A new beginning
The story of Galactic Civilizations is the story of the future. Our future.
Galactic Civilizations III is actually our 6th edition that provides you with the framework to tell that story (we made 3 OS/2 versions back in the 1990s).
With each iteration, we get a little bit better at it. Sometimes, like when we change engines, it takes awhile to surpass where we were in previous editions. For instance, the OS/2 version of Galactic Civilizations was, in most respects, better than Galactic Civilizations II until we made the Dark Avatar expansion for it.
For Galactic Civilizations III, it probably wasn't until we made the Crusade expansion that we finally surpassed GalCiv II.
Galactic Civilizations III: Retribution takes us in a direction that the series has never touched before. It's a new beginning.
The Grognard's Guide to Galactic Civilizations III
From a sheer major feature point of view, Galactic Civilizations III had more than previous versions when it arrived in 2015. But it was lacking certain features that were a real sore point to players, which we began to address with the expansions. Namely:
This is my quickie non-marketing evaluation of each expansion. You can kind of see why Mercenaries was the least beloved. This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of features for each one. Just the ones that I think most players would agree were important. For instance, Crusade re-did the Invasion system. I don't think that feature is any better or worse than what was there before, so I didn't count it.
Crusade is widely considered to be "the big one," and it's easy to understand why: citizens.
This was a game-changer. It re-did the game's economy in a way that is both a lot easier to understand, and yet a lot more nuanced. It's one of those rare features that greatly simplifies the presentation of the game without dumbing it down. In fact, it makes the game a lot more sophisticated.
The other two features I mentioned, Espionage and the Civ Builder, are pretty big deals - depending on how you play. The Civ Builder is almost as important to me as the Citizen feature. The espionage part is fine. But it's not on par with the other features.
So let's take a second shot at this chart, this time assigning a value to each feature:
Now, this doesn't mean that I don't think Intrigue wasn't a really good expansion. It just means that Crusade was monstrously good.
So what about Retribution? As you can see, I don't think any of the new features of Retribution match the importance of the Citizens feature. Moreover, if you don't really care about the new species (Drath and Korath) or the new campaign, then Retribution only has 15 to Crusade's 16 points.
Of course, this is just my own rating system, yours might be totally different.
Right from the Start
The final version of Retribution should look better. We're still working on the visuals. But you will notice, right away, some changes. First, you start with an Artifact. You always start with one.
Your home planets are much different game to game. And if you look closely, you will notice that what's available to construct on turn 1 has changed.
Sometimes, there will be artifacts that can be enhanced so cheaply that you may want to use them immediately rather than building that shipyard.
The other thing you may notice is that there's a Colonization Center improvement. This is a new, one-time improvement that will increase production, population, and growth.
This will be the most controversial change in Retribution. Default growth has been reduced from 0.1 per turn to 0.01.
Population growth can be increased (especially later in the game via the new immigration technologies), but simply colony rushing early on is going to have consequences.
Here's the next thing you're going to notice:
The stars are substantially further apart. This makes the star systems feel more vast (before we had them practically on top of each other) and makes Hypergates interesting. You can still choose to go up the engine tech tree to make your ships faster, but investing in Hypergates provides an interesting alternative.
Same number of techs, more meaning
You'll also notice that most of the optimization techs (where you would choose one of three) are gone. Instead, there are new techs that help flesh out your strategic choices. For instance, you don't simply get Space Elevators - you research them. Spatial Manipulation gets you onto the Hypergate tech path. Ignore my spelling mistakes btw, they'll get fixed.
There are many more things you can choose to build than before (potentially), but they are delivered now via the tech tree moreso than before.
Space Elevators are important in the true Sci-Fi sense that we just kind of brushed off in previous expansions. The ability to cheaply get things into space is going to be a pretty big deal. Besides being able to build space elevators, you'll also be able to build supply ships that can send raw materials to your colonies. I'll talk about that in a second.
Building scouts is a lot more useful now that stars are actually separated by quite a bit of space.
Under the covers, we've modified our galaxy generation system so that what's near players when they start is a lot more balanced. So you won't have to deal with games where one player has tons of great planets near them, while you get nothing. Everyone will have a reasonably equally good (or crappy) start.
Building your civilization in Retribution
So now I have a class 12 (Earth is class 10) planet. Wow. That's great! can't wait right?
If you look closely, you will see that its raw production is only 3, so it takes forever for anything to get built. This has been a challenge in all the GalCiv games. This is why some players find the game a little boring at this stage. Sure, your capital planet is doing just fine, but your other planets just are a grind to get going.
Before Retribution, you'd just wait for the population to grow, build a bunch of cities and eventually, hours later, it's kicking butt. But from our logs, we know we lose a lot of players during that period because it's just not interesting.
Moreover, if anything, Retribution would aggravate this problem because population growth is 10X slower by default. So you can't just turn-time your way out of this problem. This is where Supply Ships come in.
Players can build Supply Ships that carry 100 production with them. When they get to a colony, it's quickly unloaded and used. If there's nothing to build at that moment, it stores that production for later. This is a game-changer because previously, if there was some boon to production, it was wasted after a given planetary improvement was constructed. Now, it gets stored and used later.
Having planets store excess production materials was crucial to add to the game because we didn't want players to have to micro-manage sending out supply ships.
Supplying your civilization
So now you can build up your worlds a lot faster thanks to sending Supply Ships. However, there's that tricky distance issue.
Do you design each Supply Ship (which is consumed when it reaches its destination) to have a bunch of engines? That's expensive but it'll get them there.
Do you build a Hypergate?
The Stellar Architect is a new type of ship which allows for the construction of Hypergates. It takes two hypergates to create a hyperlane between them. But doing so will double the speed of any ship on that lane.
Now you build a Stellar Architect who can construct a Hypergate. You will need to build a second one to create the other end.
Once you build that second Hypergate, it will ask where you want to link it.
And now you can fast-track supply ships.
Using hyperlanes is automatic. You don't have to do anything - just click on a destination and your ship will find the fastest route there, using hyperlanes whenever available.
Meanwhile, my planet is still slowly building up, thanks to having some asteroids nearby to help. It's still very slow going, but help is on the way.
The Supply ship arrives with goods from Earth. Each turn, it will use whatever it takes (until it runs out) to finish the current planetary improvement being constructed.
So instead of it taking 12 turn to get through the Factory, Space Elevator, and Shipyard projects, it only takes 3 with the Farm being finished on turn 5 (instead of it adding an additional 14 turns).
Hypergates also make it a lot more viable to send citizens around your territory because they get there twice as fast, which makes traveling far less dangerous.
To conclude: sending a Supply ship built at Earth to Viola drastically reduced construction time.
Now this planet is built up enough to be reasonably self-sustaining.
Pacing Pacing Pacing
Hypergates and Supply ships not only expand on your strategic options, but allow you to customize your civilization a lot more specifically while simultaneously reducing the mid-game doldrums of waiting for your planets and ships to be worthwhile.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Still lots to talk about.
Journal #9 (Coming Soon)