We recently had the chance to sit down for an extended play of the Steam Early Access alpha build of Galactic Civilizations III. Developed and published by Stardock Entertainment, Galactic Civilizations III is a turn-based 4x space strategy game that is currently available in a very early alpha form on Steam.
For players unfamiliar with the Galactic Civilizations series, imagine Civilization in space and you’re well on your way to understanding the basics of Galactic Civilizations III. Gameplay is comprised of exploring an expansive map, building up your empire through various means, and eventually trying to rule the galaxy. What’s playable thus far is a pretty standard core game that shows off a bit of combat as well as the basics of exploration and colonization. Once implemented, the single player campaign will be set 10 years after the events of Galactic Civilizations II.
It’s important to remember that we’re talking about the v0.0.2.0 build of this game and that many of the more ambitious features of Galactic Civilizations III have yet to be introduced. While the playable portion of the game is enjoyable, what has us really excited are the plethora of features that are still in development. One such feature, a free-form ship designer, allows players to create their own unique looking fleet of units to use while conquering the galaxy. Things like diplomacy and alternate victory conditions are also planned for future builds. While the game currently has 4 playable races, 4 additional races are planned for release some time in the future as well.
We found the basic gameplay to be an enjoyable experience that really gave us a good teaser for what the final game might include. Currently the core gameplay is a bit shallow, but upon loading the game you actually have to click a button that acknowledges that the game is not fun yet and is just a preview. Ultimately, we can’t fault Stardock for releasing at such an early stage though. In its current form Galactic Civilizations III is intended for hardcore fans of the series. The price tag will weed out all but the most dedicated fans for the time being, as it should. Players that do buy into the Founder’s Elite Edition will receive lifetime updates, DLC, and all future expansions. Additionally, Founder’s Elite members will have a chance to name their very own star in the game!
Like many Steam Early Access games, the new player experience is mostly non-existent for the time being. Don’t jump into the current build and expect a thorough tutorial, game encyclopedia, or robust single player campaign to introduce you to new features. Currently you can start a new game and just dive right into everything that is available. For a player like myself unfamiliar with Galactic Civilizations, prepare for a somewhat steep learning curve for the time being. Expect your first playthrough to be a practice game.
Space combat is currently functional in its most basic form with battles auto-resolving instantly. Future updates will greatly flesh out the combat system and allow for some player involvement and strategy in deciding your battles. Support ships will grant perks to your units, while various weapons and defenses can make or break your fleet. From the sound of what it planned, Galactic Civilizations III combat may be seriously awesome.
A new ideology system allows players to gain unique bonuses based on the the benevolent, pragmatic, or merciless actions they take during their quest for dominance. Various win conditions will allow you to play in various styles to conquer the galaxy. Merciless players might choose to might to crush their enemies with brute force, while pragmatic players could influence their people to transcend their physical bodies and exist on another plane of existence.
Our playthrough wasn’t without issues though. Installing the game went smoothly, as did signing up for a (required) Stardock account. Actually launching the game was impossible though as we experienced a crash to desktop each time we attempted to play. It wasn’t until we stumbled upon a solution by analyzing some Windows event logs that we were able to get into the game. As it turned out, popular video capture program Dxtory was responsible for our crash to desktop. We were unable to make the game work with either Dxtory or Nvidia’s Shadowplay and instead relied on Steam’s built-in screenshot functionality to at least allow us to grab some shots while playing. We’ve yet to hear of anyone else complaining about this, so it’s quite possible it’s just a unique issue related to our mix of hardware and software.
Stardock is shooting for some ambitious goals for Galactic Civilizations III including developing the game exclusively for 64-bit and with only DirectX 10 and 11 support. 32-bit and DX 9 players are an ever shrinking population and it’s awesome to see developers looking to harness truly next-gen technology on PC. Even as an Early Access build, Galactic Civilizations III ran phenomenally on our test system. You can really tell that multi-threading and a 64-bit architecture is being taken advantage of here to create a well performing and beautiful game. We can’t speak for the final build, but our initial experience suggests that the game should run great and look even better on a good deal of systems that meet the recommended specs.
Obviously there’s a lot more to come for Galactic Civilizations III and we’re excited to watch as development progresses. Stay tuned for more updates as Stardock introduces new content throughout the coming months.