Pandora: First Contact Image
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68

Mixed or average reviews - based on 12 Critics What's this?

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7.2

Mixed or average reviews- based on 41 Ratings

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  • Summary: Pandora: First Contact is a science fiction 4X turn-based strategy game on a planetary scale, inspired by Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

    In the future, factions have risen up from opportunities and ideologies independent of governments. Private corporations and religious movements have started
    wars over greed, ideology and power. Many have died and many lands lay in ruin. Planet Earth has been exhausted and colonial attempts on other planetary bodies have been in vain.

    Finally, after decades of exploration, an interstellar probe has brought promise of a new world many light-years away. The most powerful factions have gathered their best men and women to send on a long journey to Pandora.

    Far from desolate, the earth-like planet has been found to host a plethora of indigenous life forms. While the gigantic monstrosities inland and at the oceans seem relatively calm, human-sized bugs and fungus are threatening to stop mankind's expansion.

    As the various factions strive to take control, each will research and develop numerous new technologies, discovering new weapons and industry, whilst opening trade agreements and forging alliances with other factions to gain a foothold. As they spread, they will discover ancient ruins from alien civilizations that will grant them advantages over their rivals.
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 12
  2. Negative: 1 out of 12
  1. 80
    Pandora offers a stiff challenge, and will keep space-faring strategists happy until Civilization: Beyond Earth breaches the event horizon later this year.
  2. Jan 21, 2014
    80
    Pandora: First Contact does a good job in reviving the classic Alpha Centauri, though it lacks some personality to reach the same level.
  3. Feb 13, 2014
    78
    Pandora: First Contact delivers very decent spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri, but it unfortunately falls short on some aspects. It needs more focus on the story, diplomacy and the endgame in general. [Jan 2014]
  4. Nov 27, 2013
    70
    A solid, fresh and addictive empire builder that is well worth playing for fans of the genre. But it needs more life and dynamic events, especially towards the end.
  5. Feb 3, 2014
    70
    A space diamond in the rough, Pandora may not get everything right but exceptional combat and city management shines through. [Feb 2014, p.86]
  6. Apr 27, 2014
    68
    Inspired by the classic Alpha Centauri, it looks like a modern version at first glance, but lacks the depth and long term motivation.
  7. Jan 21, 2014
    40
    There are a lot of neat ideas here, but none of them pan out. The game's creators clearly adore 4X strategy games in general, and Alpha Centauri specifically, is clear here, but Pandora: First Contact is not a proper tribute. I want to love Pandora, I really do, but nostalgia can't fix a game that doesn't work even at the most basic level.

See all 12 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 14
  2. Negative: 3 out of 14
  1. Jan 25, 2014
    9
    As a long term strategy fan I've bought the game around Christmas and played it quite extensively over the last weeks. I've to admit the game has really grown on me, not only does it seem very polished, but the devs (a small indie team) also post a lot and keep releasing updates based on player feedback.

    While there are a lot of similarities to Alpha Centauri (one of my all-time favorites), it's definitely not a copy since quite a few mechanics work differently (random research tree, operations, global resource pool, etc.). What I miss the most from SMAC are the awesome secret project videos (anyone remember The Ascetic Virtues?) which brought the faction leaders to life and made it truly epic. However, considering this is an indie production I guess it's kinda expected, and at least the Pandora leaders have long background stories and dialogue.

    I also had some pretty cool matches in multi-player against my brother, even on large maps with several AIs the turns go surprisingly fast compared to Civ 5 (not sure what's the reason for that). The AI seems fairly competent compared to other games (it does some flanking/hidden attacks and uses operations), but nothing special. Especially later in the game you can do some really evil things with operations (e.g. drop units and bombard cities), and I remember a funny moment where I was racing against my brother for a Leviathan kill (massive alien unit that provides a combat bonus to all your units when killed) and I snatched it away with a nuke which had recharged just in time.

    Anyway, overall I'd say the game isn't as good as it could have been, but I definitely had a good time and can recommend it to other strategy fans. If the devs keep working on it, it can become one of my favorites.
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  2. Jun 3, 2014
    9
    Is it SMAC? No. Does that really matter? Not at all.

    As its own game, this is an enjoyable TBS. Its different from SMAC and Civ5, and
    that's the only real reason it gets down-voted. It looks good, plays well, has its own mechanics and works flawlessly on several platforms straight out of the box.

    Its actually an all round good game and easily worth its average price tag.
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  3. Jun 3, 2014
    9
    To all turn-based strategy, 4x lovers (such as myself), I highly recommend this game. It's the best thing out before the release of Sid Meier's: Beyond Earth.

    Anyone who is wondering what this game is like, I'll give you a brief idea on what it is like by saying that it feels like Civilization V with a few major differences, such as:

    1. Random tech trees for each faction - you also discover new technologies after every era you pass through, to give a sense of wonder of the future

    2. Unit stacks - infinite number of units per tile; like Civilization IV's stacks of death. The game has actually balanced it so that attacking with stacks is less beneficial; bombardments hurt all units within a stack, flanking (putting units next to each other in separate tiles) gives an attack/defensive bonus.

    3. Customisable units - yes, you have a unit workshop and can fit different weapons/bonuses/abilities on them. There are a lot of different chassis to research (e.g. infantry, fast-attack vehicle, tank, watercraft, and more).

    4. Planet wildlife - at the beginning of the game, they are not hostile. However, the wildlife can get more and more aggressive if factions fight against them, or produce a lot of pollution. They may then become the equivalant of barbarians, or even worse (if aggressive enough, they can launch a full-scale invasion on humans, threatening everyone. It could prove to be a good tactic, for militaristic players, to annoy the local wildlife so that peaceful players are threatened with annihilation). There are multiple types of wildlife, ranging from practically harmless little xenomorph drones to gigantic aquatic monstrosities.

    5. City management - it works something like this; morale (happiness) is local, rather than national. Local morale has an affect on local growth, and local growth depends on whether or not you have enough food stockpiled (food pool is national). Growth is also affected by habitual space; if you don't have enough space, migration to other cities (ones which have more habitual space) will occur. Production requires minerals (also stockpiled nationally). If you run out of minerals, production will be hindered but not stopped completely. Science is gathered normally (1 scientist = +1 science). There are buildings, natural resources and tile improvements which produce percentage increases and/or a small increase in that stat. You can also move your citizen's roles (there are four roles; farmer (food resource collector), miner (mineral resource collector), worker (city producer) and scientist (science producer)) around manually, and they will automatically go to the highest yielding tile. There are other factors as well (such as wars, pollution etc), but that's just the gist of it.

    6. Alien invasion - around turn 200 (normal pace), an alien force (size depends on how difficult you set difficulty level/alien aggression level) invades the planet and the world has to rally together to fight them off. It's a nice twist and a breath of fresh air, especially if the local wildlife is almost extinct by that time or if you have been playing a peaceful up until that time.

    In addition, the game's presentation is very nice (introduction video, graphics, artwork, quote voice overs), soundtrack is great, UI is intuitive and smooth, optimisation is smooth as well; never lags or crashes (runs a lot better than Civilization V). The game is, amazingly, roughly 500MB, so it's a very fast download.

    What can I say which is bad about the game? Well, currently, the game has more focus on combat than Civilization. The game still needs, in my opinion, to add more content which aligns the player to a more non-combat style of gameplay (e.g. something similar to culture with wonders). There are multiple victory conditions other than conquest, such as economic and research victories, but it'd be nice to have more. There is also no indication of how far ahead you are when compared with your opponents, until the last few turns before your, or your opponent's, imminent victory, warning the player.

    The good news is that the developers have pledged to add more content to Pandora: First Contact, maybe in the form of expansions, if it proves to be successful. So far I think the game has been successful, hence the Steam release (the game was released months before Steam).

    For people hoping this to be the next Alpha Centauri, I wouldn't get your hopes too high. The game is good, and it is very similar to AC in some respects, but it's not exactly the same (e.g. no mind worms). Judge it for what it is. I played a lot of AC back in the day, and I thoroughly enjoy this game for what it is.

    If you're still not convinced, or somewhat unsure whether or not to pay for the full price of £22 or $36, just wait for the eventual sale. I'd definitely call you a madman for not getting it then.
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  4. Jun 3, 2014
    7
    It's a great game if you can't deal with SMAC's atrocious GUI and getting hyped for Civ:BE.
    But it also has a great potential to be a GOTY if
    the game ends up having better production values, better unit distinctions, balance tweaks, and a better narrative. Expand
  5. Dec 14, 2013
    7
    I've only seen the beta version. Still, from the week I spent playing I can say it's a good game but surely nothing comparable to the first Alpha Centauri. From the design point, this game is somewhere between Alpha Centauri, Civ 4 and Civ 5. Plus, it adds a few new features: randomized research tree, shared food and minerals across all cities and slightly more realistic management of citizen. These new additions make for a bit different game but not better than AC. The combat is just about huge stacks of units moving around, and there are no significant terrain bonuses or zones of control. Units have no separate attack/defense values this all came from Civ 4 and that's what I didn't like in Civ 4. I'd still say that the game is interesting to play, but when I played Alpha Centauri again just after this game it instantly stoke me how wide the gap actually is. The graphics are dark and lifeless here: everything is a shade of black, leaders of factions feel anonymous, and the whole 2D GUI looks outdated (yet the 3D graphics are fine, though a bit too dark and lifeless just like everything else). The texts are good but too wordy. The music is dull and too relaxing. The tooltips and helpful messages are nice but I guess it's a standard nowadays. I was expecting that they'd spend a few more months on development and fixes after their beta, but it seems they just rushed it into release, so I'm not sure if any of these issues were fixed (if one can fix them anyway). I'm still happy to see a remake of my favorite game but it seems that it just isn't easy to outdo Brian Reynolds, even after 14 years. AC certainly had its own flaws (like chaotic and unbalanced gameplay after Fusion Power, techno-babble style of sci advances) but this game doesn't seem to fix these problems. Expand
  6. Feb 12, 2014
    6
    The game is a remake of Alpha Centauri in all but name. Unfortunately the only thing it does besser are the graphics. As for the rest it holds its ground on the first 100 turns but looses very fast afterwars.

    AI? -> Good at colonizing but completely sucks at warfare
    Warfare -> Did they even test this?
    Technologies -> Playing the numbers game of +1, +2, +3 and so on techs with little innovation
    The Planet -> After a huge part in Alpha Centauri it only gets a minor role for the first 50 turns in Pandora

    But I also don't want to judge too harshly. Pandora is not a bad game. If they could patch the AI to actually fight wars instead of putting all units into the city closest to the border (seriously!) it could actually become quite good.

    But to match Alpha Centauri? Not by a long shot.
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  7. Feb 6, 2014
    3
    As a general rule, Slitherine & Matrix Games publish some of the finest (usually historically based) strategy games available. Pandora is reminiscent of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (AC) a turn-based strategy game I enjoyed many years ago. I was hopeful that Pandora would be a strong competitor to AC, particularly given that AC was released quite a long time back and the creators of Pandora had a solid concept to build from. While Pandora does look much better than AC, much is missing in game depth, documentation is weak and there are issues with game balance. While I see a foundation of a game here, a lot of work will be needed to make Pandora a solid, enjoyable strategy game, much less bring it anywhere close to AC. There is a continuing effort to patch and update Pandora (which I greatly respect), and I hope in time it will be a worthy successor to AC. Expand

See all 14 User Reviews