Review by ChrisM513
"A fantastic space strategy game."
This game and civilization 4 were released around the same time, so this little gem was overlooked for quite a long time before I dusted it off and gave it a real, long try.
The game has 2 modes, a campaign/storyline mode, and a sandbox mode where you can play a game according to criteria you get to set yourself.
First, I'll go over the campaign mode. Surprisingly for such a fantastic game, campaign mode is trash. Garbage. Don't even bother with it, because it doesn't get any better after the first 2 missions, but in fact gets a LOT worse.
The reason campaign mode is so bad is that you never, ever get to fight. Nearly every mission is dominated by the "Dread Lords", a supernatural powerful alien species that it is impossible to defeat. I don't mean just hard, I mean purposefully, specifically designed to be IMPOSSIBLE to win against.
So how do you beat the campaign? You never get to actually fight wars, or build planets up, or research too deeply into the tech trees because your planets are captured by the dread lords faster than you can settle or conquer new ones. The way they overcome this ridiculous limiting factor is by making literally every mission a "do X before the time runs out and the dread lords/other badguys kill you" fiasco. Conquer a particular planet, research a particular tech, or last a certain number of turns. Like I said, garbage.
That leaves us with sandbox mode, and the reason why I rated this game so highly. Literally EVERYTHING about the game you play is customizable, from the intelligence of the AI (and they can be really, really smart at the highest settings. you can even set different AI opponents to different intelligence levels within the same game!), to the size of the universe, to the number of habitable planets, to the number of random events (anomolies), to the diplomatic relations you have with all the computer players...this list goes on!
What shines most in sandbox mode is not even the amount of control you have over the size and style of the universe and enemies, but the sheer volume of strategy involved. There are 6 different weapon techs, each corresponding to a particular weapon or the defense against that weapon; IE lasers vs. shields, bullets vs. armor, missiles vs. point defense. There are dozens of different engines, requiring a different tech each. There are dozens of support type modules you can add to your ships, including sensors, life support systems, and troop transporters. There are five different hulls to choose from, each requiring a different tech.
When you design your ships, the shipyard tool shows you a list of all the available ship components you can use, sorted according to category (all lasers are on the same tab, for example). From here, you get to build your own units to use in combat! You're limited only by the amount of miniaturization you've researched (making your ships able to hold more components) and the size of the hull you chose. The ships you design are almost guaranteed to be different in every single game you play, and unlike anything anyone else uses. As you begin to see your enemies' fleets, you can research ways to counter their ship designs, and depending on how smart you made the AI, they will attempt to do the same against you!
Pretty cool, huh? It gets better. You can have the biggest, baddest fleet in the galaxy but still lose to a computer that researched further down a different tech tree; logistics. Researching further into logistics lets you use more of your ships in each fleet. Otherwise, your grand capital ship with a hundred lasers is left all by itself to fight a dozen enemies at once.
The point is that you literally have 100% control over the composition of your fleets, the units that are available for you to build, and the grand strategy you use (large capital ships that are hard to destroy vs. swarms of smaller ships that can bring more firepower to a fight, for example).
So, war is awesome in galciv2. What about the part where literally EVERY strategy game to date has failed in (even civ4); diplomacy?
There is no diplomatic system in any strategy game better than the one found in galciv2. It's not perfect, because any game with diplomacy can be exploited, but it's so close to perfect that it might just blow you away. In fact, diplomacy is a real alternative to war in this game, not just a fancy little minigame like in civ4. In galciv2, diplomacy is serious business.
Your skill in diplomacy affects the offers the computer AI gives you. They will trade more for less if your diplomacy skill is higher. Your diplomacy skill is based primarily on the tech you've researched (yes, there are techs that make you better at negotiation!). You can trade literally anything for anything else. Influence points for ships, gold for starbases, a declaration of war against a common enemy for a planet.
You can literally play as an arms dealer in galciv2, researching deep into the tech tree that increases your diplomacy. You can negotiate wars between two AI, and sell the ships you create to both sides for huge profits. The depth and scope f the diplomacy system is amazing!
If you're a fan of turn based single player strategy games and you haven't tried this yet, go find a copy!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/17/06
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