Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords Review

Let me start off by telling you right up front that Galactic Civilizations II is a great game. If that’s all you were looking to find out, then there you have it. Go right out and buy the game because you’ll probably love it. Go on, it’s OK.

Still here? Good, it means that you prefer to read reviews that go beyond the “me like space game, space game good” review fodder that is served up by far too many gaming sites to do little more than clog the internet and make it difficult for all that spam to get through. You must be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but why is it a great game and is it worth the time I could spend otherwise reading my spam?” An inquisitive mind. I like that. Well, I’m here to answer that question for you, but I have to confess that I’m not going to be able to do full justice to the game within the space of this review. There is simply quite a bit to it and to cover it all would require a serious amount of time on my part, not including the time to find a literary agent and make an appearance on Oprah. By the time the review finally got into your hands Galactic Civilizations III would be released and we’d have to start all over again. To save us both a lot of time I’ll cover what I can and leave the rest for you to experience on your own.

The universe never looked so good.
If a strategy gamer were to dream of a grand strategy game of space exploration, commerce, and conflict, then odds are that it would look a lot like Galactic Civilizations II (GC2). Well, minus the part about finding that you’re actually playing the game in front of an assembly at your high school while wearing just your underwear that is. As soon as you begin your first game you’ll be given a taste of the degree of customization the game allows. You can tweak the galaxy’s size to make for a short, fast-paced game or a long space epic. You can specify the density of stars and the propensity for those stars to have habitable worlds. You can select a race to play that fits your style of play be it militarist, technologist, diplomat, or economist, and if the game’s default races don’t do it for you, then you can design your own. Strategy gamers love having plenty of options, and GC2 delivers them right off the bat.

In traditional fashion, the galaxy map sits on a 2D plane and play progresses in a turn-based manner but the graphics have a more modern look to them. The planets are colorful and appear three dimensional, and you’ll even see little moons revolving around some of the worlds. You can use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out of the map, and while zooming all the way in is not really practical from a strategic standpoint; it is a nice way to view the detailed ships, starbases, and planets in the game.

You begin the game with a homeworld and a couple of ships, and where you go from there is up to you. Sure, you can win the game by conquering all of the other races in your galaxy, but there are other paths to victory as well. You can also achieve victory through diplomacy by allying all of the races to your side or by reaching the pinnacle of technology. You can even get worlds to join your empire willingly as they become powerless to resist the allure of your culture. The great thing about GC2 is not only that it gives you so many paths to victory, it gives you the freedom to change or adjust course as you play. You may find that your pursuit of technology has given you better warships than anyone else and just decide that you may as well go ahead and crush them all. Even if you have a plan you may have to change it during the game (and more than once) because of the game’s amazing AI.

The other alien races provide for some tough competition. Not because they have a propensity to cheat as is often the case in strategy games, but rather because they are genuinely devious and crafty. You’ll be continually surprised in this game – that apparently peaceful race interested in nothing but trade was simply raising a war chest of funds. You can’t just float your way though this game on autopilot; you’ll have to constantly keep an eye on what your friends and enemies are up to. This is the stuff that we strategy fans live for!