|Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
by Steve Martin
While you can micromanage many aspects of SMAC, there are also a wide selection of automation commands. From fully automating any unit to giving a governor command of a city, the automation tools will keep you from getting overwhelmed moving every unit and managing every aspect of the base.
At the same time, you have the control over everything when you need it. The bombing automation and the Automatic Terraforming are my two favorite automations.
SMAC proved to be a very solid game. The user interface could have been a little more responsive. The game should have allowed us to select any square with a single left click rather than having to press V, then select the square of the unit desired. The saving grace of the interface is allowing pop up menus to appear with the use of the right mouse button.
Once you get used to the interface you’ll be able to navigate the screens and menus with ease. My biggest complaint is the inability to draw a window around several units and give them a single order. This is a prominent feature in real time strategy games, and I think it has a legitimate place in a turn based strategy game like SMAC.
A matter of small annoyance is the dialog from the other factions. While I enjoy the communication, sometimes it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. For example, often times I have reached a point where there is no doubt about my victory over another faction. Yet instead of begging for mercy, they demand that I pay them money or they will destroy me.
At this point, I find them so stupidly annoying that I crush them, but in the last game I played I showed them mercy at the end and forced a pact of brotherhood on them. A pact of brotherhood is a useful alliance that allows you to call in favors when you need a hand. In the long run mercy pays, no matter how much you’d just rather rid the planet of that particular faction.
SMAC is also scalable. Firaxis reports that you can choose the level of installation you wish to make to optimize the game on whatever unit you wish to play. From your laptop computer to your P-133 all the way to PIIIs, you can scale for the system you run. All options ON is best reserved for high end systems.
Multiplayer functionality is good. You can play over the LAN, Serial, Modem over the Internet and by e-mail with a friend. Firaxis has also developed a multiplayer match up room. I didn’t have a chance to check it out by press time, but it’s certainly worth looking at.
Overall, if you like turned based strategy games, you’ll find hours upon hours of enjoyment from SMAC. If you prefer the fast pace and quick games of a Real Time Strategy game, you may find yourself getting impatient in the middle of the game as the AI moves all the other pieces. This can range from 1-3 minutes typically.
Even holding the shift key down to speed up AI movements, you’ll have a good wait between round. I wish there was a “AI always moves fast” so I would not have been required to hold down the SHIFT key to speed up AI movement. Regardless, I think any game that can hold my interest for 20.5 hours straight is a winner in my book. I’m sure you’ll find SMAC just as addicting, but hopefully you won’t forgo as much sleep as I did while playing!
Reviewers note: I was a little hesitant to review SMAC because I didn’t think it would compate to Civilization I. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed SMAC. It is not often that I can spend 20.5 hours on any game, or just about anything, yet with SMAC I pulled a 20 hour marathon with only a break to go grab some Mc D’s. WARNING: heavy addiction factor. The game is difficult to put down.
My rating: 92%.
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Last Updated April 19th, 1999