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Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor
Preview By: Nick Arvites
Developer: Stardock Entertainment
Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
Genre: Strategy
ESRB: Rating Pending
# Of Players: 1
Online Play: No
Accessories: Minimum System Requirements:
Windows XP/Vista
Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent processor
256 MB RAM
32 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible video card (32-bit color depth req'd.)
Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar or Gold Edition
Estimated Release: 04/30/2008

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In 2006, Stardock released a strategy title that flew under the radar of many people. Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords carved its way into strategy gaming’s hierarchy through solid reviews, critical acclaim, and word-of-mouth. The title brought 4X strategy titles (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) back to an area they’ve wrongfully ignored for far too long: space. Since the Masters of Orion series fizzled out, 4X gamers have pretty much been stuck with the Civilization series. Stardock followed up Galactic Civilizations II with an expansion pack in 2007. The critically hailed Dark Avatar expanded upon the original title with various improvements and new features, including a new single player campaign.

Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor is the newest addition to the franchise, and slated for release on April 23rd. The latest expansion pack brings in several major changes to the core game. I recently had the chance to play the beta build of Twilight of the Arnor, to experience these new changes firsthand. As a strategy game fan, I was thrilled with what I experienced.

Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor

Before getting into the bulk of the preview, allow me to explain the concept of Galactic Civilizations to the uninformed. The game is in the same style as the Civilization series. These type of games, again commonly known as 4X, take a large-picture approach to the world. This is in contrast to RTS titles, which generally take a smaller snapshot of the world — usually one battlefield — and leave all of the political, economic, and cultural struggles out. 4X titles allow gamers to run an empire in all aspects, and Galactic Civilizations II was a shining example of this. There were numerous ways to play through the game, and the robust unit editor allowed gamers to create custom fleet units based on technology researched. The original game also had a great story, but the strength of the game in my opinion was in its sandbox mode. All iterations of the franchise boast a strong AI, and I’ll admit, I was skeptical at this claim at first. However, this is one of the only games (if not the only game) where I feel the AI is actually out thinking me and not just cheating from massive stat boosts and other “cheats” to make it artificially better. It should also be noted that the series does not have a multiplayer component, as the designers decided to focus on a solid single player experience instead. Again, I was skeptical of this approach when I first bought the original game shortly after it was released, but I’ve been playing it off-and-on since then and haven’t really missed multiplayer at all. There is a detailed explanation on the official site as to why multiplayer was not included, and is worth a read if you’re interested. Overall, if you like any 4X strategy title, you should already own Galactic Civilizations II.

Moving on to this release, Twilight of the Arnor is the second expansion, and comes almost three years after the release of Galactic Civilizations II. This latest expansion pack stuffs enough new features in it to fall somewhere in between an expansion pack and a new game, similar to Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword. Twilight of the Arnor brings in the standard expansion pack elements — new campaign, new units, and new features — and tosses in critical game updates. A short list includes unique tech trees, Terror Stars (think Death Stars), Ascension victory condition, several new editors, new music, a new campaign, and a major graphical overhaul.

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Posted: 2008-04-09 19:56:07 PST