Galactic Civilizations IV Review


Galactic Civilizations IV is the newest addition to the Galactic Civilizations series. Like its predecessors it’s a turn-based space strategy game that pits your empire against multiple AI empires in a quest to dominate the galaxy.

Galactic Civilizations IV is a very good game that’s easy to learn but deep enough to keep you involved. Strategically it’s not as deep as a game like Stellaris but with space exploration, the new sector setup, fantastic graphics and cutscenes plus multiple adversaries it will keep you entertained for many hours, hours that could stretch into the wee hours of the morning.

Gal Civ IV compares well to Stellaris in my opinion.

Game Setup

Galactic Civilizations IV has four screens for setting up the game. The first screen is for selecting the civilization you want to play. There are 18 civilizations to choose from, at least in version 1.03, plus a custom civilization can be created. There is an overview of the selected civilization showcasing some of their abilities and ideology, plus some basic history for the race.

At the second screen you can customize your civilization. You can customize your empire name, emblem, abilities, traits, and ideology. You can also change your homeworld type, map colors and ship styles.

The game settings screen is where you can set the number of sectors in the galaxy, which is new to Gal Civ IV. You can change things like the rate research progresses in the galaxy, how close other empires are to you, and how scarce or plentiful things are like habitable worlds, anomalies and resources. There is a total of 24 settings at this screen.

Victory options can be accessed and changed from this screen too. There are five that can be toggled on or off, Conquest, Influence, Alliance, Month (turn) limit and Prestige.

A Prestige victory is a new addition to the game. You are essentially rewarded points depending on how good your military power, faction power, technology power, and at least seven other categories are included in the score. Once you have 1,000 prestige points you win the game. The status for this victory condition is displayed at the top of the screen for both you and the current leader, but it’s limited to the civilizations you’ve met so far in the game so the true leader may not be visible to you yet.

The last set up screen allows you select and set up the opponents in the game. It’s a simple drag and drop to add or remove a civilization. The difficulty level for each opponent can be set individually, from beginner to godlike.

Galactic Civilizations IV Tutorial

The game is easy to learn but the tutorial is sporadic at best, at least it was for me. Since I’ve played a few games of Galactic Civilizations IV previously it could be remembering some previous setting but even during my first game I don’t remember ever seeing the tutorial at the start of the game. When it does pop-up it does offer helpful advice and examples, but it was too sporadic to be of any real use. The game was intuitive enough to play, plus playing Gal Civ III in the past helped too. Between that and following the advice of my advisors, or at least looking at it, got me through the learning curve pretty quickly. I did check my settings and the tutorial was fully enabled so I’m not sure why it didn’t appear more often or at the start of a new game.

User Interface

The User Interface is laid out very well and makes good use of the edges of the screen. In the top right corner is the date/turn readout and a strip of icons allowing you access to your advisors, a summary of your empire when compared to the rest of the civilizations in the game (that are known to you), a breakdown of your planets including core worlds, colonies and colonizable planets, a list of ships and fleets, and a list of shipyards and starbases.

Along the bottom edge of the screen you can access your civilization’s policies and laws, leaders, ideology tree, executive orders, a graphical data bank, galactic challenges and the Galactic Bazaar.

One new item is Executive Orders, and they are executed using Control points. You can use Control to pressure your scientists to increase their research efforts, invite leaders to your empire as potential candidates for positions in your government or military, or even make illicit deals with certain factions, but at the cost of increased crime in your civilization.

Galactic Challenges lists events you can undertake for various rewards. You can enter into the “Everwar” for example, which rewards you with 25 Prestige points if you survive it for 20 months and have the Universal Translator technology.

The Galactic Bazaar is unlocked by appointing a Minister of Finance, but before you can do that you must unlock that leader type through research. Once unlocked and you have a leader available it’s a simple drag and drop to assign one. Once a leader has been assigned you can buy and sell resources like Hyper Silicates, Thulium and Anti-Matter. Very similar to the Market in Stellaris.

Combat

Initiating combat is easy in this game, just select your fleet and right click on the enemy fleet. They may move and you could miss them so going back and intercepting them may be needed. Once combat is engaged it’s a simple overview of the two fleets fighting that only takes a second or two with the loser’s fleet exploding. There are basically no tactical options for a fleet stance, but the cinematics are beautiful in you want to take the time to watch the battle as it unfolds.

Once a battle is finished an Battle Report will pop up with the results and the game will ask you if you want to watch the battle. If you click “Watch Battle” you can watch the entire battle unfold and can speed it up if it moves too slowly. There are several camera options to select from, Free, Top Down, Cinematic and Follow (follows whatever ship is selected). The Top Down view is the best view I’ve found, at least for me.

Research/Tech

One option I’m not too fond of is the research screen although this is more of a personal preference than anything else and Gal Civ IV actually does most of this really well. At the Research Center you initially have four options to choose from and get a fifth option, plus research bonuses, when you appoint a Minister of Technology.

There are four branches, or focuses, in research, Governance, Military, Engineering and Colonization. If you’re not happy with the current selection you can reroll them with a focus on the area you’re interested in, like Military, which bring up a higher percentage of options in that field. There is also a Technology Library that will provide a lot of detailed information on anything you’d like to research. Once you focus on an item the details will be displayed telling you want it unlocks, what benefits you get from it and what it leads to.

The problem I have is with the Tech Navigator. The only branch of the tech tree that is available is related to the options that are available to you for research. If I want to take a look at the Colonization branch and an option for researching that branch is unavailable, then I’m out of luck. Maybe I’m spoiled but I like having the option of looking at all the tech trees whenever I like. Not a deal breaker and this is really just a matter of personal reference on my part.

Ideologies

There are seven ideologies in the game and each one has two opposing paths. Each branch has from five to seven beliefs you can take for your empire.

The Liberty Ideology has the Liberty path and the Authority path. Authority espouses that a strong government is a necessity for survival while Liberty believes that freedom is a better way of life.

Innovation has the Innovation and Tradition path. Tradition believes the old ways of life are the best and that new ideals threaten that. Innovation thinks just the opposite, that the old ideals hold the empire back and that new “methods and insights” will enable the empire to succeed.

Compassion has the Compassion and Pragmatism branches. Compassion holds that the government’s biggest responsibility is to protect the weak while Pragmatism believes in backing the strongest members of society and eliminating the weakest.

Opportunity is an Ideology that has Equality as it’s counterpoint. Equality believes that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few, and that the government should take care of those needs at the expense of the inconsequential few. Opportunity, on the other hand, believes that those individuals who excel should be allowed to do so, even at the expense of the less gifted.

Secrecy is the concept that keeping secrets is of the utmost importance to an empire’s survival while its counterpart, Transparency, believes that complete openness is what guarantees survival, even at the expense of exposing scandals.

Individualism has two branches, Harmony and Individualism. Harmony thinks that the empire is strongest when everyone shares a common culture and belief while Individualism holds that true progress and improvement come from a large variety of beliefs and influences.

Cooperation is the final Ideology. It believes that there is “strength in cooperation and patience” while its opposing viewpoint, Creativity, holds that success will only occur through constant production and effort from the empire’s citizens.

Planetary Management

I think planetary management is one of the game’s strong points, not only is it effective but it’s beautiful as well. Minor planets are colonies, and you don’t need to manage those at all. Once colonized they’ll send all their available resources to the nearest core world, which reduces micromanagement in the game by a lot. In Gal Civ III you had to manage all planets under your control, not a select few like you can in this version.

Core Worlds, however, do need to be managed manually. To create a core world, you assign a governor to it. Once assigned a lot of management options for the planet open up. There are regions represented by tiles, similar to Civ 6, where you can construct improvements like manufacturing or research districts. Each improvement can get bonuses from the terrain, like Mountains providing an extra point to Wealth or a Jungle region providing bonuses to wealth districts. Building the same improvements next to each other gives adjacency bonuses also.

Special resources or Artifacts, like Mnenomic Nanites, can be unlocked for special benefits. Mnenomic Nanites gives you the ability to instantly repair fleets that have been damaged.

Events

Events also occur during the game and can be triggered by things like colonizing a planet or by simply entering an area of space. You’ll usually have two or three options to choose from when responding to the Event. The Dimensional Receiver is one of these and the region of space it’s in has bubbles that are in the 4th dimension. With a lot of patience information can be gathered about this particular area of space for the past, present and future. It’s also unstable and could disappear in the wink of an eye so maybe you should choose to either study it or gather some samples from the area and bring them to a core world for further study.

Continuing to study that area of space gives an Ideology awareness increase of 1 to Cooperation plus there is a 10% bonus in research to all worlds for 50 turns. Taking samples for further study grants +50 to research plus the Creativity Ideology awareness increases by 1.

There are lost of Events that occur to help keep the game interesting.

Diplomacy

At the Diplomacy screen you can speak to each empire in the game individually. In the upper right hand corner of the Diplomacy screen there are portraits of the races with a colored bar below them representing your status with them, the more in the red the bar is the worse the relationship. Clicking on a portrait brings up the detailed diplomacy screen for that empire so you can speak to them or trade with them. Your political advisor will provide a brief assessment for the civilization by telling you something like they pose no threat or that they’re pathetic and deserve to be at war with.

Each induvial diplomacy screen tells you what their standing is for things like the number of pops they have, economic power, military power and their approval rating. It also lists who their diplomats, friends and enemies are. This is the screen to use if you’re at war with someone and want to propose peace.

Potential Improvements

Colonization is both done well and somewhat poorly in this game. The method for locating colonizable planets after they been discovered is easy. Clicking on the planet icon in the menu bar will give you a drop down list displaying all the core worlds, colonies and colonizable planets available to you. Hovering the mouse cursor over uncolonized planets brings up a tool tip telling you what their class is, the higher the number the better.

But after this the process beaks down a little bit, at least for me. Clicking on a planet I’m interested in colonizing takes me to that location but there is no easy way to send a colony ship there, like right clicking it to bring up a pop-up menu for colonization. Instead, I need to find my colony ship, select it, remember where the potential colony is and then right click on it. Sometimes I need to go back and forth between the two several times before I can finally find the planet with my ship still selected and then send it to the to the planet I want to colonize.

Rich Gallien

I've always liked board games like chess and PC games, especially space based strategy games, which lead to the creation of this site. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it and updating it with new games!

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