Galactic Civilizations is a popular, realistic, strategy game that takes place in outer space. Although it has a sci-fi-based premise, the dynamics of the game follow entirely plausible situations governed by human ideologies and theologies. Known as a 4X game, this means you are able to complete your campaigns by exploiting any of the following four elements: Technology; economics; cultural expansion, and military might. The Altarian Prophecy adds new life to the original game as an expansion pack that is virtually guaranteed to give you your money's worth and more.

In the Altarian Prophecy, you will still fight the human-like enemies known as the Altarians but this time you'll learn more about their origins. There will also be two new races thrown into the mix, some of which you can befriend, others which will present a new threat. The campaign is well paced and presented. It doesn't follow any specific pattern. Some missions are short and easy and not necessarily included at the beginning. The randomness of these missions keeps things fresh.

New features, aside from the two new races, include new ships, improved interfaces, the inclusion of rally points, 10 new Metaverse scenarios and an editor to customize a game to your specifications. For twenty bucks you sure get a lot of replay value.

These new additions don't upset the balance of the original game. Most of the additions are supplemental. For instance, the four new ships enhance the ability of fleet as opposed to introducing new, super battleships. The Paladin is a capital ship that heals good ships within its region while the Sovereign adds an extra boost of defense capabilities. The Vamp and the Wraith are for the bad guys. You might be able to surmise by the tone of their names. They interfere with the defensive capabilities of the good ships.

Foreign policies, United Planet communications and other stats are easier to see and access thanks to a more streamlined interface. Information is the key to winning the campaign and you'll have everything you need to help you make the right decision at the touch of a button. Of course, processing that information is something only you can do.

Aside from the 10 new scenarios that take place in the open-ended Metaverse, an editor allows you to set up scenarios with various custom features. These can be uploaded to the game's website where you can also download other players' edited games. The learning curve is not very steep. Once you learn the method it's relatively easy to select everything you want but it's not just a matter of picking and choosing at random. If you want to create a great scenario you have to think ahead to include all variables that will be affected.

As an expansion pack, the Altarian Prophecy is a perfect example of the perfect expansion pack. It doesn't interfere with the original gameplay; it just expands on the premise without attempting to turn it into a sequel.

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System: PC
Dev: Stardock
Pub: Strategy First
Release: Jan 2005
Players: Multi-Online
Review by Dean