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Galactic Civilizations II Expansion Pack- by Colin L. Hildinger
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If you've been using OS/2 for any length of time you probably know that Galactic Civilizations (see the review in vol. 1, no. 2) and Galactic Civilizations II (see the review in vol. 1, no. 4) are probably the most popular OS/2 games of all time. You might also be familiar with Shipyards (see the review of Shipyards II for GalCiv II in vol. 1, no. 6), which allows you to design your own ships using the various technologies available in the game. However, if you don't keep up with the comp.os.os2.games Usenet group, it's quite possible that you've never heard of the Galactic Civilizations II Expansion Pack.

I rank Galactic Civilizations II as the only "must have" game for OS/2. There are other good games, but GalCiv II is quite simply one of my all time favorites on any platform, even though I can thoroughly humiliate the computer players on the hardest level of version 2.5.

"Version 2.5!?!" you say? That's right, GalCiv has been a labour of love for Brad Wardell, the game's creator and founder of Stardock. Unlike most computer games which only get bug fixes and maybe an update if the first version really sucks (Outpost from Sierra is an example of a game that wasn't worth playing until the update was released), GalCiv II has had major feature updates in its various service releases, with version 2.5 being the final free addition. By the time version 2.5 was released, sales of GalCiv II were pretty stagnant and Brad decided that his time was better spent on other projects (like Entrepreneur). After much pleading in comp.os.os2.games though, Brad was convinced to do another update and add some features, but only as a purchasable add on.

Why you might not have heard of it

Well, it seems to be almost hidden away on Stardock's web page. Instead of having a nice link from the Galactic Civilizations II page, it's got a page of its own, the only link to which is at the bottom of Stardock's Entertainment Division web page under "Other Games." Once you finally find the web page it gives you a brief description of what's been added, as well as a link for further improvements to the Expansion Pack (there should be another Expansion Pack update out in the next week or two).

Installation

The Expansion Pack installs just like the previous updates; just unzip the file and run the setup program. There are some important notes in the readme.1st file though. For instance, if you have Shipyards II you need to install it before the Expansion Pack. After that, it's just a matter of running GalCiv II from the existing program object.

What Was Changed?

There is an extensive list of things that have been changed. The most notable, in my opinion, are the improvements to the computer AI's (as always, they were modeled after real human players), including the replacement of the Pirates with the "Ominorians", and a restructuring of the technologies. The computer players are tougher, especially with the addition of the Ominorians, which can make the game almost impossible on some levels. You will have to adjust all your strategies that were previously successful because of these changes. The technology tree was expanded and altered so that you can no longer be a "Jack of all trades", at least not successfully. You must choose your strategy early and stick with it to prevail.

I am Ominor. Resistance is Futile. You Will be Assimilated...

...your strategy is irrelevant. Your starships are irrelevant. Race is irrelevant. You are irrelevant.

With original text and graphics for the Ominorians supplied by John Ominor himself, these fiends were then further modeled after the Borg from Star Trek. Needless to say, the Ominorians are certainly the most interesting addition to the game.

In previous releases there were Pirate worlds scattered sparsely throughout the galaxy. These worlds would be best described in the way Ford Prefect described the Earth: "Mostly Harmless." They didn't develop or assimilate technology and after a short period they would be eliminated from the game, until someone started to approach financial ruin and their worlds would become pirate rebels. Even then they weren't a threat because they couldn't make use of any technology.

The Ominorians, on the other hand, are a much larger threat. They start the game with a vast base of high quality worlds scattered across the galaxy. In a game where you might start with one single class 15 planet, the Ominorians start with 30 class 22 planets. Unlike the pirates, the Ominorians will try to expand by assimilating your worlds and technology. With their powerful resource base they are extremely dangerous -- so dangerous, in fact, that Brad created a patch which reduced their aggressiveness. As an enemy culture goes into decline they can become even more dangerous, because the enemy's rebel worlds aren't pirates anymore, they're Ominorians. You might go from defeating the Torians to having 2-3 of their worlds turn into Ominorians each turn. Scary.

All New in the Expansion Pack

Some other very nice touches were also added in the Expansion Pack and people from Usenet actively participated in the feature creation. Things like better graphics and better font selection were nice, though I did notice a few glitches. In the Expansion pack each different quadrant of space will have a different background, so one quadrant may just have a starfield, while another has a nebula in the background. Unfortunately, I noticed that the black backgrounds of graphics such as star systems created a black square on the backgrounds. I suspect that this would be easily fixed, and hope it is in the upcoming update. Little things like this make a game seem much more professional, and while GalCiv is now a bit dated, it's still one of my all time favorites and I'd like for it to look as good as possible when I've got friends over.

One of the nicest things that was added is the "Military Governors." With these governors you can make all planets that are building one type of ship switch to a new type. This is a wonderful feature when you're playing in a gigantic sized galaxy (the only way to play) and you get a new technology. There's nothing like realizing that a planet wasted years building a ship that's now outclassed by your opponents and which will be destroyed if you try to take it into battle.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

By now you know that I'm a complete GalCiv addict. If you own GalCiv and have enjoyed it, then this is a worthwhile addition. At US$14.95 (if you purchase it on-line from Stardock's commerce server), the added hours of game play are worth every penny.

You may also consider Shipyards II. While I think there could be better integration between the two packages, both add to the GalCiv experience. If you haven't purchased GalCiv II and you even remotely like games, you can get the demo (at the 2.5 level of the game) from Stardock's site. It's now available for US$29.95 at Indelible Blue and as part of the Power Gamer '97 bundle from Stardock (see the gaming news column this month for more information). You can also order the GalCiv II bundle (GalCiv II, Shipyards II, and GalCiv II Expansion Pack) for US$44.95. directly from Stardock.

Heck, for another $44.95 you could order the bundle and give a friend the copy of GalCiv II. You might just create an OS/2 zealot, you never know.

* * *

Galactic Civilizations II Expansion Pack

by Stardock Systems
MSRP: US$14.95

Colin Hildinger is an Aerospace Engineering senior at Oklahoma State University and has been using OS/2 for the last 3 years. In addition to being the Games Editor for OS/2 e-Zine!, he maintains The Ultimate OS/2 Gaming Page and the AWE32 and OS/2 Page in his "spare" time.


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