To give you the best idea of what Galactic Civilizations III is like, imagine Sid Meier’s Civilization V set in space with the ability to design your own spaceships. If that sentence doesn't get you salivating at the possibilities, you might have to go rewatch Star Wars. Over the last few days I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the latest build of Galactic Civilizations III and lead the human race into the future.
Making sure that humanity survives to dominate the stars isn’t the easiest task, especially in the current build available from developer Stardock Entertainment. While it is certainly playable and quite enjoyable, the limitations of its beta state become immediately apparent when beginning a new game. Though the final game will include eight playable races as well as the option to create a custom race, the current build is limited to four: the Terran Alliance, the Drangin Empire, the Altarian Resistance, and the Iridium Corporation. Each race has different strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Terrans are great at exploring during the early game, while the Altarians are adept researchers and quick to adopt new technology. The other major limitation to the beta is that the only victory condition available is conquest. The final retail build will include diplomatic, scientific, and influence victories alongside conquest.
Upon loading into a new game, everything seems fantastic. Fans of Galactic Civilizations I and II will feel right at home with the interface, while newcomers might feel a bit out of their depth and require a bit of a learning period before knowing the ins and outs of the numerous menus and orders. The first hour or so of gameplay feel refined and mostly finished and it is fun to expand to new worlds and see what you might find drifting among the debris in deep space. Survey craft can pick apart debris to find advantages for your race in the form of money or even operational ships. The first encounter with an AI civilization shows that Galactic Civilizations III is still very much incomplete. Not only is diplomatic victory impossible, but the diplomacy system hasn’t been implemented at all. This leads to every civilization attacking you on sight, which makes it difficult to fully explore the complex and interesting technology tree down any of the routes besides military.
While researching the secret to building larger and larger ships, players will be able to design new types of spacefaring war machines. The ship designer is quite entertaining. It offers players premade designs or allows them to build their ships from scratch. Once the base body has been finished and outfitted with a variety of extra pieces give some character to the design, players can outfit it with weapons, armor, shielding, engines, etc. The system is incredibly flexible and I can easily see some Galactic Civilizations III players putting hours into creating new and unique ships for their fleets.
The one thing that I will stress heavily from what I saw during my time leading the Terran armadas is how slowly the game moves. For me that’s great, I love slow, tactical experiences, but I understand that sort of experience isn’t something everyone enjoys readily. I spent nearly six hours with Galactic Civilization III and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what the final version will be like. I have yet to see how science, influence, or diplomacy victories will work or explored how it could be feasible to research those parts of the tech tree. However, the time I spent in space is just enough to whet my appetite for the final product.
Galactic Civilizations III is currently in beta on PC. It has no official release date. People can gain entrance to the beta via Steam for $44.99. I would not recommend purchasing the beta unless you are a hardcore fan of the Galactic Civilizations series and willing to deal with technical bugs and unfinished game systems. For more information on how the Galactic Civilizations III is progressing, be sure to check out the Stardock YouTube Channel to see their weekly progress videos.