S trategy to this level isn’t found just anywhere. Galactic Civilizations 3 challenges players to take any one of ten fledgling races and seek galactic dominance through culture, diplomacy, technology, or just good old, time tested war. While the only path available in the build we played was open hostilities, that didn’t leave any lacking feeling of choice either. In fact, while huge, critical swaths of what can be expected by the final version are missing in the alpha, what we’ve seen already could nearly carry a game on it’s own.
Planet earth is blue, just as can be expected. The galaxy generated for your game looks good even on low spec’d machines and spans out more than far enough to not feel cramped. Zooming into the playing field reveals finely detailed ships and visually functional play field features like movement blocking asteroid fields and visually stifling storms. Zooming out to get a wider view of the action makes things substantially more basic, almost wire-frame in fact, it does however bring more of the field into view and makes it easier to get the large picture of events.
While more nuanced sound design can probably be expected in the final, only simple tech bings and ambient, somewhat generic “space music” complement the action. The series is renowned for it’s enemy AI, but the alpha being what it is, lacks the nuance that can be expected in the full version, sticking to a rather hive minded, slow movement throughout the cosmos. Rarely would another ship be seen scouting the void, and it took hours for any enemy empire to become apparent.
Starting from basically nothing, players guide their civilization from a single planet and a handful of ships to explore the galaxy, colonize new planets, manage those planets to in turn produce more ships and research new technology in agriculture, weapons and defense for the empire. The early game relies heavily on fast moving scouts to map the universe, colony ships to bring new habitable planets under the empire and searching for artifacts across the galaxy to boost overall effectiveness.
Moral choices occasionally present themselves and they play into how you develop politically. You might have to choose between a greater immediate payoff and killing half the native population of a new planet, or having more room to build it up, but losing out on the instant gratification.
Layers build upon each other, and only continue to get more intertwined as tensions escalate and empires clash. This barely functional alpha lacked features like any kind of diplomacy options, ship designing, combat viewer, any victory conditions outside of being the only one left alive and half of the tech tree, yet already plays more strategically than most games.
The game still controls a little strangely, particularly on a laptop’s touchpad. Moving around the map requires a strange click and drag motion, and any setup that lacks a reliable way to right click leaves you with little direct command of your ships. It’s not always clear where you’ll be allowed to move a ship, though more detailed stats will probably come with the full game.
Galactic civilizations 3 is shaping up into a force in the turn based strategy field. With a myriad of ways to pursue your conquest within a sole road to victory, the galaxy is as limitless as your ways to own it. A few control quirks do little to dull the promising shine, and the game feels like a fairly full product, despite still missing huge swaths of features. The cross section presents a very promising future product that any would be galactic emperors should look out for very closely.