Galactic Civilization 2


posted 3/16/2006 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC

Of course, improving a civilization’s military and infrastructure isn’t possible without research.  Galactic Civilizations 2 has a fairly extensive technology tree at its disposal, although the tree itself isn’t terribly interesting.  For example, “Laser Mk. II” follows the discovery of “Laser Mk. I”.  Although I don’t mind this straightforward approach, some might be put off by the lack of technological flair.  Also, the technology tree isn’t one with a lot of branches.  Researching the “Beam Weapons” line of technology only leads to better and better beam weapons, without any cross-over to, say, new propulsion or computing abilities.  While this certainly makes sense, it is a change of pace from many other 4X games in which technologies had many levels of prerequisite advancements.  For me, it works quite well, but some may find it a bit disappointing. 

One of the biggest complaints from the original was the lack of a ship-building mechanic.  I’m happy to say, GalCiv2 has one of the best ship-customizing features I’ve seen in a 4X game.  Usually, I don’t find myself enthralled with the ability to build my own ships, and as such I tend to spend the least amount of time possible playing with design.  However, given the ease and power of the GalCiv2 features, I was spending hours simply twiddling with different hull and cosmetic designs.  Each hull type can carry a certain amount of weaponry, defenses, and other improvements.  Increasing technology levels allows players to fit more and better equipment on a given hull, or opens up new hulls for design.  In addition, each ship can be greatly customized with no-cost aesthetic improvements, allowing for some pretty amazing design possibilities. 

The computer AI is one of the best I’ve seen in a game, 4X or otherwise.  While there is no multiplayer component, the AI does a very good job at providing a very “human” feel to the opponents.  At easier difficulties, the AI will make clumsy beginner mistakes, but crank the difficulty dial up to a higher setting, and you’ll be surprised to see long-term planning, backstabbing, careful tactical consideration, and even taunting.  And, as far as I could tell, I didn’t detect any of the obvious “cheating” that becomes apparent in other games of this type.  Sure, at higher difficulties, the computer is given a financial edge at the beginning of the game, but there doesn’t appear to be any of the “cheese” that some games utilize, such as letting the computer have knowledge of the entire galactic map.  It was quite refreshing.  As for the lack of multiplayer, I have to say I don’t miss it one bit.  For myself, I hardly play online unless I’m running a review, so I appreciate the fact that Stardock decided to concentrate on balancing a game perfectly for the single-player experience. 

Also included is a very strong campaign mode, stringing together a rather interesting tale of the emergence of an ancient (and very powerful) galactic presence.  With a branching storyline, losing a particular scenario isn’t the end of the game.  In fact, to see all the scenarios, players will have to fail occasionally.  Unlike most campaigns included in games like these, the Dread Lords campaign isn’t a teaching campaign.  Players had better have a good handle on the sandbox play before jumping into the campaign mode. 

All in all, Galactic Civilizations 2 is the best space-based 4X game since, well, the original Galactic Civilizations.  To top things off, Stardock has incredible player support for their titles, so players are guaranteed that GalCiv2 will be a continuously-improving, ever-evolving game.  Stardock listens to its players, learns from them, and consistently delivers what their player-base wants.  Out of the box, GalCiv2 is a great game, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to strategy fans everywhere.  Given the promise of continuing polish, improvements, and additional content, I predict GalCiv2 will be a strategy joy for many years to come. 

An incredible 4X space-based strategy title, sure to cause sleepless nights and groggy mornings. For those with “one-more-turn syndrome”, this one will consume your world.

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