I have to admit it: I have never really liked the “Galactic Civilizations” series. I know I should – it is a turn-based take-over-the-galaxy strategy game that everybody loves. The reviews just got better as the series progressed. What was wrong with me? Was I still carrying a torch for “Master of Orion”?
So when the alpha for “Galactic Civilizations III” (GC3) came my way it was just another game to preview. I loaded it up and went to work, and a few hours later looked up and noticed how dark it had gotten. This was unexpected, especially for a game so early in its development. GC3 has the makings of a good game.
There is plenty of stuff here that will be familiar to veterans of the previous entries in the series (and TBS veterans in general). You are the leader of a (customizable) species that has various traits (industrious, intelligent, gregarious) which provide bonuses to your civilization. Your species is stuck at a relatively low tech level so you must crawl among the stars in pokey ships looking for nice planets to colonize.
Planetary development involves constructing buildings on available planetary sites. These sites appear to be more-or-less randomly scattered across the planetary map. Planets with more sites, huddled close together, look to be important. As in any good 4X game, getting to these planets before your opponents is key to the early game.
Eventually you will expand enough to meet other species. There is an extensive backstory, including the previous installments, which describes what all the various species are like. There were three species in the alpha, and seven are listed for the beta, so there should be a wide variety of opponents. There is a good variety of species types – diplomats, ruthless killers, hiveminds, a giant corporation, insects, and more. The backstory also includes details on why each species wants to kill all the others.
You may not be ready to exterminate your enemies right away, so there will be a diplomatic interface where you can negotiate things like trade treaties and alliances. Peaceful victory conditions will be available. The more passive-aggressive player can attempt to extend their Influence over enemy systems. An economic victory condition also looks to be in the cards.
Generally, however, the galaxy will not be big enough for everybody. Toward this end there is a detailed tool to allow players to design their own ships. This looks like a focus of ongoing development. Expect ship design to be an important part of waging interstellar war.
It is way too early to make the final call on GC3. Many of the buttons on the release I had were grayed out and there is still a lot of debugging and balancing to be done. The basic framework looks solid. This is definitely a game to watch as it goes through beta.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Can write a better AI than anybody out there. Your mom likes me better than you. So does your girlfriend. Better-looking than you. Greatest living American author (except for Gene Wolfe. maybe). Humble.