Imperium Galactica II is a highly enjoyable science-fiction real-time strategy game of conquest and exploration that excels in its presentation and interface design, as well as in the quality of its single-player scenarios. The game is innovative and good-looking, and it provides many hours of fun. But it has a broad scope, and as such, Imperium Galactica II could have been handled better in particular areas. Still, the game's strong points easily overshadow these shortcomings.
Imperium Galactica II features an interface that lets you manage complicated tasks simply and quickly. Specifically, its presentation of pertinent information eliminates many of the tedious aspects of maintaining an empire, and it provides a template for incorporating many options and features while keeping them manageable. For example, essential information about the planets under your control - such as population, growth rate, and production status - is clearly displayed in thumbnail windows. These can be expanded to provide more detailed information such as income, tax rate, and morale. Finally, you can zoom down to the surface to make more specific changes to the colony's auto-build. With this hierarchy of information, you can control your empire more efficiently and concentrate on more important matters.
The interface also has a stylish presentation. The research menu displays a rotating wireframe of your project gradually becoming more defined as you progress in its development. When you select an agent from the spying menu, you'll see an animated sequence zoom in to show that agent's profile and statistics. The game's attention to aesthetic detail makes it more enjoyable to play overall.
Imperium Galactica II's combat interface is similarly user-friendly, as it provides a simple options console that contains rotate, zoom, and scroll keys surrounding a perspective-oriented minimap. There's also a time bar, so you can pause to queue up orders as well as speed up the fight when victory is assured. Moreover, before entering a space battle, you can group your fleet into one of ten formations. This option facilitates strategy because it decreases the time required to execute such tactics as flanking, escorting, surrounding, feinting, and full frontal assault and instead lets you focus on performing these sorts of maneuvers rather than merely setting them up. As a result, the battles can be more exciting because you can implement dynamic ship maneuvers and tactics easily.
Early in Imperium Galactica II, battles involve dozens of fighters and a few destroyers or corvettes. Fighters cannot be micromanaged well, so these types of skirmishes are more fun to watch than to play. Midway through the game, battles become more involving and exciting. In this stage of the game, you have large capital-ship technology but relatively mediocre beam weapons. Consequently, strategy is largely based on attacking and defending against crude but powerful torpedoes. Of course, you can install more powerful beam weapons on your ship, but the slow fire rate will significantly decrease your ability to defend against fighters.
For example, an effective strategy when attacking an enemy fleet of battleships with cruisers and destroyers is to first set the fleet formation to flank. You then queue your cruisers to zigzag to avoid the battleships' torpedoes and let your ships attack with their lasers. Meanwhile, you send your destroyers to launch their own torpedoes point blank to the enemies. If the enemy fleet turns to deal with the destroyers, the enemy should be occupied long enough for your cruisers to turn and accurately torpedo the battleships. If the enemy stays with the cruisers, the more maneuverable destroyers should achieve a good number of hits.
When defending against large numbers of fighters with capital ships, you can group your ships into a sphere to concentrate the laser fire. You can also escort your fleet with a small group of fighters to draw fire and cause the attacking fighters to miss more.
Unfortunately, strategy is minimal later in the game. When every race is attacking each other with battleships and mobile bases, there is no reason to move - your ships will fire with greater frequency and accuracy if they remain motionless. There is no reason to zigzag, because more advanced torpedoes track their targets effortlessly. Building destroyer- and corvette-class ships is rarely time-efficient or cost-effective, because they cannot house enough firepower, and enemy battleships and cruisers can destroy them in a few shots. Moreover, fighters are ineffective against any ship larger than a heavy corvette, so they are effectively phased out.
However, when your ships are still, you have time to observe and appreciate the game's excellent graphics. All the vessels are detailed and well designed. The only shortcoming is the lack of ship animation; the ships have no origin of fire, such as a turret, torpedo tube, or laser bank - instead, all weapon effects manifest themselves some distance away from the hull. Ships explode dramatically, but there's no indication like flames or electrical discharges when they're damaged. Shields aren't animated either, as they're represented only as a colored bar above the unit. Lastly, the variation in gunfire effects is minimal. Different guns may shoot different-colored beams of different lengths, but none of them are particularly impressive. For instance, the quad laser doesn't actually shoot four lasers, and even if you install four quad lasers you'll still see one beam onscreen.
The ground battles look a little more detailed - tanks with rocket turrets look different from those with cannon turrets, for example. However, unlike in space conflicts, in ground battles the side with the greater number of units most often decides the battle. You can choose the location of your drop zone, but you cannot set the aggressiveness of your tanks or employ formations. As a result, complex maneuvers, such as those you would expect in any real-time strategy game, are difficult and often impractical.
Still, Imperium Galactica II does present other options than just destroying the defending tanks and gun emplacements. For example, you can destroy undefended factories and power plants to cripple the enemy planet's production, and then retreat. You can also destroy enough power plants to deactivate the defending laser fortresses, then commence your attack.
Not only does Imperium Galactica II look good and play well, but it also succeeds at creating a unique universe, featuring eight interesting races. Within each campaign, multiple side-missions are randomly generated. For example, leaders will often ask you to take sides in a war. A newly discovered civilization will ask you for asylum from their oppressors, while the oppressors will offer you a reward if you eliminate the defectors for them. These side-missions are fun, but unfortunately they rarely affect your empire significantly. They only serve to make the game more interesting and provide a way to earn a few thousand more credits in reward money. Nevertheless, these missions help reduce the generally repetitive nature of having to maintain your empire, just as they increase the game's replay value.
The video sequences are another good feature of Imperium Galactica II's campaigns. The characters are well rendered, and they have expressive body language along with excellent voice-acting. You meet multiple interesting characters from side missions, but most originate from your large complement of advisors, such as your fleet admiral, tank commanders, scientists, and planetary governors. You can even interview mercenaries as candidates to command your fleet, and you can ask them about their background, skills, and desired salary.
As for the campaigns themselves, they let you play as three different races: the Solarians, Kra'hen, and Shinari, which represent the archetypes of being good, evil, and greedy, respectively. The human, or Solarian, campaign, deals with retrieving data crystals that may contain information that could make the Solarian Empire invincible. The sole objective of the Kra'hen campaign is for the Kra'hen to expand their empire and kill all those who oppose. Lastly, the Shinari is a merchant race that seeks to exploit the other civilizations to make profit. Imperium Galactica II also has several dynamic scenarios that explore specific conflicts of all the game's eight races. They don't provide much information about the races, but they are both exciting and challenging to play.
Indeed, the campaign and scenarios provide few insights about your race and other races' identity, history, or nature. This is especially disappointing since the races seem so intriguing. The manual gives brief descriptions of each, but you'll learn little else after the campaign is completed. For example, a race called the Toluen are described as being the result of failed genetic experiments, resulting in an unnatural oversecretion of pheromones. The consequences are obvious, as the manual humorously presents them as ambulatory blobs with tentacles. We learn why and by whom the Toluen were created, but learn nothing of their culture, achievements, or history.
Similarly, the designers provided each race with unique ship designs, but they failed to provide the races with unique buildings or technologies. No race-specific technologies, ships, or tanks exist. Furthermore, all eight technology trees are identical and linear. As a result, no major research decisions are required, which diminishes the game's replay value.
It's equally disappointing that your diplomacy options are limited and identical for each race. For example, you can only ask your enemy to make peace through one short statement, and each race will ask you for peace using that same statement. There is no race-specific dialogue or typeface for the onscreen text.
Combat chatter also suffers from the same deficiencies. It is repetitive, as it's the same for all units and not race-specific. Furthermore, the chatter is often inaccurate or inapplicable. Your fleet will often report that an enemy ship or tank is listing, even though such a description is irrelevant in zero gravity and meaningless when referring to land vehicles. Your ships will often report "We think we're gonna die" even when the enemy has no chance of success. And upon victory, your ships will shout "Who's the daddy?" instead of using the proper expression.
While these shortcomings are significant, they should be taken more as wasted opportunities than as flaws. In spite of them, Imperium Galactica II should prove be extremely entertaining for fans of real-time strategy or other space conquest games, because it provides an exciting depth of play thanks to its many well-developed features, as well as its great graphics and campaigns.