Galactic Civilizations III (GC3) is much too big a game to give an adequate review to in such a short period of time. I will limit this first impression to just that: first impressions from limited playing time.
First, this is a really big game. The tech tree is big, the galaxy is big, the sheer numbers of choices in a multitude of areas are mind-boggling. This is a game that, barring a hidden exploit, will take months if not years to thoroughly explore. The ship designer alone could be its own game.
This is a good-looking game. Although turn-based strategy games are not at the top of the list when it comes to awesome graphics, GC3 is near the top of the class. The interface is slick, the alien races are richly detailed, and the ships are outstanding.
The AI seems to be doing a decent job. It always seems to out-colonize me, even on the easiest level, and often out-researches my tech-optimized race. How much of this is cheating is difficult to tell. Some things are hard to fudge, however: I was about to crush a significantly smaller (my 40+ planets to their 12) enemy when, a couple of turns after declaring war, the enemy resigned and gave all their planets to a different race. They must have really hated me.
GC3 will eat all your system resources. Larger maps need 8GB RAM minimum, and more than that for acceptable performance. Expect long turn duration, especially on larger maps later in the game.
The flip side of being big is being incomprehensible. So many game mechanics can come to bear at any point that it can be difficult to tell what is going on. Although the interface looks nice and works well, it fails to display some important information. For example, at one point all of a sudden the Altarian Resistance starting a powerful culture push. For some reason their borders starting forcing mine back, and the interface showed they had much higher influence even in places where I had starbases and they were absent. Why was this happening? No idea, and there was no way to know. The interface was silent and the manual is basically non-existent. There is just no way to know what is going on with the detail needed to play intelligently.
As a bonus, GC3 is buggy. Display-flashing, crash-to-desktop buggy. It can be hard to figure out what is going on when any effect could be either a poorly-understood rule, or just a bug. Perhaps, given the rule of "Conservation of Bugginess", the bugs have(mostly) left Paradox and taken up home at GC3. Hopefully this is something that will be patched out before the game launches later this week.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
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.