Humankind: impressive but not good (yet?)

Discussion in 'Humankind - General Discussions' started by snakeboy, Apr 28, 2021.

  1. snakeboy

    snakeboy Chieftain

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    The game is impressive, but it is not a good game yet. Entertaining yes, but the balancing is so off there's no real challenge and a lack of both strategical & tactical gameplay.

    In my first playthrough on their standard difficulty (metropolis) I was ahead so much before turn 100, swimming in gold and influence, but behind in the tech tree so there was a lot of insta-buying and catching up while nothing meaningful happened.

    Here's the main problems:

    - era progress is too fast; starting medieval era my unique units were way up in the tech tree
    - money and influence are really tight in the beginning, leading to a slow start; but then suddenly you start snowballing ridiculously, leading to insta-buying everything and not having ways to meaningfully spend influence
    - there seem to be way too many district-upgrades (infrastructure). Take science for instance, there's the district itself (research quarter) and then: house of scribes, library, manuscript atelier, alchemist's workshop, cabinet of curiosities, university, printing house, academy, symposium - and that's not even counting the final, contemporary era.
    So for instance, when my gold snowballed I was simply insta-buying not just the research quarter itself, but a lot of its upgrades too in one turn. And I could do this with every city as long as the gold is there. I kept spamming districts (having more than 3 research quarters per territory seems a bit silly) but I I was still somewhat behind in relation to my own culture. Near turn 150 I finally caught up.

    - This goes for all the yields: food, production, gold too. Around turn 100 my building menu was very cluttered and at a certain time it doesn't really matter anymore what you build. There's too much too fast, and it is not very differentiated. It's just numbers, either +3 or + 10 or a percentage (+10%)
    - I don't like this possibility of wielding gold to instantly create massive infrastructure upgrades in one turn. At the same time you rely on it because production seems too slow.
    - All in all, this leads to less interesting gameplay. There is not much strategy to placing your districts, or picking the infrastructure.
    - instead of insta-buying I would prefer a production mechanic, but the forest clearing gives you a very minor 10 production (with starting buildings around 200).

    Being behind in regards to my own culture, did not make me behind the ai though. I had no trouble with their units and as soon as I had my Khmer elephants (medieval) I was invincible.

    BATTLE
    - I like the battle 'mini-game', where it opens up the map and you can use the terrain for tactical gameplay. If the tech tree flows better I think it could lead to really interesting battles but I have experienced too little of them because of weak ai, and (us both) being behind in the tech tree.
    - upgrades are unclear. For instance, you cannot upgrade a scout and then suddenly it upgrades into a knight? That does not make sense to me.
    - There seems to be too much to chose from.
    - There was zero reason to build up a navy. Also, with so many different techs and units it is hard to keep up.
    - the ability to insta-heal all your units with gold after the battle is really detrimental to tactical gameplay.

    There is much more to talk about but I leave it for here now. I like how they implemented religion, with an internal pressure system, but its tenets seems a it unbalanced too. I like the civic choices as well. The wonders I found a bit underwhelming: all give faith and stability, and one extra bonus, but not very interesting.

    Anyway, this game is impressive, I love the art and cultures and the amount of detail, but if they won't nail the gameplay it will still be a miss for me. As it is now, it seems an immersive ride that quickly shows its inherent flaws. It's hard to nail a 4x game gameplay-wise. The snowballing is a common problem, and even though I like the negative stabilty modifier for every district placed, I had no trouble spamming districts later on. Also, more techs and upgrades do not make for more interesting gameplay. If you have too much, each separate unit and upgrade becomes less valuable. More choice means less meaningful choice. So I really hope they will rebalance the gold & influence, and get rid of the ability to insta-buy everything (and heal your units with it).

    Edit, my picks:
    Babylonians (science) - Celts (food) - Khmer (elephants :)) - Dutch (gold)
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
  2. Denkt

    Denkt Left Forever

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    The main problem is yield inflation, the basic districts seems fine, but once you add in religion, luxury resources and emblematic quarters, the yields simply get too high. The ai can't compete at that point.
     
  3. Siptah

    Siptah Eternal Chieftain

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    From what I've seen, yield inflation is indeed one of the main problems in Victor, albeit it is much better compared to Lucy. Getting this right is hard, and Firxais took at least several years to get this somewhat in order in Civ VI (is it good meanwhile? haven't played in more than a year). As Amplitude uses all of the players right now to find a good balance and seems to listen to what people are suggesting, I have high hopes that this will be becoming better and better until and after the release. From what I've seen so far, I doubt that it will takes years of complaints that a line of units is completely useless (civ's anticav) until it gets buffed.
    I don't remember if yield inflation is that much of a problem in Amplitude's previous games, but what I do remember is that the AI on higher levels in Endless Legend was able to compete with me - I don't think I ever won a normal game on highest difficulty in that game (but I might be just bad at that and the AI might have gotten huge bonuses to its yields).

    I also think that the Ballista Elephant is just OP, as are several districts and civ choices. But I think cultures and their emblematic won't be completely balanced at release, or really at any time, as it is just too much at work here. That doesn't mean optimization cannot happen.
     
  4. Trav'ling Canuck

    Trav'ling Canuck Deity

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    I believe that getting feedback on the balance in core game systems is one of the main reasons they're doing another open dev. Lots of players playing in different ways should give the dev team much better information about where the gameplay weaknesses are.

    "Specials" (the Khmer elephants, Carthaginian's buyout ability, Joseon's water science) can be balanced once the core yields are set. Feedback on which are currently OP and why is likely sufficient.

    Creating a challenge doesn't seem to be part of the Victor OpenDev intent. At this stage, they don't seem to be trying to make it difficult for the player to do well. I hope that comes later, but right now the dev team seems more interested in seeing how players are handling the core mechanics. Tuning up the AI to be mean to the player at higher difficulty levels is (hopefully) something that comes later.
     
  5. Abegweit

    Abegweit Anarchist trader

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    @snakeboy I agree with everything you said. The artwork is utterly gorgeous. I just love watching this game. I also agree with every one of the objections you brought. Unfortunately some of them are not going to be fixed. They are not going to reduce the number of districts, for example.

    I also have a ton of quibbles about the UI and I ran into several bugs, one of which I couldn't escape even with a reload from three turns backs. Then there are the issues about balance and inflation mentioned elsewhere. But let's not go there. This stuff can be fixed.

    But the real problem with this game is that it just doesn't have a soul. They started with a couple of really attractive concepts. The territory claiming and the era changes are just great (I wish they hadn't made us change civs every era - but that's another quibble). The army mechanism and the combat are another set of great innovations. OK. Maybe the AI isn't great at battle but that can be fixed too. Although, IMO, it's already better than Civ6.

    4X games are supposed to be about empire-building. The player makes a series of choices throughout the game which affect the way his empire grows. One of the keys to making the game replayable is that the optimal set of varies from one game to the next. Civ4 and Civ6 were both very good at this, right from the placement of your initial city to your choices of paths through the tech tree. In humankind, the initial placement is pretty automatic and the tech tree is not so much about getting new abilities but more about racing as fast as possible to the next era. The stuff actually unlocked is, for the most part, a side issue.

    The same thing goes all through this game. Are cats better than ferrets? Well who knows. But one thing is certain: whatever the answer is, it ain't gonna change the next time you play the game. The entire civics and tenets sub-games have exactly the same problem. There is no reason to select one choice in this run and another in the next one. Contrast this with Civ6's brilliant concept of policy cards. Throughout the entire game, you are continually faced with a series of decisions about which ones to use. And these decisions have a real impact on the outcome of your game.

    Unsurprisingly after a few dozen turns humankind turns into a routine. A typical game is roughly like this: claim your territory and settle your first city. That city should build a couple of key districts and some military to defend your claims. Then get into a routine where you build or buy a district every few turns. The tedium will be interrupted by some dumb events, most of which have little impact, and repeated interruptions by the annoying and inscrutable AI leaders. After a while they start to leave you alone so you can content yourself with pushing EOT.

    Aside from the diplomacy, I don't see how these issues are solvable without a complete re-write. And that won't happen. It's too bad because the artwork is gorgeous and the basic concepts were excellent.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
  6. FinalDoomsday

    FinalDoomsday Prince

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    I don't understand the game is constantly giving you choices that matter. As I enter Medieval I was torn between the Tuetons great religious bonus I would benefit from thanks to my large religion or the Aztecs because of the early access to their emblematic unit that requires no strategic resources to build (I had one iron and no other source in sight making Teuton EU unlikely to be buildable)

    A lot of what you do in Civ VI is determined when you choose your civ its not as open as it may seem, Humankind lets you switch civs and gives you the option to adapt to your current situation. First time playing Mongols in Civ VI and I got dumped on a remote penisula far from rivals, a great place for a naval empire but a terrible spot for my Mongols. In Humankind I could have gone with Carthage, Venice, etc after seeing my start and really made the most of it.

    Policy Cards can be good but it still falls into some cards you just use every game and some never at all. Humankinds Civics offer similar choices, its too early to say how variable they will be.

    The tech tree is absolutely important, unlocking mounted tactics and turning all those old scouts into horsemen can give you a huge power spike. There are a lot of infrastructures that I find I can ignore or delay but that has not stopped me from sitting on the tech tree considering all my options as it should do.
     
  7. burleigh

    burleigh Chieftain

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    Pretty much agree with everything Snakeboy & Abegweit say. There’s a lot of rubber banding (I suffered from AI rubber banding one run thru’... even with reloads I was still beaten...which isn’t a bad thing), too much ‘I’ll build this because I can tho’ I don’t really know why’, and too many decisions that I’m not sure of potential outcome differences (cats/ferrets!)
    The strategic resource requirements for units is odd, and if you haven’t the requisite number you’re stuffed (Civ 5 was better here, with limitations on the numbers you can build) Maybe infrastructure that adds to the number of a resource you’ve already got access to might help, so you- and the AI- might build some stronger units.
    AI in battles is pretty good, and have had units taken out. With wars too, you are forced out of your build cycle once losses mount.
    Not sure on the Independent Peoples. I think they’re either nasty or nice to everyone. Would be good if they had a personality based on, say, player civic choices so they can be more specialised in their hatred.
    I think they’re going to find it difficult to balance this and give it more heart by August.... but even having said all that, it’s been a fun week playing, and has got a bit of the ‘one more turn’ vibe (which I never had with CiVI)
     
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  8. Denkt

    Denkt Left Forever

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    Humankind feels more open than civ game, the neolithic era which is the best part of the game make each opening different and add a strategic element of how long do you choose to stay in it, it also take care of the scouting part in a fun and interesting way which is perhaps the most neglected x in 4x games. Once you advance you can disband some of the scouts to quickly populat your cities, you can use them to attack someone or simply scout even more. The fame stars is also very nice because it mean every part of the game feel like it matter, you always working towards victory, not just working towards some long future goal, it also mean there is a startegy to when you advance, if you hold off you can get more fame stars but it may put you behind.

    However yield inflation, which in turn seems to be the main reason the ai can't stay competetive do remove much of the fun of the game. If you want a more challenging game, avoid religion, emblematic districts (some are fine or underpowered but there are those that can break the game) and don't attack all the ai players, especially the strong ones if you want them to stay competetive. Resources should also be something to be careful about, however they ai probably do pretty well here.
     
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  9. snakeboy

    snakeboy Chieftain

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    I just finished a run on Nation (2 levels higher than 'normal'). It was a bit more challenging, but I ended up with about the same amount of fame & again the money and influence inflation. I did have to fend off the independent people a bit more, and I had the best battle experience so far, a long siege against a fortified Persians that actually made me think & carefully organize my units.

    However, still the same pacing issue: behind in tech and going fast through the era (although a little slower this time, probably because the English I picked are below average compared to Khmer). It almost feels like you have to pick a science civ either at the start or for the next era, otherwise you will have to 'wait' for science even more, as the research quarter unlocks pretty late with writing.

    Again, I did have fun but the overwhelm of choices and insta goldbuying without any meaningful decision is really terrible. Just thinking about having to go through 2 more era's of infrastructure unlocks and micromanagement already gives me a headache. It's the one thing I dislike the most about late game civ6, and here it seems much worse.

    Civs this time: Egyptians (good) - Greeks (very strong) - English (boy they suck, castles are useless) - Mughals (mwah)
     
  10. Denkt

    Denkt Left Forever

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    I think tech is pretty fine, you need to invest into the science district if you want to be good at it and there are events that give you science or whole techs. Also tech is tied to era stars so if tech is fast you will get like 3 era stars per era just from techs.
     
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  11. snakeboy

    snakeboy Chieftain

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    That's actually the one thing they did sell me on! I was sceptic at first, but I really like picking a new culture every era. When they introduce customizable avatars with perks and points you can invest, and if they let me chose a banner and color and such, then this could become really fun. Personally I am not beyond the hope of thinking they cannot address these faults. I think they still can, and if they do this game will blow civ6 definitely out of the water for me. Yet, a lot of balancing work needs to be done. And it might take a lot longer and some updates and dlc's before it all gets straigthened out.
     
  12. KrikkitTwo

    KrikkitTwo Immortal

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    You don’t have to change cultures(civs) every era, you can transcend and get a fame bonus instead of a Legacy trait and emblematics
     
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  13. Boris Gudenuf

    Boris Gudenuf Deity

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    Partially agree, but only partially.
    Yes, the Victor Open Dev game has a real problem with the pace of the game: Gold and Influence can mushroom ridiculously, while Science takes a real effort to keep up with the Eras - which seem to zip by.

    On the other hand, the game already has a lot of fascinating decisions built into it.
    Cats versus Ferrets? Who cares.
    Stay with your old Faction for more Fame (Victory points) or grab a new Faction in the next Era that has complimentary features to what you've already built up?
    How to use religion? Take a look at the 'tenets' you can choose for your religion, and you'll see what I mean: by choosing a couple of tenets that push science, you wind up with Holy Sites that give you 275 - 280 Science per turn EACH - and some Wonders act like 'extra' Holy Sites (the Usual Suspects: Stonehenge, Temple of Artemis) so that's another 275+ Science/turn plus all the usual Wonder bonuses.

    Other tenets can do the same thing for Influence or Gold, but who cares? Gold is pretty easy to get, and that needs to be addressed because it is too universally useful. After the first couple of Eras you don't need Influence for new Outposts or Cities, because the map is filled up and you get new Cities by beating them out of the other Factions - that's a 'balance' issue yet to be addressed, in which the map is too small in numbers of regions/Faction to allow any expansion without endless conflict after the first 1/3 of the potential game.

    No Resources? You'd be amazed at what the AI will trade you if you work it diplomatically: in 5 Victor games I never had control of a single Iron resource, but I got 2 Iron by trading and wound up romping and stomping through the Medieval Era with armies of Frankish knights - supplemented by Pikemen and Crossbowmen, two units that don't require any resources at all: if you are in a fight or contemplating one, beeline for War Summons tech in the early Medieval Era which gives you both of those resourceless units, and you can really 'Go Medieval' on someone. . .

    The game certainly has balance and pacing problems right now, but most of those can be solved by tweaking the numbers - and computers are really good at tweaking numbers, so you can bet they will be tweaked with the input they are (hopefully) getting from the Open Dev.
     
  14. snakeboy

    snakeboy Chieftain

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    Like I said in the op, I like the religion, civic, and culture choices. It's just that insta-buying through enormous amounts of gold renders (some) choices meaningless.

    Good point.

    I agree, and I do hope so!

    As for the science, I haven't figured out the adjacencies yet. Like @Denkt said I have to invest in it better. I think my civ6 mindset doesn't help, feeling that 3 research quarters is already stretching it. But perhaps I should build way more.

    As for the stability, I think this is linked to difficulty. When I played Nation I did have to take it into account and build the relevant districts - which made for more meaningful choices.
     
  15. KrikkitTwo

    KrikkitTwo Immortal

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    I think an important choice is the timing of era shifts, shifting era asap is usually bad because you lose opportunities to get fame. (as well as placing EQ...although you can build your EU after shifting to a new culture..until techs make it obsolete)

    That solves some of the tech/era issues.

    Influence definitely needs a new “sink” later game.. Possibly diplomacy.
     
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  16. Trav'ling Canuck

    Trav'ling Canuck Deity

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    I hope this turns out not to be true. The brilliant thing about the Events system is that the optimal choice is not (or should not) be the same every game. Most events juggle up to three factors: a direct bonus/malus, an Ideology impact, and the potential for follow-on impacts from your choice. I have chosen both Cats and Ferrets in different games, because although this is a simple event which affects ideology only, sometimes I want to push it one direction and other times in the other direction. The interplay with the Civics choices is great, because those also push your ideology around. So which Civics you choose may depend on what Events you've had, and how you react to Events may depend on what Civics you've selected. Not to mention that sometimes you want to be on one ideology extreme or another, and other times you want to hug the middle for the Stability bonus, so these choices are all very much influenced by what you're trying to do with your empire overall that game.

    So far, there isn't a single Event that I can recall that I've always taken the same choice every time. Even Flooded Lands I've sometimes gambled with because I didn't want to spend the Money (although Money's so loose in the Victor OpenDev that it makes this and some other choices less meaningful - that's just a fixable balance issue, though) . And even when I've taken the same option, the outcome sometimes differs for the events that have possible follow-on effects.

    I think - or at least hope - that there's a whole lot more replayability and nuanced impacts to the Events system and their interaction with the Civics policies than are apparent on first blush.
     
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  17. Boris Gudenuf

    Boris Gudenuf Deity

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    The Victor Open Dev is a good test of 'Alternate Decisions' about everything, because normally, I would never play the same map twice in a game that gave me a choice, but here every game has the same opponents, same terrain, same Start. Having played, as of about 30 minutes ago, 6 complete games of Victor, I have been quite surprised and pleased with how different each game has turned out to be.

    As an example, in the first two games I had major Influence/'Osmosis' pressure from the Brown Faction off to the east of me - in the third game, wound up going to war with him and tore up his Empire just to get it to stop. Today, we were wary friends throughout the game, trading like mad, while he fought what appeared to be interminable wars with his other neighbors.
    In fact, in today's game I wound up Allied with 3 out of the 7 other Factions, and had turned a fourth Faction into my Vassal, but never fought a battle in the last half of the game. Diplomacy Works once you figure it out.
    And since I've been experimenting with how to get the most out of cities, science, production, etc in each game, my best per-turn yields have varied wildly: today I was cranking out over 3500 Science/turn, built 80 Districts, and was starting to colonize the 'empty 'continent on the other side of the map. In a previous game I had only about 2500 Science at the end, but also over 1000 Money and Influence each turn, out of only 64 Districts. It is fascinating to see how much variation there is in what you can do from the same start/map/situation, and how changing decisions about Civics, Religion and settling can change the attitude of your neighbors and therefore the direction that your game will take.
     
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  18. Shadowhal

    Shadowhal Warlord

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    I suppose part of the open dev is to identify balance issues that are "merely" around fixing values and those require somewhat deeper changes. Abundance of money and influence mid game has come up a few times. That can presumably be tweaked. A complementary solution could be to find other uses for those solutions. I haven't played nearly enough to see if there are any deeper balance issues. Strategy games are all about choices and I'd certainly want them to be interesting. Interesting means on the one side that different options are equally viable depending on the situation and my objectives. But it would be good for those options to work different, do something different. There should be many choices that aren't merely trivial swings one way or the other. Glancing through the tech tree gives me the feeling that there may be too many infrastructure projects, but maybe too early to say.
     
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  19. Boris Gudenuf

    Boris Gudenuf Deity

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    Yeah, the Infrastructure is a little overwhelming. On the one hand, you can really boost your city output with Infrastructure by the mid-game, on the other hand Infrastructure doesn't give you any Fame (Victory) Points at all, unlike population or Quarters/Districts do. In all my Open Dev games so far, I've never built more than a fraction of all the Infrastructure available.
    That may, of course, be precisely the point: you build the Infrastructure you need for the boost required in a specific area for the city in question, and no city (unless you are playing a Humankind form of "One City Challenge") needs all of them.
     
  20. KnightModern

    KnightModern Warlord

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    I just hope dev scale back or at least balance same quarters adjacency bonus
     

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