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Humankind | game review

An average example of the species.

 

Game summary: Create your own civilization by combining 60 historical cultures from the Ancient to the Modern Age. Each culture brings its own special gameplay layer, leading to near-endless outcomes. (IMDb)


I was in the mood for a city/civilisation builder game and saw that Humankind was on Game Pass, so thought I'd give it a go. I did faintly recall that it got a somewhat muted reception upon its original release, with my memory proving accurate after a quick google, and I have to agree that it's pretty much what the game deserves, even if it's not exactly a poor game.


The biggest issue I had is what I imagine put a lot of others off, which is that this isn't a particularly easy game to get into - which is odd for a game where you can take as much time as you want each turn, so you're never rushed moment-to-moment. If you are a big fan of these type of games, then you might get into it a little quicker, but there certainly were some issues really getting going for me.


As an example, one of the 'disappointments' I had with Frostpunk was that it ultimately felt more like a puzzle game disguised as a city builder, with you not really having the freedom to develop the world your way, but instead always having to react to the world and Humankind feels very similar in its early stages. The start of each game feels very rough, regardless of difficulty level, and it's difficult to recommend pushing through the frustration of this stage because of how non-special the rest of the game is.


The issue with how the game starts is that it's just a little too random, meaning you can be handicapped from turn 1 with a mixture of an excess of ancient wildlife, lack of resources, poor terrain and more combining to be aggravating regardless of how much of a challenge you're after. I tried starting multiple games on multiple difficulty levels and that had no impact, leaving it coming across as a very odd design choice to make the first experience of the game so unnecessarily frustrating.


And Humankind doesn't really scale the heights of excellence once you can force your way through that opening phase, found an outpost and start building your own society. There's very little here that hasn't been done elsewhere and some of the gameplay mechanics just don't work, whether it's one-city cultures that somehow gain technology they can't possibly have the resources for or uprisings breaking out in what the game is telling you is a happy city.


The technology progression also feels off, with three games completed by reaching the 21st Century without a single society any further along than the Industrial Revolution and a fourth game where progress was even slower than that before I stopped playing. Yes, you can continue the game after the victory objectives have been met, but it never stopped being odd that there wasn't a single occasion where progress matched reality.


So would I recommend Humankind? If you have Game Pass or can get it really, really cheap, then it might be worth a go (and even if you do buy it cheap, make a note how long you can play the game before you can't claim a refund just to be safe!), but with basic elements like diplomacy, trade, technological development and more not providing anything particularly innovative either, it's hard to say you should play this over something like Civilization.


Humankind is decent enough to waste a spell of time on - especially with it currently being on Game Pass - but it doesn't really do anything special to warrant major consideration and has some serious design issues which hamper the experience in comparison to similar games. Some of the new ideas for this type of game do have some promise, so I certainly wouldn't be against trying a Humankind 2 if it ever comes.

[5/10 - Average]

 

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