joeh's Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor (PC) review

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In The Twilight

Think back about 2 years, remember the release of what I regard as one of the best 4X TBS, or maybe even one of the best games of all time. Galactic Civilizations 2: Dread Lords. It was the game from StarDock that came before the Sins of a Solar Empire. Essentially it was pure awesomeness. It was great because every game you played was unique. Every game had different villains, heroes and events.

I guess the main feature was the amazing ship designer, since you were always coming back to it. Every time you developed a new weapon, engine or sensor you went in and upgraded your ship. And every time you'd fiddle around with the meaningless props and additions to your ship to make it look insanely cool.

Twilight of the Arnor is the second expansion pack to the highly acclaimed Galactic Civilizations 2, unfortunately you require the other expansion pack to play it. So if you bought the Gold Edition or the original and the expansion you're fine, if you didn't buy it at first then you can go for the Ultimate Pack.

So last weekend I noticed that Twilight was just released, thankfully I had £15 at hand, so i rushed down stairs pryed my Mum's credit card from her hands and bought it. Digital Download of course, couldn't wait for it to arrive through snail mail. Thankfully the StarDock central program is just as reliable as steam, so I had it downloaded within two hours.

As with the previous expansion, the first thing you'll notice is the new opening cinematic and the new title screen. Of course these are not why we're here. I'll get this out the way now, the expansion pack features a brand new campaign, I have no idea what happens. Here's the wiki. The reason I'm skimming over the story, is because it's not what GalCiv2 is about, and has never been about.

The stuff we care about is the stuff that gives us more ways to conquer our enemies, and eventually the galaxy. The most exciting of these new additions are the Death Stars, oh I'm sorry, I mean Terror Stars. These are death stars. They are the ultimate tool of destruction in the game. All you do is simply move them over a star system's star, then it completely obliterates the star and all surrounding planets. It. Is. Awesome. Of course this power comes with a great weakness, they blow up pretty easy and move pretty slowly, and the tech takes ages to research.

Research is one of the things in the game that has not necessarily improved since the last expansion, but has changed. Firstly all the tech trees are in a completely different order than before. This is good because it forces you to re-learn them, so it adds more challenge to the game. And each rates gets their own specific tech tree, firstly they are different because they are arranged slightly differently, and each race has their own unique techs. This adds a whole new gameplay dynamic, meaning there are certain advantages that you alone have, and the same for your opponents.

As with Dark Avatar, Twilight of the Arnor brings a wonderfully pretty face lift, meaning your ships will look much more detailed, and the the planets look great. Yea, that's basically it graphics wise.

One of the best features in my eyes in the addition of a new map size, immense. I tell you this now, you will not finish an immense game in one sitting, unless you lose. They are so huge, it will take you at least 15ish hours to complete. They are awesome.

One of the major improvements about the game is the planetary invasion screen. Now if you kinda wait around you just bombard the planet from space, while this destroys the enemy troops, it also lowers the planet quality and destroys improvements. So if you really don't care about that planet, just rain death down from the sky, but if you want the planet intact you're going to have to risk landing your troops.

Modding has always been one of GalCiv2s strong points, hacing relatively easy to edit XML files, but Twilight brings in a completely new way to mod, the Editors. Map Editor is pretty self explanatory. The Scenario editor lets you make missions. The Campaign editor lets you string these missions into a campaign. Ship Component editor lets you make your own weapons, sensors and defences for your ships. The Tech editor lets you fiddle around with the tech trees. The Improvement editor lets you make planetary improvements, a.k.a. Buildings.

All of these improvements create a fresh experience that is ultimately better than the previous expansion. If you play GalCiv2, go buy it. If you don't play it, you're crazy.

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