We peer into the rich sci-fi world of Pandora: First Contact for the first time. What we encounter is a turn-based strategy game rife with opportunities, where you explore a randomly generated Earth-like planet.
You play as the leader of one of seven factions, and you can determine world size, map type, starting/victory conditions and other such niceties.
The native lifeforms that inhabit Pandora are a constant threat on land and at sea, but you are encouraged to forge on, to discover its diverse ecosystems ranging from rain forests near the equator to vast deserts, from the savanna to the tundra, all the way to the icy poles.
The terrain is not just for show either as forests and mountains do obstruct line of sight and fog of war is present. There are also consequences in terms of accessibility, as units like tanks, for instance, can't reach some areas that Mechs can.
Scattered throughout the land are ruins and relics of long lost civilizations that will grant special advantages only to those who first discover them. There are other things too that you can run into and if you come out victorious from such perilous fortuit encounters the rewards are appealing indeed.
Terraforming is possible, with soil modification permitting the establishment of farms and the increase in output and benefits derived from natural resources. Forts and mines pave the way for cities to last, and as you gather food and minerals other elements must be monitored as well, such as research, pollution, morale, credits and overall city prodution, the latter of which suffering significantly if minerals are lacking.
As you progress you will traverse the eras, which are three: Colonisation, mechanisation and transcendence.
Technological evolution can lead to scientific supremacy which is a victory condition in the game. To reach that ultimate tech, though, there is an extensive research tree to climb through, with dozens of techs pertaining to all fields of knowledge, from political systems, different facility types, operations, to weapons, armour and specialised units.
Speaking of units, they have a number of key characteristics like movement range, sight range, producion cost, upkeep, health and power, the latter of which replaces the more common Attack/Defense value pairs found in many other games with a single more easily representative one.
Unit customisation is allowed and you can adjust things like class (of which there are reportedly three tiers per unit class), name, and even make use of optional tags like Light, Heavy, Biological or Mechanical.
You can select weapon and armour too of course, with weapon classes as machine guns, gatling guns, sniper rifles, flame/gas throwers, missile launchers, cannons, AA guns, artillery and lasers which cause different damage types like kinetic, thermal, explosive, sonic or radioactive that are said to suffer change between tiers.
As a result armour too can be more or less effective at countering certain damage types. A particularity that we were told of by Mr.Lorenz from Proxy Studios in this respect was that we will have the ability to make last-minute adjustment to armour once you are in range of a city, albeit for a cost.
In case you're wondering, units can be stacked but this is not without disadvantage as artillery fire can perfectly well lay waste to such implements of doom. Not to mention nuclear missiles, did we fail to mention those? They can even be 'stolen' if a city with a ready missile silo is taken by the enemy.
And, by all impressions we're just scratching the surface as there is no unit limit and we've heard of things like satellite recon, drop pods and nanomachine repair.
But not all is down to brute force either as, though different political systems can clash, pacts, alliances, and, therefore, diplomatic victory are a possibility on the table if you manage to get yourself elected planetary governor.
To top it all off you can also count on head-to-head multiplayer and play-by-e-mail (PBEM++).
With such an ambitious feature set, this simultaneous turn-based offering's Q3 2012 release date is merely indicative as it may need a little more time than that to really get things right (possibly Q4 2012).