My review of Humankind

pokiehl

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The comparison of Humankind to Civilization is both inevitable and warranted: the historical 4x genre is a small space, and to date, no other title has credibly challenged Civilization's dominance. That is not to suggest that competition between games is zero-sum--purchasing and playing one does not preclude purchasing playing the other--but if another title does not offer something to improve the historical 4x experience that Civilization offers, players have no incentive to buy it.

I hope my embracement of the comparison through the lens of my experience as a Civilization 6 modder will offer you a unique perspective.

Gameplay
City Building
This is where Humankind's gameplay shines. The treatment of the tall vs. wide dichotomy through the constant tension of the outpost system results in a masterful and addictive gameplay loop that is a welcome reprieve from the endless city spam of Civilization 6. The player has a constant dilemma: should this outpost be attached to another city to make it stronger, or should it be its own city? Attaching an outpost is a great shot in the arm for an existing city, but comes at the price of a big Stability hit. Promoting an outpost to a city is well and good, but if I'm at my city cap, then I need to carefully evaluate the hit to my Influence. This loop makes managing your cities absolutely engaging, and the rule of "1 outpost per territory" prevents the bogging down of the game with infinite city spam but simultaneously never feels like an artificial pressure limiting my ability to expand.

I never liked the "settle as many cities as closely together as possible" meta of Civilization 6. Aside from the inherent tediousness, it always chafed at me to take away a ring of usable tiles from my cities by cramming them together. This is just a peculiarity of mine, but the Humankind system is much more satisfying.

Worldbuilding
Humankind's game set-up screen offers more granular control Civilization 6, and it's awesome. Rather than being limited to specific map scripts, you can change parameters to get the world you want, including the number of continents, the shapes of continents, and the amount of rivers and lakes. I hope they add even more options, like for ocean rifts, inland seas, and other settings.

The addition of elevation and the large amount of different biomes all make Humankind's worlds more engaging and interesting than Civilization 6's, which look too homogenous because of the lack of different art styles for different parts of the world (a sorely missed feature from Civilization 5!).

Combat
Combat is my least favorite part of 4x games. I don't like spending more time on it than I have to, so I tend to autoresolve battles rather than utilize the full mechanics, which didn't grab me when I tried them.

Factions
Factions are much less distinctive than in Civilization 6 because their unique traits are all rather simple. I prefer this over Civilization 6's paragraph-long abilities and Civilizations that are railroaded into one-note play styles.

Gameplay Systems
I adore the constant permanent choices you make through the random event system or Civics. These choices feel more meaningful than anything to do with Policies or Governments in Civilization 6, which can be swapped out at any time and don't ever feel like the evolution of something.

The late game suffers a lot from a lack of fun or interesting things. I wish they'd implement a climate system or something else to completely shake up this portion, like the end-game crisis from Stellaris.

Miscellaneous
The customization of your avatar is surprisingly fun, and I liked being able to choose my own color and emblem.

Graphics
Humankind's maps and cities are beautiful to behold and best of all look more cohesive than those of Civilization 6. I absolutely love looking at the game. This comes, however, at the price of readability. Everything in Humankind blends together so well and so organically that it's difficult to parse out the visual information sometimes. Civilization 6's map and the cities that dot it look disappointingly disjointed in comparison, but are eminently more readable, thanks to both the larger scale of models and the color-coded district system. Regarding the models, I find Civilization 6's to be much more distinctive and detailed overall. Compare say, the Temple of Artemis models in the two games, and Humankind's version looks distinctively more low budget. To summarize, in Humankind, the visual experience is far more than the sum of its parts, but in Civilization 6, the parts tend to look better.

As a final note, Humankind has a subtle and strange yellow tint to seemingly everything, and I hope the developers take a second pass at.

User Interface
I like the clean, modern look, but I detest how the unit command UI takes over a quarter of your entire screen. It's so frustrating that it almost ruins the UI entirely to me. I wish they'd make that one window resizable or something. It's absolutely killing me.

The UI is not good at explaining things. I still have no idea what Pollution does.

The game is also missing a minimap, which was a major disappointment. Not only are minimaps aesthetically pleasing (one of my favorite parts of these games is beholding the world generation at all scales), they are a great way to show the player the political state of their game at a glance. Another complaint is the map zoom levels. One of them is just a gray blob that tells me practically nothing. It's utterly useless, and I wish it would have functioned as just a wider perspective of the normal map.

The yield icons are outright unappealing to me. They're flat and boring and look like placeholder art.

Audio
While I haven't yet found any tracks that are eminently memorable, the soundscape of Humankind fits the game perfectly. The music is great "videogame music" in that it blends in well with the game and is never distracting. In comparison, Civilization 6's music is full of wonderful individual pieces, but many of them sit on top of the game and draw your attention away, rather than blend in with it.

I don't like the voices in the game; a lot of the avatars' lines are delivered very strangely, and the unit voices are cheesy. The narrator himself does a fine job reading his lines, but the lines themselves can be too corny to take. I was hoping Humankind would have more gravitas in its atmosphere than Civilization 6, but they're both quite irreverent and silly, and not to my taste.

Conclusion
Humankind has won me over. It's a very good game with the potential to become great if Amplitude can flesh out some of the core gameplay systems and improve the UI. Compared with the OpenDevs, the final product is far more polished, fun, and engaging, and I'm glad I was given the opportunity to give the game another shot.

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of the game for free to write this review. I am unaffiliated with Amplitude or any other company that works on this game or similar games. I am unaffiliated with any news websites. I was given no guidance or restriction on what to write.
 
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Elhoim

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it always chafed at me to take away a ring of usable tiles from my cities by cramming them together. This is just a peculiarity of mine

You are not alone. The ring planning is annoying, and managing a couple of dozens of cities that are exactly the same is something I'd rather not do again in a game.

I like the clean, modern look, but I detest how the unit command UI takes over a quarter of your entire screen. It's so frustrating that it almost ruins the UI entirely to me. I wish they'd make that one window resizable or something. It's absolutely killing me.

Yeah, some of them occupy too much. I don't know if you noticed, but you can reduce the general size of the UI in the options. 80% is a nice spot for me.
 

pokiehl

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You are not alone. The ring planning is annoying, and managing a couple of dozens of cities that are exactly the same is something I'd rather not do again in a game.
Glad we're on the same page there! You know, on that note, I really like the way districts feel in Humankind more than in Civ 6. I have no patience for district planning in Civ 6, but i feels more intuitive in Humankind while simultaneously feeling less exploitative.


Yeah, some of them occupy too much. I don't know if you noticed, but you can reduce the general size of the UI in the options. 80% is a nice spot for me.
Yeah, reducing the scale is better than nothing, but I really hope they give that window in particular another pass (or make the customization options for UI more granular). I've been playing at 90%, I'll try 80.
 

Elhoim

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Glad we're on the same page there! You know, on that note, I really like the way districts feel in Humankind more than in Civ 6. I have no patience for district planning in Civ 6, but i feels more intuitive in Humankind while simultaneously feeling less exploitative.

The main problem I have with the district planning in Civ VI is the lack of flexibility, especially not being able to rework the districts. So it's definitely quite stressing to plan so much ahead. I think HK would benefit for having later infrastructures to unlock more interesting adjacencies instead of piling up bonuses, to shake up the late game city building a bit.
 
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The main problem I have with the district planning in Civ VI is the lack of flexibility, especially not being able to rework the districts. So it's definitely quite stressing to plan so much ahead. I think HK would benefit for having later infrastructures to unlock more interesting adjacencies instead of piling up bonuses, to shake up the late game city building a bit.

The interaction between Districts/Quarters and the Infrastructure is one of the intriguing 'Mini-Games' in Humankind: by the middle game, the output of your individual Districts can be very different from what they were when you first placed them, because of the Infrastructures you can add to them.
On the other hand, hopefully a DLC will rework the late game interactions between Infrastructure. Quarters, and possibly Civics: I would love to see a Civic like International Trading or Industrial Production not just change the bonus to a District, but change the way some Districts act, like in those cases, the Market Quarter or Harbor and Maker's Quarters or even change the effects of some infrastructures like Factories - which should have far more massive an effect than they do now . . .
 

pokiehl

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Thanks for the detailed review! Is there any indication of the mod-ability of the game?
I know modding support is planned, but I'm not sure when the SDK will be released, what it'll include, or what the capabilities will be. My intention is to not get involved with modding, but we'll see ;)

Oh, and here are a couple more thoughts I want to add to explain why I'm having more fun with Humankind than Civ 6 at the moment. These are nitpicky and particular to me, but maybe some of you will agree

- I find myself rerolling a LOT less because the Neolithic era gives you a lot of opportunity to get the lay of the land
- I don't have the compulsion to find the "perfect city locations" like I do for Civ 6. I do this in Civ 6 for both gameplay reasons (I want my cities to have exactly the right amount of space between each other) and for aesthetic reasons (I get really bummed out if I can't put a district next to a city center, because that's the only way the cities generate their clutter buildings to make the city look like...a city). The territory/outpost system of Humankind seemingly both simplifies and adds layers of strategy to the city settling process, and like I said in my review, it's my favorite part
- World generation seems to be a lot better
 

KayAU

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City Building
This is where Humankind's gameplay shines. The treatment of the tall vs. wide dichotomy through the constant tension of the outpost system results in a masterful and addictive gameplay loop that is a welcome reprieve from the endless city spam of Civilization 6. The player has a constant dilemma: should this outpost be attached to another city to make it stronger, or should it be its own city? Attaching an outpost is a great shot in the arm for an existing city, but comes at the price of a big Stability hit. Promoting an outpost to a city is well and good, but if I'm at my city cap, then I need to carefully evaluate the hit to my Influence. This loop makes managing your cities absolutely engaging, and the rule of "1 outpost per territory" prevents the bogging down of the game with infinite city spam but simultaneously never feels like an artificial pressure limiting my ability to expand.

I never liked the "settle as many cities as closely together as possible" meta of Civilization 6. Aside from the inherent tediousness, it always chafed at me to take away a ring of usable tiles from my cities by cramming them together. This is just a peculiarity of mine, but the Humankind system is much more satisfying.
You know, if I were on the fence about Humankind, this is what would have compelled me to buy it. :) I actually like Civ 6's districts and city planning...in the early game. What I don't like is the meta of having lots of cities, as it adds a ton of micromanagement. I also don't like how weak, relatively speaking, large cities are to mid-sized ones. This is for the most part because of how districts work. You can only have one of each type in a city, and they produce flat yields. This basically means that the commercial district of London and the commercial district of Reading have roughly the same value. To get more yields, you need more of the same districts, which means more cities.

Anyway, I look forward to exploring how things are done in HK. :)
 

Elhoim

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- World generation seems to be a lot better

I love the kind of terrain you can get with tile elevation. I play with steep elevation and many ridges and cliffs, and the canyons and valleys the game generates look amazing.
 

Infixo

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Noone knows what Pollution does ;)

But seriously, the game may end before T300 if the world becomes uninhabitable. I guess this could be related to either Pollution or maybe radiation from nuclear wars, or perhaps both. Units that use Coal produce Pollution. Could be a similar mechanism to Civ6 CO2 footprint.
 

pokiehl

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Noone knows what Pollution does ;)

But seriously, the game may end before T300 if the world becomes uninhabitable. I guess this could be related to either Pollution or maybe radiation from nuclear wars, or perhaps both. Units that use Coal produce Pollution. Could be a similar mechanism to Civ6 CO2 footprint.

Thanks for the tip! I'm looking forward to some UI tweaks from you if you decide to start modding this game :)
 

Elhoim

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Yeah, local threshold is 20 for the first stage of effects. As for global, is something on the thousands.
 

PiR

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I like the clean, modern look, but I detest how the unit command UI takes over a quarter of your entire screen. It's so frustrating that it almost ruins the UI entirely to me. I wish they'd make that one window resizable or something. It's absolutely killing me.
whatever the screen res?
 
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