Galactic Civilizations II is a strategy gamer's dream, boasting a rare mix of depth, customizability, humor, and replayability.
- Extremely customizable gameplay provides superb replayability
- The best AI in strategy gaming
- Very cool ship designer that significantly contributes to gameplay
- Truly viable variable victory conditions
- Will keep you up all night playing "just one more turn".
- No multiplayer
- Tech tree could use more information on new techs.
Great games are always more than the sum of their feature sets, and Galactic Civilizations II is a great game. Galactic Civilizations II does indeed boast a very impressive list of cool features, but it also has that extra "something" that separates pretty good games from Hall of Fame material. In the case of Galactic Civilizations II, an epic spacestrategy game set in space, that extra element is a design that is clearly focused on catering to the desires of the player, rather than on trying to stuff the designer's preferences down your throat. From installation to end game, it is clear that this is not only one of the best turn-based strategy games to grace a PC, but one in which the player is treated like royalty.
The first sign of this is during installation. There is no copy protection and no need to have the CD in the tray to play, and you don't even have to enter the serial number during the install (a blessing to those of us who want to reinstall a game in the future or install it on a notebook but can't ever seem to track down the serial number). This is quite convenient. The serial number is your key to updates and add-ons, which have traditionally, for Stardock, been plentiful, substantive, and responsive to customer feedback and requests (in fact, the first update is already available).
Galactic Civilizations II is a strategy game set in space in which rival races vie for control of the galaxy, via the traditional "4X" game style of exploring the universe, expanding your empire, exploiting your rivals, and exterminating your enemies. That may sound familiar, but right from the opening screens you're presented with the ability to create the gaming experience that you prefer. You can play as the humans or any of the other nine races, each bringing its own unique strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, and societal personality (trade-oriented, militaristic, evil, good, and so on). If that's not enough for you, you can create your own unique race with its own distinctive characteristics. You then select the type of galaxy in which you want to play out your space adventure. Do you want fast action? Play in a small galaxy packed with stars and habitable planets and several rival races, and crank up the speed of technological advances. Are you more in the mood for a long, epic space opera? Set up a gigantic galaxy (there are six different map sizes) with widely spaced star systems.
Multiple paths to victory also provide you with completely different gaming experiences. You can choose to be a benevolent ruler and eschew violence, spreading your cultural influence throughout the galaxy. Instead of invading a planet, you can let their citizens see your luxurious way of life, complete with malls and fancy restaurants, and sway them with diplomatic expertise. There's a special satisfaction in having a planet's inhabitants dump their leader and join your empire purely through winning their hearts and minds. Or you can choose to be the evil emperor, crushing the na´ve civilizations that dare resist your military might. Throughout the game you are presented with ethical choices, such as discovering that the planet you just colonized has a primitive civilization that you can either protect at the cost of some progress, move to the equivalent of a reservation, or enslave to increase your production. Your choices will result in a moral "grade" for your culture--good, neutral, or evil--which will affect how other races deal with you. For example, if you are the lone evil empire in the galaxy, "good" races may form an alliance against you. These moral persuasions also result in different technological advances being available to your race.
While some games of this type purport to allow you flexibility in how you achieve a victory while ultimately forcing you to win by force, it is not only possible to win a game in Galactic Civilizations II without fighting, it is a fascinating and viable approach that feels like a completely different game than one in which you win via conflict. While good old military domination is certainly a path to success, you can win by achieving the ultimate technology, culturally assimilating the majority of the galaxy, or forging alliances with all remaining races.
Of course, you can also combine approaches: For example, if you have alliances with four of five races and the fifth race just doesn't appreciate the benefits of being your good friend, you can send some capital ships in and wipe them off the face of the galaxy, then join hands with the remaining races, sing Kum Ba Ya, and enjoy your diplomatic victory. Or you might give another race money or technologies to go to war against a specific civilization in your stead. You may start with the intention of pursuing one approach and find that circumstances and other races actions drive you in another direction. The only thing that is guaranteed is that, between choosing which race you will lead, the size and characteristics of the galaxy, how many and what type of races will populate the galaxy, the intelligence level of your foes, and the approach you decide to take, each game can feel completely different from any you've played before.
- Player Reviews: 219
- Game Universe:
- Galactic Civilizations (PC, OS2),
- Galactic Civilizations II: Endless Universe (PC),
- Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor (PC),
- Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords Gold Edition (PC),
- Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords (PC),
- Galactic Civilizations: Deluxe Edition (PC),
- Galactic Civilizations: Altarian Prophecy (PC),
- Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar (PC)
- Number of Players: