The 4X genre of strategy games – eXpand, eXterminate, eXplore and eXploit – has always been about progress. You’ll start with nothing and work to become, well, something. Maybe “something” is a galactic empire. Maybe it’s a vast transport empire. Maybe, as in Amplitude Studios’ new strategy title Humankind, it’s a thriving species that covers Earth and reaches for the stars. How far you go is really up to you – and, to a hopefully lesser degree, your aggressive neighbors.
Humankind owes a lot to both the classic Civilization and Amplitude’s own Endless Legend. Rather than following a variety of fantasy species as in the latter, Humankind tasks us with leading humanity through the various eras of history, from the neolithic era of hunting and gathering to the modern era of social media addiction and cardboard Amazon boxes. How far we’ve come!
The turn-to-turn gameplay in Humankind is most similar to Endless Legend, in fact. Your civilization will focus on accumulating Food, Industry, Money, Science and Influence, each of which offers different ways to get ahead of the competition. In order to thrive, you’ll need to figure out how to efficiently make the most of your surroundings and use what the world has to offer.
You’ll also need to engage in turn-based tactical battles when the time comes, though more passive players who focus on infrastructure and research can absolutely succeed as well.
An emphasis on progress lies at the heart of Humankind’s gameplay. Early on, the game’s all about survival. You’ll start with a tiny tribe of cavepeople hungering for some tasty mammoth meat. By successfully hunting, learning more about the world around you and growing as a tribe, your people will eventually learn to establish themselves via agriculture and construction.
That leads into a more traditional civilization-building simulator where you construct cities, claim territory and upgrade your infrastructure. Later, you’ll work on continent-spanning rail networks and more.
Unlike your typical Civilization-style game, though, you won’t just choose an initial faction and associated bonuses. Instead, Humankind starts you off as a generic tribe and you’ll select from new historical factions as you grow. Success in Humankind is denoted by Fame, a score that determines the game’s eventual winner, and Stars, which are earned by completing achievements like expansion, population growth and military victories.
By reaching Star breakpoints, your civilization will progress, which offers access to more advanced technologies as well as a new set of historical factions to choose and benefit from. This means that, for instance, you won’t be the Zhou forever; you might pivot from playing the Zhou to becoming the Celts and so on. Bizarre? Sure, but it allows for a surprising degree of flexibility in how you play.
Humankind’s presentation shines in much the same way as a modern Civilization game might – there’s a degree of optimism and love for the growth of humanity as a whole. Watching your tribe hunt prey leads into marvelling at the massive megalopolises they’ll one day build. There’s even an amusing narrator to comment on your successes and failures.
Humankind is more than just a Civilization clone. Amplitude put a lot of love into this one and it shows – the best parts of the Endless series are here, but remixed into a new, fresh 4X game that’s a great time alone or with friends. If you’ve got the huge chunk of time you’ll need to devote to learning and fully enjoying the responsibility of creating vast new civilizations, it’s absolutely a worthwhile endeavor – and let’s not forget that it’s also on Game Pass.