In my previous article, Galactic Civilizations IV Review in Progress, I addressed my first impressions of the game and expressed concerns that certain elements would make the game feel like a mediocre experience. Unfortunately, now with more game time under my belt, I can confirm that the game doesn’t capture me with that feeling I want when playing a 4x game, that feeling of just having one more round to play.
out of the gate, Galactic Civilizations IV makes a good first impression. While the game doesn’t have an interactive tutorial that would help new players, there are some elements to help you during the early game. Advisors give a player suggestions on what to do next and tactical advice on what to build/research. A pop-up robotic AI will notify you of new systems as they appear. I didn’t find this help helpful as I had already searched for information online after my first session with the game due to the lack of clear information in the UI. However, mileage may vary depending on the player.
There are 18 base races to choose from. It’s easy to pick one that sounds interesting and jump into a game. Personally, I think playing a custom race is the way to go unless you just want to challenge yourself. I can customize a race to suit my preferred playstyle and get myself a good jump on colonizing planets. For players interested in creating backstories and custom art, both options are also options when creating a custom race. The easiest thing for me was to copy an existing race and modify it to my liking.
The galaxy map generation options are also excellent. Using the various sliders, I can determine everything from the number of systems to the frequency with which habitable planets appear. During my first few games, I had an issue with bumping into other races too quickly. Finally, I made the map as big as possible and placed other races farthest away. Note that card settings will increase your recommended system memory up to 32GB of RAM and use up to 8 cores.
The larger map allowed me to familiarize myself with my little corner of the galaxy before encountering two other races. Make no mistake that it’s still a land rush for the first part of the game. Late game core planet conquest can be a chore as fleets build up.
I still need to tinker more with the map settings to fit the playstyle I enjoy playing, especially if I’m going to play a lot of multiplayer in the future. The only downside to all of these initial gameplay options is that I haven’t seen much change in difficulty. I’ve tried plain, normal, and bright so far. The AI doesn’t seem to be improving much, except maybe when it comes to diplomacy. Races seem to declare war quicker and enemy ships/creatures seem to be more powerful. But it wasn’t insurmountable.
I didn’t find it comfortable going to war against other races in Galactic Civilizations IV. It slows down gameplay when you’re chasing AI ships attacking seemingly random different planets. I found the AI questionable at times as I was trying to play a high diplomacy race and yet some friendly factions suddenly declared war even though I had a high reputation rating.
When I was playing on the light difficulty, it seemed like another AI race had turned an ally against me through deception in one instance. I was initially impressed. But then that same ally took an action that made no sense a few turns later, even when using Subtle again. It left me confused.
Another element I was concerned about is in-game events. They didn’t feel impactful during the early game and this continued as I expanded my empire. Events allowed me to adjust my race’s ideology progression to some extent. For this system, my choices determined what type of company I ran and what bonuses I received for doing so. But aside from a bit of story text, the events feel pinned with only a few reward options. Scanning anomalies also allowed you to unlock quests to change up the gameplay a bit, but they lacked variety and usually involved recovering X number of artifacts/resources.
I also don’t like only having 4/5 random options to choose from after researching a tech. I prefer having more agency in a game like this because I tend to plan well in advance. Some players like the RNG element and the developer added an option to reshuffle your available technologies for research. However, when this option is selected, it adds 10% to the research time.
One system I’ve been looking forward to is using slipstreams to travel between regions. Having played more, I’m not sure if this form of fast travel adds much to the gameplay compared to a single large map. With a bit of luck, the different races can quickly unlock the technology through research. I’m also still toying with ways to block a Slipstream entry point, but the AI seems to be ignoring everything I’ve set up so far.
Eventually I got used to quickly switching between a zoomed-in view of space and then quickly scrolling out again where I could see all the different icons on the map. Eventually I started spending most of my time scrolling outward so I can easily identify resources/planets. It was also easier to see enemy ships entering my territory. This is unfortunate as the graphics in Galactic Civilizations IV are decent and combined with the music makes for a pretty nice experience.
The developers have added a few things that make the gameplay more enjoyable. First, the automation of probes and scout ships is wonderful. I can just let go of them while I focus on expanding my area of control. Second, using a core world to manage a system while neighboring colonies dump their resources into one planet is a great addition. I think the citizen satisfaction system may need to be adjusted. So far I’ve mostly ignored this aspect of the game with minimal effects.
Using civ policies was a nice change. I could choose which perk my civilization focused on as I unlocked more technologies. However, once I plugged in a new slot, I immediately forgot about it until I unlocked the next slot, and then the system prompted me to fill it.
Custom ship building is also a great system. If you want to design new ships as efficiently as possible and change their appearance in different ways, there are many options. It’s not something I would do often unless I was building a ship with a specific purpose. But I could see friends spending hours getting their fleet set up just right.
Stardock has created a game of good bones. Some of the new systems, like the core world management and ideology systems, complement/improve the game. Unfortunately, other systems sometimes feel boring. They’re not broken per se, but they’re not quite there yet. They either slow down gameplay or don’t affect the experience at all. The core gameplay loop is decent, but it just didn’t make me feel the need to play another round before bed. If you like the series, Galactic Civilizations IV is worth picking up. Otherwise I’d wait for some patches or DLC to flesh out some of the systems.
A copy of the game has been made available for review purposes.
https://www.mmorpg.com/reviews/galactic-civilizations-iv-review-2000125052 Galactic Civilizations IV Review | MMORPG.com