Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor - PC - Review
I first encountered Galactic Civilizations with the release of Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar expansion. I’m normally not a big fan of space games, preferring fantasy themes, but this game really captured my attention. I especially enjoyed collecting all the cool junk lying around the galaxy. The game was very attractive visually; deep space had never looked so good. The only negative feature was the lack of direction on what to do on each turn. However, I found a good online tutorial that presented an outline of a “First Turn.”
The preview version of the expansion pack Twilight of the Arnor was also great fun to play. Some of the now-present features weren’t available, but there was still a lot of new content and I again enjoyed myself thoroughly. My preview version didn’t have the campaign mode, but did have the regular game mode.
Twilight of the Arnor is advertised to be the last expansion and to wrap up the Dread Lords saga in the campaign mode. This campaign mode begins with the return of a Terran ship from a tour of duty, whose captain is dismayed to discover all the horrific happenings of the last couple of years with the Drengin and Korath wars of dominance. Think Star Trek meets Battlestar Galactic. The campaign scenarios are unique from each other and require different types of strategic planning. There are tutorials for beginning players, with one entitled “First Turn,” which I found very helpful and informative (Thanks, Stardock!).
The main new feature of Twilight of the Arnor is the restructuring of the technical trees. Each of the 12 tech trees is now unique and offers different research paths for each race. The Drengin have techs that emphasize research through various levels of agony, and also have a tech path that ends with the ability to design artificial slaves. The Terrans have majesty and cultural domination. Some of the races have high morale enhancers, while others can upgrade their military quickly. Even the seemingly similar techs have subtle differences in application and the manner in which they are organized on the tech map for each race.
The technical trees are redesigned in a more logical manner and offer much more information to players than in previous games. There are icons of relevant attributes on the tech plate itself. There are pop-ups of the forthcoming techs when players pass the cursor over the techs, and right-clicking the mouse will offer up a list of improvements that will be unlocked with the tech. Besides the new tech trees, there are more improvements available for the planets, more ships and more differentiation with the ships. This, too, adds to the complexity of the game’s strategy. Some of the ships have animated moving parts, which I don’t remember from either Dark Avatar or the preview version of Twilight of the Arnor.
Player customization is always a large part of Galactic Civilization, and now there are even more ways for players to tweak the gameplay. New editors allow for customization of the technical trees, scenarios, improvements and more, for a total of six editors. Players can access these new features by choosing to design a new race when beginning a new game in the sandbox mode. There are more options for designing ships, which will please many. For the lazy/don’t care among us, there are also automated ship-building and improvement options.
Another improved aspect is the streamlined economic information menus. Pertinent economic information is displayed in a logical manner that is more cohesive than previously. However, I’m still a little confused about the planetary improvement contributions, but that is probably because of user obtuseness.
Galactic Civilization games are enjoyable because players like me can play as slowly as they want, concentrate on other things besides war, and collect all kinds of freebies around the galaxies. But, if they choose, they can spend all their gaming sessions fighting all their neighbors. The genius of Galactic Civilization II is the sheer amount of individual customization available for every type of player. Each game can be setup as to size, the amount of goodies available for picking through while traveling around the universe, the types of random events, the number of opponents, numerous difficulty levels, the races of opponents, and the victory conditions. I am by no means a strategy game guru, and prefer easier game sessions over the insanely difficult ones. I also don’t like constant fighting (except for turn-based battles in Heroes of Might and Magic). The beauty of Galactic Civilization is that I can have just as much fun playing as the gamers who grew up playing obscure European war board games and e-mail games, moved on to Master of Orion on the PC, then settled down with Dominion.
So, what does this expansion add to the overall game? Well, it improves the original so much that once played, you can’t go back. For me, the biggest improvements are the streamlined menus with better organized information and the new tutorials. The new and unique tech trees are great additions, but the improved game interface is what I love. The new graphics are also pretty neat, especially the ships and the planets. The love and dedication from the folks at Stardock really shows in their attention to fan requests. I absolutely recommend this expansion for owners of Galactic Civilization II and the previous expansion, Dark Avatar. If readers don’t own it, buy the whole shebang. It’s worth the money.
Review Scoring Details for Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor
The improved interface definitely makes the gameplay enjoyable. All the deep strategy in the world isn’t any good if players can’t access or understand it. As it stands, this game offers such an enormous amount of design and gameplay choices, along with a complex strategy, it is a guarantee that players will spend months on this game. This expansion is more than a usual expansion. It changes the game, yet doesn’t change the game.
The graphics are much improved, although they still aren’t perfect. The galaxies are still as beautiful as ever.
The music is suitable in theme and tempo.
Even on the easiest settings, the learning curve is steep. The excellent tutorials help, though.
The presentation of new features is superb.
This game just became elevated to my personal list of all-time PC favorites: HOMM II, Caesar III, King’s Quest 6, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island III, Quest for Glory IV, Civilization IV and now, Galactic Civilization II. I never thought I would enjoy a space game as well. It’s almost like playing HOMM in space. This game is probably not as well-known or advertised as some games, which is a shame, as it is a must-have game for any fan of turn-based strategy games. Oh, I also enjoyed the Reviewer’s Guide, which was written by Brad Wardell. Great reading! Missed the recipes, though.