4x space games have been lacking, especially since the dismal arrival of Master of Orion 3
- gamers have been searching for the next greatest game in this genre and it looks as though prayers have been answered, without teeth-gnashing and weeping/wailing in the form of Stardockís Galactic Civilisations 2: Dread Lords.
You might be asking just what a 4 x space game is. (Or might not)
So with that said, why do some people (including me) feel that GC2 DL is akin to the coming of the 4x Messiah? Story
It is the 23rd century, humans have boogied on out to the stars and weíve encountered abundant life out there, lots of alien civilisations and people. There are those good races, those evil races and those races that like to sit on the fence. There is also the powerful Precursor civilisation that disappeared many moons ago.
The campaign focuses on this particular story and I wonít spoil it by saying what happens, but as you play youíll be thrust into a rapidly expanding galaxy and have to deal with those alien races in several ways.
Youíll have to make choices on several levels that will have an effect on your civilisation, your allies (If you have any) and the universe as a whole.Gameplay
GC2 DL isnít a small game and right away itís not a game thatíll take you hours to complete, itíll take you a lot longer and offers superb replay value because virtually everything you can set up is customisable. You are allowed to play as any of the civilisations and even create your own, the key here from Stardock folks is: Player Choice.
GC2 DL is chock-full of enhancements from the first game and itís obvious that this time around, the developers are not only on the right track, theyíre laying the tracks for others to follow.
The game has extensive video tutorials that can be referenced and they provide an excellent in-depth look at the various game features, with a little bit of Stardockís sense of humour for added zing. You should reference these often until you become comfortable with how GC2 DL plays out, since they are extremely helpful for new players and contain a couple of hints for veterans.
When you begin a new game (not campaign mode) youíll be presented with easy to understand screens, where you can set up your own play area, choose the amount of planets and so on. The wealth of customisation as you progress through these screens is evident, it also shows that Stardock have been thinking deeply since their first game. Every planet is unique, Stardock have said time and time again that most of the planets are generated each new game, so the chances of seeing the same planet again is nigh on impossible.
You can choose who youíre going to play against as well, by adding or subtracting civilisations, changing their allegiances you can make your game the way you want it. And as I mentioned before thereís even a customisable race option if none of the preset civilisations appeals to you.
Here you customise the racesí unique abilities, their political party/affiliation; this is important for later on in the game when you have a seat on the senate and can win the election, your bonus will apply then Ė but conversely if you lose the senate seat, those bonuses will become detrimental and negatively effect your civilisation.
Once youíve set up the game how you want, itís into the grinder with your first planet and the game begins.
Stardock have opted this time around to allow an extremely intuitive level of control to the game, you can view space from the 3d map and rotate, zoom, fiddle around to your heartís content. You can go right in to your planet and see a 2d map of it, complete with construction zones for various buildings (more become available as you research technology Ė but be warned the tech tree in this game canít all be researched, youíll need to make some choices as to the route of progression for your civilisation) and detailed information on your colony.
Those wargamers that despise 3d can play the game from the fully zoomed out map level, using an iconic view to make every choice and decision about how they move their fleets and colonise the various worlds, build starbases upon the resources that linger out there in space.
In addition to the map screen, you have numerous other screens, all easily found from the bottom tool bar and mapped to the function keys. Thereís even a management screen that allows you to macro-manage your whole empire, cutting down on fiddly micro-management to no end, you can change numerous options on this screen, re-route waypoints for your fleets and ships and control your empire without breaking a sweat.
There are anomalies and resources scattered about the play area, youíll be sending ships out to scout and report back on these findings, establishing starbases and upgrading them to make the best use of your resources Ė you can even build an influence class starbase in a sector you donít control to sway their population more towards your line of thinking.
In fact there are four ways you can win a game: through diplomacy, technological supremacy, influence or outright domination through military conquest!
In such a short space I couldnít possibly cover every aspect of this tactical game, the building of your empire is a process that will take a while to refine, as you choose the right level of taxation for your people and make your mark on the stars.