Galactic Civilizations III PC Game Review

Article first published as PC Game Review: ‘Galactic Civilizations III’ on Blogcritics.

Galactic Civilizations III, video game, strategyFor PC strategy game fans, Galactic Civilizations III is the long awaited sequel to Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords, released in 2006. Exclusively for 64-bit PCs, Galactic Civilizations III is 4X turn-based strategy game, similar to the flagship Sid Meier series, developed by Firaxis. 4X is a term that refers to the “explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate” tactics utilized to expand your empire in this genre of strategy games. Though it may not have the name recognition of the franchise it shares half its name with, Galactic Civilizations III is formidable contender with deep gameplay.

Galactic Civilizations III is a pretty good looking game, but there are a couple of presentation details that would have improved the experience. The most noticeable of these features is voicework, except for the intro movie, there are no voices in the game. To be fair, with the level of customization, the inclusion of voices might have made everything a little too uneven. However, with just a picture, some of the alien races are difficult to differentiate. If you’re at war with one insectoid alien race and allied with another, it’s important to know which is which, when a dialogue option pops up on your screen.

Galactic Civilizations III, video game, strategyThose players that are upgrading from Galactic Civilizations II, will feel right at home with III. Honestly, there’s much that’s all that different. New players should definitely play through at least a portion of the tutorial, to get the hang of the right-click-based system. Though once you have the basics down, the rest comes fairly easily. The rest, is quite a bit though, and the level of customization is dizzying. On the plus side most of that is optional, and Galactic Civilizations III does a pretty good job of letting you go only as deep as you want to go. Besides being able to design your own ships, players can upload their own avatar photos and create their own races.

Galactic Civilizations III, video game, strategyGalactic Civilizations III’s bread and butter is its sandbox mode, where players can control everything from the size of the map, to what it’s populated with, and what the conditions for victory are.  Of course, most of those same options are available in the multiplayer offering. Those looking for a more scripted, situational game have a couple of different options in the campaign offerings. In addition to the stand alone tutorial, two different scenarios are offered. As was mentioned earlier, there’s not much to go with the campaigns, though, few cutscenes and no voiced dialogue.

Galactic Civilizations III, video game, strategyDespite the minimal narrative, Galactic Civilization III does manage to entertain.  The ideology system is often entertaining, even if there is no cumulative effect to the narrative. The frequent choice of a benevolent, pragmatic, or malevolent response regularly elicits chuckles though, you’ll eventually just opt for the preferred bottom line. Relating to the other races is another source of entertainment, and while diplomacy can turn on a dime, the actual metrics that control it are all visible and actionable. This amount of information applies to almost every other aspect of the game too.

With so many variables, Galactic Civilization III is really never the same game twice and despite some presentation shortcuts, the game is surprisingly compelling.  It is also worth noting that everything that is included, looks really good.  These kind of games can be tough on your system, but strangely it was only during cutscenes that I noticed any performance issues. You can certainly dig as deep as you want, but at the same time, newcomers shouldn’t feel intimidated. If you’re into 4X turn-based strategy games, Galactic Civilizations III belongs in your library.

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