Pandor: First Contact - Just Announced Space 4X from Slitherine and Matrix


This is very interesting to me. I’ve only played one other game that used a randomized tech tree (Sword of the Stars) and I loved it in that game.
However, I wouldn’t necessarily expect a randomized tech tree to work as well in a game like Civilization. (In Civ, almost every tech is essential sooner or later, whereas in SotS1, many of the tech paths represent alternative weapon/combat strategies, so you can afford to miss out on certain types of weapons or defenses because you can often compensate with different tactics).

I also came to SotS1 relatively late, and by that time the fans had made a tech tree map (and a wiki) that showed every tech and every race’s probabilities for unlocking that tech. I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed playing the game without that resource, since it would’ve made it much harder to plan my strategy, but I’m a big min-maxer when playig 4Xs. Anyway, I’m intrigued by the idea that this Pandor tech tree gives you a bit of a preview. That seems like a nice compromise.

Does anyone know if it’s possible to secondarily unlock a tech that you’d randomly missed the first time? (e.g., in SotS1, there are multiple routes to a tech so if you miss one you can explore an alternative, and if that fails you can also try to salvage tech from an enemy faction which lets you ‘reroll’ your odds for unlocking things further up that branch in the tree).


There are multiple ways to get to some techs, but it is only located at one spot on the tree. You can bypass many techs on the way through the tree.


MOO had randomized techs from a fixed pool, except the psilons who had every tech. And it works beautifully.


Sent you a PM, hope its still available. I’m skeptical at investing the entire 30 USD for this game, but if its discounted, I’m willing to risk a purchase and check it out for myself.


I’m going to /troll your thread Brain, even though I’ve never played this game, or even heard of it!!!

  1. It’s not MOO

  2. The tech tree is fubar

  3. Science victories are overpowered

  4. City management is confusing at first, but ends up being fubar once you understand it

  5. There is not enough “space”


The code is taken, guys. Sorry.


If anybody else has one of those fun codes, I’d be happy to take it off your hands!


I finished my first game, but I will be playing more before I put up my review on my site. I thought I would share some of my first thoughts. I played as the Imperium which gets military based bonuses, and lost a close game to the Togra University who surprisingly enough gets science based bonuses. They eked out a science victory before I could control enough of the world’s population. This was at the default difficulty where they AI gets a slight morale bonus. I have a feeling the science faction may be the ones to beat because with strong science, you get access to improved units faster so you should be able to keep up militarily. At least enough to protect yourself. You are also more likely to get the super weapon operations of the nuclear bomb and black hole generator.

I had a good time with my first game. The city management puts a little bit of different spin on the 4x formula where you assign people to jobs (farmer, miner, scientist, worker) instead of assigning them to a tile. I like the micro management in the beginning, but once you faction starts to grow you have to sort of give up on controlling everything. It gets too tedious. You can automate it to some extent by locking out certain jobs in particular cities. I kinda liked how the growth rate wasn’t tied to excess food, but you had to have enough food to feed your guys. I wish there were more factors that affected growth rate, but it is directly tied to the population of your city. I like how it grows faster as it gets bigger. It makes more sense than when population grows more slowly as there are more people. People automatically migrate from cities with lower morale to cities of higher morale. The terrain seems less interesting than in Civ since there aren’t special resources to seek out. There are special tiles that give bonuses, but they are more rare. This makes them more special, but it does make a lot of the landscape mundane.

I’m not generally a fan of unit customization, but it does work pretty quickly and doesn’t big things down too much. I think the randomized tech tree will be a good feature so it shakes things up from game to game, but since I only played 1 game so far it is hard to tell. Once side effect of the randomization is that connections between techs don’t really have a lot of logic to them.

While the AI got the best of me, there were definitely some weaknesses. Even in the late game they were running around with early game units. They had a lot of them, so it did take a while to beat them down with my fewer, more powerful units, but they did fall. Specially considering the science faction gets decreased unit upgrade costs. They should have taken advantage of it. At least they did start to build some more powerful units, but it was a small part of their forces. The AI sometimes protected their weak troops transports on the seas, but not all the time. I was able to sink quite a bit.

The diplomacy felt half baked. While the UI does display the factions’ opinions of you, you don;t really know why they feel that way. Do close borders matter? Who knows? I’m guessing having research / trade agreements helps improve relations, but I don’t know. You can also praise and denounce factions to build relations. All this seems kind of pointless. It was very easy to keep the peace with those who I wanted peace with. The bigger issue was that nobody seemed to care when I suddenly stopped all agreements with a long time ally and attacked them. Everyone still thought I was great, even the factions friendly to the one I attacked. This made it easy to pick on 1 faction at a time. I didn’t observe any flip flop behavior though where the AI switch from being friendly to hostile at the drop of a hat.

I like the operations. These are essentially cooldown based special actions, like use a satellite to reveal a part of the map, or call in a bombardment. A nice aspect of them is that you can bank them for later use and unleash 15 bombardments on your enemy when you decide to attack. A building will essentially generate its particular kind of operation every x number of turns.


I agree with much of what Rob said. It’s certainly not a SMAC clone and the game can stand on its own two feet.

I think I know why tbg couldn’t get into it - it does start a bit slower than other 4X games due to the shared resources. It picks up a bit after 30 turns in or so.

The overall package’s production values are excellent, especially for a first-run game. This includes a bunch of items - things like graphics, sounds, interface and overall stability are quite good. The game is visually appealing, the interface is a Civ V clone (which is a good thing), the unit graphics are neat, the sounds ok, the music unobtrusive (maybe a little too forgettable) and the game has only crashed on me once. Other things work really well - stuff that’s not so simple like map scripts and the combat AI. These things can sink a game (FE:LH’s map scripts are still awful) and here they’re just nailed.

I like the flavor of the descriptions. Inspired by SMAC, they help breathe life into the game. A couple of other concepts that seem to work well are the semi-random tech tree, the unit editor and the global pool of food, minerals and the like. I didn’t see the impact of migration from one city to another, but supposedly it’s there. Because of these concepts, the game starts off a little slower than other 4x games, but it makes up for it later. Each civ has its own personality and that’s generally a good thing (more on the downside of this later), and between the descriptions, the AI and some of these other factors the game had some unique flavor. It’s not faceless and that’s a good thing.

Operations are neat and can be used to devastating effect. I found out that the hard way when my massed army was bombarded repeatedly due to an AI operation. There’s nothing like losing half of your killers stack of doom to an aerial bombardment to make you re-think your strategy.

I played last night and got that “just one more turn itch” and finished my first victory this morning. That itch is the hallmark of a good game. My first impressions are favorable.

I have some concerns about this game long-term though. I think these are all fixable, some pretty easily. But some of these need fixing before I’ll give it my recommendation.

  • The game needs some more flavor. While I like the Operations, I’d like to see more city specialization (which means needing Wonders) and unique landscape tiles. They’re greatly needed.

  • I’d also suggest either some random events (SMAC had 'em) or just a way to make the game feel more “alien”. Once I was halfway through, the alien species were gone and I could have been fighting on Earth. That’s not good for a Sci-Fi game on an alien planet. The flora/fauna has no chance of survival in this game currently and the planet just doesn’t have the tools to fight back. In SMAC you could strike a balance with Planet and the planet was an extremely tough opponent to take head-on. Pandora is a pushover.

  • The AI and the diplomacy needs some work. Imperium and Divine are simply awful and overall the AI is far too aggressive. A player using someone like Togra is at a massive disadvantage early in the game because some civs are like the Civ 2 Mongols on steroids. At the same time, Noxium and Terra are diplomatic pushovers. Moderate these a bit and provide a bit more clarity as to why civs like / don’t like you. Also, the ability to have one civ attack another would be nice. But the game needs work here ASAP. While Rob said that Togra may be the “one to watch”, that’s not really the case. The tech group is always trouble in late game if they’ve been left alone. But surviving the beginning of the game was incredibly rough because of Imperium and Divine’s hyper-aggression.

  • Players need a manual and more information regarding how they’re doing. I won a tech victory and I couldn’t even tell it was coming. The devs don’t have to do a ton here, but the players need some guidance on the mechanics and some better information as to the winning conditions.

  • The speed of the endgame seems to go a bit haywire. I was researching techs every turn. Buildings were being produced in one or two turns. It was nice to see things happen, but it got old after a while. I’d love to play Pandora on a huge map to keep the exploration aspect going longer, but I can’t imagine how long the endgame would take on such a map because there seemingly aren’t penalties for city spam and unchecked growth.

Overall, it’s cool. It’s a good, solid 4x game. It has issues throughout though. The entire opening third of the game is dictated by the psychotic AI and absurd civ bonuses contribute to this. It doesn’t matter who you are, you better just churn out units to fend off the inevitable attacks or you’re done. There’s just no option. The mid-game gets bogged down because there’s no “alien world” remaining and there’s a decided lack of events and wonders to keep things fresh. The endgame becomes a bit of a slog with city-spam and incredible production speeds. Luckily, many of these things can be fixed with relative ease because much of this doesn’t require new gameplay mechanics (wonders and events would).

If this ends up being the final and complete product, I’ll be disappointed. I’ll get a few games out of it, but I’ll ultimately return to Civ V, DW and other games for my 4X fix. I will get my money’s worth, but it won’t be something I could recommend. However if it continues to get developed (and it won’t take a whole lot), Pandora could be a great one. YMMV.


My 4th game, 3rd as the tech faction finally resulted in a win, and it was a biggy. I simultaneously won an economic and tech victory. The zealot faction was foolish enough to attack me after I had been sitting on a stockpile of nuclear weapons and black holes. The black hole generator is awesome. I used it to erase about 5 cities of theirs off the map without leaving the comfort of my own continent. The military faction was full of bluster a couple times, but never attacked me.

After I set all of my cities to produce wealth, my economic victory progress was going up 11% per turn. I’m not sure how they would defend against that. Would it work for them to set their cities to produce wealth? Who knows.


Erm, okay. So in the first game I started, at the end of Turn 1, four of the five other civs were eliminated. I’m assuming this is a bug of some sort… ?


Seems like a bug. Do you have the save game to give to the devs? It autosaves.


Building wealth is overpowered and leads to an easy economic victory.

I was playing as the nature faction, the religious and economic factions were left. Everything at default settings. When I only had about 25% progress to economic victory, I decided to just have all of my cities produce wealth. I had 9 cities at that point, 5 of them well developed.

My progress increased about 3 percent per turn. When I hit 75%, the religious faction started getting cranky with my - stopped some agreements, public insult, but never got to the point of declaring war. I don’t think they had the time, nor would they have been able to stop me since I was fairly well defended, but not a ton.

I think the produce wealth is overpowered. It allows one to get the economic victory fairly quickly without a good way to stop the player. Maybe it would help if the AI factions started producing wealth as a defense to an economic victory when a player hit the 75% progress towards economic victory. In any case, I think something needs to change with this to balance the game a bit better.


I just posted my reviewof the game, but for you I’ll list some highlights here. SOme have probably been mentioned before in this thread. I feel there is enough different in this game for there to be room for Civ and Pandora. I guess it depends on how much you love 4X games, but I think if you are a big fan of them this is good enough to coexist with the others. I haven’t played Alpha Centauri in over a decade so I can’t make comparisons there.

  • The combination of a random tech tree and the ability to only display future techs close to your current level forces the player to adapt and gets you out of the habit of always researching things int he same order. Also good is that there are multiple paths through the tech tree, some you can bypass some techs entirely without ever looking back. In Civ V is always seemed like you had to backtrack at some point to pick up prior techs.

  • The city model is a bit different than the Civ model. Global food and mineral resources. Minerals being required to keep up production. Cities can specialize more due to the faction resource pool. It is missing strategic and luxury resources, so that bit of excitement is gone. Love finding those deposits. No wonder buildings either - boo.

  • Operations are awesome! Discover the right tech, build the right building and operations start getting generated automatically. These range form the more mundane - satellite scans, to the awesome - rain down death with a localized black hole generator. Wipe cities from the planet - bam!

  • Unuseful lore-only manual (boo). Useful tooltips and hint messages (yea!). The good UI makes most things easy enough to discover but leaves some unnecessary holes.

  • You kind of need to design units since the default ones are bare bones (boo). The unit workshop is very easy to use and allows creation of new unit designs in less than a minute!

  • The unit model is rock, paper, scissorish (boo), but with unit classes, weapon choices, armor and devices that can be added it does become a bit more than that (yeah!).

  • Units can stack (yea!), it felt good to play without 1UPT. It felt like a strategic game instead of a tactical game forces on a strategic map. Stacks can get large, so some battled can get a little tedious but still for the best I think.

  • The AI actually beat me at the default difficulty (gets very minor bonuses) for my first 3 games in a row. As you raise the difficulty, the AI gets a morale boost which affects worker production. The AI seems to be able to put together an attack although it does sometimes attack with less than adequate forces. It also doesn’t seem quite as adept at using operations enough. Still seems like it will maintain more of a challenge than Civ V.

  • Diplomacy is opaque (boo), but at least it is clear what they think of you and they don’t seem schizophrenic (yea!). Basic Civ V type of diplomacy options. Limited economic / research pacts. No resource trading (boo). In general the AI seems a little easy to mollify, except for perhaps the religious zealot faction. Factions didn’t seem to care when I halted agreements and attacked someone I was friendly with (boo). I should be seen as untrustworthy - at least if they were friends of the one I attacked!

  • Clean visual appearance, good UI.

  • Zero crashes even with alt tabbing out a lot.

  • Fast AI turn times (yea!).


OK, I’m sure I’ll find it eventually, but how do you check your progress to victory?


In tooltips for the military, tech and economic buttons at the bottom of the screen. It took me a while to stumble across them.


Thank you for the well written review. It sheds a lot of light as to the game. My biggest query is how far are the developers willing to commit to improve upon the features that you consider light. Its one thing to commit to bug fixes but fleshing out new features, can we expect that from the developers?


Thanks for the compliment! All I can say about future improvements is that the devs on the forum state that still have a lot of ideas on where to take the game. Not sure how much will be in free updates, paid dlc / expansions, etc. I don’t have any concrete info about what they want to improve, but someone on the forums mentioned diplomacy might get some attention.


Thanks. I had clicked on them thinking that screen would have the info, but hadn’t thought to hover.

Your review looks great. I’ll definitely be reading it tomorrow. Your synopsis above parallels my views pretty well.


I feel that this game is worth revisiting after an expansion gets released buffing out the features. I’m content to wait and just enjoy vicariously through your reports here about the game in the meantime.