Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar review

  • The race for extreme colonies
  • Greater flexibility in customizing races
  • The AI is much stronger in most areas
  • The story-based campaign uninteresting
  • Opening planet rush can be exhausting
  • Computer still weak at the trading game

Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar makes enough changes to qualify as a full-fledged expansion, though you could be forgiven for not noticing most of them immediately. The new races aren't that much different from the old ones, the asteroid mining is a minor asset to your industrial sector and many won't play the new story based campaign for very long. But developer Stardock shows that if you add enough tweaks, you can force even veteran players to rethink their entire approach.

Rethinking is not the same as rediscovering. Just like the original game, your first move will still be exploration and spamming colonies to grab all the best planets as soon as you can. But now you can settle planets that would normally be off limits - if you research the right techs. So you can settle that water planet, but you will need to divert your science away from the usual military or economic tech. This early choice can set the tone of your game in dramatic ways.

The AI opponents are now stronger than before, and both new and experienced players may need to dial down the difficulty level for a while. Though still suckers at the trade table, the computer controlled races are smarter at the military game and will use the new espionage system to cripple your best planets. Enemies are less likely to make unpredictably crazy decisions, and with the greater power in customization, you make an enemy as militaristic or peaceful as you like. This is a great way to see what makes a race tick, so it doubles as a laboratory of the computer mind - set it up here to see what could happen when you encounter the scenario in the main game.

The story-based campaign casts you as the evil, warmongering Drengin, now divided between a traditional slave-taking caste and a genocidal offshoot known as the Korath. The missions are still the usual kill and conquer deals, and so offer less in the way of entertainment than the more open core game.

In the end, the best stories are the ones that you craft as you kick butt across the universe. Dark Avatar makes your space operas even more varied in tone and content than ever before.

More Info

Release date: Feb 14 2007 - PC (US)
Feb 14 2007 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Stardock
Developed by: Stardock
Franchise: Galactic Civilizations
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+

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