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When the accumulated points reaches a threshold set by the current technology being research, the technology is discovered. A Base can build units, facilities and secret projects. Facilities, analogous to Buildings in Civilization , improve some aspect of the base it is built in: increased lab points, faster production time, stronger unties, etc. Secret Projects, comparable to the Great Wonders in Civilization, confer faction-wide benefits but are expensive and can only be built once; once built, no other faction may build it and if destroyed it cannot be rebuilt.
A unit is made up from different components such as chassis, weapon, armor, reactor, and special ability slots. Unlike the Civilization series proper, units come in default designs but can also be customized by the player. As new technologies become available, old designs may be brought up to date and existing units upgraded. Generally, only friendly units the player's own or those of a pact ally can occupy the same square. Enemy units must be eliminated or, in some cases, forced to withdraw in order to move into their square.
Many factors affect the outcome of combat, including:. Researching certain new technologies unlocks progressively better equipment. Possessing certain support infrastructure such as Command Centers , creating units with certain special abilities such as High Morale , and having a positive morale rating in social engineering will all confer morale bonuses to new units, effectively enhancing their strength multiplier; conversely, a negative morale rating will incur morale penalties on new units.
Also, gaining access to the mysterious alien monoliths that dot the planet, or defeating enough enemies to gain experience, will upgrade an existing unit's morale.
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Psionic combat ignores conventional components and circumstances, focusing instead on morale, and gives a bonus to the attacker if the combat takes place on land. It is resolved normally. Native life forms fight psionically, and some components enhance a unit's psionic ability or permit it to make psionic attacks.
It is also possible to cultivate native life forms under a player's control. Here the equivalent of morale is determined by ecological status and breeding techniques, rather than infrastructure. Psi combat also takes priority over regular combat, so that if either attacker or defender is psi-capable then psi combat occurs in place of regular combat.
Attacks that occur from a distance, such as missile strikes and artillery or naval bombardments, are an exception to this priority. There are a number of different unit types on land, sea and air, each with specific special properties and movement speeds. Air units are not initially available and require considerable technical development. Conventional missiles are a special type of single-use unit. Planetbuster missiles blast holes in continents, but provoke extreme global warming , a frenzied assault from native life, and causing all other human factions to declare vendetta upon you.
The Datalinks, similar to Civilization' s Civilopedia, contain information crucial to playing the game. Most important is the tech tree, which shows a complete system of all technologies available in the game, along with prerequisite technologies and all benefits the technology gives new chassis, weapon, armor, reactor, or special ability types, along with new terraformer abilities, base facilities and secret projects, bonuses to xenofungus squares, social engineering choices, etc.
In all technology trades the game allows consulting the Datalinks to find exactly what is being offered or demanded.
In addition, the Datalinks store the quotes involved with all technologies and secret projects. Many Alpha Centauri fans enjoy the quotes in particular and the thought behind them. The game's creators developed the personality and ideology of all the faction leaders through these quotes, as well as thoughts on human psychology. For instance, the Virtual World secret project is accompanied by Chairman Yang's view that reality is only what one perceives it to be, while Provost Zakharov denounces the general simplistic views on genetics when such technologies are discovered.
The game is represented on an isometric map of the planet surface, upon which bases are built and units deployed. Local features of the terrain influence the amount of resources a base harvests from any particular square. For example, rocky squares yield minerals but no food unless cleared, while river squares produce extra energy. The altitude of terrain influences how much energy can be harvested there, can create rain shadows downwind, etc.
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Terrain can be enhanced and altered including raising and lowering altitude by units equipped with a terraformer module. The terrain also affects combat. There are also several "landmarks" that are featured on the standard maps and generated on the random maps. Many of these are good locations to build bases at due to their resource output, but others, such as the New Sargasso Sea result in negative effects, as it is filled with native life. Additionally there are numerous features named on the standard maps such as Eurytion Bay which improve the feel of the maps but have no effect on gameplay.
There is also the Unique ability to allow a player to name areas on the map. However, like a few of the random features on the map, these names have no real ingame impact. Adding to the trouble of the human factions is a pinkish-red indigenous semi-sentient fungus xenofungus that spans the planet. Concentrations of it can spawn more aggressive native life forms, the most basic of which are known as mind worms.
Mind worms and other native life act as the planet's immune system, reacting to heavy industrial pollution by attacking offending cities and installations. On the flip side, mind worms can be captured by factions with a deep understanding of Planet's fragile ecology and used as instruments of war and police. Also, in addition to native life there are certain structures dotted across the map called monoliths. These monoliths will upgrade any attack-based unit by one level only once. Every other time they are landed on, they merely heal the unit, making them good places to fight or skirmish if they are controlled.
Within many maps there is a ring of monoliths that fills all the squares in a 3x3 section of the map except the middle square with monoliths. These are called The Ruins by the game. This is a key point, as monoliths give the base an even "2" of every resource nutrient, minerals, and energy. However, in most games this area is covered in xenofungus, so in order to build a base there bases cannot be built in xenofungus a player will need to have a former come down and clear it off.
But beware: clearing too much fungus is considered polluting, and Planet may become angry and send mindworms to attack offending formers. Once in a while, what appears as a drop pod from the Unity turns out to be a purple "alien artifact.
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In the course of the storyline, it is discovered that all xenofungus collectively forms a massive neural network, making the entire ecosystem a colossal group mind. It grows increasingly intelligent as the game progresses, even beginning communications with faction leaders in cut-scenes from time to time. The "Planetmind" is suspicious of humans and will defend itself if necessary.
Faction leader quotes scattered throughout the game reveal that all of them, with the notable exception of Lady Deirdre—the first leader to have a conversation with the Planetmind—consider the emerging mind to be highly dangerous.
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This is due to the fact that the final growth stage is self-destructive, and will take humanity with it. However, the Transcendence victory condition allows the player to unite human consciousness with the Planetmind, helping it avoid self-destruction and propelling humanity to a new plane of existence. When two factions have established contact, they can engage in a variety of diplomatic actions. New technology, energy credits and bases can be bargained for, given away or demanded with the threat of force. Factions can sign treaties and pacts, declare war or ask for a temporary cessation of hostilities.
Treaties lead to commerce between faction bases and an increase in income for both factions. Pacts allow units to enter allied-held territory and bases, and double the commerce modifier between the two factions. Computer controlled factions will remember past dealings, betrayals and atrocities, and will base their reactions modified by the leader's personality to the player's diplomatic overtures accordingly.
Once one human faction has made contact with all other human factions, it can choose to convene the Planetary Council and elect a Planetary Governor. Thereafter, factions can periodically convene the council at most once every 20 years turns for each faction; the Planetary Governor only has to wait 10 years to make proposals such as electing a new governor, salvaging the Unity fusion reactor core to gain a large amount of energy credits for each faction, lower sea levels via satellite shades or raise them by melting the polar ice caps, eliminate the ban on weapons of mass destruction, killing civilians with gas or punishing rioters by nerve-stapling, or creating or repealing a global trade pact.
With the exception of the Planetary Governor or Supreme Leader elections, each faction has one vote, with the governor holding veto power. In Planetary Governor or Supreme Leader elections, each faction casts a number of votes based on its total population and modifiers from faction ability and secret projects. Despite being set in the future, the problems of human society still plague the inhabitants of Chiron.
Reflecting this are the existence of drones in the population. Drones represent the undereducated, discontent segments of society.
When the number of drones overwhelms the number of well educated citizens, called Talents, a drone riot occurs. During a drone riot all productive activity within the base is suspended. If not stopped, prolonged drone riots will eventually escalate in severity until facilities are destroyed or, in extreme cases, the entire city defects to another faction.
Drone riots can be suppressed through the use of in-base military units as police. The amount of suppression allowed depends on the degree of tolerance the society, under current social engineering models, has for policing and on special police training the units may have. There also exists the temporary and more extreme solution of nerve stapling.
This directly suppresses the violent tendencies of the population, preventing drone riots for a short period of time, but carrying it out is considered an atrocity and will negatively impact diplomatic interactions. Also, the base facility called Punishment Sphere , among other effects, eliminates all drones from a base's population; the secret project named The Telepathic Matrix , among other effects, does not eliminate drones but means they will never riot in any base of the player who controls it.
Social engineering is another decisive game element reflecting human nature. Political, economic, social and future society models may be chosen.
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Each choice has its benefits and drawbacks, shown in a technical manner in-game by altering listed values which reflect how a faction operates overall. Social engineering plays an important role in game diplomacy with computer players. Players that presently utilize the social engineering preference of a particular faction may have improved diplomatic relations with that faction.
However, if a player has made a different social engineering ideal in whatever area of society government, economy, values, or future society a computer player's social choice lies, diplomatic relations will become strained, sometimes leading to outright vendetta. At the beginning of each game, each faction is designated a particular social engineering preference and a particular social engineering aversion.
Computer players must use their social engineering preference as soon as it is available, while all players regardless of whether they are human or computer may not use their social engineering aversion. Normally, the preference and aversion reflect the apparent ideologies of the faction e. However, the player has the option to randomize the social agendas of all computer players. If this option is selected, the social engineering aversion of the faction remains the same. Consequently, it is possible for any faction to have the same social engineering choice as a preference and an aversion.
In such a case, the player will still support that particular social engineering choice in diplomatic relations but cannot use that particular choice.