Review by DSimpson
"A wonderful new game in the tradition of Civilization II and Master of Orion II"
From the two head designer's of the Microprose game Civilization II comes the new game, Alpha Centauri. Since at the end of both Civ and Civ 2 you make a spaceshuttle that takes colonists to Alpha Centauri, this game is a natural next step in the evolution of Civ gaming. I gave it a nine because I do not believe that any game deserves a perfect rating, however, this game comes very close.
Civ games -- and by extension, Alpha Centauri -- have never devoted themselves to graphical superiority. As such, Alpha Centauri is only a modest improvement, graphically, over Civ 2. In fact in some instances the graphics are a little confusing. A new feature in AC over Civ 2 is the introduction of a somewhat 3 d world in which to explore. There are no more "moutain tiles", but instead you find raised terrain -- much like in Sim City 2000. The units are also somewhat 3d, in that you can now see all sides of them, and when they move from square to square, you can see them walking.
The bread and butter of this game is gameplay. Assuming that you liked Civ 2, you will like AC's gameplay. AC offers a variety of small improvements on the basic turn based strategy genre, while at the same time staying with that basic genre. One of the best improvements -- in my opinion -- is a vastly improved diplomatic system. Each faction in the game has a wildly different view on how to do things, and will like or hate you based on how you behave in relation to their paradigm. If you take an Environmental approach, the Capitalist will like you less, but the Green person will. And finally diplomacy makes sense, and in fact, can be incredibly useful. After beating my enemies mercilessly into the ground, they finally called it quits, offered me everything that they had and essentially became a protectorate of me. Gone are the barbarians of Civ, replaced now by the native life of Alpha Centauri, and they aren't happy to see you. Even your best unit may fall to one of their devastating mind attacks.
All good strategy games have a good interface, and AC is no exception. Here is where it most uses ideas from Master of Orion II in sprucing up the basic Civ engine. City production now has a Queue, very useful if you don't want to have to tell them what to build everytime they build something. And now you can automate everything, from base production, to exploration, to terraforming. The only problem is that the AI hasn't improved all that much since Civ 2, and still spends an inordinate amount of time building Bunkers (forts) and occasionally the AI will just move a unit back and forth, ad naseum.
The designers of AC decided to take an almost high minded approach in making AC, and added a great many historical quotes to the game, from the likes of Einstein, Sun Tzu, and Aristotle. The video interludes are bizarre and quite often entertaining -- I found the video on cloning to be the oddest one. And perhaps best of all, all the units are customizable in game, another thing borrowed from MoO2.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 11/01/99
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