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Posted on Mar 7, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Galactic Civilizations II – Game Review (PC)

James Lombardi

The tech screens that show up informing you of new technology are oftentimes quite amusing… …take this one for example. An imaginary prize to whoever can spot the reference!

Which leads to the one thing this title is truly lacking: the ability to wipe out planets. In Masters of Orion II some people preferred the “blow-up every alien planet” strategy. The first Galactic Civilizations allowed the player to wipe out entire star systems. Out of the box, Galactic Civilizations II has no ability to wipe out enemy empires completely.

But there’s potential good news. While there’s no assurance such an ability will be included later, the developers are very, very, very committed to continuing support of this game. There’s no fancy CD protection; you just have to have a legitimate copy to get access to their continued updates. The developers have no interest in punishing paying customers with annoying protection schemes, and instead reward them for actually purchasing it. And not only that, but if one were to gander through the official forums, you would find the designers actively involved with the community to improve GC2 based on what the players want to see.

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And thankfully, unlike the first in this series, the graphics aren’t horribly dated in this version. They provide a crisp clear interface with more than sufficient 3d graphics to help immerse the player in the world. Not much more needs to be said about the graphics, other than they work – and for a game like this, that’s the main concern. The sounds are what you would expect of a space game with explosions, shooting, etc. The sounds, like the graphics, are nothing groundbreaking but are exactly what is needed for the game.

GC2 also includes tutorials in the form of videos on various subjects you can watch. The manual is fairly straightforward and explanatory. I’ve unfortunately experienced a few crashes to desktop, and a few strange graphical bugs here and there, but overall the game performs well and stable.

Rather than make you do a series of "click here" exercises, they provide you with videos to explain features of the game. Take a look at the minimap, there an awful lot of worlds, my ships can’t even travel most of the galaxy…

If you’ve never played any previous Space 4x games (like Masters of Orion II) and you’re wondering what the big deal is, or if you’ve just been dying for a new empire-building game, there is no doubt – this game is the real deal. It seems unfortunate to constantly compare GC2 to Masters of Orion II because it is a classic in its own right, but unfortunately it can’t be helped. In this case, the comparison is purely complimentary. This title does has its flaws, but this is one purchase I think most people (at least strategy gamers) will be glad they made. Keep in mind though; you’re going to need a lot of free time with this one. When setting the options for a skirmish game, you can literally design a map with hundreds of habitable worlds to fight over, and believe me, that game will take a long, long time. Galactic Civilizations II truly captures the words of Douglas Adams:

“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist but that’s just peanuts to space.” ~The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Pros:
– Huge scope of the game
– Detailed gameplay, without forcing the player to micromanage
– Did I mention how huge this game is?
– A dedicated developer looking to continually improve the game

Cons:
– Some bugs here and there out of the box
– It’s almost too vast to play

Bottom Line:
– This might be the best 4x style game to come out in a long time. It might not get the fame of Civilization IV but it’s likely to stay on my hard-drive longer.

Armchair General Score: 88%

55/60 — Gameplay
18/20 — Graphics
07/10 — Sound
08/10 — Documentation & Technical

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