Pandora: First Contact is a science fiction 4X turn-based strategy game on a planetary scale. Our 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.
User reviews:
Overall:
Mixed (393 reviews) - 66% of the 393 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Nov 14, 2013

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Includes 2 items: Pandora: Eclipse of Nashira, Pandora: First Contact

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Recent updates View all (25)

June 8

Eclipse of Nashira Version 1.6.7 Released

This update primarily deals with the overopportunistic dogpiling behaviour AI empires used to show in the past. AIs will be much friendlier towards players who pose no threat and now need an actual reason to attack you other than seeing you already are troubled with other factions.

Please see below for the full list of changes.

Changed:
* AI no longer considers standings and war status of other factions when deciding its diplomatic actions.
* AI will be far less aggressive towards weak players they like and more aggressive towards players they dislike, even if those are really dangerous.
* Renamed difficulty levels to better fit what they feel like for new players.
* Default difficulty for new players starting the game decreased.
* AI will consider habitat provided by suburbs as slightly less valuable and expand a little more.
* AI will now consider the alien aggression setting of the game when considering when to expand. They expand earlier on settings below "very high".
* AI will now build colonizers and formers when at war but their military power is strong compared to that of their enemies.
* When AI has a storage of food and doesn't need to farm, it will now assume an average yield of 3 to prevent it from building useless farms in that period.
* AI will now build more aircraft units in inland cities when there are a lot of coastal cities.

Fixed:
* Fixed an issue that allowed the the AI to know whether a city was undefended or not without having vision.
* Fixed incorrect difficulty level description texts for dutch, french, german and italian.
* Fixed an issue where it was possible for the AI to sign contracts or ask for tribute in the same turn that it would declare war.
* Fixed an issue where AI would not determine the coastal to inland city ratio properly and thus underproduce naval forces on archipelago maps.
* Fixed an issue where AI would never attack cities when they didn't have access to artillery units yet.

Change log history.

19 comments Read more

May 23

Eclipse of Nashira Beta 1.6.7 Released

Opt-in to the beta version by right-clicking on Pandora in your Steam library, choosing Properties and selecting the beta under the Betas tab.

Changed:
* Names of the difficulty levels now fit what they feel like for new players instead of what they felt like before the AI improvements.
* New easy AI can now once again declare war on the player. But they will not consider other players relations and they will never declare war on the player when he already is at war.
* New medium AI no longer has dramatically reduced chance to declare war on the player. But they will not consider other players relations and they have dramatically reduced chance to declare war on the player when he already is at war.
* The diplomatic penalty for capturing cities has been normalized to be relative to the average population rather than the population of the previous city owner. This will reduce the likelyhood of a dogpile against the one who got the last city.
* AI will consider habitat provided by suburbs as slightly less valuable and expand a little more.
* AI will now consider the alien aggression settings of the game when considering when to expand. They expand earlier on settings below "very high".
* AI will now build colonizers and formers when at war but their military power is strong compared to that of their enemies.
* When AI has a storage of food and doesn't need to farm, it will now assume an average yield of 3 to prevent it from building useless farms in that period.
* AI will now build more aircraft units in inland cities when there are a lot of coastal cities.
* AI no longer considers standings and war status of other factions when deciding its diplomatic actions.
* AI will be far less aggressive towards weak players they like and more aggressive towards players they dislike, even if those are really dangerous.

Fixed:
* Fixed an issue that allowed the the AI to know whether a city was undefended or not without having vision.
* Fixed incorrect difficulty level description texts for dutch, french, german and italian.
* Fixed an issue where it was possible for the AI to sign contracts or ask for tribute in the same turn that it would declare war.
* Fixed an issue where AI would not determine the coastal to inland city ratio properly and thus underproduce naval forces on archipelago maps.
* Fixed an issue where AI would never attack cities when they didn't have access to artillery units yet.

2 comments Read more

Includes Free Add-on: Return of the Messari


The ancient Messari return to Pandora with all their might, deploying portals and terrifying ion storms. From these portals come forces never before seen by mankind, and an infestation spreads across Pandora. The strongest factions are the ones that have to fear them most, but they will spare no one.

About This Game

Pandora: First Contact is a science fiction 4X turn-based strategy game on a planetary scale.

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.

Key Features

  • Explore a new world harboring a variety of eco-regions, from the frozen ice lands of the north, to vast deserts and lush tropical forests in the south.
  • Survive encounters with the planet's dangerous wild life. Deadly swarms walk the lands and agile predators fly in the skies. There is even talk of a giant creature in the oceans.
  • Live in harmony with nature or use it to further your cause. The indigenous life will react to your actions and treat you accordingly.
  • Discover ruins and artifacts, the relics of an ancient alien civilization long forgotten that can give you an edge against the planet life and other rivaling factions.
  • Found new cities to expand the borders of your empire. Manage cities by adjusting the tax rate, choosing production and assigning colonists to jobs.
  • Operate a fully globalized and pooled resource and growth system. Specialize one city to harvest minerals while churning out units in another.
  • Adapt your empire to pressing demand. Your colonists will migrate between cities based on factors such as pollution and living space.
  • Shape the landscape with terraforming, construct farms, mines, forts, and other improvements to increase the productivity of your colonies or to fortify positions.
  • Progress through a vast randomized research tree spanning dozens of technologies providing operations, buildings, units, weapons, and more.
  • Negotiate trade and research pacts with other factions for mutual benefits. Forge alliances to stand united against common foes.
  • Design your own units by choosing from a range of different classes, armors, weapons, and devices to maximize the strength of your forces.
  • Command vast armies across the battlefield against enemy factions, making use of the variety of terrain types to gain an advantage.
  • Unleash hell on your opponents with powerful military operations, ranging from drop pods behind enemy lines to black hole generators eradicating entire landscapes.
  • Prove yourself in multiplayer with friends or strangers and discover entirely new strategies.
  • Customize your experience through easily moddable XML data and well-known image and audio formats.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP SP2 / Vista
    • Processor: Intel Core 2 or equivalent
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 compatible with 256 MB VRAM (NVIDIA GeForce 6600 series / ATI Radeon 9500 series)
    • Storage: 1 GB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 7
    • Processor: Intel Core i3 or equivalent
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 compatible with 512 MB VRAM (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 series / ATI Radeon HD 4870 series)
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    Minimum:
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.7
    • Processor: Intel Core 2 or equivalent
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 compatible with 256 MB VRAM (NVIDIA GeForce 6600 series / ATI Radeon 9500 series)
    • Storage: 1 GB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.8
    • Processor: Intel Core i3 or equivalent
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 compatible with 512 MB VRAM (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 series / ATI Radeon HD 4870 series)
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    Minimum:
    • OS: Linux
    • Processor: Intel Core 2 or equivalent
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 compatible with 256 MB VRAM (NVIDIA GeForce 6600 series / ATI Radeon 9500 series)
    • Storage: 1 GB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Linux
    • Processor: Intel Core i3 or equivalent
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 compatible with 512 MB VRAM (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 series / ATI Radeon HD 4870 series)
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
Customer reviews
Customer Review system updated! Learn more
Overall:
Mixed (393 reviews)
Recently Posted
BigRedHulk
2.5 hrs
Posted: August 21
Great game, one of my top 5 (4X) games. I like it better than Civ:BE. It is more war based than anything else. The randomized tech tree can be a positive and negative. It makes each game that much more different, but can also hinder you advancement.

Personally, I play 4X's for the battles and wars, not the dialogue, treaties, or tech wins. So this game does what I want it to do. Hours of turn based battles again both alien life and other leaders. Battles are done really well and city management is also done in a clean way. Just manage your citizens and you should be fine.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
grimm77
9.0 hrs
Posted: July 15
Man, I really, really, REALLY want to like this game. I've only got a few hours into it, which I don't think is enough for a proper review, but I guess that's my point. I've owned it for a year or so, have 8 hours play time, and haven't played it for seven months.

With decent graphics and gameplay, it should be one of my favorites, but it just doesn't have that certain "whatever-it-is" that makes a game fun to play. It's still installed on my PC, I still check it for updates (which are still happening from time to time), but when it comes to actually sitting down and playing a game, I always scroll right past it and choose something else.

If I could give it a neutral rating I would, but given the choice of thumbs up or thumbs down... not recommended. Unfortunately.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
giupmat
6.4 hrs
Posted: July 8
At a glance, this game it's a straight remake of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. You can easily recognize the feeling of a Sid's game, the hexagons, the landscape, and the mechanics.
And furthermore, you can discover some little things here and there... not real bugs or issues, but little flaws. Thanks to these flaws you can say "ok, this is not a game from Sid".
A lot of people said these things before me... and I guess that are all true, but I like this game. It's truth. I enjoyed it. Since the first time I played it.

The first time I played, everything was fresh and new. The other factions were far from my cities, no one declared war to me immediately, I was able to take my time and clear out some alien nest. The events were real surprises, the research gave me real new things, new weapons, new capabilities. BUT my faction was distroyed by sudden war escalation against me.

Playing a second time, the game was quite similar: aliens eat me, I'm at war with everyone and I don't know why... The entire game takes about 100 turns.
Ok... third shot. I drop the difficulty level to easy. Just few turns in, I'm at war with everyone again, aliens eat me. My faction is canceled from the world.

In my opinion, the real problem with this game is only this too wobbly game-balance. You can win a game in hard mode because other factions help you to reach your goals or you can lost your capital city in a stupid way during an easy-mode game.
I like the graphic, I like the soundtrack, I like the mood... So yes, I recommend the game.

Yes, I recommend the game for those that like this genre.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Praetor2020
3.2 hrs
Posted: July 7
Civ V in space except super unpolished. Terrible first impressions. Will stick to Endless Legends thanks.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
landenrich
13.0 hrs
Posted: July 7
my god i love this game. i love it becaus that it is not somethng that you can prodict, for exsample civ has a preset research tree, in pandora: first contact the research tree is unprodictabul as with the game it self, like one time i just cleared my island of aliens and a black hole thing showed up and some hie tech alien race showed up and kicked my but... so ya it's good..
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Valkyriehunt
14.4 hrs
Posted: July 3
I tried to like this game having played over 300 hours of civ 5. This game has no depth and really war is what it is all about. Honestly not fun to play.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
McSilver
20.0 hrs
Posted: June 27
Got to be the worst alpha centari wanna be ive come accross.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Noone_Nowhere
18.9 hrs
Posted: June 24
I guess it's true what people say -- it is a clone of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, and yes it has a number of things wrong with it. But I enjoyed it... the first time I played.

The first time I played, everything was fresh and new. I didn't happen to meet anyone who immediately demanded to go to war with me. I was able to take my time and clear out alien nests. And the surprise events were _surprises_.

Then I tried playing a second time. Aliens ate my neighbours. I bought the expansion and played a third time. Fifty turns in, I'm at war with everyone and I don't know why. I drop the difficulty level to easy. Fifty turns in, I'm at war with everyone and I'm dying.

So yes, I recommend the game. If only to balance out the people who require replayability. If only to make up for the atrocious AI (I think the expansion made the AI worse). If only to balance out the people who complain (they shouldn't -- it's not the same game; it's a clone) that P:FC isn't SM's AC.

Yes, I recommend the game.

At an on-sale price. A price you'd find reasonable for one playthrough.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Weltschmerz
4.0 hrs
Posted: June 10
I tried to like this game, i wa shoping for a SMAC experience. But once you get over the initial difficulty hurdle then the game stagnates. All the ailiens are quickly destroyed and unless you go to war with your fellow earthlings it becomes boring. I can't see how to win at the other winning conditions before you get bored out of your tree.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
neko`
7.3 hrs
Posted: June 9
Very streamlined, fun game. Highly accessible to strategy idiots like me.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
Recommended
2.5 hrs on record
Posted: August 21
Great game, one of my top 5 (4X) games. I like it better than Civ:BE. It is more war based than anything else. The randomized tech tree can be a positive and negative. It makes each game that much more different, but can also hinder you advancement.

Personally, I play 4X's for the battles and wars, not the dialogue, treaties, or tech wins. So this game does what I want it to do. Hours of turn based battles again both alien life and other leaders. Battles are done really well and city management is also done in a clean way. Just manage your citizens and you should be fine.
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
289 of 308 people (94%) found this review helpful
Recommended
37.0 hrs on record
Posted: May 31, 2014
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 habitable space; if you don't have enough space, migration to other cities (ones which have more habitable 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 game 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).

EDIT (7th August 2014): Just as I said before, they have continued updating the game to make it better and they have recently announced the first expansion pack, "Pandora: Eclipse of Nashira", to the game which adds espionage, better diplomacy, better aquatic gameplay (sea tile improvements etc), new factions and more.

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 mad for not getting it then.
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226 of 247 people (91%) found this review helpful
Recommended
15.1 hrs on record
Posted: May 30, 2014
I've been playing this since it came out and redeemed my steam key an hour ago, so I've played a lot more then steam says.

If you're a Civ or Alpha Centurai vet who's looking to find your fix, then this will definitely do the job.

Pros:

+Unique style ofeconomy that offers more interesting choices and challenging situations then Civ.
+Impressive military AI, plays tactically and is good at both land and navy.
+Randomized tech tree spices every game up, prevents build orders.
+Making poor decisions and playing carelessly is often punished.
+Good interface for strategy vets. Very clean and informative.
+Aliens are diverse and fun, the world feels hostile and unforgiving.
+The soundtrack has some great songs.

Cons:

-Some tile improvements really need a graphical upgrade.
-Diplomatic AI needs an overhaul. There isn't enough intrigue and scheming.
-The soundtrack is too short.
-Needs more content! More maps, factions, terrain, interesting mechanics...

Overall if you're a strategy fan then you'll find there's lots to enjoy with this one. Lots of interesting and fun mechanics.
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235 of 267 people (88%) found this review helpful
6 people found this review funny
Recommended
18.9 hrs on record
Posted: October 28, 2014
Surprisingly better than Civ beyond Earth in many ways. Get them both.
The world feels a lot more alien than Civ BE and this is a good thing.
Random tech tree.
Hostile Aliens.
Alien Invasion
Eclispe brings out some nasties.
Diplomacy lacking but useable. Still better than Civ BE trade hubs.
Recommend.
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193 of 230 people (84%) found this review helpful
16 people found this review funny
Not Recommended
18.9 hrs on record
Posted: September 24, 2015
I love games like this. Well, I love games like this when they don't have massive problems. Pandora: First Contact is marred by two things as far as I'm concerned, though both of them are kinda the same thing - the enemy AI. I say enemy AI because that's what it is. Unless you jump through a mass of hoops and play in an incredibly specific way and don't let population get higher or lower than that little gap between X and Y and don't let your cash reserves do the same, or your armed forces power level, or the amount of land you have, or the improvements, or the... you get the idea, right? Long story short, it's next to impossible to keep the AI controlling the other factions happy, and when it isn't happy it becomes schitzophrenic. One turn it hates you but wants an alliance, the next turn it loves you but is denouncing you and cancelling all your treaties. It must have been incredibly hard to code an AI worse than the one in Civ 5, but they did it.

The second problem with the AI is just how utterly it cheats. I'm honestly not sure that they didn't tag the difficulty levels backwards. To test just how bad it is I started a game on the lowest, easiest difficulty level and a couple hundred turns in I'd colonised and developed the continent I was on and the the enemy factions in their two or three tiny little cities were still totally, utterly eclipsing me in reasearch to the point where they were fielding units two or three tech levels above what I had available. This is with the entire research output of about ten massive cities crammed with scientists and it was being completely outmatched by two or three crappy little cities with maybe one or two tiles upgraded around them. I literally had more scientists than any two factions had population and they were still outresearching me!

If these are ever fixed, this will be a nice little game. Right now though, it's just too frustrating to play.


Edit: Okay, a tiny bit late adding this but not too long ago a big patch was released that was the dev's basically going 'yeah, we made the AI a cheating pack of superpowered madmen/women and we got tired of the complaints so here's us fixing it'. I haven't gotten around to trying it yet, but it does claim to solve a fair few of the complaints I have.
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210 of 259 people (81%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Not Recommended
14.8 hrs on record
Posted: January 17, 2015
I will preface this by saying that the game has promise. However, that promise does not compensate for Pandora's failings.

Pros:
1. The game world is beautiful and interesting to look at.
2. There is a randomized tech tree that jumbles up the techs. This allows replayability as no two games will have the same tech trees.

Cons:
1. Because the tech tree is randomized, the randomness could seriously gimp a game as there are a lot of inferior techs in Pandora. Sometimes the player will have a lot of great techs on the way up the tree until the tech they are trying to attain. However, sometimes that same tech will have completely inferior precursors. It's all luck... which can screw with gameplay.
2. Native life: This ruins the game. First, even though a player may have alien life aggression set to very rarely, built the Xenobiology project (-25% alien aggression), did not attack one of the aliens at all, and are the Gaian faction (even more alien aggression reduction), random event of increased alien aggression overrides it all and they will attack. It's completely ludicrous and needs to be removed from the game.
3. The AI is oversimplistic. Essentially, military power = godhood. That's the only thing they look at. If the player has more power than the AI, then they're friendly. If the player has less, then they become more demanding. This functions mainly with the military and faith-based faction which are far mor warmongering. However, it's still within the rest of the factions' coding and if the player loses a lot of military power from, lets say the ludicrous alien swarm random event, then even the most peaceful factions (Gaian) will start demanding or declaring war. It's bad game design.
4. The spying in this game is completely broken. First, there's no inherent city defense against spy units. So, a player has to actively keep military units in either chokepoints or totally around a city to prevent spies from even touching the city. Second, they are extremely overpowered in what they can do. Steal or destroy a majority if not all of a faction's credits and research, cause massive unrest, destroy buildings and production, and even set off nukes. The only contributing factor is the percentage chance the spy will succeed in the specific sabotage which is dictated by their veterancy. It's completely broken.
5. From what I've read, everything I listed above will not be fixed by the devs as the devs have already moved on to other projects. So sad as if the problems would be fixed, then the game would be a lot better.

It's a mess and I would avoid it in it's current form.
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A developer has responded on Jun 5, 2015 @ 11:49am
(view response)
118 of 137 people (86%) found this review helpful
Recommended
7.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 11, 2014
Some people call this game Civ in space. It is not the first game to recieve this nickname, nor will it be the last. At its simplest, Pandora is a 4x strategy game that very closely resembles the Civilization franchise. What it truly is, however, is a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri (the true 'Civ in space'). This game looks and feels like Alpha Centauri down from its visuals to its alien threats to having to deal with hazardous space fungus.

And so, what we have here is an alternative to Civ: Beyond Earth. Think of Pandora as a baseline which C:BE must surpass. Because if the TRUE successor to Alpha Centauri cannot defeat the spiritual successor, a lot of people will be disappointed. And whereas it is not without its flaws (limited number of factions, a single visual style for all factions), Pandora: First Contact is a solid, enjoyable game. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for something to play whilst waiting for the release of Beyond Earth. And if Beyond Earth turns out to be a flop, Pandora is there to take its place.

I heartily recommend.
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79 of 86 people (92%) found this review helpful
Recommended
60.3 hrs on record
Posted: June 2, 2014
I wish I could give this game more thumbs up. It is simply amazing.

The UI is so good it's nearly transparent. You always have access to the information you need. The busy-work is stripped out, and you're left with only the fun, meaningful decisions. Also, for the first time that I can remember, they do unit upgrades correctly. The starting units can be meaningful and useful in the end game, if you keep them upgraded with the latest tech.

I've been playing turn-based strategy games a long time, and they always end up playing the same way. I was just looking for a graphics update out of this game, but it actually changed the formula for me enough that I had to change my playstyle to adapt to the game. That's brilliant - it feels new and fresh rather than just another rehash of the old, stale status quo.

I think the addition of a truly dangerous PvE component really spices up the game. You've got to adapt to the situation. The randomized tech tree paths also help ensure that each game has its own unique story - it sounds weird, but it works.

I highly recommend this game. It's a serious contender for my game-of-the-year pick.
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92 of 105 people (88%) found this review helpful
Recommended
18.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 31, 2014
Pandora tries to be a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri, but it doesn't -quite- hit the mark. That isn't to say it's bad, in fact in some ways it can be quite charming. It's also a perfectly good alternative to Beyond Earth until that title drops in price to something a little more reasonable for what essentially amounts to expansion content.

If you've played Civ 5, you've more or less played Pandora. There are some striking differences - the non-linear tech tree, the ability to give units custom loadouts, alien hives, and the arrival of a "doomsday" army in mid-late game. It does these things well (Although BE's tech web sounds more impressive), and if you're trying to choose between Beyond Earth or Pandora, I would advise you to wait until Pandora goes on sale and then pick it up first. It isn't good enough to be worth the full price of $33.00 CAD, but it's well worth purchasing all the same.

I found the AI to certainly be smarter and much more aggressive than its history-based counterpart from Firaxis, and the couple of games I've played felt like they moved at a much quicker pace. This is a good and a bad thing. For those players that enjoy almost constant conflict and a push to pretty much wipe the board early or be wiped, this is for you. For those players that prefer a slower Civ-style pace, you're going to be a little frustrated with the way the AI seems to blatantly rush through the game in -every- regard. My first match lasted only 50 turns before my AI neighbor wiped me out with tier 3 units while I was still clearing hives and building up my third city just trying to keep my income positive. In the 7.5 hours I've played, I've had 4 games - 3 lost and one win, all on small maps. I have one game that's been sitting unfinished for a couple months, but thats mostly due to other distractions.

In a show of fixing what should have never been "fixed" by Firaxis in the first place, Pandora does away with the silly one-unit-per-tile rule of the current Civ gen, including Beyond Earth. Yes, unit stacking is back. And it is fantastic. The "Training" feature that levels up your units was also a very welcome addition, and something that can keep your low-grade units competitive for a little while longer when resources are tight. Graphically, Pandora does pretty well. It's nothing outstanding, but it still looks quite good, and could pass as a product from a much larger studio if compared. Unit animations are nice and fluid, the sound quality is quite good, and the alien species have quite a nice amount of diversity. They're also quite difficult, and some of the larger species will continue to be a hassle for your units until about tier 3 weapons and tech.

The factions all feel reasonably distinct, but there was room for the developer to do a lot more too. The bonuses are nice, and give the factions a different feel when it comes to gameplay, but visually they're all homogenous. This is very disappointing, as even Civ 5 and the latter Beyond Earth allowed for numerous visual styles. This is something that could easily be remedied with a community mod, but the developer has yet to offer any workshop support and the modding community is terribly slow to grow. I'm no modder myself, but this usually indicates that the game is not all that friendly towards customization. There's also no map editor at the present, so if you were hoping to recreate the alien infested Earth from TV's Defiance, or KSP's Kerbin, you're unfortunately out of luck. Both of these things should require developer attention and soon, as they severely limit the game's appeal.

6.5/10

All in all, Pandora does an okay job at presenting a decent sci-fi 4x reminiscent of SMAC, but just an okay job. It gets some things right, but it's also missing a lot of things that should be there already. The seeming lack of mod support and a community around it and no official map editor costs the game some serious points. If it had those two, I could probably toss it an 8 or 8.5, but as it stands it lacks two crucial features. That said, It's well worth picking up if it's on sale. But I wouldn't advise paying full price for what you get. Then again, it's still quite reasonable compared to the tag on Beyond Earth.

A decent library addition for any fan of sci-fi or 4x games.
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133 of 173 people (77%) found this review helpful
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Not Recommended
239.9 hrs on record
Posted: February 25, 2015
This is a solid game in its niche marked of 4x games, and more specifically, 4x games with space age human colonization. With its only direct competitor being the blatant AAA cash-in Civ: Beyond Earth, it is clear that this dev does not have much to compete against.

Let's start with the bad, because everyone else starts with the good, and I'm a unique and interesting individual, as well as a special snowflake, so I go out of my way to be different in ways that try to be clever but miss the mark entirely.

Bad:
-Lack of diversity and depth
This has been said since the beginning, and it still applies. Units lack variety, game mechanics are simplistic, factions are flaccid copies of their Alpha Centauri counterparts, and buildings have few functions. The game replaces real depth and variety with gimmicks like the Messari Invasion and the Nashira Eclipse (both paid-for DLC, of course), which get old and tired quickly.

There are only a few types of military unit: Infantry, Scout Vehicle, Tank, Mech, Helicopter, Boat, and Artillery. All factions have the exact same units, with the exception of the Messari, who have their own units, and the aliens, who also have their own units. Units all have a linear upgrade path of three tiers, corresponding with the three epochs of the tech tree. These units have Attack, Defense, Rank, Movement, and Health stats. These stats are boosted by a linear path of weapon and armor equipment, as well as gadgets, which are not linear and each grant unique abilities to the unit. The narrow scope and linear progression limit gameplay options and make unit customization a chore rather than the fun and interesting experience it should be. It also makes war less interesting. There is also little reason to have any meaningful combined arms force. There is no bonus or strategic incentive to have a variety of different types of units. This means, in theory, if you have an army of only scout vehicles against an army of helicopters, infantry, tanks, and artillery, you will win given you have the numbers, which is not at all realistic or interesting.

There are three kinds of combat: direct attack, artillery strike, and orbital strike. You will have no meaningful use of air force (since the only air unit in the game functions the same as the ground units), unit supply/logistics, morale, or other such thing that would add depth and realism to warfare.

There seems to be absolutely no effort on the part of the developers to add real depth to the game as they clearly favor gimmicks that sound cool and people will buy just because they sound cool.

-Limited Diplomacy
Diplomacy is very limited in this game. It very much comes down to agreeing not to attack each other, attacking each other, and open borders. Anything else is too hard to achieve or too useless to mention. People will complain that the AI puts too much emphasis on another faction's military power, but I have no problem with this, as it adds a competitive edge to the game as well as gives it some semblance of realism (let's be honest; when you have an ideology different from everyone else's and a ♥♥♥♥ poor military, even the Gaians would want to gobble you up.) However, I do agree that it is too simplistic in this regard. You get no sense of geopolitics, where the different factions would take into account supply and demand for resources, the layout of the land, etc. What you get is a sense that you're surrounded by countries each led by a schoolyard bully, and the only way to win is by being the biggest bully in the playground.

-Lack of mod tools/support
The devs champoined their use of the .xml format in making the game more customizable, but anyone who has attempted to mod this game will quickly discover that there is only so much you can do with them. You can change stats, you can add new techs, and other small things. But there is no way to change the UI, there is no way to make meshes/models for new units unless you have programming knowledge and patience for navigating the xml's mess of verticy coordinates, or other actually useful things if you're serious about modding. This game is not friendly to modding to any significant extent.

-Blatant cash milking
As mentioned above, depth is replaced by gimmicks. These gimmicks come in the form of DLC that you pay for. They add nothing of substance to the game. The weak espionage system introduced in the latest expansion is also little more than a gimmick.

Pros:
-Solid mechanics
The game suffers from few bugs, and there is no game-breaking mechanic to make this unplayable. It's not the most fun, but it's not completely unplayable.

-Well designed atmosphere
The music, sound effects, art style, the factions, the alien life, all flow together fairly well. At first glance, it can actually be impressive. And even when that inevitable point in time comes when you get bored with it and it becomes old (because it does get old), it's at least not intolerable.

-Comprehensive UI
Unlike other games (*cough* Beyond Earth), this UI is informative and not invasive. Nothing is hidden from you. However, there is an issue with the game encyclopedia being limited to things that you've already discovered, which is frustrating for anyone who's done more than three playthroughs.

Conclusion:
This game's selling point is that it's the spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri. It very much uses the reputation of Alpha Centauri as a crutch to keep it standing, rather than standing on its own merit, which is actually quite mediocre. And of course, the devs don't plan on doing anything about this. Aside from the devs' love of gimmicky DLC, they also love to handle a bunch of projects at the same time, ensuring that none of them get the TLC they need to be worth any significant amount of time or effort. After all, why stick to a game to make improvements and developments when you can crank out half-baked cool ideas and make more sales?
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