Pandora: First Contact ReviewPC
key review info
- Game: Pandora: First Contact
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: No
- Reviewed on:
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I would like to be able to approach Pandora: First Contact with fresh eyes, to experiment its core mechanics for the first time, to discover how the various mechanics work, what makes the faction different and how I can achieve victory depending on starting situation and the neighbors that the title generates.
But I already know quite a bit about the game, created by developer Proxy Studios and published by Slitherine, and which is in many ways, an updated version of the classic Alpha Centauri, the title that Brian Reynolds created at Firaxis.
The story of the game is simple, but has surprising depth: humanity has taken to the stars in the far future, reaching a habitable world, and six factions (one less than in Alpha Centauri) are competing with each other and fighting with the environment in order to colonize it.
Each group has a well-defined backstory, complete with an over-the-top leader and an ideology, and they suggest both a strategy for success and a way for gamers to role play it.
The development team has also included quite a bit of lore and flavor in Pandora, making sure that each tech, discovery, unit and special place on the planet has an interesting bit of text attached, in true Alpha Centauri manner.
On the gameplay front, the title offers a turn-based structure with 4X strategy core values, asking the player to create bases, move units around, conduct diplomacy with other factions, terraform the planet, research new tech, create new hardware and aim for one of the three potential victory conditions.
Once again, the structure is very close to that of Alpha Centauri, which means that it’s very important to scout the map to find the best possible areas to settle down and that combat depends on a balance between weapon and armor types and some special features.
Proxy Studios has made the decision to change up the order to research options based on faction, which increases the replayability value of Pandora: First Contact and makes it necessary to adjust strategies a little bit more to the ideology of each group.
The local plant and animal life is also stronger and better developed and it takes time and effort to make sure that they are not threatening to cities and an even bigger effort to start clearing the most dangerous of them, especially flying units, from the map.
The combat is a high point because it relies on relative high damage for each round, which makes it hard to take over well-defended positions without a huge stack of units.
Having safe prepared areas and solid use of the various tactical operations is also crucial during any big human to human war and during the big operations to take out local fauna.
I also appreciate the flexibility of the workshop system and the way the migration system and morale play a part in the evolution of a faction and the battles themselves.
The fact that the natural life on Pandora is so powerful is an interesting addition to the game that increases the difficulty level. I abandoned plenty of campaigns in the early expansion phase after a well-placed but poorly defended city fell to an assault from the native creatures.
Overall, I appreciate the way Pandora mixes diplomacy, tactics, research and design and the game always poses a clear challenge and gives players the tools to solve it in a variety of ways.
Pandora: First Contact is a beautiful game, using bright and clear colors to suggest national characteristics and the beauty of the planet that humanity is aiming to conquer. The user interface is very clean and delivers all the information that players need during each game turn to make solid strategic decisions.
The animations and the sound design are also solid, managing to evoke the themes and the lore without ever making the player feel like he is simply playing an updated version of the classic experience that Alpha Centauri offers.
Pandora: First Contact is, in many ways, the Firaxis game with a limited number of interesting twists and some updates to the style and the mechanics. But it also offers a solid turn-based strategy experience that should satisfy fans of the genre.