Review by Chad Sansing, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2015
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Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

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Venerable Civ series returns to space with a mix of old, new mechanics

Subjects & skills
  • Social Studies
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Maintains the series's depth and adds new decision-making opportunities.

Cons: Slow mid-game and huge volume of information make classroom use tricky.

Bottom Line: A great text or tool for targeted practice on ecology, politics, and technology.

Apart from assessing what kids learn from free play with the game, teachers can use Beyond Earth within more traditional lessons and units in very specific ways to get kids thinking about a number of academic topics such as biology, economy, geography, government, history, and technology. Teachers can ask kids to observe and log aliens' behaviors, to keep explorers' journals of their exploits, or to experiment with specific play styles so that learners can see the impact of different philosophies on development, diplomacy, and the environment. If teachers can ask, "What can I pull from this game for my classroom?" they'll find Beyond Earth to be equal parts participatory narrative, macro-history, and science textbook.

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Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth is a 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) strategy game for PCs, Macs, and Linux machines. In Beyond Earth, players assume the role of a civilization's leader on an alien planet. Players must help their people develop cities and strategies that help them achieve victory through distinct win conditions such as bringing old Earth citizens to their new home in the stars or by transcending humanity and becoming one with the alien planet's ecology. Wise decision-making is key as a player's choice of faction, construction projects, research, and strategy can provide stacking bonuses that help speed victory. New decision-making mechanics make Beyond Earth feel like an update of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri mashed up with sim upstart Endless Legend.

A single game of Beyond Earth lasts longer than any single class period, making it most useful for learning in targeted, episodic ways. For example, a teacher could ask two students to play in the local multi-player "hot seat" mode while pursuing two distinct strategies. Students could keep track of their decisions and the results of their decisions on the planet and in their societies, and then compare notes and develop hypotheses and conclusions about the relationships between human societies and the relationship between humanity and its environment. Because of the way the school day is structured, this game is perhaps best used as a station or extension for students who want to apply big ideas about governance and civilization in a compelling simulation with some framing from their teachers.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Expansive and challenging, this game will lose some players because of its complexity and long mid-game.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

There's plenty to ponder here about human relationships with one another and our world, but it's locked up in gameplay and text that some students will have trouble accessing.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Advisors, tutorials, comprehensive progress tracking, stats, and the series' hallmark Civpedia offer players lots of technical and textual feedback.

Common Sense Reviewer
Chad Sansing Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
James T. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
FINALLY an popular video game that is also, yes....kinda. Sorta?
"Sid Meier's Civilization; Beyond Earth" is possible the best merge between video games and school. However it will not help your students pass their next ecology,political, or tech test. But it will help your students think, in a way that is much different than any other game out there. After all, this is a game that requires the player to make macroscopic societal decisions that affect the makeup of their nation in both the short term and long term. Players decide which economy best suits their landsc ...
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