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Video Game / Pandora: First Contact

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Pandora: First Contact is a 4X Strategy game set on an alien planet, developed by Proxy Studios and released in 2013. It is a self proclaimed spiritual successor to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, with factions paralleling the ones in its predecessor.

  • the militaristic Imperium, led by Admiral James Heid
  • the theocratic Divine Ascension, led by Lady Lilith Vermillion
  • the technocratic Togra University, led by Doctor Alpheus Schreiber
  • the capitalist Noxium Corporation, led by Director Eric Preston
  • the environmentalist Terra Salvum, led by Advocate Vivian Gardinier
  • the fascist Solar Dynasty, led by Prime Minister Yun Xi
  • the diplomatic Ambassadors, led by Secretary Itala Palomino

Despite the parallels between factions in Alpha Centauri and Pandora, the motivations and backstories vary wildly. For example the Lord's Believers (of Alpha Centauri) follow predominantly Christian themes. The Divine Ascension leader, on the other hand, has A God Am I complex, and the religion is described as "the worst parts of Facebook, Scientology, and North Korea".

This game provides examples of:

  • 4X: Much like its predecessor, gameplay centers around building a civilization, exploring the planet, discovering new technology, and conquering your rivals.
  • A God Am I: The leader of the Divine Ascension found faith in herself as a god, and travelled to Pandora to claim it for herself
  • Abusive Precursors: The Messari, who leave deadly booby-traps in their ruins. They have also left beacons that notify them if someone else is roaming around their abandoned homeworld. They then return to eliminate anyone who dares to do that. It's even mentioned that attempts at communication only lead to even greater aggression.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Terra Salvum. Which may or may not have repeatedly nuked the earth with terror attacks to force its enviromentalist worldview onto it.
  • Alcubierre Drive: According to the manual, this type of propulsion was invented by the Togra University and improved by Noxium scientists to the point where it could be feasibly used to accelerate a ship to relativistic speeds (not FTL, though). Thus, all the colony ships were equipped with them.
  • Blood Knight: James Heid's motivation for going to Pandora is that he doesn't want to be left out of the next war.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: The Divine Ascension suffers a penalty to scientific research.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The leader of the Imperium forces says this word for word, when discussing a battle that was regarded as particularly hellish.
    Heid:“Yeah sure, I’m aware that for some of our guys fighting in this hellhole was a living nightmare and traumatizing experience. But for me... it was Tuesday.”
  • Crapsack World: There is no faction in the setting that isn't in some way immoral and evil.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Turning your troopers into snipers or tanks into artillery pieces allows them to attack without retaliation (artillery can even attack two cells away). However, sniper rifles and artillery weapons are significantly weaker than standard weapons, which means they can leave units severely underpowered if they are attacked.
  • Darker and Edgier: The game as a whole is this to Alpha Centauri.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Like in Alpha Centauri, you have a workshop where you can modify a unit's armament, armor, and equipment. Existing units can be upgraded to new designs of the same type, for a price.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The alien life doesn't like you setting up shop on their planet and neither do the other human factions and then there is this little alien civilization invading the planet about 200 turns in. The fungus is also harmful to any unit who steps on it, although you can eventually make your formers immune to it.
  • Expy / Captain Ersatz: All the factions in game map to ones in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and share almost exactly the same strengths and weaknesses.
    • Imperium = Spartan Federation.
    • Divine Ascension = The Lord's Believers.
    • Togra University = University of Planet.
    • Noxium Corporation = Morgan Industries.
    • Terra Salvum = Gaia's Stepdaughters.
    • Solar Dynasty = The Hive.
    • Ambassadors = UN Peacekeepers
  • Evil vs. Evil: Every single faction in Pandora is in effect, the worst parts of an ideology taken to their extreme. Even worse? They all believe in what they're doing. From the blatantly autocratic Solar Dynasty to Terra Salvum, which was founded by a decade-long terror campaign.
  • Generation Ships: Unlike the other factions, Terra Salvum didn't have the resources or the time to build cryo-units for the long journey to Pandora. Thus, most of those who first set foot on Pandora were born aboard, including the faction's leader Vivian Gardinier. Apparently, a malfunction during the trip also served to prematurely kill off most of the adults.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Messari, whose units are way stronger than their equivalent human units. You basically need a Goliath mech to take on a Messari trooper.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Goliath mechs are the ultimate unit. They are huge, tough, and strong. However, they are too big to use roads, so roads have no effect on them.
  • Kill It with Fire: Flamethrowers are usually one of the first weapons you can research.
  • Mad Scientist: Togra University has this reputation, as the line went that if you wanted to do something immoral, then you asked Noxium – but if it was immoral and impossible, then you asked Togra.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Director Eric Preston of Noxium foresaw Imperium hijacking their prototype colony ship. The moment Heid contacted him, he sent a coded message to Noxium subsidiaries to short-sell Noxium stock like crazy. He knew that as soon as the news of the hijacking became public, the stock would tank. Indeed, that's what ends up happening, and Noxium ends up making back a lot more than what they lost, including the cost of the lost ship.
  • MegaCorp: Noxium Corporation, which if you read their back story, are implied to have evolved out of the Illuminati.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Noxium Corporation.
  • Orbital Bombardment: Once you build the appropriate satellite uplink, you can call down orbital bombardment every couple turns.
    • According to the Imperium Backstory, this is how the original founders of Empire Management were killed by a disgruntled employee. Using one of their own Kill Sats to boot.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Divine Ascension faction. According to the in-game documentation, the faction leader created many religions online, including a secret hidden truth in all of them, and used the influence of these religions to collect blackmail material.
  • Private Military Contractors: This is what the Imperium (officially known as Empire Management) are and they got into space by violently, as in using actual soldiers and weapons, taking over Noxium's competitors.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Admiral Heid's reason for breaking all ties with the largest MegaCorp in the Solar System and making off with one of their colony ships? Noxium's decision not to include the Imperium in the venture. In fact, it's rightly pointed out that Heid's mercenaries have no interest in Settling the Frontier. Heid, however, can't bear for there to be a war without his participation.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Mechanization Era agents are described as being fitted with "Kusanagi devices"
    • Several techs, units, and pieces of equipment have their names lifted directly from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri techs, such as Industrial automation and the use for "formers" as a term for worker/terraformer units and fusion lasers and silksteel armor as unit modules.
    • The Mechanization Era tank chassis is called the Demolisher Tank.
  • Send in the Clones: The leader of the Solar Dynasty is a clone of said nation's founder and a good chunk of the Solar Dynasty's colony expedition are his clones.
  • Shout-Out: Togra University and it’s leader Alpheus Schreiber are references to Dark Reign involving a scientist named Alpheus Togra.
  • Sleeper Starship: All the factions except for Terra Salvum arrived in these, built by the Noxium Corporation and sold to (or stolen by) the others. Terra Salvum lacked the funds to buy a ship, so they stole the plans and built their own.
  • Spiritual Successor: Of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. In fact, it plays almost exactly like SMAC with Civilizations V's graphics.
  • Spy Satellites: After building the appropriate uplink, you can periodically reveal a small portion of the map.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Lilith Vermillion managed to survive being shot in the head by a sniper. However, it's implied that she did sustain irreparable brain damage, resulting in her A God Am I complex. Previously, she only used the Divine Ascension as a way to amass more power and blackmail material. Afterwards, she began to genuinely believe that she was a prophet.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: An occasional eclipse lasts for several turns and results in an unusually high aggression from the alien life, even introducing several alien types that you don't normally encounter. It's specifically mentioned that the eclipse will not affect crop production, since most of food is grown hydroponically under artificial lighting.
  • You Have Failed Me: Noxium Corporation does this to its own security force for letting the Imperium make off with their colony ship. Which involves cutting off their bonuses and/or throwing them out the airlock.