Alternative Character Interpretation: There's a positive or negative interpretation possible for every faction in the game, even if one accounts for the limits of their ideologiesnote The diversity of Social Engineering options for each faction even allows them a little leeway in-game, although all factions are typically prevented from choosing at least one civic that runs completely against their stated philosophy. — even those of the Hive or the Believers:
Commissioner Pravin Lal: An honest politician who wants everyone to be equal, to spread democracy and freedom, and to end all wars. Alternatively; He never really does step down as the leader of his faction, so obviously there are no elections, or he just rigs them in his favour. He also is pretty prone to eliminating anyone who doesn't agree with his values of democracy and libertarianism. His government is so plagued with excess bureaucracy and absurd amounts of gratuitous voting that nothing ever gets done. Furthermore, he's ironically the most conservative of the faction leaders in a sense, seeking to preserve a traditional Earth social framework in an environment where it makes for an increasingly bad fit.
Pravin Lal is the perfect embodiment of ethical integrity until one little quote in regards to genetics concerning his wife who was shot in the back by Santiago's men on the Unity.
Sister Miriam: Promotes traditional values, religion and culture, and opposes the evils of science pursued without regard to morality. She's also one of the few faction leaders shown to actually care for the welfare of the marginalized and downtrodden. Alternatively: She isn't above ruthlessly murdering anyone she dislikes in the slightest, usually people who are different and intellectuals.
CEO Morgan: Champion of free market economics, hard work, oppropriate reward, individualism, and friendly competition. Alternatively: Owner of human history's single most powerful economic monopoly, ever, of all time... ever! He is essentially abusing his anarcho-capitalist society as his own private cash farm. There's also his unhealthy obsession with personal wealth and refusal to commit to any sort of charity. The title of his seminal work, "The Ethics of Greed", plays to a number of interpretations.
Provost Zakharov: The most brilliant scientist to ever grace our universe. He is single mindedly devoted to advancing technology and uncovering all of the universe's secrets. He also runs a technocratic society and government. Alternatively: Zakharov has this thing about experimenting on live test subjects without their consent (or tricking them into it). He would blow up Chiron if he thought there was something valuable to discover in doing so.
Chairman Yang: Firm believer in community, self sacrifice, and true long term engineering of pretty much everything from eating schedules to full scale social engineering and even eugenics. This is the guy who wants to bring humanity to its true potential via socialism and dictatorship, and does it with honesty too! Alternatively: Yang likes to sacrifice people for the greater good. If it means advancement towards a better tomorrow, Yang will most definitely feed you to a shark or something. Also, the collectivist nature of his state really doesn't give people much incentive to work hard, get rich or do more than their share, as tall poppies aren't rewarded.
Colonel Santiago: Survivalist, social darwinist, and general all around bad ass. Santiago intends to make all mankind strong, both mentally and physically. The master species of all species. If you live under her rule expect strong discipline, high morale, and a body so fit you could crush a brick wall with your face. You will probably have the proudest and most awesome military ever imagined to boot! Alternatively: Santiago mandates that you must prove your right to live. The weak are... weeded out. The slightest sign of sickness in a newborn is grounds for such a fate. Also, her faction is brutally militarist to the point that almost no funding at all is invested into culture, science, education, or even basic housing; You have to do that all by yourself. After all, the strong should be able to build a house and live in it under the most brutal conditions, right?
Lady Deirdre: Environmentalism and sustainability is her hat. Deirdre seeks to build a society which lives in perfect harmony with nature and has probably even mastered the elements. Under her carefully guided economic management, industry has no pollution and every product is wholly recyclable. Alternatively: Deirdre is quick to tame local wildlife and use it to eliminate pretty much anyone who is even the slightest bit wasteful. Her total intolerance for other ways of life pretty much guarantees that her faction will never fulfill the full potential of any of their technological advancements.
The Manifold Caretakers and the Manifold Usurpers are considered overpowered in multiplayer, where the restrictions on diplomacy and win conditions no longer outweigh their numerous practical advantages.
The University, properly played, will become a scientific powerhouse. Zakharov's bases all begin with a Network Node, which boost research output and also let him link Alien Artifacts to the node for a free tech advanc. His ability to choose his starting tech also lets him rush to Secrets of the Human Brain, and he'll get there far faster than Lal or Miriam, rewarding him another free tech advance. All in all Zakharov will more than likely discover every notable tech advance first, and from there can either sell his tech to other factions, use it to build up a powerhouse network of advanced bases, or funnel it into an engine of conquest and steamroll enemies with technologically superior troops. It also helps that Zakharov's major weaknesses, extra drones and vulnerability to probe teams, are mitigated by two secret projects he can easily get to first.note The Virtual World makes every Network Node (again, Zakharov's bases all start with one for free) double as a Hologram Theatre, reducing drones by two and increasing Psych by 50%, which takes care of his drone problem. Meanwhile the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm makes him immune to probing, negating that weakness entirely)
The University's cousin faction, the Cybernetic Consciousness, is considered even better than them. They get the same +2 Research benefit the University does, along with +2 Efficiency for a great economy, and they don't suffer the -3 Police penalty for running a Cybernetic society model, which boosts Efficiency and Research even more. And they can steal tech when they conquer a base. Their penalty for all these advantages? A measely -1 to Growth.
Cloudbase Academy, a Secret Project that gives a free Aerospace Complexnote A building that gives extra movement to all flying units supported by (built in) that particular base. in each base of the faction that owns the project's home base. For economic benefit, this also means that a player's entire empire suddenly has full benefit to any satellites that have been launched. In multiplayer, of course, the usual response to someone else developing it is to nuke the base from orbit.
The drop pod ability for units lets them make air drops anywhere eight squares away, at a damage penalty of up to 30%. The catch is that a unit that has just performed an air drop can immediatley perform another. Cue units basically able to teleport across the map in exchange for taking damage, at which point you can just air drop them into a friendly base and let them take a turn to rest. This lets a player move combat units to the front lines instantly no matter where they were built. Or you can strap drop pods onto a Colony Pod and build a base anywhere you want.
The population boom mechanic can be this. Raise your "growth" stat high enough and any city with two food will *immediately* increase it's population by one every turn until it runs out of food. Population size effects the building resources and income of a city, being able to shoot it's population up allows you to take a tiny city and make it a powerhouse in just a few turns, if you have sufficient food. For many factions this requires picking certain civic policies and building the, rather cheap and otherwise useful for larger factions, children's creche, so this is not impossible to obtain. Build a new city, rush the children crech and the two forest boosting improvements and rush to build forests around you and you'll very quickly take your new city to powerhouse level, that should take the entire game to reach, in a few dozen turns.
While easily missed the early game Supply crawler in skilled hands can be this. The crawler can farm all of one resource type (food, production, or energy) from a square, and is quite cheap to make. Build a square to produce most of one resource and stick a crawler on it for a huge constant income for trivial cost. Better still, they can be traded in to rush production of secret projects by an amount equal to their building cost. Place all your supply crawlers close to one city, sit around while they bring in resources, and when you discover a new secret project drive all the crawlers to the city to rush your project in just the 2-3 turns it takes for the crawlers to reach the city. This strategy not only allows you to prepare to build a secret project ahead of time, but constantly reap supplies in the mean time. In fact until your city produces more then 11 minerals (since up to 10 excess minerals can be carried over to the next project after building something) there is no reason to ever directly build a secret project, it's better to build supplies crawlers one after the other so that you can at least use those crawlers to work some squares until you have enough to finish the project in one pass.
As a further exploit it can be cheaper to upgrade a crawler with money then it is to rush a project (it costs 4 energy per production unit to rush secret projects, upgrades can cost as little as 1 or less energy per production unit if done right). Thus building a basic crawler, paying to upgrade it to a far more expensive crawler, and then trading the crawler in to rush the project can allow rushing a project for a much lower energy cost.
The best trick is to combine the two strategies. upgrade a normal land spot to get 6 nutrients and stick a crawler on it with population boom and you soon have 3 new members of your base, which can be assigned as specialists. Mid game your looking at 2 engineers and one empath for a total of 8 energy and 6 research, multiplied by all your other faculty bonuses, forever on your base. You pay a trivial amount of resources, 3 turns to fully grow, and the time it took you to tearform the tile, and trust me with that kind of bonus your likely have plenty of tearformers running to upgrade tiles as quickly as you can fill them with crawlers. Of course by the time your able to utilize this strategy it's late enough in single player you probably already have all but won, if your exploited these game breakers earlier on; and in multi player your simply be setting up lots of tempting undefended targets to quickly be destroyed by smarter human players.
Hilarious in Hindsight: A planet only a bit bigger than Earth has been discovered in the Alpha Centauri system... that's as close to its sun as Mercury is to ours. Dammit.
Well, it orbits Alpha Centauri B. Chiron (fictionally) orbits Alpha Centauri A. There's still hope!
Magnificent Bastard: Sheng-Ji Yang. He cheated on his psych evaluation (using knowledge he obtained via having a PhD in psychology) to get on board the Unity as its executive officer and quite possibly (never confirmed) assassinated Captain Garland.
Memetic Mutation: "Please don't go. The drones need you. They look up to you."note Drones are working class citizens who will revolt if they become too numerous. The line is sometimes said by the narrator when quitting the game.
AND THEN THEY WERE EATEN BY MINDWORMS!note A nod to the Space/Science victories in the Civilization games, which involve sending a starship to Alpha Centauri. Needless to say, the colonists would be in for a surprise.
Narm: The "faction eradicated" cutscene is normally horrifying, but becomes unintentionally hilarious when the faction in question is the Cult of Planet. There are only three versions of the captured leader's scream (one for female human leaders, one for male humans, and one for aliens), and the male version is much too deep for the childish Cha Dawn.
Player Punch: When you first create a Mind Worm boil, you'll be treated to an interlude where your faction leader dispatches a trusted aide (with a randomized name, different per faction) to become the boil's controller. If that first boil gets destroyed in combat, another interlude will appear where your faction leader is looking upon the scorched remains of said aide, and is quite distraught by the sight.
If you subsequently capture the city that produced the unit that killed your aide, you get a third interlude, and the city is renamed in their honor automatically.
Science Marches On: One of the first secret projects you can build is the Human Genome Project, a real-life international research program to decode Human DNA that was ongoing when the game was made. Instead of still being a work-in-progress in 2060 when the Unity is launched, faster supercomputers allowed the project to be finished in 2003, four years after the game was released.
Tier-Induced Scrappy: Miriam. War in 4X games built on the civilization model, like Alpha Centauri, is a costly and time-consuming endeavor, and without proper preparations it can quickly become long-winded war of attrition with no end in sight. Miriam is aggressive and therefore extremely annoying, should one end up with a common border or insufficiently large body of water as a buffer. Playing as Miriam is even worse, because the AIs are suddenly as aggressive towards her as she usually is towards everyone else. All six of them.
Many are unhappy with the new factions in the expansion, believing them much more powerful than their counterparts in the original game. The aliens get hit particularly hard with this, since their primary disadvantage (their inability to properly form alliances and launch diplomatic programs) isn't a factor in multiplayer games.
The Woobie: Pravin Lal, whose sole goal is to preserve the original Unity mandate of creating a peaceful settlement for mankind on another planet and must now watch as that dream falls apart through factional infighting. He can become a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, however, depending on how the game unfolds.