Galactic Civilizations II Review

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Galactic Civilizations II Screenshot


It's not often you find a game that has the ability to suck you in and keep you glued to your chair for hours on end. With plenty of customization features, numerous victory conditions, and a completely entertaining experience Galactic Civilizations II The Dread Lords is one of those rare games. In addition, strategy game fans will be delighted with the high level of replayability, no two games of Gal Civ 2 are ever the same.

Game Play

Galactic Civilizations II is an epic turn-based strategy game set in the 23rd century with the overall objective to be the most dominant civilization in the galaxy. Victory conditions do not depend on the typical method seen in many games of wiping out the existence of rival civilizations. Rather, it is obtained by using your civilization and it's growth to obtain a political, technological, cultural or military victory. The path you choose for your civilization is entirely up to you and can easily change throughout the course of the game.

The game offers both a campaign and a free-form stand-alone game mode. In the campaign mode, you take on the role of the Terrian Alliance (a.k.a. Humans) and play against the evil Drengin Empire in a quest to control the galaxy for good or evil. The Drengin however, have awoken the Dread Lords, an ancient and powerful civilization that don’t necessarily play nice with others.

In the stand-alone game, you command one of 10 civilizations and guide them towards the ultimate goal of controlling the galaxy. There is a bit of a learning curve and many of the options and features are worth learning through the tutorials before you spend your first couple hours clicking around aimlessly.

You may be tempted to quickly click through the galaxy and civilization setup screens, but these screens are quite important and should not be overlooked. From here you'll decide the overall makeup of your galaxy and civilizations that call it home. Settings such as size, habitable planets, stars, starting technology and more are all decided here and are very customizable.

In addition, if for some reason you don't like any of the standard civilizations, GalCiv2 gives you the ability to create your own civilization with different abilities, alignment (good, neutral or evil), political affiliation and more. These are also very important as other civilizations will react differently to you depending on your actions and overall tendency during gameplay. If your civilization is inherently militaristic and you’re trying to make peaceful impressions, building up ships around a civ’s planet will not instill in them the warm fuzzy feelings you’re hoping for.

Once you're past the initial setup you'll begin the game with one planet and the task of growing your civilization by building up the planet's facilities and colonizing other worlds. Planet rating in Gal Civ 2 has been simplified when compared to the original Galactic Civilizations (civs) and simplified for the better. Each planet has a rating of 0 thru 10 which signifies how habitable it is for life. This number actually determines how many facilities can be built on the planet's surface. A key strategy from the start is determining how you're going to expand your civilization.

Determining what facilities are built on a planet is done through the Colony Management screen which shows a basic layout of the planet with available building zones. Earth, for example, has a planet rating of 10, with this rating there are 10 zones that can support buildings such as farms, factories, research labs, spaceports, markets and more.

From this screen you will also get a snapshot of how your planet is doing, it's income, expenses, production levels, food level and more. It's also the place where you'll see your approval rating and tax/military/research rate which can play a big impact on how your citizens view your leadership.

The gameplay and interface for Galactic Civilizations II are superb, all areas of management; the galaxy map, colony management, shipbuilding and more perform flawlessly. There's not one bit of necessary information missing and if for some reason it's not on your the current screen, it's no more than one or two clicks away from being front and center.

Research, Production & Combat

Research and production are a huge part of any strategy game and Gal Civ 2 is no exception. Deciding how much of your planet should be used for factories or research labs determines how fast ships are built and new technology is discovered.

Although the technology tree for Gal Civ 2 is less complicated than the original, it can still be overwhelming at times with more than a dozen paths of research to choose from. You can focus your civilization on weapons and defense, diplomacy, propulsion or engineering or research across all technologies. You will discover that the path you choose plays a role in how other civilizations react to you. Focusing entirely on military and weapons may sway other civs to focus their attention on developing alliances and building defenses.

The research and production aspect of the game is very similar to Civilization strategy game series in the sense that you will have to allocate rates for military production, research, and social spending. This is one of just a few comparisons that can be made with Civilization IV. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Gal Civ 2 has enough unique features and aspects of gameplay that separates it from Civilization and in some regards makes it a better overall gaming experience.

Combat in Galactic Civilizations II is significantly enhanced over the original. There are three different types of weapons, with varying strengths depending on the research level, as well as three ship defenses that counter each type of weapon. Missile weapons, for example, are countered by point defenses, shields counter beam weapons and so on. This makes for an added element of strategy when it comes to combat between ships, it's pointless to go into battle with beam weapons when the enemy is well defended by shields.

AI & Graphics

Although it may be planned for a future update patch or expansion, Galactic Civilizations II does not include any multiplayer capability. Stardock, however, has developed an AI that can rival any and keep the best strategy game players challenged every time they play. The AI for Gal Civ 2 clearly stands head and shoulders above other strategy games. Computer opponents make conscious decisions based on your actions, computer controlled opponent's actions and their motives which are determined by the civilization's attributes and abilities. AI controlled civs also treat all rival civilizations equally, reacting no different to a player than they would to another computer controlled civilization.

The numerous victory conditions also play a role in the game's overall AI. One civilization's build-up of its cultural influence, for example, may prompt different reactions or a shift in attitude to any or all civilizations in a game. Civilizations allied with you may up and change allegiance if they see a change in your diplomatic, domestic, or military decisions. With all that said the 12 difficulty settings give enough variations in the AI’s ability for you to find an enjoyable challenge for your ability.

The gameplay and interface may have all the bells and whistles that make it a great strategy game, but does it have the graphics to make it look fun and appealing. The answer is a resounding yes. GalCiv2 sports an entirely new 3D engine that brings the galaxy to life, the galaxy map has detailed 3D stars, planets and detailed units. The management screens are also nicely designed with a very clean layout.

From the perspective of a first time player of Gal Civ 2, the most impressive aspect of the graphics is ship construction. There are dozens of pre-made ships that can be built, but Gal Civ 2 gives you the added bonus of being able to create ships of your own design. As you research more technology, ship parts become available and enable you to create your own unique fully 3D ships. The ship designs can then be used during gameplay, shared with other players, and posted online.

Bottom Line

There's bound to be comparisons made with this and other top-tier strategy games, but Galactic Civilizations II stands tall both on its own and in comparison with any turn-based strategy game. Yet, there's so much more to say about Galactic Civilizations II, much more than can be said in any two-page review, the game is truly impressive. The sheer amount of detail is mind-boggling; civilization management, AI, and the addicting nature of gameplay make Galactic Civilizations II a true gem to play.