Star Emperor Advanced- by Edward Crouser

It was a time of tranquility in the galaxy, where independent star systems existed in peace for centuries. Now chaos has begun to spread. . .

In Star Emperor Advanced, Stardock System's latest game release, the player must ally as many star systems as time allows and prepare for a war that will decide the fate of the galaxy.

Installation and Requirements

Star Emperor requires a minimum of OS/2 Warp or higher, 6 megs of hard drive space, at least an 800x600 resolution (you may download a patch from the Stardock System WEB page or FTP site to play Star Emperor in 640x480) and a CD-ROM drive. MMPM/2 is recommended. The game may be played from the actual CD or from your hard drive, but no provision is made for making install disks from the CD. The only advantage to running Star Emperor from the CD is the space that you save on your hard drive. The CD also comes packed with additional bitmaps and promotional sound files for other Stardock Systems' products.

Installation is easy thanks to Stardock Systems' excellent install program. It copies the files to the hard drive and creates Star Emperor objects on the desktop; no changes are required to your CONFIG.SYS. I encountered no problems with installation on the different systems. I tested it on 486DLC-25, 486DX-33 and a 486DX-66 (all equipped with 8 megs of RAM).


While the actual Star Emperor box is a step above the Galactic Civilizations box, it's still nowhere near as nice as the packaging for Object Desktop or the proposed box artwork for Galactic Civilizations v2 on the Stardock Systems' homepage. The manual included with Star Emperor is rather short at only twelve pages, but does provide the necessary game basics and controls. It is a dramatic improvement over Galactic Civilizations which contained no hard copy documentation to speak of. It also contains no mention of the installation program, but since the installation is self-explanatory, there was really no need. Finally, it would have been much more useful if it expanded the discussion of strategy, technology and deeper gameplay elements.

The Game

It is important to note that Star Emperor is not the sequel to Galactic Civilizations. While many aspects of the game play remain much like Galactic Civilizations, the focus is very different. In Star Emperor the game play is much quicker; a full game can usually be played in one sitting. Galactic Civilizations users will feel right at home, though, since the controls remain very much the same. In Star Emperor, there are no social programs nor any popularity to deal with. It's purely a technology and military driven game. When you start a new game you are presented with the amount of players to have in the universe, the difficulty level and the name of your empire. You cannot, however, change the alignment of the players (good, neutral, evil), their names or the size of the galaxy.

Because of this loss of flexibility and the fact that Star Emperor doesn't deal with as many statistics as Galactic Civilizations, one of the first things you may notice is the speed of Star Emperor. The dialog boxes display extremely fast and once you get into the game the disk swapping is very minimal, even on a low end machine. Running Star Emperor on a 486DLC-25 with only 8 meg proved this.

One of the more unique aspects of the game is the ability of different planets to have different technology. A planet that recently joined your empire may simply give you more technology, or may be able to produce starships that no other planet can. So, instead of actually having to research technology, you get more technology by simply bringing more planets into your empire.

The heart of Star Emperor uses the highly acclaimed SDS AI engine, an artificial intelligence that makes your computer opponents play by the same rules as you, no cheating involved, unless you specify the "unfair" difficulty level. This level allows the computer to cheat by having an unlimited supply of money which makes for a much more difficult game. Also new to Star Emperor is the ability to play the game in real time. This is obviously a step towards the ability to have multi-players which is promised for Galactic Civilizations v2 (not out of the box, but with a third party add in).

Once the game begins you start to align neutral planets. Usually, once all of the planets in the galaxy are aligned to the various players, the wars of the galaxy begin. There is no way around this as alliances are only short term, no provision is made for a long term peace strategy with other empires. You interact throughout the game with other alien civilizations through a control center. You are given a list of choices of matters to discuss and predefined choice responses. Once you start to take over other planets by force, there is no "battle". The AI determines who wins and either lets you take over the planet, or not. This is actually a nice change from Galactic Civilizations in which the battles were fought with a number generator with a probability factor built in. With Star Emperor, there is no guesswork, the AI does it all for you. It is also important to note that the graphics and sound are based on Galactic Civilizations with only extremely minor changes. They are nice, but with the screenshots of Galactic Civilizations 2 making their rounds on the Internet, they look rather old.


Star Emperor, like all software, is not without its problems. Sometimes the planet production dialog box and the planet renaming dialog box will overlap each other. If you aren't careful, you may lose the opportunity to set the planet's production. Whenever you view a sector it includes the name of the starship underneath the icon of the starship. Unfortunately, when you move the starship, it doesn't erase the entire name and you are left with garbage on the screen. I thought that the latest fixpack for Star Emperor might correct these glitches, but to my surprise after applying it, I was wrong.

Also, Stardock ships Star Emperor to default to play in a 800x600 mode, while many people still use a 640x480 mode. I experimented to see (before applying the fix) what exactly would happen if you did try to run it, out of the box at 640x480. Everything downsized to 640x480 fine, other than the dialog box that comes up after you have allied another neutral planet to your empire. Basically what happens is a dialog box will pop up telling you how happy the people are to join your empire and what technology they have that they are willing to share with you. At the bottom of this dialog box it will ask you to rename the planet. In 640x480 resolution, you cannot see this part, so it can be really confusing for a first time player who is trying to play at 640x480, until they apply the patch. This bug can easily be overcome by pressing ENTER whenever the dialog box pops up. Stardock includes a notice in the manual about this and the box lists Star Emperor's requirements as VGA with SVGA being "recommend".

This leads me to the question, "Why would they ship it if they knew about the bug?" A large amount of people still run at a 640x480 resolution. The only thing I can assume is that this bug with the dialog box slipped into the CD production and it was too late to fix before they already had a large amount of discs pressed.


Should you buy this game? Keep in mind this is not a game of civilization development, it's a game of war. If you are a Galactic Civilization player who loves the aspect of war, the answer is a definite, "Yes!" If you are more concerned with uniting the galaxy in a peaceful way, the development of social programs, trade and the objective of staying away from war at all costs, then this game will probably not suit you. If you have never played Galactic Civilizations and are a great fan of science fiction or simply love to kick a little alien butt every now and then, I highly recommend picking up a copy. While the packaging itself isn't first rate and the manual could use a bit more depth, the game play makes up for it all. Star Emperor is another excellent creation from Stardock Systems. Bring on the Drengi!
Star Emperor Advanced on CD-ROM
Stardock Systems, Inc.
Gibraltar, MI, 48173
Phone: (313)453-0328
Fax: (313)453-1480
SRP: $44.95
Edward Crouser is a shareware author and contract programmer who specializes in OS/2 related material. He is a member of Team OS/2 and has been using OS/2 since the 2.0 beta.

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