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Platform(s): Google Stadia, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Release Date: Aug. 17, 2021

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PC Review - 'Humankind' Cultures of Latin America DLC

by Chris Barnes on July 20, 2022 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Humankind is a historical turn-based strategy where you'll be leading your people from the Neolithic era to the modern age, combining cultures as you progress through the eras to create your own unique civilization.

It's been a little less than a year since the release of Humankind, and despite some rocky initial reviews from critics and players alike, I kept a close eye on the game's growth. Humankind was developed by Amplitude Studios, creator of Endless Legend (one of my personal favorite 4X games on PC), so there was always hope that the company would make the title a real competitor to the ever-popular Civilization franchise. With the release of the newest DLC, Cultures of Latin America, it seemed to be the perfect time to see how Humankind has grown over the last 10 months and what this DLC brings to the table to expand the game.

Humankind it is a 4X game inspired by the Civilization franchise but with the twist of evolving your civilization's culture over the course of the game. Sure, in Civilization, you could have Gandhi build a nuclear weapon to destroy the entire planet even though that goes against his civilization's primary goals and benefits. Humankind welcomes this sort of experimentation by allowing you to switch cultures from one era to the next while maintaining certain permanent benefits along the way. On paper, it's a great idea, but in execution, I don't think these cultural evolutions are expressed well enough to the player. As I transitioned from one culture to the next, my player avatar garnered a new costume, and my ability created drastic gameplay changes. It felt like a hard transition rather than a blended mash-up of cultures like Amplitude Studios seems to intend.

The Cultures of Latin America DLC adds a total of six new cultures. It's a decent selection, but the way the game is structured, that may not be obvious to new players. Different cultures are confined to certain eras as you progress in the game. This makes sense, but it doesn't mean you have a swath of cultures to choose from right from the get-go. Instead, the Caralans are your first new Latin American culture to select from in the Ancient Era. I went this route to see what they had to offer. With a focus on building, the Caralans are a great early game strategy to boost my capital while maintaining balance. With a legacy trait that offers a slight bump in each of the district types (food, industry, money, and science), I could quickly build out my capital's districts without falling behind in any one economy type. In addition to this, the Caralans also have a Healer unit. When embedded in an army with other units, it allows the army to heal, even when traveling outside of your regions. This was a godsend and made for a quick extermination of the other culture in the next era.

That era now boasts the newly added Nazca culture, which I choose. In many ways, I didn't enjoy playing as them, though that is admittedly in part due to the fact that I'm still trying to wrap my head around the religion and influence mechanics of Humankind. As your influence and religion get stronger (through construction of specific buildings and wonders), your civics and religious beliefs start expanding outward to adjacent cities —- even if they're owned by other cultures. As I unpeeled the layers of the mechanics, I discovered my neighboring culture was rapidly eating away at my region's beliefs. I didn't know the impact, but surely it wasn't good. Fortunately, the Nazca have a unique warrior unit that is absolutely destructive in combat. These aptly named "Headhunters" steamrolled through my neighbor's units, making for a swift eradication of their farthest-reaching cities. This domination led to a quick forced surrender by the enemy.

Shortly after the foe's surrender, I moved into a new era and selected the newest culture, the Taíno. Again, I found this culture's focus to align well with where I was in the game. While I had won the first war against my neighbor, I still had to conquer their capital and a couple of outlying territories before I could claim the continent. In Humankind, the creation of army units decreases from your city's population count. To win the war, I needed lots of units quickly. With a focus on food and population growth, along with a district that maintains public stability during rapid growth (a constant balancing act in Humankind) and an archer unit that I quickly found to be extremely powerful, the Taíno were the perfect culture for me to quickly grow my population and army. Doing so led to a quick end to the second war with my neighbors, and with it the start of a new era.

I chose the Incans, who have a focus on expansion. With the continent all to myself, there was plenty of empty land for me to grow. I plan to play more games of Humankind to see if they all unfold like this, but selecting the Latin American cultures in the early stages of the game made for a seamless conquering of a continent. For that reason, this was by far my favorite segment. It was satisfying to watch my culture extend its reaches to the furthest mountains of the starting continent before continuing its expansion outwards overseas. From that point onward, the game did lose a bit of its luster. While the DLCs Argentinian culture offered some intriguing mechanics in which the creation of salted beef could boost your civilization's power, it didn't excite me enough to chooses it. Doubling down on industry and food was the most straightforward path to victory.

In that regard, how does the Cultures of Latin America DLC improve the game as a whole? Yes these new cultures ensured early success in my game, but they didn't seem that different from the others. The same is true for the narrative events and wonders that pop up. Some may offer a boost in overall resource generation, but they offer little more excitement beyond that. I sometimes mindlessly blew through narrative events and hovered over the benefit of each decision's result.

Similarly, the wonders don't feel impactful enough, both visually and mechanically. They improve your fame (necessary for victory when the game ends) and provide a good bump in some other stats, but otherwise, I questioned why I'd build those over another district or facility that offer more value for a much lower build cost. In addition, the wonders, like so many other buildings and districts within your territories, sort of feel lost within Humankind's visually overloaded map. Between the resource icons, districts that look similar to one another, city walls, and various armies, everything sort of blends together into a sprawling suburban blob. There is the exception to this, with certain wonders being placed atop mountains or along the shoreline, but the others are absorbed by the nightmarish district layout.

The Humankind - Cultures of Latin America DLC doesn't seem to add much to drastically change the core gameplay of Humankind. Some of my favorite features were part of the free Bolivar update that every player receives, such as the ability to see how beneficial a facility is to your city upon completion; it's a nice data point that every strategy game should adopt. If you already own Humankind and want to add more cultures that boast some very strong early-game army units, the Cultures of Latin America DLC is a worthy pickup given its low price point of $8.99 USD.

Score: 7.0/10

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