Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Gal Civ II

As I've mentioned before, I never really feel that competent talking about turn-based strategy games. I feel that there are many, many people out there who have far more experience with them than I do, because I've played them less and less as the years have passed.

However, from that perspective, let me say that Galactic Civilizations II is a wonderful, wonderful games.

I didn't play the first Gal Civ for very long, even though I could tell it was a very good game. It was a pain-in-the-ass to get into, though, and I just didn't have the patience. This time, though, there are a ton of video tutorials that walk you through a large number of subjects, and when I started playing, I didn't feel overwhelmed. And even though there is a gigantic amount of detail in the game, it's where I expect it to be, if that makes sense. So overall, it's a very intuitive design.

It's tremendously polished. The relationships between the different races is fascinating. The A.I. is just brilliant, but without cheating. It's very striking visually. The music is just fantastic. It feels like a game designed by people who both love the subject matter and know how to design games.

And it all works. I've played several three-hour stretches where I had absolutely no idea how much time was passing. If I was still single, those three-hour sessions would have been six hours. Or ten. That's how hard it grabs you.

I think it's also important to note that they finished the game. Smaller developers just can't afford to put out a game, then put out three major patches in a month to get it finished. I see text-sims do it all the time, and it's the kiss of death, because word of mouth goes negative almost immediately, and by the time the game is actually finished, there's no one left who wants to buy it. So the audience is the same hardcore group for every iteration of the game, and it's never going to increase.

Stardock is not in the same boat as text-sim developers--that's not what I mean. But they are in a group of developers who still largely depend on word of mouth to drive their sales. And because the game was so polished on released, the word of mouth has been through the roof.

That seems to be somewhat of a mixed metaphor. Unless that's the roof of the mouth, of course.

They've released two patches, but they're both very minor. They waited to release the game until they finished the game. That doesn't sound revolutionary, but it's something that publishers often lose sight of in the frantic rush to book the revenue.

Here's one other thing. I've seen Brad Wardell all over various forum boards, supporting the game. These guys are busting their ass, just like the Civ IV guys did. And I strongly believe that when turn-based strategy games are ranked all-time, this would be at the absolute top of the space-based games, and in the top five overall.

Great fun. Great game.

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