Qt3 Classic Game Club: Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

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[Editor’s note: Every two weeks, we’ll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It’s like a book club, but with videogames. We’d love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week’s choice, by MrPinguin, is Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.]

When the Classic Game Club started, this title wasn’t on my short list. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in seeing it come up, but it happens to be one of those oh-so-famous classic games that I’d never played. So I was inclined to leave this choice to someone more familiar with the game. But the recent release of a supposed spiritual successor, Civilization: Beyond Earth, seems to make this a perfect time to revisit the original.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and its expansion, Alien Crossfire, were both released in 1999. Like many of our Classic Game Club selections, it appears that it won critical acclaim but may have suffered from lackluster sales. I’m not even sure if I was aware of it in 1999, which I suspect I was busy with Ultima Online and Starcraft, but I’ve always been surprised that I missed it since I was a huge fan of Civilization II.

Thus far I’ve only played about 60 minutes of the vanilla version of Alpha Centauri, which was just long enough to read through the tutorial popups, scout out some nearby fungus, discover a forerunner-alien ‘borehole’, experience an earthquake that raised a mountain below my first expansion city, and lose a ‘colony pod’ to roving worms. My initial foray into the game was impressively varied, and I can already see how much Alpha Centauri diverges from its Civilization II roots with the sci-fi setting, integrated narrative, and an emphasis on terraforming a hostile planet. I’m still not sure how well it holds up, and I can’t offer much advice on how new players should begin, but I’m hoping others with more experience can fill us all in.

You can listen to an interview with designer Brian Reynolds on Three Moves Ahead here. You can read Tom Chick’s ode to Sister Marian here.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is currently on sale at Good Old Games. It’s a 500MB download.