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An in-depth look
Published on February 5, 2007 By Draginol In GalCiv Journals

 A Guided Tour of Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar.

A reintroduction to Galactic Civilizations

Galactic Civilizations is a turn-based strategy game set in the 23rd century. Players take on the role of leader of an interstellar civilization. The player must explore and expand into the galaxy and balancing their manufacturing, economic, political, cultural, and military resources in order to survive in a hostile galaxy.

Players can win the game through military conquest, diplomatic alliances, cultural influence, or through a technological victory.

Galactic Civilizations II introduced a ton of new features over the original game which we won't get into here. But a couple of the most notable were ship design and a new "technology forest".  The technology tree in GalCiv II forces players to make tough choices. Because economic, military, industrial, logistical, diplomatic, computing, cultural, and other kinds of technologies are in their own separate branches, the order in which players choose to research technologies as well as when they make those choices have a much greater impact on game play than is typical of strategy games. It also requires the computer AI to be far more sophisticated in order to be competitive.

The computer AI in Galactic Civilizations has always been one of its high points. Most reviews will touch on it because, in an age where AI is often ignored (you can't take a screenshot of artificial intelligence), Galactic Civilizations has a computer AI that provides a significant challenge without having to resort to cheating (though super high levels are available for people who truly master the game where the AI does get extra money and resources).  The net result is a game where there are a ton of strategic options available that still provides compelling competition from the computer players.

Rise of the Dark Avatar

Galactic Civilizations II included a campaign called Dread Lords (the full title was Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords). In it, the Terran Alliance based on Earth in 2225 was working to build an interstellar alliance to ward of the powerful and hostile Drengin Empire.  Into this mix came the Dread Lords -- a race of insanely powerful beings who had been imprisoned in a pocket dimension.  Suddenly, a three-way war was underway.  The Dread Lords only weakness is that they were few in number (as in, only numbering in the hundreds).

Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar is the expansion pack to GalCiv II. It includes a ton of new features as well as a new campaign in which players must take on the role of leader of the evil Drengin Empire to deal with an internal challenge to their dominance -- the Korath.

A Guided Tour of Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar

 

Setting up a game

The setup options in Dark Avatar give normal players the kind of power that is normally reserved to game modders. Here's what's new:


The new galaxy setup screen allows users far more options than previous and is much easier to use.


Players can now easily pick and choose from a long list of opponents including ones they've created themselves.


When players create their own opponents they can even decide what ship style they'll have

 


Still not good enough? Okay, fine, you can even tell the computer player what ship styles they should use for particular roles.  Still not good enough? Okay, the ships they use can be ones you designed! So all those ships you made from your favorite Sci-Fi show can now be in the game used by different races that you created!


Still want more? Okay, how about being able to set the intelligence level to the point where you pick which algorithms and how much money they get compared to you? You can even decide whether they get to use more CPU than normal in order to make use of more sophisticated algorithms!

 

Into the galaxy


Colonizing planets isn't the "rush" it once was. Half the planets require a specific (and expensive) technology to get. Focus too much on getting those techs and you could find yourself far behind technologically.

 


The graphics in Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar are significantly better. Military star base from Dark Avatar (left) vs. original (right). And the new ones are more memory efficient.

 


The technology tree has been greatly streamlined. Gone are repetitive items in the tree like "Laser 1, Laser 2". Instead, technology groups are put together into a single item on the tree that's divided into milestones.

 


Asteroids are now in the game which can be mined. But the miners are not totally loyal. Make sure you control the space the mines are in or else they may defect! Moreover, decide carefully where to beam the resources from your mines. The further the target planet is, the fewer resources that get there.

 

Ship Design


Players can now use template ships as the basis of a design. Create a really cool ship? Save it as a template and use it in future games as the basis of new designs!


Ship Design is greatly enhanced thanks to having around 10X as many ship components to put onto ships as were available in the original.

 

The Effect of Super Abilities


Each civilization has its own unique super-ablity. And they're not afraid to use it. Here, "someone" has persuaded the Altarians to go to war with the Korx. Someone has the Super Manipulator ability...

 

The New Diplomacy


With Economic and Research Treaties in the mix, players who want to win without going to war have lots of new options.

 


The new treaties are immensely valuable. But they are very powerful too.


The Foreign Report screen is much more detailed about why civilizations like or don't like you.

 


Computer players put even more thought into who they should surrender to and why.

 

 

 

The New Warfare

The key to military victory in Galactic Civilizations II has been to keep an eye on what your opponents have on their ships. In Dark Avatar, this has been taken up a notch with the Starship Intelligence Report.


Pretty and useful. Keep track of what the AI has on its ships in style


Want to knock someone down but don't want to go to war? Send in your secret agents! They can disrupt an opponent's economy with them never knowing who did it. Of course, the same can be done to you...

 


Dark Avatar has a new combat system: Battles take place on a per weapon basis instead of all weapons being summed up into a single shot by a single ship. This makes ship design even more important and makes capital ships more valuable (but also more expensive).

 

The little Touches


Set where you want your ships to exit orbit at.


Get a pop up map for displaying territory using normal perspective.

 

 

Misc Screenshots


My Ranger class starship protects the home solar system.


Manage your military from a super zoomed out position in the abstract...


Or get really close to individual ships


A detailed report on your mining base (and an easy way to show how much better the graphics are than in the original GalCiv II).


Ships in orbit now really orbit on the map


Players now have the option to build not just the latest/greatest planetary improvements but older ones as well

[Get Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar]


Comments (Page 3)
on Feb 06, 2007
I think I may have answered my question. In the diplomacy screen of Kralax I can see Laser IV listed in the tech list. So I guess the milestones are there as merely a menu streamline (less visible clutter), and not an actuallity of tech goods per say. Thanks.
on Feb 06, 2007
Those are some nice improvements. It would be nice if planetary improvements were grouped by type instead of alphabetically though.
on Feb 07, 2007
One other change regarding battles -- bigger hulls cost a LOOOT more. Large ships now use 10 logistics points and cost a ton more.


Well that's good news. Lets see how it plays out.
on Feb 07, 2007
Err, not really - why encourage players to drift to any particular style or design strategy? Ideally you have the flexibility to do whatever you want to do and still be successful.


Uhm, making larger ships superior to small ships (pound for pound) would force players to build only larger ships if you want optimum strength, making smaller ships useless (unless for roleplaying purposes). So therefore you wont have the flexibility you want since your fleet would be inferior if you have small ships compared to large.

However if small ships would be competetive to large then you would have the flexibility cause you could then go either way, or a mix, and still be succesful.

But Im just assuming that this is the case since I dont have DA yet but once we have the game I can do some balancing tests to see how different composition of fleets fare against each other. In DL fleets with larger ships wins, hands down.
on Feb 07, 2007
nice work Stardock!
on Feb 07, 2007
ups... sorry doublepost
on Feb 07, 2007
Great Walkthru! Thanks!   
on Feb 07, 2007
Uhm, making larger ships superior to small ships (pound for pound) would force players to build only larger ships if you want optimum strength, making smaller ships useless (unless for roleplaying purposes). So therefore you wont have the flexibility you want since your fleet would be inferior if you have small ships compared to large.


i've found use for small ships in my DL games, and i think i'll find even more use for them in my DA games (assuming targeting priorities stay the same). i use small ships as fodder, since in battles smaller and more poorly defended ships are targeted first. my non-industrial planets can pump out tiny fighters with no defenses very quickly. i group them with larger ships to make sure my capital ships are safer. wasteful, perhaps, but war is always wasteful.

this way, my military production isn't hinged solely on a few planets, and I've only rarely lost capital ships using this method.
on Feb 07, 2007
Still wish we could see something better for United Planets... what a waste right there
on Feb 08, 2007
As a veteran GC2 player Iam tad dissapointed with DA. But wish not spoil the party, I´ll write a review after DA is out for the masses.
on Feb 08, 2007
Those are some nice improvements. It would be nice if planetary improvements were grouped by type instead of alphabetically though.


I yearn for exactly this kinda UI improvements! There are tons of little things how DA could be made much more easier to play. I must question the logic why did the developers not concentrate more on UI tweaks?

Iam pretty sure they have just played GC2/DA too much and have become blind to the UI flaws. I cannot think of any other reason because during the beta I did bring up a healthy number of UI improvement ideas. Iam not bragging that my ideas are any good, but surely developers must realise that GC2 UI has room for improvement.

on Feb 08, 2007
i use small ships as fodder, since in battles smaller and more poorly defended ships are targeted first. my non-industrial planets can pump out tiny fighters with no defenses very quickly. i group them with larger ships to make sure my capital ships are safer. wasteful, perhaps, but war is always wasteful.


In my understanding, the AI targets ship that poses the biggest threat and is poorly defended. So if you pump out small fighters that have neither defence nor attack they would probably just be left for last.

Also even if they are targetted first you would benefit more if you produced actual war ships than dummy ships that are just fooder cause they wont contribute much or anything to the offence of your fleet.

Furthermore, as stated above, in DA combat works based on weapons and not ships. So your tiny fighters would work even less as fooder now as one big ship with several weapons would wipe your tiny dummy ships in one or two turns.
on Feb 08, 2007
Iam pretty sure they have just played GC2/DA too much and have become blind to the UI flaws. I cannot think of any other reason because during the beta I did bring up a healthy number of UI improvement ideas. Iam not bragging that my ideas are any good, but surely developers must realise that GC2 UI has room for improvement.


I agree. The UI in DL has many flaws and I was hoping this would be addressed in DA. It was not?

I mean there are so many people who are saying how many good points GC II has, nothing wrong with that, but bad things need to be pointed out aswell or they will never be fixed.
on Feb 08, 2007
Besides the new galaxy creation menus/templates/tech tree there is only one clear ingame UI change from GC2 -> DA. Which is a little arrow pointing from planets into which direction ships are launched from orbit. That is the only UI change I have spotted ingame

I really hope SD realizes that before they start pumping out more features with patches they really should fix the underlaying problems that have carried over from GC2!
on Feb 08, 2007
Couldn't find this on search, sorry if already been asked ..

Is there an option to disable secret agents? Hope so, but can't see it on sample screens. Personally I hated the unbalancing effect spies/agents had in MOO, and for that reason don't want to be forced to have them in GC2. Only thing stopping me from buying Dark Avatar right now.

Thanks for any info,
Greg
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