previews\ Oct 8, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Galactic Civilizations - PC - Preview

At first glance, Galactic Civilizations might seem like just another space-based strategy game where you try to become the dominant force by using means of war.  But with deeper inspection, it becomes apparent that it is nothing like the run-of-the-mill real-time-strategy game.  In fact, Galactic Civilizations offers so many new and different ideas that most people won't be able to just pick up and play (let alone win).  And just when you think you've mastered the game, you find that more new features are being added via Stardock's "metaverse".


Does the name Stardock ring a bell?  For many, it does.  This is the company that created WindowBlinds, a very cool utility that allows you to "skin" your Windows interface to your liking.  The program has a huge following, with tons of skins being created by tons of people.  With that idea in mind, one can consider GC's metaverse a very cool feature of the game to come.  Instead of just releasing the game, perhaps a few patches, and then an expansion, Stardock will be constantly upgrading the game with new features and enhancements.  In addition, players will be using the metaverse to form alliances and share points that they earn through playing in order to download things like powerful ships.  In the future, Stardock would also like to implement a way for users to create and upload campaigns to share with the rest of the metaverse.


Now you know what the future holds for Galactic Civilizations, but what is it, really?  The game places you in the role of the leader of Earth - a new age president, you could say.  It is your job to explore the universe, gain control of star systems, and deal with several alien civilizations.  How you do this, though, is where things get intense.  You could try and show off your military and destroy all the other civilizations, or perhaps form an alliance with one or more to take down other, weaker aliens.  Trade becomes an important aspect as well - if someone else is quite pleased with the way you trade with them, you may influence them to stay peaceful with you.  Or perhaps it is important that they receive the goods coming from you - they can't afford to attack you.  In fact, there are quite a few ways to achieve victory in GC.  Of course, there is the standard "conquer all the alien civilizations", but defeating all other civilizations with your allies will also grant you victory.  There's also a technology victory - you can actually become so advanced that you move on to another level of existence.  Stardock is also working on an economical win, where you can win by being a great trader.


The gameplay is turn based, so you have as much time to plan and make your moves as you wish.  The AI of the game is constantly watching what you do as well, so there aren't long waits for the computer to decide what to do.  At the beginning of the game, you can decide how intelligent or dumb each race is, a nice touch.  The cool thing, though, is the AI doesn't seem easy or hard, rather, it seems human-like.  And some of the humans are obviously stupider players and some are very good.  Things are shaping up to be pretty cool in this respect.


Then there is the nagging question: how good is the interface?  Well, it's actually very good.  Everything looks very nice and menus are efficient.  Since you don't have to worry about action going on while you're figuring out something, the amount of space that toolbars and mini-maps take up isn't as important as it would be in, say, Starcraft - it works quite well.  The graphics are mostly 2D, with nice, smooth animation all throughout.  The 3D models of enemies and other various characters look extremely well done, with slick effects like reflections and super-smooth animation.


Will Galactic Civilizations be for everyone?  No, it won't.  The pace of the game will certainly displease gamers craving action and adventure.  But those looking to be the leader of your own little world, to control your own army, your star systems, your taxes, your alliances, and more, Galactic Civilizations is bound to satisfy.  And with the idea of the metaverse, those who love it will probably end up loving it for a very long time.  Now sir, I recommend you figure out just how you're going to run this place when that time comes - approximately 4 months from now.

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