Galactic Civilizations III Review (PC)
The Blorgons, a race of vile beings you've been at war with for over a decade, want to reach a peace agreement with you as long as you promise to share your powerful warship technology (which you fear may eventually be used against you should you agree). If you don't consent, it's more war, more lost lives and resources until one or both of your races are dead. Meanwhile the Kryptonians are constantly whining to you for help, the Kree won't stop trying to convert you to their stupid religion, and the Namekians... well, they're pretty pissed at you because they think you built too many ships. In space, no one can hear you politic in Galactic Civilizations III.
Galactic Civilizations III neatly follows the path set by its predecessor, Galactic Civilizations II, setting you up as the leader of a race of alien (or not-so alien) beings who are trying to thrive and survive in any way possible. GCIII's a turn-based strategy game, so your experience is all about making thoughtful decisions rather than skilled button-pressing. On the small scale, you'll spend each turn doing things like deciding what sort of buildings to construct, resources to gather, technology to research, and what you want your fleet of ships to be doing. On the larger scale, all of these small decisions add up to a vibrant, living, tactical experience. Build too many ships and a neighboring civilization may (rightfully) believe you're building up for an oncoming war and declare war on you first. Spread the message of your benevolence across the galaxy, or gather too many resources, and you may find every space weirdo in the quadrant knocking on your door looking for a twelve-fingered hand-out. Every little decision causes a ripple effect later on in your game, creating a naturally-evolving experience that occurs because of the decisions you make.
Each match comes with an astounding number of customization options. You can either choose from one of multiple pre-determined races with pre-determined bonuses or construct your own (and upload your own picture of a Blorgon, Kryptonian, or Namekian to complete the experience). Victory can come through several venues— do you want to be a conqueror, feared throughout the galaxy, a cunning diplomat and economist, or an enlightened being who transcends the concept of mortality? However you want to play, GCIII's got you covered, and though each playstyle has its advantages and disadvantages, you're never pigeon-holed into playing one particular way. In addition, there are so many random events to deal with during the course of a game that, no matter how many times you boot up GCIII, you'll never be playing the same game twice. Oh, and for those who are into that sort of thing, you can pretty easily design your own starships; feel free to populate the galaxy with as many Millennium Falcons, Enterprises, and giant flying butts as you please.
There's a robust tutorial to help along any Civilization newbies, and while it helps guide you through the universe quite handily, it does occasionally forget to tell you some basic information--like how to end a turn and keep the game moving. Fortunately, in spite of the incredible complexity of GCIII, things are laid out in such a clear fashion and the control scheme is so intuitive that you'll pick things up naturally even if you're a complete newbie to the TBS genre. There's also a campaign mode, but it's basically the same as a normal, custom match save for a few story events.
The Civilization series, in all its forms, is famous for the cleverness and variety of its AI opponents, and Galactic Civilizations III lives up to its predecessors. GCIII's many races all have unique quirks and perspectives which you'll learn as you play, making it easier to predict their reactions without making you too prescient.
The stars in the vast universe are a beautiful sight, one Galactic Civilizations III does a great job of bringing to life, and its melodic soundtrack beautifully accompanies your experience. One technical complaint, however, is that the game flat out does not run on PCs that don't have Windows 7 or higher. Though this fact is clearly explained in the Steam store page, it's still an odd choice considering there are plenty of gamers who have high-powered rigs running on older OSes simply due to preference.
Galactic Civilizations III stays the course on the strong path laid by Galactic Civilization II— at times to a fault. The tactical, political wheeling-and-dealing action is more streamlined than ever before, but outside of a few relatively small changes the core gameplay is essentially the same. For anyone hungry for some space-flavored strategy that's a bit more thoughtful and less action-per-second intensive (and who doesn't already own Galactic Civilizations II), Galactic Civilizations III offers a rich depth of gameplay which will keep you coming back for light years.
This review is based on a purchased download of Galactic Civilizations III for PC.