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Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri Review

by on January 13, 2015
Details
 
Synopsis

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is a Civilization-ish classic space colonization themed strategy game.

# of Players

Single and multiplayer

Positives

Replayability.
Timelessness.
Smooth gameplay.

Negatives

You can figure out a "system" to master the AI.
Not always clear what the new technologies are due to lots of invented words.
Sounds was sufficient, but nothing magical.

Editor Rating
 
Gameplay
A

 
Graphics
A

 
Sound Effects and Music
B-

 
Story
A

Writer's Score
A-


Bottom Line
 

This is a great and classic Sid Meier title from the late-90's that got a lot of gameplay out of me and is one that I always keep on my computer for a good strategy game to play out of nostalgia.

 

If you don’t do what I tell you, I’ll nuke your ass!

There is nothing worse than a great idea for a game, with horrible, cheesy writers behind it. That IS NOT what Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is at all. Sid and Brian put a great, interactive Sci-fi story behind a great game, and that’s why Alpha Centauri stands the test of time. This one got a lot of gameplay and has been a staple install on my computers, if only just to have for nostalgia’s sake. I know it is on the Top Games list of quite a lot of others.

alpha opening screen

Basically, this is a Civ-type game. You and 7 other faction leaders land on a planet in the Alpha Centauri system and the colonization begins. You spawn new colonies, claim turf, research technologies and find native artifacts.

You start the game by choosing the leader of your faction and naming your first colony, each of the 7 leaders having their own “management style.” For example, there is one who is the militant strategist type. Another is basically a treehugger. Another is a sort of Hitler-esque dictator. Another is a scientist. Another is a corporate businessman. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. I seemed to do pretty good with all of the faction leaders and felt they were all pretty balanced.

The AI of each of the factions is actually pretty good as you get into the gameplay. They each act according to their programmed attitudes and, for the time, it was accurate, fresh and entered in quite a lot of variables into the gameplay.

Alpha Centauri factions

When you first start your first colony, most of the map is blacked out. You can choose from several different map sizes, and I would always choose the largest so that I could have some time to build before I started bumping into the other factions and they would start to mess with me. That also makes for a longer and harder (That’s what she said) game in the end, but I like the extra time to get myself all set up. This isn’t Starcraft, after all.

The map is randomly generated and you can choose how much land and water you want, which takes the gameplay in different directions- will you be an Army-heavy faction, or will your Navy dominate. It’s a pretty cool option and always keeps the game different.

Once you get going and expanding your colony, you research technologies which are graphed out in a technology tree, and so here again is an option which keeps the game different every time you play. There are common technologies and ideologies that you can research and implement which have positive and negative effects on not only your colony but your relations with the other factions. In fact, you will get threatened and make enemies real quick depending on who you’re dealing and what tech you are tinkering with. My only problem with the technology tree was all the fancy titles and words in an effort to sound futuristic. When this game was released in the 90’s and my vocab was not quite as in-depth, I found a lot of the invented and maybe real terms confusing. It made it harder to decide which direction to go with occasionally. But I never let that stop me.

I am going to research Sentient Econo..Economet...yeah, whatever.

I am going to research Sentient Econo..Economet…yeah, whatever.

Also, your colonies would have their own morale and other stats you would have to keep up with. I called this, “The Sims,” of Alpha Centauri. But the funny thing you could do if your colony became recalcitrant, was to impose some “discipline.” But you’d have to watch out for those kind of actions. The other factions don’t like human atrocities committed by other factions, even if they themselves were guilty.

Protesting, huh? Well, we'll just see about that.

Protesting, huh? Well, we’ll just see about that.

One of my favorite atrocities you could commit which was almost guaranteed to make enemies with EVERYONE was to research deploy and use “Planet Busters,” which are basically nukes. You send one of those puppies out and you not only blow a colony into oblivion, but you blow a hole in the surface and leave nothing but water. If you weren’t out to be a good guy, then you’d just deploy a bunch of these bad boys and upset their colonies, production, and income by making it magically disappear! But then again, when it happened to one of your colonies, it wasn’t so funny. Go figure.

Alpha-Centauri-planet-buster

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of your fucking colony disappearing.

I guess to wrap this one up, I can give you some summaries here:

The gameplay is smooth and accommodating. And although there are so may variables that you can never play the same game twice, I did feel that after a certain amount of time, I got so good at the game that I could sort of figure out a system or formula to beat the game–even on the hardest difficultly. But again, the game is so good, that by that time, you’ll have run your course on this title anyway.

The graphics were great for a late 90’s game and still hold up today for a grid-type colony game. The story is good and doesn’t appear to have any holes and is definitely not cheesy.

The sound itself was good, but I don’t think it was anything to write home about. But then again, that isn’t really what type of game this was. It is not one of the cinematic side scrollers of the 90’s where music and sound was integral to the game. The sounds here in Alpha did it’s job.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was reported to have the weakest sales of any of the Civ-type games, and I figure that maybe it was because everyone isn’t a sci-fi fan or something. Alpha has great replayability and timelessness that once you get into it, it will probably have an icon on your desktop for a long time and every now and then you’ll go, “Just one quick game.”

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