By Eric 15.02.2017
Imperium Galactica II is a reskin of the original, developed by Digital Reality back in 1999. It is a continuation of sorts of the Imperium Galactica game released years earlier. The modern graphic update looks surprisingly good, with the rest of the game remaining untouched. From humble beginnings of a single star, the player must control colony development and eventually take over the entire galaxy. Despite its age, many players would have no idea how old it is, as the basics were fundamentally solid in the quest to destroy all other aliens.
Imperium Galactica II originally was only a few years older than Imperium Galactica, yet the absolute progress made in just a few years is mind blowing. It was ahead of its time, but in many ways played a bit like using Microsoft Excel due to heavy reliance on numbers and weak graphics. The developer streamlined many aspects, as well as introduced a good spying system, and by far one of the best 'invasion' segments of a space 4X game.
As a basic overview, Imperium Galactica II starts out with controlling a single colony in a pause-able real-time game. Players are primarily in charge of raising these colonies and putting together fleets of ships to fight. Along the way, there is research, diplomacy, spying, and some story segments based on the race picked, and as the game goes on, more money and colonies come in, leading to bigger and better ships to fight.
On many levels, it works because it is simple and gets right to the point. The colony management feels less important than it did in Imperium Galactica, which mattered much more for placement, as well as planning, and a tuned colony could be much more beneficial, whereas in this one it is much more automated. In fact, there is little difference between a fully controlled colony and an AI one. It is nice not having to deal with this at times, but it takes away a fun element of the first one. It often reduces it simply down to having more colonies, not necessarily 'better' ones.
The primary point of the game is fighting, and there are two aspects that stick out. Space battles play out in a typical real-time melee of ships charging each other. There is little to do beyond picking targets, but it all works out generally the same as just sitting back. There is some missed opportunity here for various strategies, because in general, it is simply a case of if you have more numbers or better lasers, you win. Again, this game is almost 20 years old, so it shows in some aspects. One fun thing is while battling in space, ground defences are shown as highlighted boxes on the huge planet below, and seeing the slow trek up of the missiles is actually a really cool graphical feeling of truly 'invading' a planet from space.
The ground battles are by far the best part of the game, and there has yet to be something done similar. Invading planets plays out as a small RTS game of landing tanks by Starship Troopers-style dropships. The battles play out by commanding various tanks, from wheeled machine guns, to hover tanks shooting rockets, or ion cannons, as the player battles through city streets to wipe out the defence. It is not fundamentally that complicated, but it just flows so smoothly. Furthermore, it is a great connection between the colonies built and the tanks designed that gives a good sense of coherency missing in many arbitrary 4X games.
Other aspects are hit or miss. Spying is cool in a soft RPG fare of levelling up stat points of spies and having a lot of tasks they can do. In contrast, diplomacy is very weak, like in the first game, and in general, serve only to keep aliens neutral until they are ready to be ploughed. One of the biggest problems is that Imperium Galactica II was designed with a keyboard overlay to actually put over the keyboard to hotkey around to various menus. The navigation now is much messier; there are user interface problems that would not pass muster of modern gaming. It is a problem, there is no denying it.
The game itself suffers a lot from the same problem of the first. On small scales, the gameplay is amazingly fun. Researching, designing, flying around and invading are all great when it is firing on all cylinders. Late game, though, it slows to an absolute slog. Everyone has the best tech, which is majorly defensive orientated, and there are over 100 stars on a map, with each one taking an hour or so to get enough fleets to battle, taking the fun away.
Imperium Galactica II is a nice graphical update to what was once a really great game ahead of its time. Early on, the gameplay is great and demonstrates elements that could make a nearly perfect 4X space strategy game. Problems that drag it down are inherent from its older design, from the clunky interface, to the game slowing to a grind that no longer becomes fun, which is a sad thing to see. For 4X fans, it is still fun in a lot of senses of the word, and elements of it are still better than some aspects of modern gaming. As the game goes on. though, too many things get in the way. and it stops being an amazing experience and merely becomes something to finish.