Tag Archives: gaming

‘Civilization’ shoots for the stars

Our planet isn’t in very good shape. The good news, according to “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth” (2K Games, for the PC, $49.99), is that we’ll be able to hang around for another 500 years or so. The bad news: After that, we’d better start looking for a new home.

It’s not the freshest sci-fi premise — “Interstellar” has essentially the same setup — but it gives Meier and his Firaxis Games studio a chance to expand the beloved Civilization franchise to entirely new worlds. It’s a mostly successful transplant, though at times I wished its scope was even more cosmic.

You begin by selecting one of eight “sponsors.” The United States, Canada and Mexico are now part of the American Reclamation Corp., for example, while China, Japan and Korea have joined forces in the Pan-Asian Cooperative. Their figureheads lack the charisma of classic Civ leaders like Alexander and Napoleon, and their differences aren’t that substantial in the long run.

You have a few other choices regarding passengers, spacecraft and cargo, each of which accelerates the game’s early stages. Then it’s time to make landfall. Sadly, your new home isn’t entirely welcoming; some areas are drenched with a poisonous miasma, and the native insectoids are all too eager to make a meal out of anyone who ventures away from your colony.

Obviously, we’re well beyond the “dawn of man” setup of earlier Civs, so you don’t have to teach your settlers rudimentary skills like agriculture and writing. Instead, you have an elaborate “tech web” that starts with topics like physics and genetics and levels all the way up to exotic sciences like neural uploading and artificial evolution.

All this new technology is a bit overwhelming, and if you’re not a science fiction fan you may be baffled by terms like nanorobotics and geoscaping. But “Beyond Earth” provides a helpful quest structure that lets you focus on short-term goals while you figure out what it will take to conquer the planet.

The game also lets you invest in four kinds of “virtues”: might, prosperity, knowledge and industry. And you score points in three “affinities”: harmony (adapting to the planet), purity (preserving earthling qualities) and supremacy (evolving beyond human flesh). Those points are essential to your ultimate triumph, which can be achieved several ways. Harmony, for example, can lead to transcendence, defined as the “merging of consciousness of all living things with the latent sentience of the planet.” Heavy.

While you’re juggling all that, you also have to contend with the demands of neighboring factions from Earth, which you can handle diplomatically or aggressively. There are many complicated systems at play, but Firaxis makes them work together smoothly.

Players itching to build a galaxy-spanning empire may be disappointed, because once you’ve landed on your planet, you’re pretty much stuck there. But Civ fans looking for a new world to conquer will be over the moon. Three stars out of four.



Atlantic City swears in openly gay Republican mayor

What do you call a gay Republican who obsesses about street sweepers, frets that the city’s business isn’t conducted in enough languages and toys with the idea of giving free land to the poor to get it back on the tax rolls?

As of this week in Atlantic City, it’s Mr. Mayor.

Don Guardian was sworn in as the resort city’s 49th mayor amid a brutal slowdown that has seen it lose its place as the nation’s second-largest gambling market, with casino revenues falling more than 40 percent and thousands of jobs being lost in the past six years. The 60-year-old Guardian warns of challenging times ahead as his administration tries to turn things around.

“The first couple years are going to be tough,” he said. “We’re going to be trimming the budget and looking for additional funding from the state and federal governments to help us.”

Guardian is a most unlikely mayor. His triumph in November over incumbent Democrat Lorenzo Langford shocked the city, where Democrats enjoy a 9-to-1 advantage in registration; he will be Atlantic City’s first Republican mayor in 23 years.

“Everybody brings their own life experiences,” he said. “I’m an openly gay, white Republican Roman Catholic. I’m a good man, and I make good decisions. I bring that to the job.”

Guardian is the longtime head of Atlantic City’s Special Improvement District, tasked with planting flowers, installing benches, cleaning streets and generally sprucing up key areas of the resort. Indeed, in a resort defined for many by its casinos, Guardian is as excited about street sweepers as he is about straight flushes. He promises that by the end of the month, every street in the city will be cleaned five days a week, and one of the first things he did after being elected was meet with public works employees who clean the streets in his neighborhood to get to know them and encourage them.

His priorities include addressing the city’s crime problem, streamlining the process for developers to build and putting vacant land back on the tax rolls. He also says one of his goals is to work better with Gov. Chris Christie on matters of concern to Atlantic City — a goal the Republican governor has said he shares. Christie and Langford were antagonists who sparred over management of the city and its efforts to evacuate residents before Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, among other topics.

Guardian also said he will unveil initiatives to attract new commercial and residential development to Atlantic City.

A particular challenge will be ending a string of tax appeals by casinos that are costing the city millions in lost revenue. He has already met with casino executives and pledged a more cooperative effort, but he couldn’t say specifically how the goal of ending tax appeals might be accomplished, particularly with the value of the casinos falling as the Atlantic City gambling market contracts.

“For gaming, the days of monopoly are gone; that’s something we understand,” Guardian said. “Our plan is to help them by running an efficient government and providing services that are second to none. There is no reason for casinos to be filing tax appeals and taking us to court. We can all sit down at the same table. We have to find a fair and equitable way for the casinos to pay taxes.”