural perks. In a standard 4x game, sometimes war feels like the only or best method to win, but hopefully, fame will allow players to use the benefits for their avatar and civilization to get ahead and take home the victory through a variety of methods without feeling locked into war as the only option.
Combat feels solid and offers a bit of variety with multiple rounds per turn, and it allows you to place units prior to the battle to try to gain advantages of terrain or other types of positioning. Admittedly, most of the combat I had was against bears or animals, as it wasn’t possible to get too deep into some of the more advanced units or wars that you might expect for a game such as this.
The One Ruler to Rule
Avatar creation looks to be an even more massive part of Humankind, and while we weren’t able to create our own avatar in this build, the development team discussed the importance of it during the presentation. Unlike Civilization, where your creator is predetermined or loaded up with a set of already established benefits, Humankind will allow you to create and mold your avatar or leader to change at your own whim. It appears to be a fun addition, and it seems to add a bigger investment each time you play Humankind.
Choices certainly play a big part in Humankind, as at various points you will be asked to make decisions that should shape just how your civilization develops and grows. It sort of felt like the classic Bioware “morality gauge” where decisions all had significant consequences on the outcome of your civilization. Early on, I was asked how I wanted to train my soldiers, through conscription or by hiring professional soldiers, and my decision would impact whether my civilization was more prone toward liberty or rulership. It’s a nice little touch, but it does have a meaningful impact on gameplay. By choosing to have professional soldiers, they gained a bonus to their fighting strength.
There’s no mistaking that Humankind walks into a crowded genre, particularly with the Civilization series looming overhead and a clear inspiration for the title. While it certainly has a fair bit of overlap, Humankind does try to differentiate itself by adding more customization and control of your civilization and leader. There’s still a lot yet to see for Humankind, as we have yet to experience some of the later game, but it should be worth keeping an eye on as the release draws closer.