stepped into the void of disappointment left by the ass-tastic Master of Orion 3 and delivered a beautifully simple 4X strategy game. Like the original Master of Orion, Galactic Civilizations offered an elegant design whose simplicity belied the complex fabric underneath. Featuring AI that was not only excellent in its own right, but behaved in believably human fashions – in ways that were logical if not predictable – it was a dark horse candidate for game of the year at many sites.
Fittingly enough, Galactic Civilizations II: The Dread Lords is aiming to follow up on its predecessor the way Master of Orion 2 followed the original. The game is more complex, more attractive and with a bigger selection of, well, everything. The tech tree is more intricate, ships can now be customized, planets can be set to specialized production and new concepts like fleets have been added.
GalCiv 2’s tech tree is significantly expanded, with several consequences. The various races can and do tend to specialize now in one tree or another; preferring culture, production, diplomacy, and weapons based on their character. Consequently, disparities in combat power or the ability to repel foreign cultural influence can be fairly significant. On the other hand, the greater number of techs is adding granularity to the tech tree. For example, the ships you produce are no longer “Garbage, Garbage Mk II, Garbage Mk III – oooh! Dreadnoughts, now I can rule the world!” It’s quite possible to rush to a large hull size only to find that you do not have the weapons, armor or shields to arm them properly, or that your planets are so poorly developed economically they cannot muster the industrial might to produce these behemoths.
The races themselves have been given more significant bonuses that help to distinguish them from one another. It’s no longer a matter of mere moral alignment – good and evil – with some research or economy bonuses tacked on. No, the opponents in the game have a larger selection of bonuses and penalties. Take the Yor Collective, for example. The robotic beings were merely the quasi-evil semi-villains of the first GalCiv. Now, they benefit from a massive bonus to their loyalty, meaning that cultural subversion of their planets is remarkably difficult. All the races have gotten such treatment, being customized to one degree or another. The types of bonuses range from loyalty, various production categories, morale, espionage, research, combat attributes and so on.
For all the changes though, this is still clearly a GalCiv title. The slightly off-kilter humor is still there. Take, for example, the news announcement when you research Xeno Farming, “Old McDonald had a farm, Eyey-O, and on this farm he had a Kthizak Eyey Oh HELP AAUU it’s gnawing off my…” Clearly, Xeno Farming is an early technology.