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The anarchists are a faction that seems to be inspired by 1980's punk rock, soccer hooligans, and extreme libertarianism. These things serve to give the faction a distinct character that is actually kind of refreshing. My main problem with this faction and its abilities is that they are a little too realistic. A society of Anarchists is unlikely to survive and prosper in the real world (especially on a hostile planet where cooperation and order are critical), and it is unlikely to do well in a game (but more on that in the power section). Still, I will give kudos to the creators for cleaving assiduously to realism.
As I said in the concept section, the power level of this faction is distressingly realistic. My biggest complaint is with the unreasonable research penalty. Combined with the increased tech cost, even the Believers were leaving me in the dust technologically. I used a dense expansion strategy on Librarian difficutly to get 17 bases, and I still had to wait 22 years for each advance (though, with the large efficiency penalty, my most distant bases effectively contributed nothing to my empire besides a couple of obsolete units). Given the absurd rate at which this faction produces drones, it would have been nice to have the technology to be able to produce psych facilities at my bases. Even with psych set at 20% and the free recreation commons this faction receives, I still had drone problems in my size 6 bases. What is perhaps most annoying about this faction is that what bonuses it has can be had by other (default) factions at a significantly lower cost. On a final note the creator seems to have his math muddled up, to get a bonus equivalent to the 175% (7/4) techcost, you would need a hurry cost of 4/7 or approximately 57%. Even then, though, the techcost penalty is likely to be a bigger hassle than the hurry bonus is worth.
Based on my first runthrough of the faction, I was going to give it a 9 out of 10, but after playing it more extensively, I lowered the score. The main cause of this decision was the base names. The first few I saw were pretty cool: Black Market, Neo London, Hell's Kitchen, The Pit - very evocative, they brought to mind the oppressive urban landscapes and deep shadows of a city at night that gave birth to the punk movement. After I tried a more aggressive expansion, I was exposed to some less impressive names: Neo Frankfurt, Neo Berlin, and Neo York (the "neo" prefix loses some of it's impact if it's overused), Punk Central (which sounds like a city for those who just don't get it), and, bewilderingly enough, Firaxis and Firaxis-2. Oh well, enough with the bad, there's a lot about this faction's art that's good. The base graphics were neat. They kind of reminded me of the "Darco" Arcology from SimCity 2000 (which is a good thing). The quote came with an mp3, which is always a bonus in my book. The mp3 is a snippet of a punk song, though I'm not familiar enough with the genre to tell whether it's an original composition. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it enough to make it a major factor in the art score. Besides some of the base names, the scripting was pretty good, and definitely gave Magnus a distinct personality.
Update: I have since learned the sound snippet is from the Sex Pistol's Anarchy in the UK. I like that song, I think it's appropriate to the faction, so the original category score stands.
I really wanted to like this faction, but in the end, the gameplay issues were too great for me to ignore. I can only recommend the Anarchists to those who have mastered Transcend difficulty and are looking for a quirky faction to make their Alien Crossfire experience more difficult.
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Agri-Culture is a faction of farmers. I really should just end this section here, but I won't. Farming is a neccessary economic and social activity of any human culture, it is not an ideology. What are the other faction leaders going to do when Niobe tells her about her plans? Are they going to say, "Oh no, please Niobe, the last thing we need in this harsh, forbidding wilderness is more food!" Give me a break. I also wonder, were the members of this faction once farmers for the other factions that felt so alienated by all the non-farming-related activity going on that they had to break away and form their own society? It just doesn't feel realistic to me.
In general, the faction abilities seem to fit their ideology pretty well, but one thing bothers me. They get a +2 to Morale. This makes their soldiers equivalent in training to the Spartans. I know that farmers tend to really love their land, but this bonus suggests that in addition to growing food, the Agri-Culture spends a great deal of its time training a fanatical army of loyal survivalists. I think a defensive bonus, a la the Manifold Caretakers, would have been more appropriate for this faction.
Power-wise, I didn't really have any problems with this faction, though I think there are a few things that could use some tweaking. The first was the morale bonus I mentioned above. The next was the Hybrid Forest. While a free Hybrid Forest in each base is probably not going to allow you to run away with the game, it can, when combined with the two free terraformers this faction receives, make the early game a lot easier. Not only does it effectively boost your society's economy and psych output by 50%, but it also gives extra food and energy in self-expanding forest squares. Combined with an all-out expansion, you could easily expand to fill a continent while other factions are still getting their first few bases established (a strategy I used against Cha-Dawn, one of my early neighbors). Still, the penalty to industry somewhat offsets this, and in the long run this faction's power balances out.
Okay, where to start. First off, the voice acting in the mp3 is not very good. It sounds a little like a teenage girl doing a fake Australian accent. Second, the picture of Wrema looks a little weird, in an undefinable way. Then again, maybe Wrema wears too much makeup and the weirdness of the picture was intentional, but either way, I didn't really enjoy looking at it. Third, the base names were just plain awful. If you notice, for all the original factions, the base names meant something. They reflected the character of the faction that built them the Agri-Culture's (which by the way is a pun that ceased to be cute the second time I heard it) bases have senseless names like "Blas," and "Dral." Maybe I'm missing something, and the names are farming implements or references to pagan nature rituals, but as far as I know, they're just gibberish. On a more positive note, the bases look really good - they're this kind of futuristic dome thing that you can easily imagine holds a small farming community.
In terms of sheer, mechanical playability, this faction isn't bad. Where I have problems is in sympathising with (or even acknowledging) the faction's ideology. If that sort of thing isn't important to you, and you don't mind putting up with some baffling base names, this faction might be worth a download.
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