Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar Updated Impressions

Stardock is delaying the expansion to its hit turn-based space strategy game to 2007 in order to add a ton of new features.

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First, the bad news. Instead of November, fans of Galactic Civilizations II will now have to wait until 2007 for the upcoming Dark Avatar expansion to the excellent turn-based space strategy game. The good news is the reason for the delay. Galactic Civilizations II challenged you to conquer a galaxy full of alien species, either as an alien yourself or as the human faction. The sheer fact that you could do so in so many different ways, from economically to militarily, made Galactic Civilizations II a very satisfying game that appealed to strategy fans. With the Dark Avatar expansion, Stardock had always planned on introducing new features, but it didn't realize just how many it would ultimately add.

The Dark Avatar expansion will let you design whole new races and ship designs.

As Stardock CEO Brad Wardell explained to us, Stardock's plans fell apart after the company solicited fans for features they wanted to see in the expansion. The designers got so many good ideas that Wardell said they "didn't want to wait for a sequel to add in some of the stuff." As a result, the expansion has been pushed back from November to February to accommodate many of the new features.

This new Dark Avatar expansion will now let you not only choose your own opponents, but design them as well. In fact, you can create a stable of new races to play with or against, and the customization options are more than skin deep. You can give each new race its custom ship designs, select a distinct personality for the faction, tweak its special abilities and bonuses, mess around with its political system, and more.

Even more interesting are the new mega events, which are potentially game-destabilizing events designed to keep you on your toes. Wardell noted that the best players had come up with rigid formulas to win, and the idea of mega events is to occasionally turn the game on its side and shake things up. An example of a mega event could be a religious revolution that shatters all the empires into halves, so a lot of rebellious factions suddenly appear. Or it could be a galactic plague that decimates the galaxy.

Espionage is another major new introduction. Basically, now you'll be able to recruit spies and send them on missions to sabotage enemy planets. The problem is that spies have an escalating cost, as each new spy costs even more than the previous one, so you'll be able to produce only a limited number of spies in each game. If you lose a spy on a mission, he can't be easily replaced, so you'll have to carefully hoard your agents.

The gameplay is being tuned to prevent the same old strategies from working over and over again, which is a good thing.

The expansion will also address many of the gameplay loopholes that players are exploiting in the current game. The strategy of rushing out and colonizing planets at the beginning of the game is going to be dealt a big hit with the introduction of hazardous environments. In the current game, players colonize every planet they can get their hands on, no matter how puny, while the artificial intelligence is more picky, so the result is that the players have a huge economic advantage. That will be gone in Dark Avatar, and hazardous environments will mean that many planets are off limits until players can research the appropriate technology to settle on them.

The addition of asteroid fields also adds a lot more strategy to the game. Asteroid fields can provide resources, but the problem is that each field can supply only a single planet. The farther away a planet is from the asteroid field, the smaller the percent of resources that arrive. So which planet do you supply? Do you select the resource-poor one or direct the resources to a production planet? And now you've got to protect the asteroid fields and trade lanes, because an enemy might suddenly cut you off from your resource base.

All these new features certainly sound cool, so fans will probably understand the delay of the expansion's release. Stardock plans to release the expansion separately, but it will also release a gold package that bundles the core game and the expansion so that newcomers can join in the fun, too.

Discussion

24 comments
ebax7588
ebax7588

Galactic Civilizations II was the first game I played from Stardock and I honestly have to say that it's one of the best strategy games I've played to date. If this stuff works out the way they say in Dark Avatar, it'll make an almost flawless game even better.

caladine
caladine

Ill wait. Be buying it when it comes out. GCII was a very good game.

_Sam_
_Sam_

it's too bad that it was delayed, but it's cool that they are adding features

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

i'll get teh bundle since i don't have the first game, i've been thirsting for a turnbased strategy game.

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

Customization. This is the key word. Looks like customization is "en vogue" this days.

instant0
instant0

Cant wait for it! Stardock makes some great games.

Rusty2004
Rusty2004

Looks like only 1 troll in here , trying to be different than every1 else and that is, TUN TUN TUN!!!!! SCHWEN!!! Theres Always 1 on every forum... Rusty_1

schwen
schwen

This game is soooooooooo boring... I really like strategy games, but this game was a big disappointment..

xatman911
xatman911

This game looks like an excellent implementation of Artificial Intelligence.

maestro4202
maestro4202

Moo II's AI wasnt bad until that 1.3 patch where the computer opponents would make an alliance with you then attack you in the next turn.

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

Yeah, the Al is not even as dynamic as Moo II

myrllellei
myrllellei

"players colonize every planet they can get their hands on, no matter how puny" In my games, the AI has all the "puny" planets... I only go for high PQ or nice multiple planet star systems. Anyway, all the new features will be worth it. If you don't like the sound of something, go to the GalCiv2 forums and express your opinion (constructively, of course... or Kryo will crush you).

Murrdox
Murrdox

"Yeah, uh, they post-poned the original November release because they REALLY wanted to add more features. Right… yeah… you know, 'cause it's not like anything else major is coming out in November. I'm sure that if it released in what gamers will call the "great November drought of Oh-Six" that it would FLY off the shelves." The game is going to be a digital download only, so shelf space means nothing. Plus, if you look at the forums and the feedback at GalCiv2.com, these guys really DO listen to the fans. I don't know of many other game companies out there where the lead developers and the CEO are so involved with the community. I love this game - I picked it up again for a few hours last night. They have also released enough tweaks and updates through patches already to almost qualify as 1/2 an expansion. The AI especially. Designing your own races??? In a word: Awesome.

ewo
ewo

xBlacknifex are you f-ing kidding me!? This delay is so the developer can add more feature, the european delay is so you americans can have more PS3 at launch. It is completely different and understandable why europeans PS3 fans would be piss. I personally am not going to get the PS3 but i have friend that would have if Sony didn't screw them over like this.

bamantm
bamantm

hopefully you will be able to turn mega events on or off when creating a game... rebellions really does not sound that nice to me...that is, if it happens to my empire... but i guess you just have to keep the population happy huh?

Thomasskins
Thomasskins

More hours of enjoyment, just HURRY UP !!!

CrapfullyCrap
CrapfullyCrap

Yeah, uh, they post-poned the original November release because they REALLY wanted to add more features. Right… yeah… you know, 'cause it's not like anything else major is coming out in November. I'm sure that if it released in what gamers will call the "great November drought of Oh-Six" that it would FLY off the shelves.

xBlacknifex
xBlacknifex

I wish the Europeans could understand the PS3 delay like the people waiting for this game. Then again im in north america so i cant really understand it myself. But I guess there always has to be complaining going on. Anyways yeah this expansion looks pretty cool. I hope i get a new computer by then cause it is so slow.

ParkCarsHere
ParkCarsHere

Cool... sounds even better. I completely understand the delay - the expansion is looking to be an awesome update to an already awesome game.

PackersRock
PackersRock

Can't wait. I like how the Mega events thing sounds, expecially the rebelllion part. I just hope that dosn't end up getting annoying.