Posted: August 19, 2014
Early Access Review
When is beta a beta?
When about half of the UI buttons are greyed-out and read "COMING SOON" and your game is missing one of its' major mechanics
(the Diplomacy in its' entirety)... Yeah, I'm sorry Stardock, but you don't get to call your game a "beta" yet. Late-alpha at most. Certainly nowhere near beta.
When the chance of getting the game running off the bat is something of a 50-50 due to a graphical bug that can render all UI text invisible, you're not a beta
Now, I only recently got into the Gal Civs 3 "beta" but from what I've gathered on the game's forum, that little issue has been around since the last apha build. So there's that to look forward to if you just got the game.
The issue's "easily averted" by telling the game to not use your dedicated graphics card. And once you're past that, well then- Welcome to Gal Civs 3: COMING SOON. Ok, I won't rip on an Early Access game for not having all its' features present. But really?
"Beta" implies you're "feature-complete". I.e- you've implemented all of the major mechanics and features you intend for your game and are balancing and tweaking them for best effect, along with dusting for the odd bug.
The current state of the Gal Civs 3 "Beta 1" is missing all sorts of features. From tactical combat to the above-mentioned Diplomacy mechanic. Instead, once you meet another faction you're immediately considered "at war forever", which makes playing against more than one opponent tricky at best since they will all kinda gang-up on you. Even if they them selves are technically at war with eachother, the AI will much prefer targeting your ships and colonies over other factions'.
Targeting ships and other stellar... targets (wow, such vocabulary) in itself is kind of underwhelming since fleets in themselves aren't really a thing yet either. Meaning most of the combat will involve single ships. Winners are auto-determined by a stat-check and apparently nobody bothered telling captains that retreat is an option.
The game also seems to have a hard time letting go of its' pre-made ship designs. It generates a "new version" of the stock designs every time you unlock a new technology (even if it had nothing to do with spaceships). What's either sadder or funnier about it (also irritating) is that they're not even slightly different than the previous version it gave you. Unless you've unlocked a new module, that Corvette M1459 will be the same as the Corvette M1458. It just adds the next number up after the name of the design. No, game... I know you spent many a sleepless night over those blueprints but why would I use designs that are inferior to the ones I come up with. That and mine are inspired by Star Trek... Yours look good and all, but again... Star. Trek. (I mean the designer literally has all the parts you need to make your own TOS Enterprise or TNG Warbird.)
Speaking of the ship designer. Who's the genious that made the background pitch black and then gave the parts' no lighting effects when viewed from below? I already wear glasses. You're not helping, game... The camera controls are also glitchy at times and somewhat frustrating, but that can be deat with. The designer also fails to tell you what direction is forward. Or to give you a unified indication of which direction you're augmenting a part (dimensions are
relative in space). So if you ever wanted to see how the USS Enterprise moves in reverse... You can do that...
Other than that, I don't have any major complaints. Some part models are missing thumbnails and the player-made ships don't have thumbnails as well, but at this time, that's a non-issue.
The designer is really impressive, quirks aside. Other "reviewers" compare it to the Spore one, since I'm guessing the one from Gal Civs 2 is before their time. But to compare it to its' past iterration would be like comparing a crossbow and a rifle.
Although not that
graphically advanced, the fidelity of the game's textures is impressive. I can see why they're going for the whole "64-bit development only". And both the devs and I do mean it- if you're hoping to somehow frankenstein this on a 32-bit machine- forget it
, the warning at the top of the Steam page is there for a reason. Even the smallest maps available are quite big and the game renders everything
at all times. Ship icons on the map are the fully-rendered model of the ship in question, rendered to its' fullest. There can be a dozen black holes on the map, all animated and spinning at all times, as well as stars with planets and moons; and although planets don't spin around their suns (yet?), the moons do. There's also nebulae, dust clouds and asteroid fields, as well as randomly generated wormholes that can be used as shortcuts around the map (if you don't mind not knowing where you'll end up). And everything's always on. For all factions. The game doesn't drop a single model off memory.
Which means that A) It runs like a truck. Alt-Tabbing is guresome, albeit not impossible, even when running it in a window. Loading times are also a pain. With optimisation it's probably gonna get better. But then again B) The actual in-game response is really nice. Once everything's been loaded at least once, the only long waits you're gonna have are if you're loading between multiple saves. You'll still get the odd stutter but that's usually when the game autosaves and takes only a second.
The technology and ideology trees are vast. Really, really vast. If you thought the "tech-web" from the upcoming Civ: Beyond Earth was staggering... This might just one-up it. While not an "interconnecting web with randomised technologies" and still sticking to the tried-and-true linear tree, each faction gets its' own, separate, technologies with different benefits, increasing the variety available to the player. The whole "age of expansion, war and ascention" thing means that at certain times, different techs will cost more or less turns, depending on what tree they're from. Since the ages actually progress as you research technologies under them, it also means that you can't actually research every single technology (as far as I can assume, haven't gotten to the end yet; will change as I do).
The ideology system is equally interesting, albeit as of yet not fully-featured. As you colonise worlds you'll get events with a Pragmatic, Benevolent or Merciless resolution. Each adding to a pool of points you can spend towards some form of passive benefit. That's pretty much all there's to it right now but I'm intrigued at how they advance this feature.
And that sums it up, for now. The AI is from what I can tell limited to "expand as much as possible and produce as many ships as possible" which usually means they have control of about half the map by the time you encounter them and from then-on you get regularly assaulted by the stock "bomber" ships of the faction of your choosing, only later, and then still rarely, being "graced" by a larger vessel's incursion. Imagine someone releasing a swarm of mosquitoes that only comes in small waves and you have a bug-zapper and infinite supply of repellant. Not really a challenge unless on higher difficulties but I'm expecting that to change once they add Diplomacy and fully-feature the tactical combat.
Other than that, I have nothing else to say about the Galactic Civilisations 3 "Beta".
Due to Steam insisting on the "yay-or-nay" system, I'm going to "thumb up" this just because I have faith in the franchise.
However. I will insist on what I said in the begining. A "beta" is "feature-complete" and Gal Civs 3 is anything but that. Do not buy into it at its' current version ("Beta 1"/Ver 0.40) unless you're absolutely OK with not having a fully-featured game. As a long-stanging Kerbal Space Program fan, I can deal with that. But you need to answer that question for yourself. Think before you buy.
Addendum: I would strongly recommend the opt-in patch.