|Publisher: Aspyr Media Genre: Strategy & War|
|Min OS X: Not Supported CPU: 603e @ 180 MHz RAM: 32 MB 4x CD-ROM Graphics: 800x600 @ 256 Colors|
|Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri|
June 9, 2000 | Jason Sims
Shortly after the dawn of the 21st century (precisely the year 2060), the United Nations launches project "Unity": a mission to colonize the Earth-like planet Chiron that orbits the primary star in the Alpha Centauri solar system. Along the way, the UN Starship Unity runs into problems; contact with Earth is lost as a reactor malfunction damages the shipís communications equipment. The crew members begin to argue, and ó by the time the ship lands on the alien planet ó everyone has split up into seven distinct factions, each with their own ideology and agenda.
Thatís where you step in. You assume leadership of one of the seven factions and begin to plot the destiny of your people on the new world. Youíve got a lot to do, so tell your secretary to hold all your calls and get to work!
Letís get right to the point: Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri is the best thing to happen to turn-based strategy gaming since Civilization II, and ó at the risk of starting a war ó it is my contention that Alpha Centauri is now the reigning champion as Best Turn-Based Strategy Game Ever. Whatís so great about this game? Well, let me see if I can sum it up: Alpha Centauri is an intricate, fascinating, addictive, imaginative, highly-polished, challenging and infinitely-replayable piece of gaming perfection.
To give you an idea of where Iím coming from, turn-based strategy games and I donít get along all that well. Itís not that I donít like them; Iíve always been a big fan of deep and intricate games that require careful thought and planning. Unfortunately, I have a very poor attention span and there is little I can do about it. Nonetheless, I found myself surprised to discover that I was staying up until 5 a.m. on several occasions while playing this game. Imagine: a game that is almost completely devoid of instant gratification holding the interest of someone with attention deficit problems. If that isnít a ringing endorsement, I donít know what is.
Every aspect of this game is masterfully crafted. The story is well-written and quite plausible. The game play is deep and very involving. Letting the player start from scratch and develop a society that is truly his or her own is the winning combination that made Civilization and Civilization II so popular, and this tradition is carried on in Alpha Centauri, obviously a sequel to the Civilization series. On top of this, the game delivers great graphics and sound and sports a very clean, polished interface (the main control block of which clearly took cues from Starcraft) that is entirely appropriate to the game. Contextual menus have been implemented extensively throughout the game; control-click on any square to get a list of actions that is relevant to the contents of that square. Even better, every action has a hotkey; once you get the hang of them, you donít have to waste time digging through menus.
At the center of the game is a huge tree of technologies interwoven in a complex manner. Discovering and utilizing these technologies is the key to your success in the new world. There are four main paths to choose from along the way: Explore, Discover, Build and Conquer. You donít have to pick a single path for your entire faction; each base can be assigned a specific focus from these four choices, and this focus can be changed at any time. Additionally, you have the ability to designate where your scientistsí efforts should be concentrated the most among these choices. The knowledge and skills you acquire along the way are shaped by your choices between the four paths.