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Pandora: First Contact is Out Now

By on November 14th, 2013 11:00 am

Pandora: First Contact | Turn-based sci-fi 4X strategy game by Proxy Studios, Slitherine and Matrix Games

Proxy Studios, Matrix Games and Slitherine have just released Pandora: First Contact, their new turn-based sci-fi 4X strategy game.

Pandora entered beta more or less one year ago, and back in February of this year I wrote a preview using the beta build of the time. I liked what I saw back then. The beta was already very playable, stable, and the gameplay looked promising. You could definitely feel the immersion kicking in. SMAC’s influece was quite evident. In fact, the devs’ intention is quite clear. With Pandora they are attempting to create “a spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri”.

So, but have they succeed? I’ve been playing the game for the last couple of days and plan to write my first impressions soon, hopefully still today. As for the proper review it will be up one to two weeks after. It takes time to fully assess a 4X game’s virtues and pitfalls, especially with respect to the AI. But, for now I can advance that my initial impression are very good.

But, if you’re feeling hasty and don’t want to wait for the impressions, or the review, the game is available as of now for the PC, Mac and Linux for $29.99/€23.99 (plus VAT depending on where you’re from).

More information can be found here.

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  1. BTAxis says:

    I hope it’s good. I’ve had this title in the back of my mind since I learned of its existence. The “manual” is not inspiring though – it contains exactly 0 information pertaining to the actual game itself (it’s really just a lore booklet) and commits the faux-pas of suggesting 2000 was the last year of the previous millennium.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, the manual is essentially lore, system requirements and some modding tips, but the good news is that you don’t really need a manual for this one ;) The in-game tutorial tips, game-pedia and the tooltips are all you need in order to learn how to play.

    • killias2 says:

      2000 was the last year of the previous millennium (or Willennium, as I like to call it)..? Unless you mean they thought it was the first year of the new millennium, which is incorrect.

      • BTAxis says:

        No no, the millennium would be 1000-1999, at least if you respect how numbers work.

        • killias2 says:

          The first millennium was from 1-1000. There was no year zero, and a millennium is 1000 years. That means the second millennium was from 1001-2000, and the Willennium started in 2001.

        • BTAxis says:

          Yes I know, that’s commonly accepted, just not by me personally. Which is why I said “if you respect how numbers work”, as in a purely mathematical approach.

          On a related note, there’s an interesting (but unproven) theory that some of our history may have been made up – look up “phantom time hypothesis”. If it is true, we’re still living in the 18th century!

      • Happy Corner says:

        You are correct. I can still remember during the Y2K controversy, a tiny minority would point out “2000 is the last year of the millennium, not 1999!”, but everyone ignored them and partied like it was 1999.

        • killias2 says:

          The “YEAR 2000” was still a big thing, just because the numbers sounded cool. But that has nothing to do with the millennium, well, other than being the last year of the second millennium.

    • Louis says:

      Yeah, the manual is just lore, but the available “tips” system is great, imo. I learned how to play this game in about 10 minutes, and that’s not to say it doesn’t have complexity and strategy to it, because it very much does.
      I have been trying to get the word out about this game on Facebook, forums etc. for the last 3 hours because, in my opinion, this is one of the best 4x or even strategy games to come out in a long time. By “best” what I mean is the overall experience. That something that sucks you in and keeps making you hit the “end turn” button over and over. The graphics are nice, the game play is VERY intuitive, the customizability of the game is what you would expect from a 4x title. I think the UI is one of the best I have seen… maybe ever? Completely destroys Civ 5, in my opinion, and I’m going to have a lot of fun tonight! Did you know that you can mod this sucker too? I just found that out today. Yesterday, I didn’t even know this game existed, and today it’s on the top of my play list. Thanks Proxy/Slitherine/Matrix! (And I hear the devs are still working at making it better.)

  2. towerbooks3192 says:

    Looks interesting! Might have to cancel my plans of getting another wargame off matrix this xmas if this proves to be interesting. Too bad Distant Worlds and Paradox grand strategies ruined my love for TBS in favour of pausable real-time.

    • towerbooks3192 says:

      found a video and it looks pretty tempting. But I guess I must hold off. I don’t get a space strategy game without reading space sector’s review first

  3. Happy Corner says:

    Very tempted now. I know I’ll be checking back here later today to read Mr. Solo’s (and everyone else’s) impressions!

    In the end, though, I’ll probably bite the bullet and just get it. I’ve been dying for a great new turn-based strategy game, and Pandora looks quite promising.

  4. Zero says:

    Sadly it is a massive mistake for them to not even attempt a Steam release

    • BTAxis says:

      It is rather low-profile, isn’t it? And Slitherine don’t have a stellar reputation, which doesn’t help either.

    • Mark says:

      I wouldn’t mind if steam were *one* of the ways to purchase the game.

      If Steam were the only way to get it however, I wouldn’t be buying it no matter how good it is. I like to own the games I buy, not have my access defined by the whims of a third party.

      Once they get my money, its mine.

      • Alien JD says:

        I felt exactly the same about Steam until they let me have all the X-Com games for 4.99. Currently my steam average is $2.39. The prices are cheap enough that I’m okay with renting the games. Still, whenever there is a choice I choose gog or another “download the whole thing” service.

    • RandomBlue says:

      Was just coming here to post this, many indie developers have seen massive sales increases by listing their game on Steam. Sure, you lose a cut of the sale but I’d rather have 70% of 100,000 sales than 100% of 10,000.

      But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.

    • Jeff P says:

      I rarely buy games that aren’t available on Steam even if I don’t buy it from Steam. Steam is the California redwood of digital distribution: the oldest, biggest and most likely to be around years from now.

      Also, I usually avoid Matrix/Slitherine because their games are just too expensive. I’ve gotten used to buying games on sale and avoid paying more than $15, so a $30 price tag is a non-starter.

      • JohnR says:

        Agreed Jeff about Matrix/Slitherine. Although I’ve purchased a couple gems from them, I’ve gotten a couple dogs too. Their pricing model is definitely high end, and add to that the usual lack of demos makes for a moderate disincentive to purchase anything more from them. Still in all I will be curious to read the official reviews and metacritic player comments on Pandora.

        • Jeff P says:

          We can always hope it is a keeper. Unfortunately the Matrix/Slitherine price point (and, as you mentioned, lack of demo) will likely keep Pandora off my computer.

  5. Mark says:

    Alpha Centauri is still one of my top favorite games of all time so if Pandora comes even close, I will be very impressed indeed.

    Looking forward to hearing your impressions Adam.

  6. Kordanor says:

    NDA is lifted now. Played it a couple of times in the Beta.
    I haven’t played the very latest builds but some which weren’t that old (September/October).
    From these I can say, that it’s not a bad game, but I was actually surprised when they suddenly said “Release! Release!” as I don’t think that it felt polished yet (it runs bug and crash-free though).
    First thing to make clear is, that this is not a AAA game like Civilization. You will find a couple of things which don’t really feel “right” and if it’s just the graphics which are nice itself, but don’t really show the distinction between differnt tiles.
    Where in Civ5 after 10 hours you still discover more and more and get better, I had the impression that after 10 hours in Pandora I beat the game and there is nothing more to see besides of some techs. Personally I wasn’t even happy with Civ 5 and would have prefered a bigger and more interactive world as in Civ 4.
    Pandora goes more into the Direction of Civ 5. It has some weird game mechanics, but is overall quite simple mechanics wise and it’s quite easy to get an idea about how stuff is working. The game world is not huge and the mechanics aren’t very complex. But the “easyness” also makes it boring quite fast.
    While in Civ games you are checking a city and might change some tiles to work on to improve a little bit now and then, in Pandora the City situation is mosty extremly clear. If there is a science tile in the city, the city will always do this, and if it has food tiles in it, it will always do that. That’s also because of a global ressource system (where in Civ each city produces its own food).
    The balancing wasn’t really great when I played it but they did several changes since then and I can’t really judge it at that point. It also has a multiplayer mode (which I didn’t test) and that might help to get over the AI if it is still as bad as when I played.
    They are charging 24€ for the game and I guess the $ price isn’t much different.
    I’d say that you probably get about 10-20 hours of fun out of it and maybe another 10-20 hours of experimenting. I guess that’s ok for the price. Just don’t expect something like Civ or the big 4X games where you spend hundreds of hours on the game.

  7. trix62 says:

    I will probally try it out at some point.The thing that bugs me about it from the video I watched is “Stacked Units”.

  8. Benji says:

    A review! I wants it! I wants it!

  9. Robert says:

    I played the most recent beta. There is quite a bit to like!

    It feels like a modern Alpha Centauri. If you’ve played AC you’ll feel right at home. The combat is interesting. Stacks exist, but combat plays out with every combat resulting in a winner and a loser who dies… and stacks fight one unit at a time. So the AI doesn’t have CIV V like pathing issues.

    The tech tree is great. Results in bonuses and unit upgrades (like AC). Also results in operations. Operations are things you can do anywhere on the map, like a satellite scan of terrain, or a bomb dropped on units or a city. That kind of thing. They are cool.

    Diplomacy is nothing special but functional. The AI aggression seemed turned down in the beta version I played (right before release). Maybe I played peacefully enough to keep them all happy.

    The alien life certainly had my attention, but wasn’t a actual threat… though beta testers on the forums talked about how previous versions saw alien life raids wiping out AI controlled opponents as the human players struggled to survive. That sounds awesome to me! I have high hopes that settings like this can be set by players.

    Graphics are good, but not triple AAA quality. They are more than functional however. They are quite nice.

    Its more than a spiritual successor to AC, its really a reboot with most of the same mechanics and elements. Just what I was looking for. It really delivers the goods when it comes to remaking the AC experience. Its not just derivative. Its a plagiarist’s tribute, and I mean that as a complement.

    The lore is deep, as is the writing. Its certainly not aimed at the casual crowd. I’ve played lots of Civ and AC.

    I really like it, and will purchase it… I have diverted my gaming funds to XCOM and X-rebirth (unless it sucks as bad as some people say), but its third on my ‘To Buy’ list.

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