This game is evil.  It’s a manipulative, scheming, drug addict and it wants you to get hooked too.  This game is Galactic Civilisations 2.

I’m writing this review on 4 hours sleep (meaning way too many hyphens being used).  I had a full day of work today and the only way I got through it was by stuffing my face with free cake & fudge from the kind people around me.  You may be wondering what this has to do with the game.  Well, I was all set to go to bed at a sensible hour, I was all set for a gentle return to a working day, but I made the mistake of deciding to get a couple of hours of Galactic Civilisations 2 (GC2) in last night before bed.  Then it was 4am…yes, FOUR A M!  I hate this game – how dare it get me in its hypnotic glare and leave me in such a trance.  My wrists had seized up and I didn’t notice until I went to scratch my nose and got shooting pains down my arm.   And then carried on playing some more!

Ok, so maybe this says more about me than the game, who knows – but I’m betting that at least some of you can relate to this scenario.  The weird thing is that I don’t even really like the whole conquer the galaxy, turn-based expansion genre.  The aliens all look like generic-brand versions of ones you’ve seen on TV, the visuals are nowhere near mind-shattering, but after you’ve been sucked in none of this matters.

GC2 is designed to get you addicted.  It allows you to design your own race – so of course, for testing purposes, I had to try that out.  Only now I’m invested in this race (of course I put myself down as the leader) so now I want them to win, maybe not jump-up-and-down-can’t-wait-to-do-the-victory-dance excited, but enough to want to see how it all turns out.  This, my friends, is the start of the slippery slope.

Then we have the ego-boosting options.  You can make all your enemies dunces, or sub-normals, or god-like omniscients who you still mash to little bitty pieces.  You get to pick how big the universe is; you get to pick all the variables.  You are in control of creation and it feels good.

Having set up the Universe, and seeing that it is good (else, you know, you can just change it), the usual start-up shenanigans unfold.  Now I did open the manual (pdf) to see how to play, and then I scrolled down, and then I closed it.  Way too much text.  So I set off clicking to see what I could work out.  It turns out that almost everything is easy enough to grasp as the game unfolds – I only struggled at one point with upgrading and that was because I hadn’t even bothered to read the hint that came up.  I know, sloppy, I paid for it in frustration, believe me.

So to continue my little story, I’d got my little race building up its resources and spreading into the galaxy, being generally benevolent and feeling good about myself when, BAM, I’ve had war declared on me.  Now really, I didn’t do anything (in fact, I think this was just the game making sure I didn’t win too early) and all of a sudden my lovely peace-loving people are being blown apart.  So what do I do?  Well, what would you do?  I eradicated the offending species from the universe and took over all their territories, of course.

The slope is slippier now, I’ve had a taste of victory and I want more!  Thus my doom of clicking ‘Turn’ over and over again is sealed.

I’m not sure if this is a good game or merely an addictive one, I do know that as I write this I want to go back and see if I can expand my dominion over my universe, but I’m at a loss to explain any particular feature, quirk or idea that really stands out.  It is simply a big ego-boosting, time-consuming, wrist-killing (seriously, take a break every once in a while), strategy-fest.  I hate this game, but I want to play it some more.  Let that be your warning.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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