Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
Eventually you’re going to run into another faction – and that’s where the fun begins. In Civ II, each opposing nation has identical goals, but in SMAC factions are ideologically motivated. The Spartans have military superiority on the agenda and Agent Orange in their armoury, while The Lord’s Believers have visions of global Sunday services and God in theirs.All this makes working with, or fighting against, each faction more complex than simply swapping research notes or nuking their bases. Diplomacy and political maneuvering are the key to survival, with you often having to play one faction off against another. Each faction sits on a planetary council, that meets regularly to vote for a global president, repealing atrocity limits and so on. By working with other factions, or simply beating them into submission, you can gain votes and eventually become Supreme Overlord of the entire shebang. SMAC is advanced in other areas, too. Instead of simply upgrading your airforce from biplanes to bombers, SMAC lets you painstakingly design each upgrade, choosing weapons, armour and power. The research tree is cool, too, with polymorphic software and nanorobotics to discover – although it takes some getting to grips with. Luckily, the manual is a massive 267-page affair – there are a whole bunch of tutorials to kick-off with, and a poster-size technology chart to help your progress.
As with any SMAC-type game, there’s always a downer after the high. The graphics are a bit ropey and numerous bugs mean you’ll need to download the latest update to enjoy it fully. That said, almost unlimited replay value, an involving story arc, and sheer depth of gameplay make for a gem of a title. Now, I’m a SMAC addict.