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Imperium Galactica II

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Istv?n Kiss

GAME DEVELOPER:Digital Reality

GAME PUBLISHER:GT Interactive

Copyright 2000, Digital Reality

On the surface, Imperium Galactica 2 seems to have done quite a lot of things right. It has a detailed empire model, an extensive range of structures in its planetary model, lots of ships, lots of weapons, space combat, ground invasions, more alien races than you can shake a stick at, a terrifyingly extensive research tree, modular ship and tank construction, three extensively detailed campaigns packed with subquests and individual events and an undeniably pretty graphics engine to make everything nice and shiny for the eye-candy junkies.

Sadly, despite all of these features, it manages to be a pretty damned poor game.

First off, the planets, the very building blocks of your empire, your bases, your factories, the homes of your people. Six pixels wide, six pixels tall, twinkle occasionally. Each requires a pretty carefully aimed mouse click to gain any information which, when it arrives, is quite frighteningly anonymous. Population min/max, power production and use, tank production potential, ship production potential, dull lists of anonymous figures which mean very little and matter less.

Moving down to the planet’s surface, we see what appears to be a sparsely featured RTS map, again anonymous, again mattering little. Some maps have an inconvenient hill in the middle of them which must be built around, some don’t. It doesn’t matter because however you structure your town, invasions can be launched from anywhere that doesn’t already contain a building. Not that you’ll be personally building anything at all because each planet is more or less forced down a predetermined development route in order to balance work, power, housing, happiness and various other statistica which I can’t be bothered to drag out of my brain because they don’t matter. You use the automated builders, you never look at a planet again after you’ve developed your first. Some of the planets have different terrains, grassy, volcanic or icy depending on their terraforming level and therefore denoting their population potential. Or something. It doesn’t matter because you just automate that stuff.

Ground battles for control of these planets take place on this same map. Barring some defensive turrets which may be difficult to manoeuvre your tanks to, not a lot of this matters because it’s a battle of pure numbers. You can take some care to position all your tanks equidistant from a turret so that they can all attack at once, getting the battle over quicker and saving yourself a tank or two but it really doesn’t matter much because your force is either bigger than the enemy’s and will win, or is smaller and will lose.

Most ground battles are preceded by a space battle which involve much the same tactics but no terrain, and so can be either left to the numbers or you can take some vague satisfaction from manually concentrating your ships’ fire on enemy ships so as to kill them faster and minimise your own losses. It’s an exercise in loss-minimization through sensible targeting rather than a genuine attempt at tactical combat but it can actually make a difference to the outcome of the battle so it almost matters. Ships repair themselves though, so as long as you come out the battle with few ships actually destroyed, it doesn’t matter a lot.

I could go on with a blow-by-blow of the utter lack of impact any of the decisions you make in this game have, in fact my draft review ended without going into the combat of the game at all. The thing is, IG2 isn’t about the decisions you make as much as it is about the speed at which you make them. On medium difficulty level, you appear to be put on a par with the PC in terms of hitpoints, costs and so on, the only difference is that the PC clicks on stuff faster than you do and if you don’t get yourself a decent early-game advantage by some means, you will eventually come across a bigger, meaner enemy than yourself and will die. This isn’t me moaning about the difficulty level of the game, it’s just that one of the most aggressive, combat-powerful races in the game doesn’t engage in diplomacy, can’ be made peace with (you can play them in one of the campaigns, these options genuinely don’t even exist for them as a race, it’s not just me misunderstanding something, it’s hardwired into the game) and generally will kick your ass nine times out of ten because you didn’t beat them fast enough.

There’s a whole slew of other problems with the game, research is soulless and spreads over a hideous number of menus, is uninformative, descends into mindlessly clicking in the next topic in the “Go Faster” section, or the “Better guns A” section, or the “Better guns B section” or something. You can research tanks as well. You can’t upgrade ships you’ve built, not generally an issue but fleets can only travel at the maximum speed of the slowest ship in the fleet, not being able to upgrade means that you can either repeatedly mothball your older ships, leaving you underpowered in your big confrontation (this is stupid), or you can ignore it and travel really slowly from place to place, slowing down your progress through the game and possibly leaving you underpowered (still stupid, but a batter option).

The sheer volume of stuff in this game which just makes me stop, stare at the screen and makes me say “Gosh, that’s really stupid.” is staggering. While it’s possible to struggle past the interface and gameplay problems to a competent… Uuuh… Well, the videos are nice… and the subquests which make up the plot are interesting, though unbelievably vulnerable to breaking down completely and leaving you with no plot progression… Anyway, there is some competent design here, but it’s vastly outweighed by rubbish, rot and general misunderstanding of what makes a game a game and not a spreadsheet that I really can’t recommend this game at all.

So I won’t.



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