Around the same time that ‘Civilization – Call to Power’ was being released by Activision, Sid Meier’s new company “Firaxis” released “Alpha Centauri”. This game is a truly masterful and addictive strategy game. Picking up where the original Civilization left off – “Alpha Centauri” has you leading a faction on a newly inhabited alien planet. There are three features of Alpha Centauri that I particularly enjoy:
- Factional differentiation.
In previous Civilization games there was not that much difference between the different races you could play. However in Alpha Centauri the race that you choose will drastically alter the strategies you can use in the games. My favorite faction is probably the Gians – who are the environmentally fanatical faction. My main reason for liking these guys is that they have a higher chance of capturing native life forms and using them in their armies.
- The unit builder.
Alpha Centauri does not include the ‘pre-canned’ units of earlier Civilization games. Instead as technologies are discovered you get the ability to combine the various technologies you know to create specific unique units. This can result in greatly improved replay value – as each time you can choose to pursue different unit types.
- A decent artificial intelligence (AI)
Alpha Centauri is one of the first strategy games where the AI is actually very good. For the most part the Alpha Centauri AI avoids making ‘stupid’ moves (breaking treaties for no particular reasons, attacking overly fortified cities) and every now and then it is capable of really catching me off my guard.
Best of all – Alpha Centauri runs perfectly under Virtual PC:
Now you may wonder why I would run Alpha Centauri inside of a virtual machine – given that it actually runs fine on Windows XP – and the main reason for me is that it is much easier to do things like switch away and check my email when I run it this way. All in all this is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours (or a day or two) 🙂