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). 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 a madman for not getting it then.