Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
What we thought
"For Civ fans, Alpha Centauri offers more of the same tenific gameplay, but this time there are so many bells, whistles and new ways of thinking that you'll wonder what hit you."
What you think
- "This is my first contact with the outside world for a week. I've become hopelessly addicted to the wonder that is Alpha Centauri. I'll admit that most strategy games engage me for a little while, but this one blows everything else out of the water. The depth, variety and pureplayability make this an all-round brilliant piece of software. My advice is: forget Call To Power, stick with Sid Meier and prepare to be amazed."
- "I expected more. Like most sci-fi strategy games I found myself becoming bored by the repetitive and pointless nature of the gameplay. Sid Meier knows how to make one kind of game only, and the sooner he stops inflicting these egotistical piles of regurgitated tedium on us the better."
Download Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
A Quick Stroll Around Firaxis' Officesx-Com 3: Apocalypse Was Simply Described In Our July in Washington is enough to explain why Sid Meier chose to break his partnership with MicroProse and form his own company. As I w'alk from one office to the next it's interesting to see that everyone I meet is relaxed, happy and incredibly enthusiastic about their new project, Alpha Centauri. No one's in any hurry to get the game out the door and one and all cite the Firaxis philosophy that a game is only released when it's finished to their satisfaction and not before.
My first port of call is the office of Brian Reynolds, Vice President of Software Development. I asked him the question that a multitude of Civ fans have been asking PC over the last couple of months: Alpha Centauri, we all know it's going to be Civ in space, but is that it? Alpha Centauri is going to be much more than an upgrade to Civilization," says Brian. "One of the key changes from the original Civ game is the ability to design new units. An average ship with an average laser can be upgraded to use better lasers and better armour for example, making it much more efficient in battle. This will obviously come at a hefty cost of course, but you've got to offset the expense you'll incur against the advantages you'll gain during the game. You can also select a special ability, thus creating a sort of super vehicle as it were. There are 20 or 30 of these in the game at the moment but this may grow as we continue development. An example of the kind of special abilities at your disposal is the stealth option, which when selected will place a deep radar on your vehicle thus allowing that particular ship to move around the play area undetected."
The ability to create your own units will obviously change the way you play the game to a large extent, but Brian is very keen to stress that this is not the only major change in the game design: "Although there were many different ways to achieve success in Civ 1 and II, the easiest way was to build up your military arsenal to the point where you could simply wipe out all the other players, and that's the way most people chose to play the game. You won't be able to do that quite so easily in Alpha Centauri. Many of the units will have psionic powers which will make it very difficult for players to take them out by normal means. This will encourage you to find other ways of gaining the upper hand over the opposition, be it through economical pressure, diplomatic use of alliances or whatever other means the player can find. I'm not saying players won't be able to win through military conquest, I'm just saying it won't be nearly as easy to do this as it was in Civilization I and 2. This should make for a much more challenging game."
Fancy that, a peace 'em up from the makers of some of the most confrontational and violent games ever. Whatever next? How about throwing in a few elements of Populous to stir things up a bit? As it happens. Firaxis are about to do just that. Brian explains: "Another really cool feature in the game is the ability to terraform. This allows the player to raise or lower the land as they see fit, depending on the situation at hand. You can use terraforming to your advantage in many ways. If for example you've got a mountain with rain on one side and desert on the other, and you don't like the fact that you've got a desert in that particular place, you can lower the mountains which will cause rain to fall on the other side of the mountains. This reflects real-life weather patterns, which is something we're particularly proud of. Another reason you might want to build a mountain is military units get a bonus if they're on high ground. This will take a few turns but it's worth it for the advantages it gives your army. For this reason terraforming near enemy lines is considered to be an act of war, so don't do it anywhere near races you've got alliances with, unless of course you want to break that alliance.''
There are far too many new features planned for Alpha Centauri for us to go into any great detail in two pages: we could fill these pages just by explaining the incredibly detailed unit building, which is so intricate you can mix and match components from all your different units to make completely new ones. Fear not however, as we'll give you the full gen when we return to the project as it nears completion next year.
Sid Meier’s Civilization and Civilization II have long been the benchmark against which all other turn-based strategy games have been measured. Who knows how many sick days, all-nighters, and strained relationships have been attributed to Sid Meier‘s creations. Since the original Civilization I & II, Sid Meier, along with Brian Reynolds and Jeff Briggs, left Microprose and founded Firaxis Games in 1996. Even though Firaxis does not have the legal rights to produce the sequel to Civilization, there is no denying that this is exactly what it is.
Alpha Centauri begins where _Civilization _left off, hurtling humanity in a spaceship called the Unity towards a neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri. All the crewmembers are cryogenically frozen en route, only to be wakened on arrival by the ship’s computers. That all sounds fine and dandy until the Unity gets damaged in an apparent collision with an asteroid, and all hell breaks loose. By the time the Unity arrives at the Earth-like planet Chiron in the Alpha Centauri system, the crew has broken off into seven different factions. The factions each have their own unique beliefs, morals and priorities. For example, Gaia’s Stepdaughters, led by Lady Deirdre Skye, are environmentalists who are determined to prevent the environmental mistakes made on Earth. Morgan Industries, led by CEO Nwabudike Morgan, are dedicated to capitalist economic principles that will surely conflict with Gaia’s Stepdaughters later on down the road. Other factions include religious, science, military and survivalist philosophie s. There is also the UN Peacekeeping faction that supports the humanitarian principles of the United Nations of Earth.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
You can choose to be the leader of any of the seven factions at any one of six difficulty levels. Your first order of business, after your colony pod lands on the planet’s surface, is to explore your surroundings and build additional bases. Each base you build will create redefined borders of your acquired territory. Eventually, as you expand your territory, you will come into contact with other factions -- or more accurately, they will come into contact with you. All too often, a faction will contact you bragging about its newly founded technology such as a planetbuster weapon and politely ask for a large sum of credits to maintain your status as ‘friends!’ It would have been nice to see a bit more differences in the factions when it comes to personalities and aggressiveness. This grid-based game is not all diplomacy, however; using your bases to research new technology or build military units can also help deter other factions from threatening you. It is also necessary to harvest resources from the planet. Planting forests or kelp farms and mining minerals are just a few ways to bolster your empire. Dealing with the other factions should not be your only concern. A large percentage of the planet is covered in a red Xenofungus on land and its water equivalent, Sea Fungus, that can cause further problems in developing squares. Less friendly planet inhabitants include the Mind Worm, a little parasitic carnivore that can burrow into a human brain and devour it. There is also an ocean equivalent to the Mind Worm, the Isle of the Deep, and the airborne cousins, the Locusts of Chiron. Where is your Quake II BFG-10K when you need it? There is a seemingly endless amount of research that can be done to better your faction. Science, military, social and economic discoveries can be made by researching, just to name a few.
There are four ways to win Alpha Centauri. If you can win three-fourths of the votes from the other faction leaders to elect you as the Supreme Leader of the planet, you will have won via the diplomatic route. Economic victory is accomplished by cornering the Global Energy Market. The highest form of victory is the Ascent to Transcendence, the next step in the evolution of humanity. The final way to win is the good old-fashioned Conquest method, by eliminating all other remaining factions. When you figure the ability to choose the seven different factions, four ways to win, and all the different research paths that can be taken, the replayability of this game is enormous.
Unless you have a large monitor, you may have problems making out the fairly compressed grids that become even more difficult to see when they get heavily populated with various units. There are full-motion video sequences that you are shown after a major discovery has been made or if you have annihilated a warring faction.
The exchange of gun/missile fire and resulting explosions are about the full extent of the audio capabilities. There is some uninspiring background music and various faction readings that are narrated to you at various points between turns.
Pentium 133 MHz or higher, Windows 95/98, 16 MB RAM, 60 MB free hard drive space, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX 6 compatible video card (2MB).
A very thorough and detailed 250-page manual is included. It would have been nice if it were wire bound so it would stay open to the right page; I was constantly having to bend it backwards and balance my coffee cup on it to keep it open (a rather dangerous practice near a computer keyboard, I might add!). There is also a large foldout poster of the technology tree that is way too large for your desktop. A smaller 6"x15" foldout card would have been better.
Make no mistake about it, this is the game most Civilization lovers have been longing for. If you enjoyed Civilization I or II and are ready for a sequel, this is it. If you are one of the very few who found Civilization a little on the slow, boring, "I want my Quake back" side, Alpha Centauri is not for you.