I reinstalled SMAC
the other day, I must have played it about a thousand times over the years since it came out (1999) and enjoyed it everytime.
I dont know what it is about this game I enjoy so much, I think its the sheer rich, coherent world it builds, the story it manages to tell. Each bit of technology you research is accompanied by a bit of text, usually something pseudo-science or religiony or a famous quotation that tells you just what it is you've managed to discover.
Some of my favourites: http://www.generationterrorists.com/quotes/smac.html
The Morgans fear what may not be purchased, for a trader cannot comprehend a thing that is priceless.
Sister Miriam Godwinson
"The Collected Sermons"
Organic Superlube? Oh, it's great stuff, great stuff. You really have to keep an eye on it, though--it'll try and slide away from you the first chance it gets.
T. M. Morgan-Reilly
A handsome young Cyborg named Ace,
Wooed women at every base,
But once ladies glanced at
His special enhancement
They vanished with nary a trace.
Once a man has changed the relationship between himself and his environment, he cannot return to the blissful ignorance he left. Motion, of necessity, involves a change in perspective.
Commissioner Pravin Lal
"A Social History of Planet"
Its also fairly fast paced, no slow dragging out of the turns that happens in Civ4, each turn something happens. The only flaw is the AI which is... well, a bit annoying. Auto-formers dont bother building improvements and rival factions are constantly building bases within about 2 spaces of there own and your bases so you end up with a constant "city creep" that cuts wide swathes out of your territory.
I miss games that built other worlds so well, modern games seem to put a lot of effort in but are ultimately a bit bland. Games like this and Homeworld function better, perhaps the poor graphics add to the sense that you build the world yourself, you have to fill in the gaps. Or perhaps they just tell a story better, they are the Dickens of the gaming world because lets face it... not all old games are classics