|Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire|
September 18, 2000 | Jeff Wescott
Game Play Good, But More Of The SameOverall, the game play is not radically different from SMAC. The expansion pack does offer something in every category however, with a small but pleasant selection of new Planet manifestations, technologies, base facilities and secret projects.
The best part of what’s new in SMACX’s game play is the additional native life forms. The Fungal Tower, Spore Launcher and Sealurk all make Planet more formidable — especially early in the game. This adds a new dynamic to defense strategy, as a strong garrison force is no longer the earliest and most effective defense against native creatures. Fungal Towers that spread a continuous flow of Mindworms and Spore Launchers that can bombard from afar necessitates a diverse military of garrison and mobile units much earlier in play than SMAC.
A new victory condition is also introduced with SMACX, exclusive to the alien factions. By meeting certain conditions, either faction may send a message back to their home world for reinforcements. If the new alien armada arrives, it’s game over. It hinges on the number of either alien faction’s cities that are more than size 10. So, you are pretty much obligated to pound the aliens into submission sooner or later. A perk that can help humans avoid this scenario (you warmongers listen up) is that human factions can commit atrocities against the aliens without incurring any penalties. So go crazy with those nerve gas pods. The only exception to that is the Planet Buster missile. That will always get you into trouble — unless of course you have 20 of them and nuke everyone at once.
The disappointment kicks in with the alien technology tree. For the most part, the advances are the same. A big corner was cut here and it takes away from the alien "feel" of playing one of those factions.
Special EffectsLike its predecessor, SMACX is short on eye candy and long on game play. The expansion does nothing to shore up this imbalance but does have some killer new animated cut scenes. Believe me, complete the Cloud Academy secret project, it’s worth it just to watch the movie.
Another bonus here is the low system requirement. This title is one that can even be enjoyed on some venerable Power Macs and especially portables.
MultiplayerAre you serious? Have you ever played a turn-based game on the Internet? In addition to that obvious point, SMAC multiplayer was riddled with out-of-sync bugs that were never really addressed in any of the patches up to version 1.5. Don’t expect much more from SMACX. However, in-house multiplayer is a little easier, as the expansion also supports hot-seat games and play by email.
ConclusionIf you liked SMAC, then you definitely will not be sorry about buying the expansion pack. Despite some shortcomings, this title does what a good expansion pack should do. It expands game play and adds new bells-and-whistles.
No matter how good a game is, it will eventually lose its luster. SMAC comes with an incredible amount of mileage to be covered before reaching that point however, and SMACX takes it even further yet.
Pros• Awesome touch-up of original story line
• New units, factions make for better game play
• Release date very close to that of SMAC
Cons• Not quite enough new goodies
• Story line rewritten rather than continued
• Multiplayer turn-based games just aren’t that fun