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Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri Star Attraction

Something old, Something New from Sid Meier

Sid Meier is the person responsible for Civilization and Civilization II, a couple of the best computer games in the genre's history. Like those classics, Alpha Centauri is a turn-based strategy game. In fact, it's a lot like the Civilization games, but with new technology and, obviously, a new locale.

The scenario is thus: seven factions crashed on an unpopulated planet, each with its own doctrines and beliefs. These factions run the gamut of human ideology, from religious fundamentalism, socialism, capitalism, etc. Each faction is a clear stereotype (albeit a fun one!) with its own strengths and weaknesses. 

You choose which faction you want to lead then, once on the planet's surface, decide how to run your government. Your decisions include whether to focus on arming yourself for conquest, exploration or scientific discovery - but with a semblance of balance. If all you build are laboratories, you're liable to find the first faction you meet quickly eliminates you. Likewise, if all you do is stock up on weaponry, you're not going to have a happy or well developed civilization (there's that name again!).

As you grow, you meet and deal with the other factions. Depending on their strength and focus, you may want to wipe them from the planet (which is a lot of fun!) - or you may choose to form alliances and cooperate.

Oh, yeah - there are indigenous life forms on this planet as well, and they aren't planning to sell you their real estate for some beads and other trinkets.

You "win" when you've conquered all the other factions or when you are declared Supreme Ruler of the planet.

As mentioned, Alpha Centauri is basically Civilization in Space - and that's just fine!

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is a great game - and it'll happily suck you into hours in front of your monitor as you try to finish whatever you've started.

A nice touch is that the game doesn't require a state-of-the-art computer. Naturally, the more horsepower you have the happier you'll be (but isn't that true for just about any software?), but all that's required is a Pentium 133 with 16 Meg of RAM and 60 Meg of hard drive space.

There's also a pretty good tutorial to get you comfortable with the game and its various parameters, and the help built into the game is so all-encompassing it can get annoying. You can adjust the amount of "virtual nagging" the game gives you, fortunately.

As is common, Alpha Centauri has a multiplayer mode. It supports up to seven networked players, two to four players over the Internet, or head-to-head using a modem. Even the single-player game isn't likely to get stale on you: the planet's map can be randomly generated and there are scenarios you can try as well. Playing each of the factions also freshens things up.

Graphics and sound are find, though not really exciting - but this game doesn't call for anything more.

So If you want to experience a new classic in the world of computer gaming, try Alpha Centauri.


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January 31, 2006