Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor Review
Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor box art
System: PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Stardock 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Stardock 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: May 5, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

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.

Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor screenshot

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.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Simply breathtaking. Highly stylized, colorful, and richly detailed.
Easy to use interface. Tons of info at the click of the mouse.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great orchestral music. Sound effects rival Star Wars.
Play Value
Totally addicting gameplay. Lots of variation and replay value.
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Each civilization gets its own unique technology tree. There are 12 major civilizations, each with over a hundred technologies. No PC strategy game has ever attempted this.
  • Unique planetary improvements per civilization. Like the techs, it's not just cosmetic differences. Each civilization has its own history that results in different philosophies of how to succeed. It also means massive replayability and visual richness.
  • Lots of new types of ships. Once again, because of the unique technology trees, you end up with different weapons and other components which results in unique ships.
  • New victory condition: Ascension. This optional victory condition will cause five ascension crystals to be placed in a given map. Build a star base on them and collect one ascension point per turn for each one you control: gather 1000 points and you win. Of course, other players will attempt to annihilate you in the process.
  • New features for new players. Players can now choose to have the computer design their ships for them.
  • Map Editor. Players can now make their own maps.
  • Scenario Editor. Players can design in-depth custom scenarios that change the overall game rules. It's been designed to be very easy to use.
  • Tech Tree Editor. Players can now create their own technology trees or modify ones that come with the game with a very easy to use editor.
  • Planetary Improvement Editor. Add your own planetary improvements to the game.
  • Metaverse tournaments. Custom tournament maps/scenarios are being provided with their own online scoring so people can compare their playing ability to others directly.
  • New galaxy size: Immense. Due to the memory optimizations, Stardock was able to create a ridiculously large galaxy size called Immense.
  • New soundtrack. Lots of new music in the game.

  • Screenshots / Images
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