Let's Play Rising Tide: Visiting 2K Germany

Usually, nosy journalists and Youtubers only get their hands on a nearly finished Firaxis game about four weeks before it gets released. But they made a special exception for the two of us – myself, game journalist Christian Weigel, and Youtuber Writing Bull. We were given the opportunity to test Rising Tide, the upcoming add-on for Civilization: Beyond Earth, almost two months before the set release date. What’s more, we were given free reign to record a whole bunch of Let's-Play episodes for Writing Bull's Youtube channel. We’re very grateful to publisher 2K Games' amazing crew in Munich who made all of this possible! Not only did they get us the game itself, they also built us a super-fast PC, provided us with a constant flow of delicious coffee and, best of all, left us in the care of the unshakable and cheerful Carlo Volz, who handled all of our questions (and silly requests) with an endless amount of patience and always had a smile on his face.

We were no less impressed by the scope and scale of the add-on itself. Rising Tide enhances the base game with an impressive amount of new content. Things like new monsters, new quests, new buildings and new landscapes just scratch the surface - the biggest changes can be seen in the new and improved gameplay systems like aquatic cities, hybrid affinities and, above everything else, the new diplomacy system.

Granted, we were impressed - but we weren’t all that surprised, as it’s been common knowledge for years that Firaxis game add-ons tend to upgrade their base games to a ridiculous degree. Brave New World for Civilization 5 or Enemy Within for XCOM: Enemy Unknown are just two shining examples of that.

When we first spoke to the two lead designers Will Miller and Dave McDonough after the Rising Tide expansion had been announced, they really talked up the water gameplay, the new aquatic cities and the hybrid affinities. Ocean play styles were going to be the defining element for the new add-on and change the base game considerably, they told us. For us, though, settling in the water feels like an organic part of the game that’s always been there, while the new diplomacy system – a feature that the two humbly played down and only mentioned in passing (“yeah, that’s there as well”) – is the real showstopper.

With this system, diplomatic interactions, the settling of agreements and the race for diplomatic assets become a fun game within the game. Gone are the days when our interactions with our neighbors were limited to War, Peace and Open Borders. And we can shape the personality of our own leaders with the traits system. Not only does this change the range of available agreements we can negotiate with other nations, but our rivals now react directly to our political ideology. Other belligerent factions might now be impressed by the number of soldiers we have under our command, while peaceful leaders might rave about our high food yields.

Also, what’s quite flattering for us here in Germany is the fact that the new, likeable INTEGR faction, a European sponsor party that does its best to keep things clean (both ecologically and diplomatically speaking), is led by a German lady. Back In Civilization 5, we were represented in the game by "Iron Chancellor" Bismarck, by Landsknecht units and by Tiger tanks. Which, at the end of the day, came across as being somewhat aggressive. But Lena Ebner and her diplomatic acumen, combined with her starting trait "Categorical Imperative" is certainly not a warmonger, but an ambassador of peace – and that’s very much a relief.

Lena Ebner’s first name pays homage to Lena Brenk, the producer of Civilization: Beyond Earth. Although Lena Ebner doesn’t look even a bit like the "real" Lena, who’s also from Germany and well known to Writing Bull's viewers as she appeared on quite a few Twitch livestreams before the release of Beyond Earth. Something the two Lenas have in common, though, is their aptitude for languages. While Lena Ebner is said to have mastered eight different languages, Lena Brenk was – among a zillion other things – in charge of finding authentic voices for the exotic languages spoken by the historical leaders in Civilization 5's diplomacy screens.

In our Let's-Play preview for the Rising Tide add-on, which is currently running on Writing Bull's Youtube channel, we may have discovered an Easter egg specifically left for us by the developers – our starting position in the game. At the start of the first turn, we only found a single viable spot where we could land our colony ship to start our first settlement. That place was "Lenas Felsen" or "Lena's Rock", right in the middle of the ocean, on a barren rocky hill surrounded by water tiles. And so we saw ourselves forced to play as per our tradition of hunkering down on the hills. This play style, which we call “Hügelparker” (“hill campers”), could be considered the unofficial identity of all German Civilization players. The word was born out of a pun about the defensibility of hilly terrain and our own propensity to camp out our units there. It created a bit of a snowball effect, and many people contributed videos or even songs saying they were all about the Hügelparker life as well. We now have a theory that Firaxis manipulated our preview build of the game to make us regret our cherished Hügelparker doctrine. We strongly suspect Pete Murray to be the brains behind this devilish scheme, especially as he’s repeatedly said he was a Plains Racer...

In any case, the both of us, and the entire German community, are very much looking forward to the add-on. You might say our tile-shaped minds are buzzing in anticipation. Rising Tide improves on just about everything from the base game. To pass the waiting time until release, we’re also taking part in the Beyond Earth Cup, a multiplayer tournament hosted by the Writing Bull community forum in cooperation with 2K Germany.

So bring on the Fall and the bad weather – when it’s pouring rain and storms are raging outside, we’re going to shut our doors and windows, switch on our PCs and start colonizing new planets. Where, you ask? Somewhere out there Beyond Earth, of course!