Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

aka: Alpha Centauri, SMAC
Moby ID: 4
Windows Specs
Add-on (official)

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)

Great game overall - Flaws unlikely to be fixed

The Good
Extremely addictive, epic multiplayer options. Decent AI, Decent sound/music. Really strong interface makes the game fairly intuitive to learn.

The Bad
Once you get into it, there are several large glaring bugs that adversely affect the enjoyment. Due to an exodus of programming talent from Firaxis games, these bugs are likely never to be fixed.

The Bottom Line
An expanded Civilization II with multiplayer and the ability to custom build units piece by piece.

Windows · by Dave Robinet (4) · 2000

Total immersive strategy game - another time stealer

The Good
Science fiction turn based strategy. Wow!

The entire package (UI, game events, sound effects) is superbly integrated resulting in a game that is so immersive you lose all track of time.

The user interface is intuitive (at least to those used to these type of games), there are multiple ways to accomplish the same action so that as you become more familiar with the game you learn shortcuts and move more quickly.

The Bad
Learning curve for technology tree.

The Bottom Line
The best single player strategy game available today. Not for beginners.

Windows · by Steve Widdowson (19) · 2001

This is NOT Civilization. It's a whole lot damn better!

The Good
There are strategy games and there are strategy games. Alpha Centauri is the best thing that ever hit the strategy gaming world in a long time. How so? Well, I'm betting (of which I usually lose...) if your reading this review, you'd probably be well known to ol'Sid and his products, such as the acclaimed Civilization. Well, if you've played Civilization, you know the routine, build this build that until you have too many cities and they become to big and begin to die, etc.

Well, whoever made Civilization sure hell wasn't on the Alpha Centauri team. And thank the gods for that! Alpha Centauri is probably what you call "the PERFECT CIVILIZATION" (subjective opinion of course). I'll tell you why in a moment, but first I'd like to give you a description about what Alpha Centauri is all about (for those who have never played this game before).

Alpha Centauri started when Civilization ended (presumably), when you finish Civilization, well one of the endings anyway, you send a ship to outer space to conquer new worlds. Well, the blokes on Civilization (also presumably) landed on Alpha Centauri. They arrived safe and sound. Almost. Mankind always proved that they have the common sense of a warthog, and Alpha Centauri pointed that out by introducing the "Civilizations" in the game. Only, it not due to race. It based on ideology, each with multiple weaknesses and strengths. It maybe science fiction, but it sure hell was better than the real thing.

Now you have environmentalists, communists, industrialists and other ideologies of which I forgot, each have a unique way of handling problems. This can be seen from the technology tree, in a way it's similar to Master of Orion 1 & 2, except your only on one planet. Oh, you also notice that your not alone in this forsaken world. There are aliens...and they don't look friendly.

Enough said, back to the issue. What's so good about the game? Where to start... (In no particular order). The best way to compare this game is to compare it to Civilization, whom everyone adores so much (I got bored after Civ 3, same old same Civ 4 please...)

Civilization had (and still I think) the worst diplomacy screen in the history of strategy games (Civ 3 got a little better). I recall in Civ 1 & 2, negotiation was not very interactive. In Alpha Centauri, the diplomacy is ALIVE! I felt as if I was playing AI with actual Intelligence! And the artificial intelligence of the computer players are really commendable. When they go to war, they really go to war! Civilization computer player always had an edge in expansion, but were mostly boring when it comes to battle. In Alpha Centauri, those guys (and girl) really know how move the muscle.

Like Civilization, every time you play a new random game, it's a totally different geographical map. But unlike Civilization, you probably wouldn't restart a couple of hundred times trying to find that "perfect" geographic location (not a desert again!). Alpha Centauri succeeded were Civilization was irritating. Geography doesn't matter. Even if when your surrounded by water, you can be as big as a city on land! What's the secret? Technology! Finally, the technology that actually makes a difference. You can even make cities on the ocean...there's no such thing as a "perfect" location in Alpha Centauri. Every place is a perfect location to build your city. There are also random events that may change the geography of the planet. One time a big volcano erupted and it was smack daddy in the middle of the map. Kinda cool actually, building cities around that hunk of molten rock.

What I like most in this game, is probably also what I liked most in Master of Orion. You can design your units. Weapons, armor, you name it, you can change it. You can make any kind of unit to fit long term or short term needs...this game was way ahead of its time...even way ahead of Civilization is that possible? Beats me.

The Bad
Well, geographical bonuses are random. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't. There are a lot of unique geographical terrain that don't necessary show up in each's useful at the beginning of the game.

The Bottom Line
This game will never be a classic. It's still way ahead of it's time to be old...

Windows · by Indra was here (20633) · 2002

[ View all 16 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Upgrading units manually? Xoleras (66021) 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.