Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

aka: Alpha Centauri, SMAC
Moby ID: 4
Windows Specs

Description official descriptions

After the 20th century, humankind reaches its hand out across the stars. Seeking to escape the overcrowded chaos of Earth, the United Nations builds a single seedship, the UNS Unity, and sends her on a mission towards the Alpha Centauri star system. After a long journey in cryogenic suspension, the Unity reaches Alpha Centauri where the Captain is killed under mysterious circumstances. Suspecting the motives of one another, the officers and the crew split into 7 factions, each lead with a distinct ideology and motives that they seek to build the planet in their image...

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is best compared to Civilization II, but features many distinct differences in gameplay and thinking. In Civilization, the objective was to evolve a society from primitive tribes, whereas Alpha Centauri starts with the landing of colony pods on a barren planet with society becoming fractured. Each faction (aka nation) receives it's own share of the Unity's resources and tech base. For the basics, bases produce nutrients, materials and energy. Nutrients are required to feed to population, Materials are used in production and energy represents the commerce effect which can be traded to players diplomatically or spent on improvements. The 7 factions each have their own agenda, which is determined in large part by the Social Engineering. This enables a faction to customize its values, earning a bonus for what it considers important and a penalty for what it doesn't. Social Engineering system are discovered through research, the same as other improvements, such as structures and units.

Research is divided into 4 types of technologies, which form an intertwining tree of dependencies. They are: Conquer (direct military applications), Explore (indirect technologies for units and bases), Build (direct infrastructure application) and Discovery (Science for the sake of science, indirect applications). Because of the separation, factions can focus on what they hope the intended result of their science will be, and can be changed at any time. To explore the planet, units are needed. Any unit can be customized out of known technologies; consisting of a chassis type, reactor, weapon, armor and special abilities. Each of these components has a different expense, with untested technologies having additional overhead (prototype).

Finally, Alpha Centauri is not a desolate star system. There is life on the planet, in the form of alien fungus that litters the ground and strange creatures such as mindworms. Initially hostile to all factions, this form of life holds its own secrets and effects on the world at large.


  • 半人马座 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

148 People (145 developers, 3 thanks) · View all



Average score: 88% (based on 39 ratings)


Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 172 ratings with 16 reviews)

A Great Sequel to the Civ Series

The Good
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (SMAC) is one title that had not failed to disappoint. It is just as enjoyable as the "official" Civ series, and more. The interface, although not much changed from the Civ games, has been touched up to perfection. Game play is intuitive. That fact is highly impressive. The early levels provide in-depth explanations on almost every aspect of the game, which makes flattens the learning curve. Help is even more comprehensive than Civ II. Battles are also well balanced. The units in SMAC can be customized extensively, because each unit is a combination of components. This makes the creation of good defensive units or special offensive units a new possibility. It always feels good to create a customized AA unit just as the needlejets come in and get crushed by anti-aircraft defense. The game plotline is amazingly superb. When a character that contolled one of my units was killed by a unit of a foreign base, the game renamed the base in her honour when I captured it (yeah, characters, although in reality one never notices them). The Secret Project (Wonder) movies are great, ranging from the hilarious (Network Backbone is a great joke on Microsoft) to the beautiful (Telepathic Matrix is a great one to watch) to the macabre (Neural Amplifer and Dream Twister freaky guy). Although some of these items seem to be extraneous, they do not take away from the great play. This is definitely one of those stay-up-all-night games!

The Bad
SMAC is great, but it isn't perfect. The graphics are much more drabby and dark than Civ II. As one review put it, one seems to be fighting over a blob of "plum pudding". Units are hard to distinguish, although this is not totally the fault of Firaxis, as extensive unit customization means that it is inevitable that some units look similar in order for components to fit a wide range of units. Nevertheless, sending an infantry unit to take out a base just to find that it's an artillery unit and won't kill anyone really sucks! Finally, if you're looking for innovations, there really aren't that much in this game. Almost everything has a counterpart in Civ II.

The Bottom Line
This is a great game to have. It's definitely addicting because it's such an in-depth game to play, and if you get bored, there are plenty of online mulitplayer resources out there. I find the all-night SMAC sessions better than the Civ II session, if only for the plot. =)

Windows · by Kelvin Chan (4) · 2000

Sid Meier strikes again!

The Good
Civilization is my favorite game for PC, so I love this game. The borders are just a great idea. Diplomacy works great! The atmosphere is great! Multiplayer gaming is great, atleast in a LAN.

The Bad
The game has bugs and other "features". And the end game can be very boring.

The Bottom Line
Command your men in a Civilization like manner in the near future!

Windows · by Heikki Sairanen (76) · 1999

I can't see why everyone likes this.

The Good
Ok, before I go on, please know that I own and love Civilization 2 and Civilization 3. Thank you.

When I first got this, i was excited. I had heard almost nothing bad about it, it had received PC Gamer's highest rating ever, and everyone said this was awesome. At first, I thought they were right. The graphics are improved from the original Civilization 2, and the interface seemed pretty much the same. Also, the Wonder Movies, like Civilization 2, were awesome.

The Bad
Then I began playing and realized how "un-fun" this was. I had no idea what any of the improvements or techs were. Should I research Polyphormic Encryption or Synthetic Phase Theory? Gee, the answer is obvious, isn't it? Polyphormic Encryption leads to Quantum flux which lets me modulate my phase variance, whereas Synthetic Phase Theory only allows me too create droids with upgraded logic data processors. Got all that? I didn't. You either know the techs and understand what they are, or you just bumble along, having no clue or clear direction about what you are researching except that "this tech is in the war field, and this other one is in the social field." The ability to create your own units sounds terrific, but proves to be a waste of effort. All the units that are worth any effort are already automatically made by the computer. Speaking of units, unlike in civ 2 where old, useless, antiquated units are replaced by more advanced units in the build menu, in this game, they aren't. So you either have too constantly clear out the old units, or leave them there and scroll through them all.

The Bottom Line
Basically, what you have here is Civilization 2 with poorer controls and much less accessibility. It's just too hard to get into. Civilization II on the other hand, is easy to sit down and play. You'll have to look at the manual every so often, but you can understand the basic concepts of the game such as what "archery" does.

Windows · by James Kirk (150) · 2004

[ View all 16 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Upgrading units manually? Xoleras (66024) Aug 2nd, 2007


1001 Video Games

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


Most of the secret project movies contain scenes from the documentary Baraka.You can find information about Baraka at IMDB.


From an interview with designer Brian Reynolds Brian Reynolds with Computer Games Magazine (June 2000):

I always wondered if my degree in Philosophy would ever come in handy for something. My favorite part of this game was developing the characters and factions, and the AI to give them divergent personalities and agendas.

I think a part of broad appeal is merely choosing the right topic, and certainly compared to Civilization II, science-fiction was a lot harder, and gave the game more of an esoteric feel. Everybody knows what the wheel is, everyone knows what mathematics is, but linear mathematics? Particle accelerators?...It's even worse when you get into things you kind of made up.

Plasma bomb

The "planet buster" of the first-generation model, is listed in the game manual as technically called the Mark 714 plasma bomb, a single warhead delivered by a ballistic missile that locks onto its target by the signature of charged particles coming from it. The active kill radius, or the radius in which everything and everyone would be immediately destroyed (as opposed to people killed eventually by the side effects) is listed as 2,000 kilometers -- about 1,240 miles. The yield of the first-generation "planet buster" is said to be equivalent to 296 gigatons of TNT.

Here is what would happen if a bomb one ten-thousandth as powerful as that were detonated in a groundburst upon New York City:

There would be an overpressure of 15 pounds per square inch out to about five miles, or as far as the Receiving Reservoir at Central Park, Manhattan, and even reinforced concrete structures such as skyscrapers would be obliterated. Most water would be vaporized. No one would survive there. The surface of the land in that area would be melted to resemble black glass.

Smaller concrete structures would be destroyed as far as about six miles away.

In a doughnut shape covering the area between seven and nine miles away, all houses and other small buildings would be destroyed. Towards the outside, wreckage would remain.

Windows would be shattered as far out as about sixty miles away, from Scarsdale in the north to Keansburg in the south.

The above information about blast radii is from the HYDESim High Yield Detonation Effects Simulato.


As people who play Civilization know, at the end, one of the ways to win the game is get the expedition to Alpha Centauri first. So it was no coincidence that Sid's next game is Alpha Centauri.


As of August 2000, Alpha Centauri was PC Gamer's highest rated game ever with a score of 98%. Prior to the review this honor belonged to Sid Meier's Civilization II which had a score of 97%. In the December 2004 issue of PC Gamer, Alpha Centauri's "highest-rated" title was lowered to a mere tie when Half-Life 2 received a 98%.


  • Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences
    • 1999 - Strategy Game of the Year
  • Denver Post
    • 1999 - Best Game of the Year
  • Gamespot
    • 1999 - Turn-based Game of the Year
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #44 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • Origin Awards
    • 1999 - Best Computer Strategy Game
  • PC Gamer
    • 1999 - Turn-based Game of the Year,
    • April 2000 - #16 in the "All-Time Top 50 Games Poll"
  • Toronto Sun
    • 1999 - Best Game of the Year

Information also contributed by 88 49, Chris Martin, Indra was here, Kasey Chang, mulayim; PCGamer77 and Zack Green

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Related Sites +

  • Alpha Centauri 2
    single-player and multiplayer resources: game guides, game of the month, modding resources, MP ladder, all patches (official and unofficial), mirror of the AC official site (no longer online), downloads, articles, fan-fiction, fan art, links.
    German fansite for Alpha Centauri and its add-on; it offers background story, tips & tricks, scenarios, etc.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Brian Hirt.

Macintosh added by Corn Popper.

Additional contributors: PCGamer77, Kalirion, Rebound Boy, Technocrat, Shoddyan, CaesarZX, Patrick Bregger, sisko, FatherJack.

Game added March 1st, 1999. Last modified November 10th, 2023.