'Humankind' Tries to Reimagine Civilization, but Mostly Overcomplicates It

Humankind promises the opportunity to “re-write the entire narrative” of our species. This is a big promise, but not that far out of bounds for a 4x game that uses the vast compendium of human history for its maps, systems, and assumptions about what does or does not belong in its game world. I don’t think there is any doubt that Humankind rewrites human history, and even some of our assumptions about what a game playing in the sandbox of human history does, but its successes are tempered by both some big and small design decisions that actively hinder the experience.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jg84x3/humankind-review

Is there a term or idea in game studies for return on mechanical complexity? As in how much more interesting a game gets as you increase the number or depth of its mechanics? Since I’ve always found Amplitude’s games to have a very low rate. There’s always a lot to do but it never feels terribly impactful or interesting. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of interesting ideas in their games I just never have fun actually playing them.

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I really, really, really, really, really hate when a strategy game has a tactical layer that lets you autoresolve but the autoresolve is completely fucking absurd and causes you to lose extremely easy battles sometimes so you have no choice but to play out the tactical layer every single time.

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Honestly, auto-resolve should not be a gamble. It should just tell you what will happen and then you can decide whether it’s worth your time to try to get a better result. But I don’t know that anyone has actually done that.

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The latest updates to Total War Warhammer does that. It will tell you how hurt your units will get and how many will be lost in the autoresolve. It still has issues with unfairly weighting certain factions and units but it’s a big improvement.

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So I’ve been futzing around with this on gamepass and I dislike it so far. As Rob said on the podcast the design are very much form over function. It all quite pretty but deeply unintuitive to actually use.

I also really hate the draft mechanic. It’s extremely frustrating to see the mechanic that would be best and most interesting for your situation locked away. Particularly in that first choice at the end of the hunter-gather stage since when you unlock it seems entirely dependent on the random location of starting resources.

I might give it another go, but I’m struggling to go back given the reviews.

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Yeah! It improves.

So I know a lot of the reviews have been not so kind to this game, but Rowan Kaiser’s review over at Fanbyte encouraged me to check it out. The first couple of hours I was really not having a good time with it, but then something clicked and I really like it a lot now. While I would prefer no tactical combat, I’d say this is the most quick and painless version of it I’ve seen in a 4X. But I’m really enjoying the innovations around settlements and joining territories, it’s doing a lot of stuff I’ve always wanted a 4X game to do.

My main issue is I don’t enjoy the neolithic phase of the game. Rolling the dice to see when you get the 5 influence you need to found your first settlement is just bad in my opinion. In Civ there is this huge debate about whether you should settle on your 1st turn or if it is okay to delay one turn for a more optimal settlement location, so that gives a pretty clear indication of how important those early turns are in these types of games. Would love an option to skip this era.

I’d say the main thing that I’m liking though is that it remixes just enough of the standard things you expect from a Civ game for it to feel like a fresh experience and force me to actually think about what I’m doing. I think for anyone like me that bounced off of Civ 6 because it just felt like it was sort of going through the motions this is worth giving a shot, with the caveat that it is buggy as all hell at the moment so it might be worth waiting until it gets patched a bit.

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