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Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor

Score: 95%
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Publisher: Stardock
Developer: Stardock
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Have no fear, this will be a spoiler-free zone when it comes to the ending of the story in this long-revered game. Over the past month, I have had plenty of time to play Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor, and I am here to say there is so much more to talk about than just the story alone. I said that I was looking forward to playing the final version of this game to see all of the pieces come together, and they didn't disappoint me. Most of my key concerns in the balance and feel of the game were addressed and the end result was a solid, well-executed game.

Not just an obvious improvement in the look of the older game, the graphics are crisp and clean. There was just the slightest ship muddling when you had a bunch of similarly designed ships in an area. I will get into ship design a little later on, but if you allow the game to auto design your ships and you do not pay direct attention to what each one is or does, having a bunch of similar looking ships in an area can get a bit confusing.

Sound's not the best feature of the game, but that is like saying you didn't like a super model's ears. It isn't going to distract you in any way from this great looking game, or model for that matter. All of your attention is directed elsewhere. This is in no way a dig on the music, because it had its epic, expansive qualities. It is more to reemphasize how great looking the game is.


Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor is a turn-based strategy game that starts off with a short but effective cinematic that very abruptly brings you up to speed on what has happened so far. This is perfect because in order to play, you need to have all of the games, and more than likely you have played all of the games up until now. From the main menu, you can start or continue a game. You can join others across the Metaverse for online play. You can compete in tournaments and check high scores. There are tons of actual gameplay options that are going to make a huge difference in how you experience this game. This is especially true for new players, so take a minute to look at the options and decide if what they offer will help you or distract you. And, while we are talking about getting started, don't forget about the tutorials. I always like to see what I can grasp from not doing them and compare against what I learn from actually doing them. After having played this game for a long time, it was hard to determine what I would and would not have known, but I definitely learned things that I had either forgotten or never knew, so I say they are a must for all.

So you have completed the tutorials and are ready to jump in. There are thousands of permutations you can configure for in more than 10 different Galaxy Setup options. After that easy part of deciding the size of your galaxy and endless possibilities, you are faced with the easy task of just picking a race. Or so it would seem that is easy. It isn't hard to do; you just have to decide between 12 different races. If that doesn't do it for you, you can then decide to just design your own. Each race has its own unique special abilities, racial abilities, and technological hierarchy. Now we have the vastness of universe and the depth of our racial culture, all we have to do is customize that. Change the name of the race, your leader, and home world to your liking. You also choose further buffs to your abilities with attribute points you spend on things such as Military Production abilities that sped up your building process. There again, thousands of permutations here to select. You need to decide your political stance. Are you out to take over the universe or be a part of it? Finally, we are down to one set of options, your appearance. Not so much what you yourself look like, but your national colors which are reflected in the color of your ships and interface. If you once again can't decide amongst the myriad of options, you can design your own. Now, on to opponent selection. You can take on up to nine of the other races or once again design the perfect enemies in Custom Opponent.

We are now actually into the game. Now all of this may seem like a lot to get through just to play, but the truth is you can just select the random option in each and quickly get into a game, but where is the fun in that? Now it is your turn. Take as much time as you need to take in all that is on the HUD for you to see. The Heads up Display is the main reason you need to pay attention to the tutorials. There are tons of political, military, and socioeconomic mechanisms in play the entire time. Not to mention production and individual planetary matters to attend to. That's right, you are not just jumping from planetary body to planetary body in space, you actually have to colonize and build each planet as well. If I have led you to believe this is a light and fluffy game up to this point, then, well, you haven't been paying attention. This game is supposed to have all of these mechanisms turning all at one time to keep the galaxy moving. I could not imagine trying to keep up with all of this depth in real time. From here, the fate of your universe is up to you. You are not going to get the same gameplay every time you play either, with randomizing planetary and galactic construction. This is an extremely well done and deep game. Trying to explain all of the nuances here would be like having a guide to getting up every day and living life. Just go do it. It ain't easy, but is fun as hell.


Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor is not a game for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who suffer from "Analysis Paralysis." It is a strategy game after all, folks. I used the analogy above about living life; well life isn't easy, and when you try to make it harder, it can get real hard. OK, so enough metaphors. Not just in the immense size of the game alone and the sheer number of possible opponents, you can actually decide to make it harder. There are 11 different settings ranging from Cakewalk, up through Crippling and Obscene to Suicidal. This is great. You may think that you cannot tell a difference in each of the settings, and granted, with little play you may not, but if you play a lot you can tell a big difference in each notch in the difficulty tree. Games are going to take you a long time to play, so be prepared. It can get hard to remember where you were and what you were doing. Forgetting a small factor can later turn into a big problem.

Game Mechanics:

Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor has many great tried and true mechanisms that they have successfully employed in the past and have now tried to improve upon. The technological advancement tree is massive. The amount of actual game time you spend on this alone is huge. This also changes with each race and ability. I did learn to make friends as quickly as possible. Diplomacy was the only way I was able to survive into some of the higher difficulty settings. I really made an effort to play the various political standings as well. I was impressed to see that I could be successful as a diplomat and a warmonger. The only thing that could have been more helpful is a little more thought for a new player. But, I say that knowing that this is the last game in a long history, so really it isn't losing anything to be so cut and dry with its UI and scroll over explanations. I just feel that you should never make a player have to play everything you have ever done to get them used to the newest game.

This game is a huge time drain, but worth every second. I never once felt that mid game drag that you can sometimes experience from a strategy game this size. With the turn-based movement, I never was waiting for meters or bars to fill so I could make a decision and take the time to think it through. This has been a great series and to tell the truth, I am a little sad to see it end. I am sure though this gives them the ability to move on to bigger and more ambitious projects that we will enjoy even more.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Minimum System Requirements:

Minimum Requirements:

Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent processor, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible video card (32-bit color depth required), DirectX 9.0c

Recommended Requirements:

Windows XP or later, Pentium 4 1.8 GHz or equivalent processor, 512 MB RAM, 128 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible video card, 2 GB hard disk space


Test System:

Dell XPS DXP061, XP Pro, Intel Core Quad, 2GB Ram, Gforce 8800GTX

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated