Sid Meier's Civilization may still be the most popular 4X game out there, but thankfully, more and more independent developers are trying to evolve the genre or, at least, imbue the formula with their unique twist. For instance, let's talk about Humankind, a game that, with its highs and lows, has become our new obsession. Time to conquer the world!
I'll Be the Babylonians, and the Romans, and the Japanese, and...
In Humankind, you start every game with a small group of hunting-gathering nomads. As you take turns to explore your surroundings, the tribe will evolve enough to settle and become a city, and that's where the fun starts. Once you leave the Neolithic behind and move forward to the Ancient Era, you finally pick your first wannabe empire. It's a first-come, first-served scenario, but all 10 options, from the bellicose Mycenaeans to the harmonious Zhou or the technologically-focused Egyptians, are equally attractive and challenging. The thing is, you're not forced to play the whole game as the same empire/nation (although you can, through Transcendence).
If you get bored of a playstyle, you can pick a different empire as soon as you unlock a new era. Heck, it's not even a matter of boredom, as a new approach could be a better fit for your current political or economic situation in your path to total domination. Even if you start as the blood-thirsty Hittites, nothing stops you from adopting the Siamese building culture and its bonuses once you get to the Industrial Era. Needless to say, not all empires evolve at the same pace, so that's something else to take into account!
X-plore, X-pand, X-ploit... X-terminate?
If you tend to play political strategy games the nonviolent way, you won't have a problem. There are plenty of mechanics to help you, from trade agreements to cultural exchange. However, if you believe the only route for an empire to expand is by claiming territories and subduing people by force, we have some bad news.
Since this is a game, and all players should have equal opportunities, you can't just declare war and start ransacking every building on sight. You need a reason to attack, but your people's war support is vital. 20% war support is enough to declare a surprise war, but you need at least 80% for an official one. This means you could potentially attack anyone for the most stupid reasons, but having opposing ideologies and/or religions will significantly affect how your citizens feel about the conflict. If you don't have enough war support, or the other nation has no reason and/or resources to continue fighting, the war is over. Whether you like it or not.
In our own experience, completely vanishing an empire is not an easy task given they will probably surrender before losing all their land and people, or your own citizens will stop supporting you and settle for annexing some new city. In fact, we're not even sure you can completely destroy a nation instead of just urging them to become a vassal...
Fine Tuning Your Own Experience
There are several things you can set before starting a new game, from the size of the map and the number of continents, to the difficulty level or the number of nations involved. You can also customize your avatar's face and the nations' emblem, which doesn't affect the gameplay but is a nice touch nonetheless.
Humankind is a single-player game you can play online against other people. Sadly, there's no local multiplayer, but that doesn't mean all your matches will be against a plain CPU. Once you played enough solo matches to unlock achievements, you can start defining your AI persona (for other players, it's still the CPU, but using "your" nation instead of a random one). Will your empire be more tolerant of other players' actions? Will your leader care for the happiness of the citizens, or just treat them as a commodity? There are lots of sliders, and you can also pick your strengths and biases, granting you some bonuses that—if you're smart—will make you an unstoppable force.
There are several things Humankind gets right and some others that could improve in future updates, but even if it's not "the new Civ," it's an addictive turn-based strategy game, and we totally recommend it. If you're a PC user, you can find it on Steam and Epic Games. It's also available on Stadia.