Sunday, July 5, 2009

Now I know what to name my colonies...

About a year ago, I first became enamored with Galactic Civilizations II, a sequel to a game I'd never heard of, Galactic Civilizations (I). Turns out, this game is made by Stardock, who are much better known for their desktop enhancement software. Of course, this interest was spurred by reading PC Gamer's wonderful blog entries on the two expansions to Galciv II, found here and here. Regardless, my itch to conquer space in a turn-based game that looked to be detailed enough to satisfy my OCD-ness, yet simple enough to satisfy my impatience went unattended for over a year. (Partly because I realized how much of a time suck Galciv II was going to be.)

Fast-forward, and suddenly I was in Gamestop, trading in a bunch of games I wasn't going to play again so that I could replace a broken PS2 controller (to finish God of War 2 and feed that Katamari craving) when I saw Galciv II on the shelf. Unfortunately, it was merely the older expansion, but the guy behind the counter was glad to go into the back room and retrieve ... the Ultimate Edition, which includes both expansions and the original for forty bucks! (I guess there's a soundtrack cd too, but the soundtrack is not really designed for standalone listening.)

As of now, I've only completed a few of the missions and two games against the AI, one on a medium-sized map (5x5), and one on a large-sized map (8x8). FYI, there are three more size classes above large, which are Huge (12x12), Gigantic (18x18), and Immense (21x21). Needless to say, maps of that size would require a couple weeks blocked off to play, given that the large-sized map took me about 16 hours to complete...

So far, though, my experience has been excellent. I've only tried AI up to the normal difficulty, which hasn't been too much of a challenge so far. My only complaints are that there are some bugs (1 or 2 crashes to Windows and weird disappearance of the next turn button), but the autosave function resolves the former and save and loading the game resolves the latter. The lack of documentation is a more serious issue, however, particularly in the lack of clarity in game mechanics. For instance, when you research certain technologies, sometimes your stats get a boost, except that it's expressed as a raw integer (e.g. diplomacy +10), yet many of your stats are displayed as percentages. When you build certain social projects on your planets, some of them also yield boosts (e.g. diplomacy +25%), yet it's unclear whether that is an actual +25% to your diplomacy (including previous upgrades), or along the same lines as the +10 from a researched technology. Finally, sometimes, the difference between whether a social project's effects apply just to the planet or to the civilization are unclear, especially for things that boost morale.

But, it needs to be mentioned that the happiest time I had when playing was on one of the earlier missions, when I noticed the planets named Celes, Locke, and Sabin. Ahh, nostalgia. Luckily, there are 14 different FF6 characters, which will give me plenty of colony names for my first push among the stars.

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