The latest (and last) expansion for Galactic Civilizations, Twilight of the Arnor, looks to end this chapter of the franchise on a high note, once again fleshing out the already outstanding series. Twilight wraps up the story of the Dread Lords and the repercussions of their presence on the races of the galaxy. And while I am quite interested to play through the single-player campaign and see how everything turns out, I’m much more excited about all the new additions and twists Twilight brings to the universe.
Perhaps the biggest addition Twilight brings to the table is a unique tech tree for each civilization. One of my (few) problems I had with GalCiv2 was the fact that the different races just didn’t feel all that unique. Each expansion improved that a bit, adding Super Abilities and racial bonuses, but Twilight goes all out and completely revamps the technology tracks, giving each civilization a flavor all its own. While many of the techs are similar throughout the galaxy, each race gets its own spin on even the most generic of advances through flavor text. And there are plenty of race-specific abilities and products to research, adding yet another layer of depth. In addition to individual techs, each race has a much more distinct look, with both units and planetary improvements being individually tailored. I’ve only had a chance to play through a few of the races so far, but each has a wonderfully distinct feel, adding even more hours of replayability to this already addictive time-sink.
Twilight also adds a few more units and ship upgrades, along with yet more art for those still addicted to the incredible ship builder. And I found myself giggling with almost manic glee about the return of the star-destroying Terror Stars. These aren’t the all-powerful juggernauts from GalCivI, but they do add some interesting choices to the game. Simply combine oodles of research and several constructors, and your race has the ability to blot out a sun! These behemoths can destroy stars, wiping civilizations and units out of the surrounding systems. It’s not a great way to make happy neighbors, but it does get the point across when peaceful negotiations break down. Terror Stars don’t have much in the way of defenses, though, so escorting them to the solar system in question can be a bit tricky. Not to mention the fact that upon delivering their payload, they might very well wipe out their entire defense force. Still, just having the option of solar destruction back in my hands is a wonderful thing.
Twilight also introduces yet another victory condition: Ascension. When this condition is chosen, several special crystals are spread around the map. Players can capture Ascension points by building starbases on these crystals, generating a single point per turn per crystal. The other races won’t simply sit patiently by and let you try to achieve a higher plane of being, however, so players starting off down the path to Ascension will soon find the rest of the galaxy becoming very annoyed with everything they do.
Graphics are getting yet another overhaul, with even flashier combats and some spiffy invasion screens. And the kind folks at Stardock have now included template ships for those who want a little more simplicity in their ship building. Not only do these templates look cool, they can be set to automatically update and upgrade as technologies are researched. In addition to everything looking sharper and more detailed, the graphics engine has been improved to eat up less processor, meaning an even smoother, better looking game. The AI gets a workover, too, making my mediocre strategy skills even more painfully deficient. Of course, in Stardock tradition, Twilight also comes with tons of content for the fan community as well, including editors galore for the modding enthusiast. Once again Stardock is brining us more in a single expansion than many franchises do in a sequel. Look for this final chapter to an amazing game in the next few months.