Comparing Galactic Civilizations 3 to Stellaris is like comparing a NASCAR race to an Indy car race. Both are sleek, great fun, have a lot of elements in common but are still vastly different. Such is the case between Stellaris and Galactic Civilizations 3.
Short answer, Stellaris is better. Stellaris and Gal Civ 3 specialize in space exploration, combat, espionage, expanding your empire, and planetary management. Stellaris is a much deeper game with complex, interacting systems, while Gal Civ 3 has very enjoyable campaigns and has an engaging strategic style of its own.
Read More: You can read about Gal Civ 3 if you’re interested or you can take a look at my Stellaris review. You can also find all my Stellaris articles by using the customized menu at the top of the page.
Comparing Gal Civ 3 to Stellaris
Stellaris and Gal Civ 3 have very much in common. Obviously, both are space-based games with planetary management and empire expansion. They both have espionage, especially with the new Stellaris Nemesis DLC. Both allow you to explore the galaxy in all its breathtaking wonder, both have combat and wars, and both have random events that pop-up from time-to-time with bonuses and sometimes with negative effects.
Both games have good interfaces in my opinion. Stellaris is a real-time, pausable game while Galactic Civilizations 3 is turn-based. The pausability of Stellaris blurs the line somewhat between turn-based and real time but I consider that an actual benefit to the game.
You meet aliens and make friends or enemies, with wars ensuing (there’s always someone who doesn’t like you or is standing in the way of your objective), so you need to prepare for that in both games. One difference is that war is vastly different between the two games.
In Stellaris there is a warscore system. You also set goals for your war, the more goals you have the harder it is to achieve them. If you win the war, you can only get whatever systems you set as your goals. Occupying other systems does not mean you get them at war’s end, although they do increase your warscore.
In Gal Civ 3 there is no warscore system and you get to keep whatever you conquer and lose whatever you lose.
Read More: How do Stellaris and SINs of a Solar Empire compare?
Both games have a really fun early exploration experience, which is one of the things I find most enjoyable about games with a space setting.
Both games have a lot of mystery and intrigue. You never know what the next planet will look like or where it will be, or if the next alien race you run into will be friend or foe.
Both games have pop-up events that keep the game interesting although Stellaris has many more that are more diversified, like archaeological digs and espionage notifications.
Gal Civ 3 has ideologies which are similar to the Stellaris ethics and civics, which are a little more detailed and take things down to a finer degree.
Both games have pops (Gal Civ 3 calls them Citizens) that can be specialized to increase functionality on fleets or planets.
Both games have victory conditions. In Gal Civ 3 once you achieve those the game is over, in Stellaris the game can go on indefinitely. I like both methods so I can’t say either game handles that option better.
Both games feature anomalies that usually help you out. Overall, they both help with both technological research or increase your treasury.
What Gal Civ 3 Does Better
Galactic Civilizations 3 has story driven campaigns which is something Stellaris lacks. Each campaign has its own set of goals that can sometimes be completed quickly. I’ve found these to be extremely enjoyable.
I like the technology system better in this game as well. All options are clearly laid out and each option tells you how many turns it will take to achieve the technology you’re working on. In Stellaris some of those available techs to research are random and the availability changes, making it a little harder to plan out your strategy.
Maps in both games are great but I’ve found the maps in Gal Civ 3 a little easier to navigate and zoom in and out of. I’m sure that’s partly due to having a less complex galaxy to work with.
One little tweak Gal Civ 3 has is the GNN news events. They sometimes provide useful information, like the five most powerful civilizations and sometimes just provide a touch of humor.
Contrary to what other player like, I like the scouting system in Gal Civ better. In Stellaris you can close your borders, meaning no ships can slip into your borders, even if on a spy mission. It seems like that should be possible. In Gal Civ 3 you can send that scout ship anywhere if it’s within its range. Of course, you also run the risk if it being discovered and destroyed.
What Stellaris Does Better
Stellaris does a better job at allowing you to create complex strategies. Stellaris has many interacting resource systems allowing for a lot of detailed approaches. It has strategic resources placed in very few systems, which makes controlling that system vitally important if that strategic resource is something you really need. It has a lot of depth when it comes to various strategies.
Stellaris handles wars better. With the warscore system you will probably only lose a few systems no matter how badly you lose a war. Unlike a lot of games, a resounding defeat does not spell inevitable doom for your empire, you can live to fight another day.
Another thing that Stellaris has going for it is mod support. There are many, many more mods available for this game when compared to Gal Civ 3. This adds even more replayability and diversity to Stellaris.
Something else Stellaris has done, with pretty good success, is turning the end game into something interesting instead of letting it become a grind, and that is the end game crisis. The end game crisis can be tailored to your tastes so you have some degree of control over how difficult this event will be. Think you’ve got the game won? Not until the end game crisis happens, which can totally change everything.
Although I hate to admit it, I like the starlanes better than the freewheeling approach in Gal Civ 3. With starlanes (hyperlanes) you can create chokepoints to slow down or even halt an enemy advance. This allows for both a good defensive and offensive strategy. Without starlanes you never know exactly where your enemy is going to strike next.
Which One To Get?
What’s the best game? I own both and thoroughly enjoy them both. I would give a slight nod to Stellaris but only because I like the complexity of the resource systems, the use of hyperlanes and the warscore system. When I want something a little less challenging strategically and want to play a campaign with a storyline, then Gal Civ 3 is my obvious choice. Both games rank highly in my list of favorites.