When it comes to strategy gaming, there are generally two classes of players who enjoy them the most: those that are secret warmongers who are really only interested in producing the largest and most powerful army to crush all comers, and the obsessive micro-managers who love maximum freedom to tinker with a thousand different planning options.
It’s perhaps no wonder, then, that Galactic Civilizations II has stormed its way into the US top ten game charts for several weeks on account of its universal appeal to both sets of strategy gamers. Building on a deep and well-researched history, Endless Universe is a stand-alone version of the game that doesn’t require the original, while still incorporating the two previous expansion packs – Dark Avatar and Twilight of Arnor – which have not previously been available on this side of the Atlantic.
If you’re unfamiliar with the game, fear not, for there’s an extensive set of tutorials that literally talk you through all the menu options you’re ever likely to use. Essentially you have twelve races to choose from, ranging from the highly ethical Altarians to the torture-you-before-we-kill-you Korath Clan who clearly have a problem with anger management.
Alternatively you can create your own race and then make a decision about how you wish to conquer your galaxy. You can opt for military muscle, technological superiority, cunning diplomacy, trading supremacy or spreading your irresistible cultural charms. Starting with a homeworld, a colony ship and a survey ship, it’s then entirely up to you which planets you want to colonise, who you want as your allies and how best to lure your foes to destruction.
The quickest way to learn the ropes is to enter Sandbox mode, or, if you’re more confident then you can plunge into one of three Campaigns. As well as the original Dread Lords adventure, the Dark Avatar starts from the point of total domination of the galaxy by the evil Drengin Empire. A breakaway group, the Korath, believes all sentient life-forms should be exterminated, while you as commander of the regular Drengin forces think the vanquished should remain as slaves.
In Twilight of the Arnor, a Terran Alliance force has returned from deep space to discover that the Dread Lords (the original masters of the universe now wanting to reassert their control) are currently lining up with the merciless Korath, and you’re there to prevent further annihilation.
The two expansion packs have greatly widened the already extensive parameters of the game so your tech trees are broader, the races have multiple characteristics, some planets are more friendly or more hostile to development, there’s a new spy system (most useful when playing as a pacifist), asteroids can be used as mines and galaxy sizes range from Tiny to Gigantic.
All spaceships can be customised, the graphics and soundtrack have been beefed up and periodically random events will be sprung on you to prevent you becoming too complacent.
Company: Kalypso Media