Review by Spike142006
"An exceptional turn-based game"
I found this game on the clearance rack at Best Buy a while back with a price tag on it for $10. Deciding that I had nothing to lose, I bought it and took it home. I don't regret that decision at all; Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is in my opinion the best turn-based game I've played to this date.
Graphics are definitely not this game's strong point. Every unit, from a single tank to a thriving military base, takes up an identical amount of space. Units look as big as the bases they are made by, but the system works. You can tell by the graphics which is which, right down to weapon and armor types (e.g. a rover with Plasma Steel armor looks different from one with Synthmetal armor). Points are given to this section, though, because of the phenomenal cinematics that plaFy after certain events have taken place. The rendering here is excellent and the movies are high-quality.
Starting with the worst area, the combat sound effects in this game are only mediocre. Battles are no more than one or two looped sound effects repeated over and over again until one unit succumbs. That's the low point of this category, though; it gets better. The voice acting in this game is excellent, for one. When quotes are read at every technological breakthrough your faction makes, the reader sounds as though he or she is that person, and not just someone reading something written by that person. Again, the movie sounds and music also add points and do an excellent job of adding to the atmosphere.
Gameplay here is mediocre at worst and interesting at best. It can get pretty tedious in the game's later stages when you have possibly hundreds of units to move each turn, but there's a nice feature in this game that helps remove some of the tedium. The automation option is one of the best ideas I've seen put into a turn-based game, and it essentially lets you choose whether you want control over a unit or you just want it to perform its function on its own. Units placed in automatic mode will either do what they deem best in their judgment in any given situation, or else perform a specific type of task for you; for example, by pressing the / button on your keyboard, you can tell a unit to scout an area. It will then make it its goal to reveal all of the shroud on the continent it is on, and you will regain control of it once all areas have been explored. This lifts some of the burden of controlling an entire army from the player.
Now, another factor in gameplay is the diplomacy in this game. Diplomacy here is an art all its own, and depending on a person's personality you have to employ different tactics to get on someone's good side. You can threaten them until they surrender to you, or else you can offer them gifts to win their friendship. Another option, of course, is to declare war on a faction you simply cannot deal with peacefully. The possibilities are boundless here; you could, say, get on one faction's good side, move your units in, and then declare war on them, destroying them before they can react. This will affect your future relationships with other factions, though, and the will be wary of allying with you.
This is what I really like about this game. It's a brilliant story, and it's told from numerous viewpoints as the game progresses. The cinematics, quotes upon technological breakthroughs, and even the interludes (pages of story text that occasionally pop up for you to read when you've reached a specific point in the game) all come together to tell this story in their own ways. While watching some of the cinematics and even just listening to a few of the quotes, I found the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. As I said before, the only applicable word here is ''brilliant''.
Replay Value: 10/10
This game is dynamic in so many ways I don't know where to start. The rating here hardly even does this section justice. I'll attempt to describe a few of the things that lend to the replay value of this game.
First of all, the world can be randomly generated. You choose the size, the native life, the water-to-land ratio, and a few other aspects, and a completely random world is generated for you to play on. Starting locations are randomly generated, and no two games are alike; one game you might find yourself alone on a huge continent, free to build up your might and expand all you want. In the very next game, you could find yourself sharing an island with a militant faction which you must defeat before moving on. How you achieve your goals here is completely dynamic too; you could, in the island scenario, simply pack a colony pod and some troops into a transport and move them to another island or continent, or else you could just build up a military from the start and conquer the enemy that way.
Secondly, you have seven completely different factions to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Whether you play the pacifist green-peace Gaians or the power-hungry and militant Spartans is up to you. Each faction has different strategies, and each has a different personality.
As if the other two weren't enough to keep you playing this game five years from now, there's still more to add to the replay value of this game: every single aspect of it is customizable. You can modify the rules in just about any way you want, opening the door for completely new and unanticipated play styles. You can also modify the faction files to change your faction's strengths, weaknesses, and dialogue. If you want, you can even create your own completely unique faction! You can give it its own strengths and weaknesses, customize the names for its bases, and essentially change every aspect of it to your liking.
Total: 43/50 = 8.6/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/06/03, Updated 04/06/03
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