Galactic Civilizations a great example of what dedicated designer and fan-base support can do for a game franchise. After the initial GalCiv release a few years ago, Stardock proved that it wasn’t content to simply publish one of the best 4X strategy games in recent memory. They’ve listened to fan feedback, tweaked and fiddled with an already great game to make it even better. With the release of The Altarian Prophecy, Stardock brings even more to the GalCiv table, including a full campaign, new units, technologies, and alien opponents, and a long-asked-for map and campaign editor. In short, Altarian Prophecy is exactly what an expansion pack should be.
I realize I’m gushing praise here, but I’m a Galactic Civilizations fanboy, and have been ever since the initial release. So this review is going to be unashamedly biased, and should be taken with that grain of salt. GalCiv is one of my favorite games of all time, Altarian Prophecy just piles on the goodness, and I’m one very happy gamer.
For those not in the know, Altarian Prophecy is the latest expansion for Galactic Civilizations, the 4X space-sim. Players once again take control of the human race as they rush to conquer the universe through force, diplomacy, and economic superiority. Most of the improvements in Altarian Prophecy are just little enhancements here and there. Several of the information screens have been cleaned up or streamlined, making for an even easier interface. Quite a few tweaks have been made to the gameplay itself. For instance, the powerful ‘culture bomb’ technique is now quite a bit more costly, as many of the Cultural and Military Starbase modules now cost a bit of cash in addition to the Constructor to build.
In addition to all the tweaks to gameplay, there are also a host of new technologies, Galactic Wonders, events, and units. Both Good and Evil civilizations now have access to 2 new ship types. The Good guys get the Paladin and the Sovereign, the Evil side gets the Wraith and Vamp. None of these ships are as powerful as some of the more advanced capitol ships, but each has a special ability that can influence the fleet. The Paladin and Sovereign add healing and defense to their fleet, respectively, while the Wraith and Vamp deplete enemy defense and shields. I’m not sure how effective these new ships really are, since I’m still in the “gee-whiz” stage of getting to know them. But it’s nice to have some new strategies to play with.
Speaking of new strategies, I would have liked to see some added usefulness to the planetary improvements. My biggest complaint with GalCiv was the fact that many of the improvements just weren’t worth their maintenance cost. Unfortunately, this hasn’t changed with the expansion. I was hoping that there would be a bit of adjustment to make more of them worth buying. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the sequel for that improvement.
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