Alien Crossfire: FIRST DAY PRE-PLAYING REPORT
As the first mortal (aka - not belonging to Firaxis) I know (or MarkG knows, for that matter) that has SMAX, Iíll try to preview it based on the new info in the manual. How I havenít played it yet, I donít know. I just wanted to tell everyone that SMAX is here and how it looks.
So, letís begin with the factions. The Demo showed the coolness of the Pirates and the power of the Caretakers. Thankfully (reading the manual helps at times), every time the Caretakers show up, so do the powerful Usurpers (even in games with mixed Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire factions in a game). Making every game with aliens in it like a Cold War situation (bi-polar) with actual warfare. If you ally with the Caretakers, the Usurpers WILL declare war on you, and vice-versa! The alien (Progenitor) factions despise each other and canít communicate or move away from Vendetta. After all, they are still in a Civil War. They land when two ships in a space battle get destroyed. They land on Manifold Six (Planet) without contact from home. So, they must find lost technology. In a great move, Firaxis decided that humans canít talk to aliens until Progenitor Psych is discovered by the humans, and aliens canít talk to humans until Social Psych is developed by aliens. The addition aliens is a great move (even though I previously had doubts). It actually advances the story (something I thought would have been hard to do).
The new factions that Firaxis hasnít displayed yet, also look cool. The Cult of Planet is a Super-Gaians. They worship Planet and are fascinated and at awe with Mindworms. They wish for total harmony with Planet, with a lack of interest in worldly goods. The Usurpers have already been mentioned, but they differ from the Caretakers in that instead of caring for Planet (or Manifold Six) they are geared for war. They have rapid population growth and are bred for combat with bonuses in offensive combat. The coolest faction that Firaxis hasnít shown (well, they are tied with the Pirates) are the Drones! They have wonderful industrial bonus but a lack of research (after all drones are trained for manual labor not thinking about the cosmos). They also have a HUGE chance of converting rebelling cities to the Dronesí side. However, the Dronesí industrial might might put them at odds with Planet factions (the Cult of Planet comes to mind).
Going through the manual, one finds many things that are welcome additions. Not only are their more techs and SPs, etc. but interesting things have been added. The alien factions make the play different! This is not just a tacky add-on, where everything is the same only more. The aliens change the game significantly. You canít win Diplomatic victory as long as aliens are around. If you take an alien base (or if you are the aliens and take a human base) the population is reduced to one, and the disgusted xenophobic populace flees by created colony pods (of course they can be destroyed by advancing armies). Things like this will make SMAX a joy to play, Iím sure.
Now, why am I still talking to you? I must play SMAX! Go away! Maybe Iíll tell you more after I play (then again, you may never hear from me again, after I start)