I’ve always loved a good strategy game, heck I’ve even been known to have a fondness for a few so-so games. They foster critical thinking as well as situational awareness that can seem kind of scarce sometimes in these pandemic days. Many of us grew up on the board game Risk where every movement was made by your own hands and strategy was the only way to win (ok occasional dumb luck too). Then came video game consoles to take the next great leap where you weren’t able to cheat and the rules could have the sophistication. This jump to electronic games allowed the gameplay to become more detailed with menus, tutorials and programmed AI that improves every year. Then a new game style hit the world and thought intensive games such as Civilization were able to come into being, 4x, and it stands for Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate and is the basis of most strategy games these days, from Warcraft games to Age Of Empires and Civilization, and is definitely at the basis for the game Humankind.
One of the first things to point out is how similar the gameplay will sound to Civilization which is one of the best known 4x games and is considered to be a gold standard of what can be done in the 4x strategy gameplay. If you talk about facial tissues odds are you will compare them to Kleenex, sometimes company’s products just become the most known by the most people. Humankind is a turn-based 4x turn-based strategy as opposed to a real-time gameplay where often times the winner is the fastest hands or if the player is against the computer then lots of pausing to try to keep up if you have the option or just get faster and faster at strategizing and implementing the 4x. Humankind is definitely designed to be a challenge but with the turn-base it gives a player a chance to really consider all the possibilities as well as leave the computer if you need to. If you are in a real-time against a live opponent you are locked in that chair or you lose.
Humankind also has a great save system which I normally discuss lower in the review but in this case it is nice enough to mention sooner. You can save anytime you like using any name you want so if you were trying something different you can name the save “4 hunters sent west” so you know what you were trying when you go to give it another shot. It also has time stamps so you can look to see the order nice and quick and one of the best things is the game auto saves every turn so if you get all into playing, lose track of turns and realize you made a critical error five turns back you can go back to it easily. I have wanted that on multiple strategy games and even in some other game types where you get one save in two hours of play forcing you to go back an hour to the last save point and boy does that get frustrating.
The graphics in Humankind are great with nicely colored maps and the terrain is recognizable from above as to what type it is. Prairies, woodlands, river springs are all just examples of what the lands are but are so obvious from above as well as a couple little symbols of possible usage that appear when clicking on a hex. Sometimes the graphics on hexagonal maps are much more simplified to help the hexagons to stand out more but personally I like where you feel more like moving across a map and less like pieces on a game table. The music is nice and soothing, it’s actually on while I’m writing this review since it fills the background by sounding nice but not distracting.
Humankind has really deep menus and details of the society you are trying to build. You start at the Neolithic Era which is one of the first things to set the game apart from other 4x ones. You soon go into one of many choices of famous societies and try to build them up by their strengths and weaknesses but it’s fun to get used to the game with a nomadic tribe before settling into a famous civilization. There are quite a few choices of Eras to choose from such as the Egyptians, Assyrians and the Hittites just to name a few and they at least give you a solid starting point and general idea of how your empire can expand. Once you get into expansion you wind up growing your area of influence and start bumping into the spheres of enemy influence where you then need to consider what kind of leader you want to be. Working through different political options should prevent the necessity to declare war on an enemy but let’s face it at some point you are probably gonna want to save game and build a war force to see how that plays out, who can resist?
If you find yourself having a hard time playing as just your one Era the good news is once you complete one you can move onto another. There are a total of 10 so you definitely get to mix things up a bit making it so that no two games would be exactly alike which makes HUGE replayability. If you are playing Humankind on multiplayer it’s good to know you can’t have two of one Era in a single match. There is multiplayer but it’s still in the works at this point, need to get word out about that aspect more since the amount of available matches with players are a little anemic right now with most matches trying to get players or are high levels of turns from being a long standing game. After completing the Neolithic Era all the eras are available to play, you don’t have to hope to unlock them each as you go.
One of my favorite parts of Humankind are the tutorials. Generally tutorials are just something to say is in the game or not but in this case it doesn’t just cover the general mechanics it has tutorials on how to hit certain achievements as well. There is also links to a game encyclopedia, community maps and details on the available AIs making the game about as approachable as you can get.
Civilization and Age Of Empires are pretty big examples of 4x strategy and Humankind can hold its own with them. You can dive into deep menus and expansive gameplay while still hearing mellow music and being turn-based. The graphics look great and no two games will be alike with mixing up what Eras to play and different political and environmental decisions to make. The more you play the deeper you can build your games. If you like Civilization you will like Humankind for all the reasons they are the same and different.