1. Firaxis celebrates the "Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month", and offers a give-away of a Civ6 anthology copy (5 in total)! For all the details, please check the thread here. .
    Dismiss Notice
  2. We have selected the winners of the Old World random draw and competition. For the winning entries, please check this thread.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Old World has finally been released on GOG and Steam, besides also being available in the Epic store . Come to our Old World forum and discuss with us!
    Dismiss Notice

One Week Post-Release - A Review of Humankind

Discussion in 'Humankind - General Discussions' started by SeelingCat, Aug 25, 2021.

  1. SeelingCat

    SeelingCat Warlord

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2016
    Messages:
    230
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    US
    Humankind Shoots for the Stars, but Stumbles with Liftoff

    Humankind is a game that promises to allow players to experience the whole narrative of human history, from the dawn of the Neolithic age to the off-world dreams of the near future, and while Humankind does largely follow through on this promise, a week out from release, it suffers from the difficulties that arise when shoving several thousand years of history into one small package.

    Humankind offers a dizzying number of options for players, but ultimately struggles with the weight of its many choices. The UI feels like the weakest point of the game here, groaning under the bulk of information that needs to be conveyed: city quarters blur together, the religion system goes underexplained, and understanding the potential effects of some infrastructure devolves into guesswork. However, design choices factor in here as well. The 60 different cultures available over the course of the game – an impressive amount of factions, to be sure – can feel unbalanced at times, which often makes trying something new feel like a suboptimal distraction from the tried-and-true (and possibly OP). Humankind’s diplomacy is also likely to confound – and possibly frustrate – new players: Grievances and Demands remain opaque, although they can be greatly important in squeezing more out of an opponent at the end of a war, and the whole peace process feels weirdly rigid for a game that touts its flexibility. These are not easy problems to solve, but more clear and informative explanation would go a long way towards avoiding unpleasant mid-game surprises.

    However, at the same time, Humankind feels like it’s doing something new and different with its treatment of the 4X genre. The ability to change factions mid-game allows the player to pivot partway through the game to emphasize strengths or shore up weaknesses. Neighbors boxed you in? As the Romans you can steal their outposts. Taking the fight to their core cities? The Aztecs will let you get an army to the front in no time. Falling behind on science after your expansion? Choose the Joseon in the next era, perhaps, and catch up. Trying to keep your patchwork empire together? Sub in the Austro-Hungarians and their unique Opernhaus should take care of that. It’s a process that feels fluid and responsive and can breathe some fresh life into an otherwise long game. Additionally, the hybrid battle system – while not new to Amplitude’s games – feels fresh in the historical game landscape, straddling a middle ground between the Total War series’ real-time battles and Civilization’s strict adherence to turn-based warfare.

    There is also the issue of what I would refer to as ‘ambience.’ Humankind is a beautiful game – its map is lush and detailed, even if it does obfuscate some important information. Its music is fantastic and really helps to evoke the feeling of inhabiting a specific culture, although it lacks the holding-power and flair of the music in Civilization VI. The art for the culture cards and for the buildings and units produced by cities are one of the game’s strongest triumphs – they are lush, colorful slices of life of Humankind’s cultures and of the world around them. This well-executed environment is then deflated slightly by the leader avatars; visually, they do not detract from the experience (although it is a shame everyone starts wearing suits in the last era without much variation), but the leaders’ voice acting feels flat, repetitive, and often out of step with the current diplomatic landscape. On top of all this is the narrator, the player’s guide through human history, who is charming and well-performed, but is just as likely to extol the virtues of a new culture as they are to crack a joke about them instead. The humor here seems like it will be hit-or-miss as to whether it lands, but especially after hearing the same lines over and over, the cheeky attempts at humor just feel as though it’s undermining the gravitas of exploring the course of human history. Civilization VI also suffered from this issue as well, but Humankind’s narrator seems more present, and thus more frustrating, than Sean Bean did when waxing poetic about the wi-fi on Mount Kilimanjaro.

    Thankfully, there is cause to feel optimism for the state of Humankind. A week after release, Amplitude seems to be taking a quick and pro-active approach to tackling some of the game’s bugs and shortcomings, some of which do currently serve to suck some of the fun out of the game, including from personal experience: a paucity of strategic resources means it can be impossible to produce some buildings or units without conquering three-quarters of the map; one sneaky AI seems to always be gaining influence with every Independent People on the map even if they’re continents away; an occasionally there are battles that see the AI lock up and refuse to make a move until the game is restarted. Nothing game-ruining, but certainly enough to dull the experience. After that, it remains to be seen how Amplitude will continue to build on the hefty foundations of Humankind. The addition of more cultural wonders and playable cultures seems like an obvious route for future content, but additional game systems will need to be placed gingerly upon a byzantine mound of existing features

    With that in mind, perhaps then, Humankind – with its shortcomings, its potential, its successes, and its failures – is actually an accurate representation of its namesake.
     
    Quack Jam, Pfeffersack, Bonci and 6 others like this.
  2. Sailor Cat

    Sailor Cat Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2017
    Messages:
    62
    Location:
    Canada
    Thanks, Seeling. This largely reflects my experience with the game. The UI has been one of the biggest drawbacks by far. Either difficult to navigate, bloated, or a mix. Also never really felt as if I was playing one culture or another, but just amorphous blob civilization.
     
    tsf4 and SeelingCat like this.
  3. pokiehl

    pokiehl Emperor

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2017
    Messages:
    1,570
    The more I play the more I’m okay with losing the eminent readability of Civ 6. The worlds of Humankind are just a lot more interesting and beautiful to look at. The varied terrain, the scale of cities and their sprawl with districts…it even makes the latter eras look beautiful, whereas I think the Civ 6 map gets decidedly unappealing from the Industrial Era and beyond.
     
    glider1 and Elhoim like this.
  4. SeelingCat

    SeelingCat Warlord

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2016
    Messages:
    230
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    US
    I do think the terrain in particular is really nice and the later cities do really give the sense of sprawl, but I find that - emblematic quarters aside - I find it hard to see at a glance what my districts are. They buildings in them are a lot smaller than Civ's and sort of blend together a bit. When I was trying to place an effective Commons Quarter yesterday, it was difficult to know where to place it because I couldn't immediately identify the district types already placed. Maybe that's something that will improve with more time spent. It does feel very 'gray' compared to Civ in the later eras to me, which I suppose is technically more realistic.

    The other issue I run into is one that Civ also had trouble with, of determining terrain type underneath a district or exploited. With civ it was mostly hills vs normal terrain, but I find it hard to anticipate if something like the Lumber Yard is worth building, because I can't easily tell at a what tiles are worked Forests/Woodlands. Perhaps I should just be playing more zoomed-in though!
     
  5. Siptah

    Siptah Eternal Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2016
    Messages:
    5,488
    Location:
    Lucerne
    You can turn on color-coded districts. It's not the most beautiful thing in the world, but very helpful. It's one of these buttons in the lower right.
     
  6. Taefin

    Taefin Prince

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2020
    Messages:
    445
    This is my favorite review of HK so far. I am a fan of the UI and how it works for mouse-only gaming, though I agree it leaves you guessing pretty often. But mostly this resonates with my optimism and enjoyment of the game while providing a good heads up about what might be frustrating at first.
     
    SeelingCat likes this.

Share This Page