Galactic Civilizations

Review

posted 6/16/2003 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
Some things may seem a little simpler in GalCiv than in most 4X games. Planet quality, for example, is a lot more straightforward here than in other titles. Instead of needing to remember which type of vegetation, size, soil composition, average temperature, and gravity is best for habitation, planets are simply rated on a numerical scale. A planetary rating of “1” is really bad, a rating of “15” is tolerable, and a planet that ranges around “25” or higher is a veritable paradise. Likewise, planetary production is a bit more streamlined than in other games. Each planet produces an output of Social, Military, and Research units. Social and Military production is geared toward the individual planet, and goes toward building structures, planetary upgrades, and ships. Research is pooled with other planets’ research to advance the civilization along the immense technology tree. Each planet also generates an economic revenue or deficit, which adds to or depletes the empire’s treasury. A very intuitive series of sliders allows for easy management of the planets and empire, controlling everything from tax rate to social spending to funding of covert operations. A set of programmable governors are available as well, each of which will set up a build order. This comes in quite handy for micromanagement reduction in late games when colonizing or conquering a new planet.

Conquering the galaxy can be done a variety of ways. The most obvious, of course, is to build lots of ships and destroy all the enemy ships. GalCiv has a bit less strategic combat than some 4X games. There is no customization of ships—when the proper technology has been researched, the unit will become available, more like Civilization III and less like Master of Orion II. Combat is also a straightforward affair. Attacking an enemy ship is simply a matter of moving one unit onto another one. The computer compares relative attack and defense values, throws in a few random numbers, and declares a winner. There is no separate battle screen, no sweeping tactical battle. This is a game less about the ability to create and expertly field the perfect ship, and more about the ability to create the perfect economy and infrastructure to field the best army.

If combat is not your preferred style of taking over the galaxy, you can simply show the neighbors that your civilization is just a lot more fun that theirs. Cultural Influence plays a very large part in GalCiv. Each sector of space has an influence rating, generated from nearby planets and starbases. If a particular species’ influence is considerably higher than their neighbors, those neighbors may just decide the grass is greener on the other side of the proverbial fence, and their planet has a good chance to defect to the enemy. It’s possible (although not necessarily easy) to take over the entire galaxy without firing a single shot.

Finally, humankind can try to evolve to the next level of existence by researching their way up a very extensive technology tree. I found this to be quite a challenging route to take, but also the most entertaining. Once enough technologies have been researched, humans will evolve into beings so advanced that all the other races have no hope of besting them. Of course, winning the technology race goes a long way toward helping out in the military and cultural victories as well.
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