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Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
Firaxis Software Inc.
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Legendary designer Sid Meier rarely revisits a topic. He prefers instead to move on to the next "cool thing," thereby subjecting us all to another gaming addiction. Alpha Centauri, however, is an exception of sorts: a reaction by Sid and his co-designer, Brian Reynolds, to the number of "Civilization in space" clones - none of which, according to Sid and Brian, captured the elegance of the original Civ.
At first glance, Alpha Centauri looks and plays a lot like Civ II, except that you are on another planet, and the crisper graphics have a slight 3D lilt to show slopes and mountains. In Alpha Centauri, in addition to mining raw materials such as minerals a la Civ, you must also harvest energy via solar collectors. Ebony obelisks - shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey - dot the alien landscape and serve as unwelcome beacons for the native, often unfriendly, life forms.
The technology tree is different from either Civ or Master of Orion, having a decidedly hard science-fiction bent. The tech tree extrapolates from modern scientific knowledge to show us the scarier edge of bioengineering and experiments on the human brain, and balances that with the Calculus of Ethics - Sir Isaac Newton would be proud.
In addition to the pursuit of knowledge, you may try to live in harmony with the alien environment or introduce Terran flora and fauna in an attempt to make this world over in Earth's image. While all this is going on, you must deal with the other settlers from Earth, all of whom have their own agendas, technology paths, and personalities.
Unlike the original Civ, Alpha Centauri has multiplayer support - though it looks like it will take more than a couple of hours to finish a game. In any case, those who see this as only another Civ II scenario risk missing all the fun: better AI, a more robust diplomacy system, and a chance to recapture that sense of wonder you had the first time you booted up the original Civ. From this perspective, it looks like another huge hit for Sid and Brian.
by Terry Coleman - Computer Gaming World
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