Space can get real lonely.
Galactic Civilizations 3 is a turn-based strategy game set within the dark corners of space, it places it’s focus on battling on enemies, resource management, diplomatic and political interactions, and the development and regulation of planetary civilizations. The game also serves as a sequel to Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor. While my initial expectations of the game weren’t exactly so high due to the game still being a BETA, my actual interest in the game and what it may possibly have to offer remained fair.
Galactic Civilizations 3 opens itself up with a short CGI trailer with the purposes of getting the player immersed in to its world. As this was in noway an actual representation of its gameplay nor was it designed to be, the cinematic presentation was enjoyable at the most. With the following two choices of game modes split between new game and quick start, the game leads you to it’s civilization selection screen, with its four sets of civilizations to choose from with another four being unavailable at the current time.
"Galactic Civilizations 3 opens itself up with a short CGI trailer with the purposes of getting the player immersed in to its world."
These four are divided between the Iridium Corporation, Altarian Resistance, Drengin Empire, and the Terrain Alliance. Each choice presents a short detailed Bio of who each one is, where they originate, their appointed leader, and their race traits and abilities. What’s actually worth taking note of here are the race traits as these have a direct effect on gameplay.
Using the Drengin Empire as an example here which are known for being exceedingly clever, while at that same time being a vicious set of people built for war and militant purposes. Their race traits favour Brutal, Tough, Fast, Militant, Courageous, and Adventuresome. Taking this into comparison with the Iridium Corporation who are firm believers in the power of free markets that specialize in economic and cultural growth, as noted by the game’s description. The race traits here consist of being Productive, Clever, and Influential Traders.
Moving on to the Galaxy settings screen this menu works as a hub for the rules and regulations for how the game will play out. Giving the player full control to tweak and adjust various options in the game. This is where the game becomes a little more detailed and really let’s the player know what kind of game they’ll actually be playing. The player can set the size and shape of the galaxy itself, aswell as it’s physical properties, the frequency at which black holes, asteroids, resources, and interstellar rifts make an appearance within the game.
"Their race traits favour Brutal, Tough, Fast, Militant, Courageous, and Adventuresome."
For a newcomer these will undoubtedly sound overwhelming and make absolutely no sense. On the other hand it may actually build up interest within the game, but frankly if it does sound overwhelming or in any way turn you off, then it’s clear you’ve picked up the wrong game anyway. It’s elements such as this which make Galactic Civilizations 3 the game it sets out to be, and it’s coherently linked directly to its gameplay structure.
Other available settings included in this menu are adjustments to the game’s difficulty, opponent choices, and victory conditions. Victory conditions presents something of interest as the conditional choices available seem to have a direct link to each of the character civilization traits from the previous menu. Conditions such as using diplomacy to bring peace, crush and dominate your enemies, and the reclaiming of precursor relics in order to ascend to a higher plane of existence that all directly feed back into their traits.
After my initial interest within the game and what it apparently had to offer through the description provided, not to mention its emphasis on character description traits, and the freedom of player customizability of the match settings, this is where everything came to a halt. Throwing the player directly in to the game without a tutorial as to how you actually play the game, coupled by no mission goals or directives isn’t exactly the best way to keep people interested or expand your audience.
"Throwing the player directly in to the game without a tutorial as to how you actually play the game, coupled by no mission goals or directives isn't exactly the best way to keep people interested or expand your audience."
With two ships, four planets, a shipyard, and an asteroid field laid out before me topped off with a rotating moon attempting to present a sense of ongoing life within the game. I hadn’t the fairest idea of what I was meant to do. Now while one could argue that the big title across the screen so appropriately labeled “BETA” should let the game of the hook, I refuse to accept that.
The first thing that should have been set right was a gameplay tutorial so the player gets an idea of how their actual enjoyment within the game will be decided. With nothing extra at my disposal for figuring the game out, other than a truckload of UI tabs with sixty percent of it labeled as “Coming Soon” and an intergalactic checkerboard that seemed to make up its own mind as to when and where I could navigate my ship around the grid, it wasn’t long before I found myself trapped in an asteroid field.
Safe to say the game isn’t exactly user-friendly at this point and the only people who might have the slightest idea of what’s going would be veterans of the previous games. After tinkering around for a brief period of time and exploring what else the game had to offer while may ship lay dormant in an within a floating pile of space rocks, I was more concerned with the final product rather than it’s early stages.
"Safe to say the game isn't exactly user-friendly at this point and the only people who might have the slightest idea of what's going would be veterans of the previous games."
The message I’m actually receiving from the game doesn’t do much justice when almost sixty percent of it is unavailable to play. Wealth, research, and the manufacturing of goods and trading across different planets is what the player is here to engage in. Accomplishing and maintaining this is down to player choices, income, and resources that are attained through the means of interacting with the other civilizations.
Whether that be war, discussion, or mutual respect and trading. The only problem however which I can’t seem to emphasize enough, is the non-existent tutorial or introduction that tells you how to do so. I guess you could expect the input/keyboard controls menu to lend some assistance with this, and yes you’d be right to presume so, but sadly you’d also be let down.
With almost the entire key binding selection being mapped to the switching and manipulation of the camera’s view point, and the only noticeable distinctions being mapped to the scaling of designing your own ship, I literally felt lost in space. Yes pun intended.
"Whether that be war, discussion, or mutual respect and trading. The only problem however which I can't seem to emphasize enough, is the non-existent tutorial or introduction that tells you how to do so."
At this point in time my initial impressions with the game are at an all time low, with my main concern laying with the final product. There’s nothing user-friendly or at all intuitive that makes me want go back to the game or at all recommend it to a friend, upon it’s actual release. The excuse here that many people would provide is to wait for updates as it’s still a work in progress.
But since the game provides no direction for newcomers as to how you would actually play the game and launched itself as public BETA, then that in itself already presents a barrier of entry and could possibly leave the game floating off in to a dark corner of the galaxy, with nobody except it’s already established fan base exploring what it has to offer. Which at this point in time appears to be nothing other than promotion for “Coming Soon”
This game was previewed on the PC.