When I first started college, I was exposed to a game that was unlike any other; a game that took the concept of playing a world leader and enhanced it deeply. It was also a game that was responsible for me spending many sleepless hours just trying to conquer one more city. That game was Sid Meier’s Civilization, considered by many as the greatest game of all time. That was, until Civilization 2 came out in 1995. With an easier to operate interface and a multimedia facelift, Civ 2 resurrected all those factors that I loved about the original Civilization.
Both Civs had one main objective, to lead your civilization from its origin to a time when your people would be able to colonize another world. But I always wondered what it would be like to actually take part in that new world’s progress.
Now it can be possible, as the long awaited Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri has been released. Much to my delight, it is everything I thought it would be and more.
Alpha Centauri starts off in the year 2140 AD, when the U.N. Starship Unity departs Earth for the distant planet of Chiron in the Alpha Centauri solar system. Right before reaching Chiron (or known throughout the game as Planet), a computer malfunction occurs, and the seven planetary leaders are jettisoned towards Planet’s surface. All communications with Earth are now cut off, leaving these seven leaders on their own.
Each of these leaders are no longer looked at in terms of their nationality – – which by the way is American, Cuban, Russian, Indian, Scottish, African, and Chinese – – but by personal ideologies such as the desire to create a Police State, obtain Military Superiority, foster Economic Growth, worship Religious Beliefs, pursue Knowledge Expansion, defend Ecological Protection, and the simple notion of Peacekeeping.
In addition, each of these factions are still founded by the original U.N. Charter that was signed before Planetfall, which outlaws various forms of atrocities that can be committed, such as Nerve Stapling of Citizens (used to temporarily prevent drone riots), willfully destroying base stations, and the use of the deadly Planet Buster weapon (Planet’s version of the nuclear missile.)
Just like in Civ 2, factions work on constructing various bases, and using terraformer machines to enhance the neighboring lands as they search for minerals, nutrients and energy resources. Scientists work to learn new enhancements grouped under four categories: Building, Conquering, Discovery, and Exploration. With these new technologies, upgrades can be built for military units, bases and even special projects such as Supercolliders and Human Cloning Vats.
However, a big difference between the technology in Civ 2 and AC is that you won’t know what you’ll be studying in advance. Instead, you direct your scientists to concentrate their efforts on the four aforementioned research categories. In addition, new technologies don’t result in complete new units that make old ones obsolete (i.e. Riflemen won’t replace Phalanx.) With each new technology, parts can be added to your existing equipment to make newer and more improved units. Parts can be mixed and matched to form as many as 32,000 different units!
Combat is done the same way as it is in Civ 2, but information on battling units is given in increased detail, showing the advantages for each unit on certain elements such as training experience, base defenses and terrain advantage.
Also, like in Civilization, you can communicate with other faction leaders, and can possibly take part in Pact Brotherhoods, being able to share knowledge and technology with each other. However, there might also be those who show seething hatred towards each other, and against whatever faction you are controlling. In fact, each faction has an opposition. For example, the Believers are the religious group and hate the Human Hive which is working to build a police state. Work with the Hive, and the Believers will most likely formulate a Vendetta against you.
Communication is just as smooth as it was in Civ 1 and 2, and whatever action you take in your diplomacy will also affect matters with other factions.
These matters can also affect matters set before the Planetary Council, where you will be allowed to vote on several matters. Just like the real Electoral College, the more area you cover, the more votes you receive. Also, if you are elected Planetary Governor, you will have the ability to overturn decisions. Eventually, you will want to obtain the rank of Supreme Leader, where the other factions will ally with you and rule under one name.
But Supreme Leadership is not the only way to win the game. You can win by military force after wiping out every other faction, by economic dominance, or by ascending to the next level of human evolution: transcendence.
Transcendence is similar to the space race in Civ 2; once the catalyst secret project is started, it’s just a race to see who can complete the Ascent into Transcendence. Whoever finishes the Ascent wins the game.
Alpha Centauri is very ambitious, and every inch of the game shows it. I really enjoyed it. Like Civ 1 and 2, it became a master at keeping me awake until the wee hours of the morning, something that only a superior game can accomplish. Civs 1 and 2 are 5 GiN gem games, and this latest effort by the Meier team, Alpha Centauri, is even better. This is a masterpiece that earns every ounce of it 5 Gem rating. My only fear is that if Meier keeps creating such great games, one better than the next, that he may one day transcend to the next level of existence, leaving us oh so hungry for more.