They put PC Gaming Show host Frankie Ward in Humankind

The other week I got to play historical strategy game (and PC Gaming Show sponsor) Humankind for a few hours, and saw a lot of potential in how it tweaks aspects of the Civilization games. If you get into the Humankind closed beta, you can now try that same demo for yourself: It starts immediately, and lets you play up to 200 turns from the Neolithic to the Industrial Era, with 50 of the 60 cultures that'll be in the game at launch. 

If you pre-ordered Humankind on Steam or the Epic Games Store, you've already got closed beta access. If not, Sega and Amplitude gave us 5,000 keys to give away—head over here to enter.

As announced on the PC Gaming Show, the Humankind closed beta is also a chance to play against PC Gaming Show host Frankie Ward. Amplitude created a custom avatar for Frankie, which will be available in the closed beta if you connect a free Games2Gether account (it's Amplitude's player collaboration platform, where beta feedback can be submitted, for instance).

The avatar thing takes a little explaining, especially if the Civilization games are your point of reference. In Humankind, you don't play as a leader of a specific historical state or civilization, such as George Washington of the United States or Bismarck of Germany. Instead, you play as a non-specific avatar and start the game by picking a culture. Cultures are based on real civilizations, but picking one doesn't mean you 'are' that civilization for the whole game. When you reach a new era, you can stick with your existing culture or adopt a new one, changing your strategy for the era and stacking a new bonus onto the legacy bonuses from your former cultures. By the end of the game, you could have established a Nubian, Celtic, Frankish, Edo Japanese, Mexican, Chinese civilization.

Because avatars don't have to be specific historical leaders, there's some freedom to play around with them in Humankind, and hence Frankie can be in the game. Amplitude actually modeled Frankie's face and recorded voice lines; regular players won't be able to do that, but you will be able to create your own custom avatars using a character creator, as well as customize their AI personalities. For example, Amplitude says you can make an avatar loyal or traitorous, forgiving or vindictive. Avatars can also have "quirks," such as always sticking with the same culture, and a strength, a "small gameplay bonus to help them play the way you'd like."

I'd tell you to watch your back while facing Frankie at the diplomacy table, but I've seen the choices she made. Be nice and you may have a strong but impulsive ally.

Humankind was originally going to release in April, but it was briefly delayed to work on player feedback, and will release August 17 on Steam and the Epic Games Store. It's tough to weather direct comparisons to a series as influential and popular as Civilization, and I don't know that Humankind will be on the favorable end of every one of them, but it could definitely win a few battles as it edges into Firaxis territory.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.