This is it. This is my favorite game of all time. And I say this when games like Morrowind exist.
SMAC does a lot of things right. The hard science fiction setting, for example, which contains some of the richest concepts and most masterful writing since Asimov first graced us with his presence. SMAC is also an updated version of Civilization II, which is already one of the greatest 4X games of all time, so throwing in a rich, unforgettable science fiction setting really just catapulted an already great game even higher on the list of great games.
But here’s how I fell in love with SMAC.
I fell in love with SMAC because one day I built something called a Planet Buster. I had no idea what it did. Some kind of nuke, it looked like. So I shrugged and tossed it on the faction I was currently fighting. I figured it would set her back a bit.
The next thing I knew the majority of her extensive base was gone. Replaced by water.
Planet Busters, it turns out, are aptly named, because they destroy the planet.
Planet Busters are also a Big Deal and people get mad at you if you use them.
The Planet is not happy, either, for more than one reason. Firstly because Planet Busters also cause global warming. And secondly because Planet is sentient (Uh oh.)
So suddenly, just because of some off-handed decision, I was fighting off multiple factions, fighting off the the native life of the planet itself, desperately trying to keep my base afloat as the ocean slowly continued to rise, and ever reaching towards my end goal, which was to merge with Planet itself and become an immortal transhuman god.
All this, and brilliant technology quotes, too!
That’s when I realized that this was it. I was playing the greatest game that had ever been made, simply because I didn’t see how any other game could replicate what I was feeling. I was experiencing the greatest gaming experience I’d ever be able to have. It was perfection.
To this day I’ve yet to experience something in games that felt like that. No other game has been so tense, has wrapped me up in its story (an honest to god story in a 4X!) so tightly, as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. Maybe someday I’ll run across a game that can pull it off, and you know, that would be awesome. But until then, it’s okay, because every time I play SMAC it enthralls me yet again.
And that’s true video game magic right there.
(You can, and should, buy SMAC on GOG.)