I’ll be blunt: if I were to rank popular area 4X video games of the previous years, Galactic Civilizations IV would can be found in near the bottom of the list, even behind Galactic Civilizations III. It’s not a catastrophe – like the previous 3 Galactic Civilizations video games, this is a good, practical 4X area video game – however its predecessors benefited a minimum of a round or 2 prior to they used thin due to the absence of an “X factor” to truly keep me connected. None of them accumulated to Endless Space 2, Stellaris, or perhaps 1996’s Master of Orion 2, which each provide more considerable range, style, polish and innovative identity than any GalCiv video game handled for me.
I had actually hoped that GalCiv’s 4th version would lastly discover and provide the trigger that the series has actually been looking for. Instead, it’s had the opposite result on me: After finishing a number of playthroughs, its glaring style issues and balance problems are painfully clear, to a degree that I fret that Stardock won’t have the ability to pull it out of this tailspin and restore its handful of clever concepts anytime quickly. If the stars align I can see playing Galactic Civilizations IV and not having an undesirable time, however it’s done so disappointingly little to stay up to date with the heights the remainder of the category has actually reached because 2015 that I’m generally wanting I was playing among those rather.
Upon striking the brand-new video game button, you’ll be welcomed with a generous choice of perfectly animated area empires both familiar and initial to the franchise. There’s a good selection of vibrant and unusual alien types in the middle of the human and humanoid, with the scary Festron bugs or actual huge mantis shrimp sticking out the most in the beginning look. Each race features a chosen set of characteristics that (allegedly) determine the design of play they provide themselves to, however you can tailor a variety of these benefits to your preference. It’s likewise possible to make your own empire totally from scratch.
You’ll continue the personalization spree right into your video game information, where you’ll establish the size and qualities of the galaxy. There’s a decent choice of choices in all these locations, and Stardock is kind sufficient to offer you a system specifications idea when you begin scaling up the settings to outrageous degrees (my meager 16GB of RAM and 4 CPU cores were half of what a “Galactic” size map recommends).
Beyond the alien/empire selection, the most important cornerstone to this setup process are Sectors. By default, I was just playing with a couple of average-sized regions, but you can scale it up to your CPU-melting desires. By breaking the map up, Stardock’s stated intention is to dial down the amount of dead space and empty tiles we see between systems in previous GalCivs. It’s also meant to keep empires relatively contained to a smaller playing field in the early game, until a few technologies have been researched. Unfortunately, with the way things are currently balanced it completely fails at both of these goals, and it doesn’t take too many turns into a fresh campaign to see why.
Arrayed before you is a grid of your starting sector, which contains your homeworld, shipyard, and a couple of starter starships. It can be hard to tell just what you have at a glance, as planetary icons and names tend to blot out the ships beneath them. Zooming out a little will shift objects to icons, but zooming out a little further than that will hide smaller ones. I was constantly having to shift my perspective just to glean basic information and get all my commands through. Just about every time I wanted to deploy survey ships I’d have to zoom in to click the ship underneath a planet banner, then zoom out to get a feel for the map layout, only to zoom back in a little for the anomaly icons to actually show.
Even once you’re familiar with what the icons and tiles all represent and how to find them, it still proves to be an unclear and ugly mess to try and sift through. There are a lot of systems at play and information to keep track of in any 4X game of this scale, sure, but in Galactic Civilizations IV I frankly struggled to uncover the essential information I needed to manage them. Plenty of times I was having to mouse over a dozen or so tooltips to figure out the specifics of how some resources and statistics interacted. I’m still not convinced everything is there either, such as the exact impacts of citizen skills, and even after playing multiple games I still felt like I was winging it.
To be fair, the rest of the initial experience was much smoother. Galactic Civilizations IV is a turn-based strategy game, so you have all the time you need to consider your moves and come to grips with things. This includes deploying the many fleets of starships you’ll be building. Combat is simply a matter of moving fleets onto the same tile as another fleet and then seeing the results. While you are given the option to see a cinematic view of the battle play out – which looks cool, but is prone to all sorts of camera issues and display bugs – there’s no influencing the outcome. All you can do is build your fleets and move them across the map, hoping that your fleet is bigger and more powerful when conflict happens. That’s fine, as this is a strategy game rather than a tactical one, but considering the impressive ship editor it feels like a missed opportunity.
The colored blob that represents your empire’s sphere of influence will form through a combination of building starbases and colonizing planets. Starbases can be built anywhere, though they gather minerals and trigger the effects of precursor relics in their field of influence, making tactical placement important. Planets, on the other hand, can have colonies built on them. But most colonies aren’t going to be all that impressive, as many planets lack the resources and space to be worth developing in full.
In previous Galactic Civilizations games, you’d have to manage each of those worlds individually regardless of their quality, and that got tedious as your empire grew. So one of GalCiv IV’s new features that I’m fond of is the Core World system, which aims to mitigate all that micromanagement. Rather than force you to hand-craft each of them, unimportant colonies will instead transfer their resources and stats to the closest Core world (with increasing decay over distance). If a colony world becomes lucrative or of strategic importance, you can opt to install a governor and promote it to a Core world. This streamlines the process for when your empire gets massive and spreads across multiple sectors.
Still, this means the early game narrows into a galactic land grab – which is true of most 4X games to some extent, but especially so here. If there are loose resources, floating relics, or even the most inhospitable rock with a mineral count on it, you’d best be setting up shop on it. Because if you don’t, then one of your AI opponents absolutely will.
My first game (playing as the Terran Resistance) was going decently enough, but I quickly realized just how outclassed I was getting in terms of production and territory relative to the neighboring Yor or Drengin empires. It turned out that I was being too selective with my colony ships, mostly focusing on claiming worlds and regions that I’d want to later convert to core worlds and fully build up. Merely a few turns later, I’d find all the other planets in that solar system sporting new colonies from the Drengin, who cared naught for anything except that they had claimed the territory.
That leads me nicely into a major issue: the AI has no clue how to prioritize which planets to colonize and which are a waste of everybody’s time. Computer empires might see snapping up every unoccupied world that I hadn’t as the correct decision, but nearly all of those colonies only lasted a couple of turns before they belonged to me. Part of that was because they were left undefended, but oftentimes, I wouldn’t even need to fire a shot! During peacetime, those brand-new colonies were so deeply within my empire’s zone of influence and away from theirs that decay affected 100% of their resources. They literally did nothing for them, only to then have cultural rebellions that saw them joining my faction. So this actually worked out to my advantage, with the downside being it exposed the reality that my opponents have no idea what they’re doing.
When it comes to war, territory control becomes even more annoying. You conquer a world by putting a fleet in orbit and, after a couple turns – depending on the colony’s strength and size – the planet will flip to the invader’s side. The colony itself can do nothing to stop this, and only other fleets can intercept and destroy the besieging force before the turn count runs out. However, “fleet” is a little bit of an overstatement since you just require one single ship to take a non-core world. It doesn’t even need to be a specialized battleship or transportation; any ship will do. Core worlds a minimum of need a ground intrusion through transportation and take longer to catch, however by nature they’re scarce.
This suggests that each and every single ship, huge or little, is a danger. This leads to wars ending up being an unlimited video game of whack-a-mole in which you’re desperately attempting to release sufficient fleets and ideally have sufficient sensing unit protection to stop each and every single ship from surpassing your cutting edge. Of course, it’s not precisely a big offer must they be successful, as you can simply as quickly reverse any damage they cause with your own ship. It’s simply a consistent inconvenience, and it suggests that there’s a big quantity of laborious trawling through huge sectors of area up until all opposition is quashed.
Galactic Civilizations IV Review Screenshots
Another concept that doesn’t work out is Sectors, which might separate the galactic map in theory, however in practice? Every sector is still thousands upon countless tiles to handle, even on smaller sized map sizes, so the void issue is still quite in play.
And if a war does take place to spread out throughout several sectors, this simply suggests there’s an extremely narrow funnel – simply one tile – through which supports can get here. That seems like it might get tactically fascinating, however the substreams in between sectors cannot be blockaded: even if you plant a starbase on either side of the stream, other empires can simply fly their fleets right previous your defenses if they so pick, and the whack-a-mole video game throughout galactic miles resumes in earnest. All your efforts at tactically managing the area achieved was to offer you vision and a staging ground for introducing an attack of your own; it’s a great start, however it makes the whole idea of sectors feel meaningless. With a grid size this huge, Galactic Civilizations IV required something like the hyperlanes of Stellaris or Endless Space for Sectors to work; without them it’s simply more area. Rather than fix the issues of GalCiv III, Stardock has actually just magnified them.
Do Sectors at least buy you time in the early game to get established before too many rivals are knocking at your door? Not really! The technology to see and travel between sectors is fairly low tier, so it’s usually not hard to unlock. Technology choices are randomly selected from what’s available when it’s time to research something, so you might get unlucky… but you can reroll the choices at the cost of a slight penalty to their research rate, so not having the appropriate technology pop up when you want it is only a mild inconvenience. What’s more, there’s a trait that you can simply start with to be able to use them anyway (which the Navigators get for free). At absolute best, it might keep your unluckier opponents low in the opening land grab, but I sincerely doubt you’ll be able to fully capitalize on that before new challengers arrive to your sector.
The way things are balanced, Galactic Civilizations IV inadvertently discards a staple tactical choice of 4X strategy games regarding empire building: you can choose to “build wide,” significance you expanded lots of nests throughout substantial areas, or “build tall,” where you focus your efforts on a little number of hyper-established core worlds. That choice causes some really various playstyles and contributes to a video game’s replayability. But in Galactic Civilizations IV, developing high was never ever a choice. No matter just how much you micromanage the efforts of a core world or 2, that can’t take on having the input of possibly lots of nests contributed to it. The failure to in fact establish chokepoints and truly preserve your area just substances that disappointment.
Actually micromanaging your empire can be an enjoyable procedure, a minimum of. Core worlds have a grid design of their own representing the buildable areas on their surface area, and you can totally plan the building and construction of specialized enhancements to make the most of the inbound resources. Add in adjacency benefits, tile benefits, and later on the capability to terraform to gain access to more tiles, and you have a system that provided me most likely the most pleasure I had in GalCiv IV – it was among the only elements that didn’t wind up sensation hollow or insufficient.
Speaking of, the Citizen system is amongst those that felt hollow. Every resident in your empire will have a name and a choice of statistics, and you can designate functions to them (such as employees, farmers, researchers, performers and so on.) to best take advantage of their strengths. But the small increases I had the ability to eject of them never ever appeared to reward the time invested. It’s worth keeping your individuals pleased, as approval score is a flat multiplier of your trade and production earnings, however that can be easily achieved without straight interfacing with your clingy people. This isn’t Crusader Kings III, which sports all sorts of vignettes and story advancement that can strike make people look like totally fledged characters; your individuals in GalCiv IV are simply very finely veiled sets of numbers. And it’s inessential, too: when I outright overlooked the Citizens system, the distinction in my empire’s efficiency was minimal – so why trouble with it?
Ideologies fall similarly flat. There are 14 various Ideologies divided into 7 sets of “conflicting” beliefs, and as random occasions happen throughout your campaign your options can increase the Ideology rating of your empire. For example, you may discover a scavenger ship in your area; picking to trade with it may enhance Opportunity, requiring it to turn over its haul increases Authority, and assisting it with its job benefits Compassion. On celebration you’ll acquire culture points, which can then be designated to an offered ideology tree for a perk. In theory, this need to let you customize make your empire to much better match your playstyle and enter into the roleplay element that generally accompanies 4X video games.
Galactic Civilizations IV, nevertheless, has no limitations on letting you take qualities from entirely opposing ideologies. You can simply cherry choice the mechanical benefit of your picking – which you’ll wish to do, as the balance (which Stardock states is still being modified throughout the board) is hugely irregular – and consume the small approval hit of breaking the desires of a number of your people. It’s made worse by how flat and recurring the random occasions are: the majority of are simply a single discussion box of boring description and the very same generic image with as much as 3 options. There’s little range here, and I saw the precise very same occasions several times within each and every playthrough I’ve done.
What actually stuck out with me during these events was not their contents, but how utterly bizarre or nonsensical some of the outcomes were. Switching off life support to the dangerous aliens in stasis is “Equality,” however waking them up and providing a nest ship to declare a brand-new world has no ideological gains? Frankly, there suffice curiosity in the descriptions of anything to do with the Ideology system that I’m persuaded the authors need to have significantly various concepts of what these principles suggest.
Likewise, it doesn’t appear much idea or effort was taken into establishing a sense of uniqueness or individual story to truly hook you into any provided run. The story projects of previous Galactic Civilizations video games are entered IV, however honestly that’s no fantastic loss, as they were generally simply abridged variations of routine, randomized video games with a little bit more taste connected to them. Still, Stardock declares that GalCiv IV has lots of tradition and storytelling in the basic mode in order to change those. Unless we’re counting random interactions from other empires that supply an unscripted tradition dump and the single alternative of “OK”, I’m unsure where that’s expected to come from. Not a single thing I’ve come across in several video games of Galactic Civilizations IV came even near to having the tradition or advancement of GalCiv II and III, not to mentioned the race-particular stories of Endless Space 2, or the wealth of random vignettes Stellaris can toss at you.
On top of that, I’ve discovered more mistakes and weirdness with every subsequent video game I’ve tried. It was the last playthrough that truly highlighted simply just how much of Galactic Civilizations IV doesn’t work as planned, though. See, I’d saw a pattern in every preceding video game where the Yor Singularity – a race of robotics – appeared to control the scoreboard. So this time I chose to play them, and it was here that whatever unwinded.
Synthetic races don’t establish population usually, and rather need to produce brand-new ones as a structure task. They require a particular resource to do that, however it’s prevalent enough that it just slows them in the early video game up until they discover an extra source and begin growing out of control. Then, in exchange for that labor, they don’t require food. That’s a huge offer since usually, investing greatly in production has actually the balanced out of increasing contamination, which reduces the development of food and for that reason stunts your population development. But if food is meaningless, absolutely nothing stops me from going all in on market. Furthermore, Yor people overlook any approval loss from high contamination or from striking the population cap on worlds, so once again my development was entirely untreated. This is an oversight in the faction style, sure, and it can (and ideally will) be covered and adapted to avoid every video game ending with the galaxy bowing to its brand-new robotic overlords. But this defect is simply among lots of in GalCiv IV, and they are so widespread that balance appears more than a couple of easy spots away.
Here’s another: Yor people have no expectation stat, which is planned to more balance approval score when you release them to far-off starbases or dull nests. As such, I would simply release them to land-grab whatever as I’d found out to do in previous video games. It’s a small and irrelevant modifier, absolutely nothing more, and made the people feel even less worth interfacing with than they currently were.
I then experienced my very first contending empire in my beginning sector. Diplomacy needs you to investigate a universal translator innovation which appears quickly after very first contact. Afterwards, you’re able to open discussions with them, trade resources or innovation, and schedule treaties or alliances. More frequently than not however, I would have a hard time to reach terms that would truly deserve my time at all, even when in a position of considerable power. Otherwise, I’m continuously being asked to state war on whoever else exists in the galaxy, since the AI simply never ever appeared able to make great. As the Yor, I simply chose to pre-empt the dull offers I would be declining and picked to ignore diplomacy entirely.ly.
Before I’d even established a translator to begin listening to them, we were at war and sniping each other’s nests. The large production benefit I had actually indicated that they were rapidly overloaded and overrun. This likewise equated to a research study benefit, because I might quickly build brand-new science structures. The just diplomatic message I got from them at any point was on the brink of their overall subjugation. What did they state? I price quote: “Hey Yor, we’re really tired of fighting. We ask for peace.” That’s it. No offerings of placation or effort to smooth things over.
So I refused their request, which drew my attention to the fact that Galactic Civilizations IV also has nothing akin to Stellaris’ Casus Belli systems or war weariness. With no mounting cost outside of manufacturing spaceships, these conflicts can last forever without any issues or incentive to stop before absolute victory is achieved.
At this point, I decided to flip the switch on another new feature: Galactic Challenges. Completing these themed challenges – such as building a new wonder first, or spawning waves of hostile space monsters to survive – nets you prestige. This is needed for the primary victory condition and can allow you to speed up completion of a game that’s already “won,” however may otherwise take hours to totally finish the job of mopping up. GalCiv III seemed like that sometimes in the late video game, so it’s a beneficial venture.
The huge bulk of these obstacles, nevertheless, are a single text box of short, simple discussion and after that an extremely fundamental mission goal. Given that much of these need to seemingly be significant tradition minutes or specifying accomplishments, the writing and descriptions are extremely dull. By contrast, reaching early turning points like developing your very first nest or starbase will reward the gamer with a brief little video commemorating it. It seems like the incorrect allotment of resources and attention, and leaves these larger minutes and marquis functions feeling undercooked. There’s likewise absolutely nothing stopping you from choosing several simultaneously, and some function a fair bit of overlap.
So I triggered the Everwar, requiring every empire in the galaxy to state war on everybody else. It sounds a lot more outstanding than it in fact is; this is no end-video game Crisis from Stellaris, simply a switch to turn based upon how things are going to accelerate the video game’s conclusion. Activating the difficulty provided me another boring discussion box about diminishing galactic resources, and after that a countdown timer which I need to make it through to attain status points. I was planning to dominate them all anyhow, so I may too be rewarded for the effort and have the job simplified by having them combat among themselves prior to I arrived. And then I began hurdling sectors in pursuit of my consistent objective of conquest – just to discover that the sector borders as soon as again showed completely inefficient at stopping rogue ships from making a problem of themselves (even colonizing one world I had actually missed out on in the heart of my empire). One last mole to whack.
There are still systems that I haven’t explained here, like the Leaders and Executive Orders. If they had actually made sufficient effect then I may have done so, however I’ve had the ability to easily win video games both when utilizing them as planned, or simply flat out neglecting them. Again, the distinctions in my experience in between playthroughs was small at finest. There wasn’t even any point in engaging with them for the sake of creating my own thematic identity for the run. Nothing appeared to alter the boring, dull experience I was having. This was all on Normal problem, mind you. Higher troubles may require you to engage with every system in order to be competitive, however provided how small an impact they appear to have presently, that simply sounds more including more routine to a video game I was currently feeling tired by.
One system I did effort to utilize was the weapon types. Weapons are divided into 3 classifications (beams, rockets, and kinetics) each with a matching defense system to counter it. But I rapidly stopped stressing over it when I understood that it simply didn’t matter: whether through balance problems or bugs, the protective systems hardly appeared to make a distinction in result even in book scenarios. The fight forecasts didn’t appear to matter, either; I would regularly destroy battles that I was informed I had no possibility in while likewise being beat in what were stated to be particular triumphes. I believed these outliers may have been figured out by hit points or hull size classifications rather of weapons systems, however definitely nothing showed particular regardless of my best shots to figure it out.
The last nail in the casket for Galactic Civilizations IV came when I was midway into dominating the 2nd sector as the Yor. Only another empire that was a danger still stayed: the feared Manti, who had similarly little regard for other types and who had actually required most to give up to them as the Everwar continued. Yet regardless of my definitely frustrating supremacy, with the significantly bigger facilities and spaceship fleet, the considerably more effective innovation… I was alarmingly near to losing the fight in status indicate this challenger. I topped them in every other classification by a long shot, disallowing 2: they had actually more sectors managed (thanks to the surrenders) and they had an additional antique within their starbase control to farm points from. This put them at 82% of the method to a points triumph, compared to my 64%. That appears extremely off to me.
It’s worth discussing that there are less triumph conditions in GalCiv IV than in previous Galactic Civilizations video games. There’s Conquest, which needs the removal of all other empires; Culture, which needs your blob of impact to control most of the map while likewise being at peace with everybody; and after that there’s Prestige, which is a points-triumph based upon an overall amount of empire stats and more reinforced by sector control and points made from finishing Galactic Challenges.
In short, there’s no genuine method to play without returning to the galactic land-grab, probably requiring you into the wargame. The Culture triumph may look like the very best method to approach things in harmony, however having borders enter into contest really rapidly makes next-door neighbors dissatisfied, so attempting it will ultimately annoy them into battling you.
If you’re going simply for a Prestige triumph, the majority of your points will originate from area control and the resources you collect. The Galactic Challenges available are mainly war focused, otherwise you’re simply developing what distinct marvels you can produce. The condition of opening those is totally based upon the number of worlds you manage, however. Thus, whatever returns to the land-grab. Anything that doesn’t straight add to that is meaningless, or undercooked, or has the balance and style problems laid out so far. There’s really little range from video game to video game, and wholesale functions can simply be overlooked with little repercussion.
Perhaps the one element of Galactic Civilizations IV that in fact has some distinct expression is the ship designer. Out of package, the majority of types have their own design of totally modular and customisable ships. If you delve into the editor you can easily equip its statistics and capabilities, however what’s far more enjoyable is having the ability to alter the appearance of it totally as you choose. Whether you wish to develop ships from scratch (and knock off any safeguarded copyright you choose), or simply modify the appearance of a cruiser that you didn’t take care of, there’s a wealth of choices and tools to do so. There’s even the guarantee of neighborhood assistance for accessing and downloading gamer-made ships, however this was currently not available in the review build.
Regrettably, having fun with this system was the only time I experienced a tough crash to the desktop, thus losing all the work I’d take into making a TIE Defender. (Stardock states it’s aware of stability issues with the ship developer and multiplayer and will spot in repairs at launch.) The toolkit here is definitely substantial, however reasonably, this is a specialized function for a little subset of gamers.