Humankind has lots of fun, interesting ideas to refresh the 4X genre. But some of those ideas can be hard to appreciate when you’re stuck on the menu screen waiting for your goddamn units to get a move on.
I previewed Humankind last year, back before the end game or major systems like diplomacy were even playable. And while it’s nice to see a ton of upgrades across the board, there’s one facet of the game that desperately needs an upgrade. Like, this needs to be fixed immediately kind of upgrade.
Look at that. That’s glacial-level movement. We’re talking more than 8 seconds for a single unit to have a leisurely trot up the coastline.
I know it might seem bizarre that I’m complaining about a single unit taking 8 or 10 seconds to execute a single move, but think of what that means at scale. This is one unit taking an extraordinarily long time to do its thing, well before you’re in the endgame with multiple fronts, cities and outposts to manage. You’re going to control hundreds of these units over the course of a regular Humankind campaign — which is pretty short by Civilization‘s standards at 300 turns. Now picture those slow animations across every unit that wants to shift from one part of the map to another. Repeat that action across however many armies you have.
But what’s especially annoying here is this is a problem that Amplitude, the developers behind Humankind, have faced before. Not just with Humankind — although users are clearly a bit pissed about it, enough that they were making threads about it months before release — but with Amplitude’s older games too.
What’s funny is that Amplitude actually tried to address this for combat, adding a “Battle Animation Speed” slider. That’s great! That’s standard. But why not include that for the campaign map as well?
A big problem with a lot of 4X games — especially for new players — is friction. There’s so many systems, bits of jargon, unstated rules and mechanics that you have to learn as you go. Good design lets you concentrate on those things, removing any barriers in the way so you’re focused on the moves you want to make.
And to be fair: you absolutely do lose a little bit of charm when your neolithic-era units are teleporting across the map at warp speed. But eventually all 4X games get to a stage where you want to manage your empire, not watch it. Humankind‘s endgame has enough issues avoiding the same problems Civilization faces. It doesn’t need to add to them by forcing you to wade through unnecessary unit movement, too.
I still want to spend more time with Humankind, if only because I’ve followed Amplitude’s work for so many years. Humankind has a lot of love for this genre, and it’s especially great for fans of board games (Tapestry and Through the Ages come to mind). But sometimes it’s the little things that can sour your experience, so with any luck, the devs will let us shift our armies around with a bit more haste.
HUMANKIND: THE KOTAKU REVIEW
This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.