Stereotypes in spaaaaaace!

And last but not least... Well, I said that there were only two Space Colony simulators, and that is, essentailly, true, because this game is only a colony simulator in aesthetic alone - while the previous two games, Space Colony and Startopia, are actually designed from the ground up to BE a colony simulator, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is a game that was, entirely, another game that was revamped to capitalise on what had been a VERY popular game engine. This game is, effectively, Civilization 2.5. That being said, that's not a bad thing, as CIV2 essentially trumped many other games in the last days of the last millenium and offered a relatively unique gaming experience with a logical and intensive turn-based strategy. In the none-too-distant future, Earth is grossly damaged by Humanity's failure to solve its various economic, religious and militaristic endeavours and makes the planet virtually uninhabitable. So, in order to continue surviving, seven distinct factions board a starship, the Unity (which, ironically, couldn't be further from how one might describe the crew aboard her) and flings the remenants of the Human race to Alpha Centauri, whereby a planet, which is imaginatively rename 'Planet', is discovered and targetted for colonisation. However, along the way, there is an unforeseen crisis and the Captain is killed and the seven faction leaders decide it is necessary to launch their Colony Pods and hope that they can scavange parts of the Unity at a later date. The seven factions make up a selection of facets of Human ideology, each one of them led by a character who is so utterly fanatical about that element of Human ideology, it makes them rather easy to predict: the militaristic faction will be aggressive and attempt to bully anyone and everyone in to compliance, the scientific community will attempt to rationalise constant scientific exploration at the expense of social reform, the Morganites have their economic wealth (and greed), the Gaians will do their very best to find an ecological option to co-habit with the rest of the planet and then there are the religious nutters who... well... are religious nutters. The game centres around choosing which one of the seven factions you're willing to play (I chose the United Nations, simply because they were all about the balance of all of the above and Human Rights) and to expand your colony and ultimately control your domain, defend it, expand it and manage it and its people. If you've played ANY of the Civilization games before, this is absolutely no different what-so-ever from anything you've seen before - in fact, it's virtually identical. The only differences come from slightly altered visuals for the units on the map, different short flash movies and essentially a barely altered lexicon of game terms. For those of you that have never seen a Sid Meier game before (which suggests that you're REALLY new to the turn-based strategy genre) this is intensely strategic and doesn't have ANY action in the game what-so-ever. If you're hoping for some pulse pounding shoot-outs or some first person shooter fun you've come to the wrong place - this is entirely devoid of any such involvement. The game map is entirely isometric with each 'map tile' made up of a selection of different variables - whether it is nutrient rich, mineral rich, covered in evil fungus or if it has been modified with upgrades such as roads, farms, forests or mines - each of these elements improving the life for your colonists in the cities that you will create throughout your territory. As you expand, you will also be continuously researching new and interesting ways to enhance your colony - each scientific breakthrough will provide a variety of different advantages, whether it allow your colonies to improve the amount they harvest for nutrients, the speed at which it trains troops or unlock new technology and facilities to add to your cities. As far as turn based strategy games go, the Sid Meier series of games are essentially on of the most detailed and not really for the faint of heart if using your brain scares you little, while on the other hand, if you've played all the other Sid Meier games, certainly the ones that have been released since 2000 you'll find this one dated in absolutely every way conceivable. That is not to say that this game is in any way less worthy of eeking its way in to your collection, but given the advancements in the series it may be a little more than just a step backward and more of a conscienous hop, skip and jump - but then that's what retro gaming is all about... 7 out of 10