GalCiv II: First impressions

By Shamus
on Mar 8, 2006
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I got Galactic Civilizations II Monday night. I love it: You order the CD, but instead of waiting for it to arrive in the mail they let you download the game directly. I get it now and I get it in the mail. As I’ve said before, people like to own things, and getting a hardcopy while also getting it right away is very satisfying.

The game itself is quite impressive.

Stuff I like:

The ship design system is a lot of fun. You can just let the system come up with ships on it’s own, using your best technologies, or you can custom-build something that has only the abilities you want. This means you can make crazy stuff, like a colony ship that can also bombard. So, one ship can de-populate and then re-populate the world. Dr. McCoy would be horrified. :)

In addition to how the ship performs, you can really, really customize how it looks. You take a base ship and add on wings or mean spikey bits or big nobby hunks of metal. You can add running lights, towering spires, broad wings, antennae, and a bunch of other crazy stuff. The interface to do this is elegant and intuitive. It’s a lot like building with those small lego sets with many specialized pieces, except that in this case you can re-size the pieces, and you have an infinite number of them. Ship design is almost a game in itself.

You can, if you like, choose certain styles or shapes to denote what the ship is for. Late in the game when you have gone through multiple generations of all sorts of various ships, you can still glance at one and say, “Ah! That has the big fin on the back, which means its one of my beam weapon fighters!” (Or whatever.)

I really like the interface. A few other people have mentioned that they aren’t happy with it, but I haven’t had any issues. It looks good and conveys the right info at the right time.

I like how each planet has a limited number of slots for building. In all previous games of this type, you can build as much stuff as you like on a planet, but you can only build one of each building. This game inverts this, and gives you a few open spaces to fill. Want ten research stations? Ten farms? Eight factories? Go for it, but know that if you focus on one type of output, you’ll needs to make up for it elsewhere in your empire. This brings a ton of strategy to the table, and makes each planet feel like a unique place.

You can choose a logo for your race. Most of them are pleasing abstracts, something like what you might get if the Star Trek Federation logo was designed by Macintosh developers:

But then I noticed this one…

…which looks too much like Strongbad for it to be an accident. Hilarious. The game as a good sense of humor, often making sly Monty Python or Douglas Adams references from time to time.

The jump to 3d planets and ships is nice. I was happy with the old 2d stuff, but now that I’ve seen it in 3D, I don’t think I’d want to go back.

Nitpicks:

  • The movies don’t play smoothly for me. They pause every three seconds or so. I don’t know why. I’m well within the recomended specs, and playing movies is hardly the most demanding thing the CPU has to do in a game.
  • As with the last installment of the game, I’m unhappy with the morality slider and how the game judges your actions. I’ll elaborate on this more in another post.
  • Turns are usually instant. If you hit the “next turn” button, the computer players usually take their turn in less than a second. However, during my first game I noticed that once in a while the computer turn took almost thirty seconds. I don’t know if this was a bug or not.
  • It seems like hitting ESC should dismiss the current window and return to the starmap, but instead it brings up the options menu. This doesn’t feel right.
  • Your view is locked in a particular direction. (Let’s call it “northeast” for the sake of argument.) You can hold down the middle mouse button and swing your view around, but as soon as you let go of the button the view slides back to looking northeast. This isn’t TOO bad, unless you happen to be working in the northeast edge of the map, in which case you end up looking into the corner the whole time.

A game like this isn’t something that you can pronounce as a success or not on the strength of a single game. This is a game that demands many replays before it can properly be judged. Having said that, I’m very impressed so far.

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6Six comments, I think. Maybe half a dozen.

From the Archives:

  1. dan says:

    nitpicking on your nitpicks but are you complaining that the computer takes too long with its turn and that you would prefer it take thirty seconds. While you sit there eating combos.
    mmmmmmm… combos

  2. Shamus says:

    I’m complaining that there was this odd spike in the turn-taking time. It went from 1 sec to 30 secs for a few turns.

    And now I’m hungry. Dangit.

  3. yoshi927 says:

    It might be like how chess computers take extra time when they’re “thinking.”

    But I’d be surprised if the AI was *that* good.

  4. HeroOfHyla says:

    A guess on the turn length issue:
    The computer is doing things that affect areas that aren’t in the fog of war, so it needs to play the animations?

    • GreatWyrmGold says:

      Given my (admittedly limited and not recent) experience playing GalCiv II, I must say that that sounds plausible. If it was the case, though, I’d imagine Shamus would have noticed.

  5. GreatWyrmGold says:

    I’ve heard a lot of impressive stuff about GalCiv II’s AI. Aside from surrendering all of its planets to random civilizations when invaded (and I can see a player in a multiplayer game doing that), it acts something like what an actual player would be like.
    Most triumphant example (and the first I heard of, thanks in large part to TV Tropes): In one game, the Drengin, Terran, and I think Torian empires had allied with each other. Aside from those three was the player’s race, which I forget what it was. The player had been a bit of a prick, and had angered pretty much everyone. I don’t remember if he angered the Drengin extra or if it was just their aggression, but the player was surprised when the Drengin held back from actually conquering the player. Moreover, they used their massive swing in the United Planets council to vote to end a war that they had a snowball’s chance in Hell of losing. This delay gave the player enough of an opening to snag a technological victory.
    Why?
    Pretend that this was a PVP game that went exactly the same way. If the actual player (the guys whose race I forget) had lost, the game would have been over. The only three players left would have been in the alliance, which means that (due to factors not mentioned above) the Terrans would have won. The Drengin player wouldn’t like this much…so they delayed. Their ultimate plan was probably to get more powerful so they could crush the rest of the alliance single-handedly.

    Not a criticism on leaving this out, mind, just bringing it up for those who don’t know.

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