Turn-based strategy games may seem dramatically old school next to their flashy RTS cousins (like Company of Heroes), but when they work as well as Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations II, we’ll happily enroll. GalCiv 2: Twilight of the Arnor is the second and final expansion pack for the critically acclaimed 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) space conquest game, and it makes delivering one of the most fulfilling strategy game experiences you can get seem effortless.
For an expansion pack, Twilight of the Arnor is ridiculously deep. Building on the improvements of last year’s Dark Avatar expansion are an all-new campaign, some impressive visual upgrades, and numerous fresh gameplay tweaks - including a new “Ascension” victory condition and an imposing Death Star-style superweapon. (There are also six standalone bonus editors for making your own mods).
This sandbox is so big that you could literally get lost for months as you colonize and terraform hundreds of far-flung worlds, develop huge space fleets, research scores of new techs, and wage war or strike treaties with up to nine neighboring civilizations. The ability to play as any of the 12 featured races - each now featuring its own unique technology tree, planetary improvements, and spacecraft - expands the gameplay experience from deep to damn near bottomless.
None of this would mean a thing if the game’s single-player AI (there are still no proper multiplayer options) wasn’t pitch perfect. It clearly is, and Stardock deserves kudos for making Twilight of the Arnor as intricate, layered, and challenging as a turn-based 4X space strategy game has any right to be. Old school still rules.
PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.
PCG Final Verdict: 91% (Editor’s choice)
May 23, 2008