Review by Taranthil

Reviewed: 08/03/06

Mix civilizations and space, some awesomeness, and customization, and you've got GalCiv II.

Note: I'm playing the latest release of GalCiv II. Earlier releases are fairly buggy, and the AI isn't as impressive.

This is the most brilliant 4x game I have ever played. It might even be the most brilliant game I've ever played. Master of Orion, Civilization, Space Empires.. they all quaver before this game.

It's been the centre of controversy - the StarForce affair, and it's also been a bestselling game - two things that you don't often see from a small publisher like Stardock, nor is it something that is often seen at all, however, this game is most assuredly deserving.

Graphics (10/10): It hasn't been often I've seen a 4x game deserving of this award. Galactic Civilizations II is one of them. The main map is beautiful, and I mean truly beautiful, not merely functional, (like Space Empires IV's map), but it functions perfectly - telling stars and planets, ships and stations apart is a matter of utmost ease, which makes the game far easier to play.

However, where this game truly shines in the graphical section is the battles. Sure, they're not tactical. They don't allow you to modify your ships extensively with hundreds of different options, allowing you to change the way battles are fought - but they're [i]fought[/i]. Not the 'hashwerahawwewora' noise that accompanies some 4x battles, not a blast of energy, and not a bar above their heads.

You have camera angles to choose from, from a top-down view to a first-person view from one of the ships, and you can see fleets play out in epic style - of course, you're going to need a fair bit of RAM, a good graphics card, and the latest drivers to do it - but it's worth it. Seeing your massive capital ships go toe-to-toe with enemy fighters, their massive frames dwarfing the enemy, the smaller ships zipping around them, as they deliver payloads of destructive death to their enemies - it's epic. It's what battles are meant to feel like, it's the perfect immersion.

Of course, if you're suffering from a bad video card (Like I was, when I had a soldered motherboard from a cheap store), this won't be epic. It'll be bad. Nonetheless, the graphics in this game possess the potential to be like Warcraft II graphics - still good five, or even ten years on.

Sound (10/10) - Good. Of course, I'm a little worried about the sounds echoing from my ships when they fight in space - mainly because of the lack of air, but, otherwise.. the soundtracks are great. They're generally not intrusive, but provide an air of immersion, allowing you to really get into the game. As in 'wow. I just played for 34 hours straight', immersion.

Gameplay (10/10) - Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Simplicity makes its own complications, to put it in a confusing yet accurate way. You can construct ships - but not just construct them. You can build them from the ground-up, making them look like the Enterprise, Tie Fighters, or maybe even a 1942-bomber.

Of course, the combat is only the tiniest part of the gameplay. What really makes this game shine is the advanced political system, the awesome AI, and the ways to win. In most games, it boils down to an end in which you fight to the deat - your allies will abandon you for becoming too powerful, and then it's just a massive bloodbath.

Not as fun as it sounds. However, in Galciv, you can win four different ways. Firstly, there's good old-fashioned conquest. Herd your population onto ships, give them guns, and send them off to invade planets. Then, there's the diplomatic victory. Get everyone to be your friend - maybe wiping out a few undesirables, and the galaxy celebrates a new age of enlightenment.

Of course, you could become pure energy. Research the right techs, and suddenly you've won by transforming yourself into energy beings. However, all these victories leave the last one, and possibly the most interesting one, the most fascinating of all. Cultural Victory. You have culture. Your civilization exudes it. Your restaurants, what you wear, what music you listen to.. well, everyone has it. Of course, if other people, on other planets, begin listening to your music, making restaurants your way.. they're being culturally assimiliated. Planets will rebel and join you, and, if you have enough influence - well, you simply rule the galaxy through your dominating culture.

More interestingly, the computers play like people. Not humans, but people within the game. They're not there to oppose you, they're there to rule. If you tuck yourself in a corner of the galaxy, and just kill anyone who comes your way, they'll happily fight each other for the rest of it, and perhaps ally the rest of the species against you. They see what you're doing, and counter accordingly.

Plus, until the very highest levels, they don't get bonuses. No resources for them, no extra stuff. This is something I admire. Stardock have made the game so that even veteran 4x players can play on the medium levels with a challenge, and go to the insane difficulties, and lose horribly, even if they are great at other games.

And the diplomacy. It's simple. You put something on the table, what you want, and what you're willing to give - and the text that represents the speech of the computer leader is green if they're willing, and red if they're not. Simple, yet effective. It's not confusing, convuluted, or weak. It's absolute simplicity - and I adore it.

Overall, however, GalCiv II is amazing. The replay value is insane, and the only true problem is the lack of multiplayer - and, seriously, where's the fun in playing such an involved game, that takes such a long time to play, multiplayer? I don't really see it, and Stardock have lowered the price, leaving out multiplayer - an addition most are willing to go without.

To sum up the entirety of this review - buy this game. Today. Stardock don't require you to have the CD in the drive, no CD-key, no.. the copy protection is absolutely minimal. And that's just another plus on an already awesome game.

So, what are you waiting for?! Go buy the bleedin' game!

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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