In space, no one can hear you say, “Awesome.”
Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor is a shining example of the perfect expansion pack. It’s more than just an add-on to the original game. It features new content, bigger and better maps, different tech trees for each race, and a whole host of upgrades from the graphics to the sound.
Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor is the second and last expansion pack to Galactic Civilizations II, a great strategy game that includes a deep single-player campaign every bit as challenging as an engrossing, online multiplayer mode. The A.I. is smart, dynamic, and responsive. The sheer size of this game is going to intimidate all but the most determined of novices. This map is freakin’ huge. Getting from one section of the galaxy to another can take a number of turns. This game was designed to be played for months on end. Of course I didn’t have the luxury of playing this game longer than a few days, but I was still able to burrow a little deeper than a mere scratch on the surface.
To bring freedom to the galaxy, the Dread Lords, with their Arnorian powers, must be destroyed. The source of that power is crystals that are scattered throughout the universe. These crystals must be discovered and destroyed; only then will races in the galaxy be free. In the meantime, prepare for some magnificent battles.
Various aspects, such as the interface, have been refined. It’s easier than ever to use, but no expense was spared when it came to maintaining the depth. There are so many things to consider in this game that it’s simply mind boggling but in a good way. It may seem complicated at first glance, but this is the kind of game that is meant to be played. You can always learn from your mistakes. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time (or the second, third, fourth…etc.) Just pick your race, make some decisions, and get in the game.
Controlling the galaxy is your ultimate goal. This can be achieved through various means, fair and foul. You can try to rule by force, or you can choose more diplomatic ways of exerting your influence over space and time. Races include the Drengin, Krynn, Dread Lords, Terrans, Korath, Altairians, Yor, and the Iconians. Each of these races possesses different characteristics and technologies, but more importantly they have different philosophies. Some, like the Krynn, are more spiritual in nature and seek to find converts. They aren’t a race per se;they are more a religion that anyone from any race can join. The Yor and the Iconians are more aggressive and war-like. If playing as another race, you will find ways to instigate battles between other warring factions that will help deplete their resources so you can move in for the kill when they are sufficiently weak.
There’s a lot of freedom afforded in this game. You can change your race’s predilection as you see fit. Perhaps the diplomatic path is a little too sedate for you. Simply start manufacturing weapons and a fleet, and gear yourself up for war. At the same time, a lot of influence can be gained by making peace with other races. Money is a very powerful commodity in this game. It can be accrued through the development of trade. In turn this will require the creation of trade routes, which need to be protected from non-friendly races. No matter how you slice it, you’re still going to have the threat of war hanging over your head, so you’ll always have to allocate funds to some form of military might.
As I mentioned, certain things have been simplified, if you want things that way. For instance, the CPU will construct your fleet for you ship by ship. You can opt to design your ships yourself. Entering into the manufacturing process, you will visit the shipyard where tons of parts are available for you to assemble. It seems to me you still get your money’s worth regardless of how the ship is constructed, at least in terms of power and ability. But if you like tinkering, then tinker away.
One new ship in particular will literally blow you away. It’s the Terror Star. Like the new map, this thing is friggin’ huge. I mean way huge. It’s incredibly resource heavy, costing tons of money and lots of time and research. But it’s worth the effort. It’s not just capable of taking out an entire fleet, and it’s not just capable of taking out a planet either. It will destroy an entire sun, taking out all surrounding planets, satellites, and civilizations. As fun as this sounds, it’s not such an easy project to construct. You can’t try to build the Terror Star in a hurry. The amount of resources it requires will leave you unable to defend yourself from attack. Instead, you have to relegate time and money to it a little at a time. Kind of like restoring a classic car in your garage over the winter.
Or you can build it when you’re holding all the chips as kind of a universe-size finishing move. But just because you have a Terror Star, doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable. It’s big, clunky, slow, and takes a lot of time to do anything. A faster and more aggressive race can get between you and your King Kong and turn you into space ghosts if you don’t have sufficient defenses.
Each race has its own technology tree. This really gives the game a lot of depth, as well as replay value. When you play as different races, the entire perspective of the game changes due to the tech tree. You can even make changes to the race that you’re playing by accessing different options on the tech tree. It takes into account all races’ various distinctions, such as history, philosophy, military and diplomatic policies, biology, culture, and ethics to name a few. All the technologies are laid out linearly. A series of objectives must be met before you can progress to the next branch. Advances in weapons, ships, industry, trade, colonization, and diplomacy in and of themselves are not necessarily unique to each race, but they are laid out in different orders on the tree and have different aspects that make them unique. For example, the Krynn will have features available to them that can be installed on ships to help them convert the masses to their religion. The Korath will have technologies available that will supplement their acquisition of slaves to provide free labor.
Another new feature is the victory condition known as Ascension. Players can build star bases around Ascension crystals that are scattered throughout the galaxy. There are only a few of these, five to be exact. The longer you can keep your base around these crystals, the more points you will earn toward your Ascension victory. These bases require resources in the form of defense, since they can’t be upgraded. It’s not the most chivalrous way to win the game, but it does add another dimension to the gameplay.
Graphically, the game looks amazing. The ships are incredibly detailed and diverse. Each race has distinct vehicles, with hundreds of different parts that can be mixed and matched. You can also obtain tons of information about anything with a few clicks on the interface. Planets can be zoomed-in on for more detailed surveillance of the environment. And as huge as the map is, there isn’t a lot of open, empty space. There’s always something interesting popping up on the screen. You’re going to be busy with this game. The music is more varied than the last expansion pack. It’s rich and orchestral. Very classy and epic. The sound effects almost rival those of Star Wars. The explosions sound as good as they look.
If you’re looking for something to do with the rest of your life, you might want to check this game out. If this game had a dedicated multiplayer mode, I would want to live forever.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Simply breathtaking. Highly stylized, colorful, and richly detailed. 4.7 Control
Easy to use interface. Tons of info at the click of the mouse. 4.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great orchestral music. Sound effects rival Star Wars. 4.8 Play Value
Totally addicting gameplay. Lots of variation and replay value. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.