Before we get down to the preview itself, It’s important to note that the game is still in Steam Early Access so a lot of features are missing or in early stages of development. The most current version released at the time of writing is Beta 0.42 (opt-in patch installed) and that is the version I’m previewing. As this is still fairly early in the game’s development, a lot of what you read will likely change to some degree, so take it with a grain of salt. And now, let’s play Space Emperor!


Galactic Civilizations III (GalCiv 3 for short) is the third installment in Stardock’s successful space-faring 4X franchise. For those of us who have already played countless hours of the previous games, a lot will feel very familiar – for better or worse. The core mechanics haven’t changed – it’s still a turn-based strategy game wherein you choose your civilization and lead it to galactic glory. As a lot of features are still in development (there are more “Coming Soon” buttons than ones that actually do something), it feels somewhat limited to play right now but you can still see the general idea of what the final game will be like. After spending several hours on it (because really, who needs sleep these days?), I have to admit that the outlook is rather good.

To begin with, of the four races available right now, three should feel quite familiar to veterans of the series: The Humans who gave the galaxy Hyperdrive technology, thus finally entering the galactic arena. The Altarians are back and are just as self-righteous as ever and the Drengin Empire is making a comeback as the puppy-kicking villain. A fourth race, The Iridium Corporation, seem to be a variant of GalCiv 2’s Korx – a race geared towards economic growth and cultural influence. There are also four “Coming Soon” races which aren’t selectable as of yet. Judging by their portraits, though, it’s seems that the Yor Collective, Iconian Refuge and Thalan Empire are all making a comeback. The last race appears to be a new addition – or maybe a new portrait for an existing race. Either way, since racial super powers aren’t implemented yet, your race choice is currently a simple set of bonuses and penalties to choose from. A “customize” button is there but, you guessed it, “Coming Soon”.


Once you begin a game, you will immediately feel like you’re playing Galactic Civilizations. You start off, as always, with a scout ship, a survey ship and a colony ship all sitting around your homeworld. From these humble beginnings, you’ll expand into a galactic civilization of epic proportion. You will meet other races, admire their differences and then blow them up into space dust because ewwww, they’re green and stuff. Diplomacy hasn’t been implemented yet so unfortunately “Space Dust” is the only interaction you can have, although obviously a complete diplomacy system will be available in the future. Expect treaties, alliances, United Planets and the rest to be in the final game.

One major improvement is the new morality system. Instead of its predecessor’s Good/Neutral/Evil choice, there are three morality “trees” – Benevolence, Pragmatism and Malevolence. Much like a technology or skill tree, making choices of a certain nature will award you points towards it. You can then use those points to buy upgrades in the corresponding tree, unlocking all sorts of bonuses for your civilization to enjoy. For example, the first unlockable upgrade in the “Malevolence” ideology tree increases soldiering by 10% while the corresponding upgrade in “Benevolence” enhances approval rating and population growth. The system is flexible enough not to punish you for deviating from your main ideology – the three trees accumulate points separately and are not mutually exclusive.

Another change I was happy to see was GalCiv 3’s shipyards. No longer do you lose a cell on your planet just so you can manufacture ships. Instead, a shipyard is similar to a starbase (it can even be unanchored and moved around) which works to produce ships independently. You can choose which planets will sponsor a shipyard, adding to its efficiency much in the way asteroid mines work for planets. These shipyards then work independently as a separate entity, making them great assets when it comes to galactic warfare. Speaking of starbases, they are also making a comeback and resources are also going to play a much larger role in the game so expect the importance of starbases, particularly mining bases, to be even greater.


While a lot has been improved, much has remained the same – like the Ship Designer. GalCiv 3 boasts a designer fairly identical to its predecessor’s – you can either modify an existing design to better suit your needs or go completely DIY with it and assemble your very own personal fleet from scratch. Although not available yet, expect an “Export” feature and Steam Workshop integration in the future.

As turns progress and you explore the sector, you’ll discover all sorts of anomalies, nebulae, black holes, resources and many many other special features, some old and some new. Even planets aren’t necessarily as boring as before with some offering immense bonuses to whoever holds them (for example, a tidal-locked planet with a whopping 50% bonus to manufacturing or a “Ghost World” with a 50% research bonus).

In conclusion, while this is just a preview of a game very early in its development cycle, Stardock have managed to win me over. The features already present are solid and if they are anything to go by, the final release (currently dated April 2015) will be a game that should definitely have a place in every 4X fan’s library. To top it all off, Galactic Civilizations 3’s lead designer Paul Boyer has uploaded a complete playthrough, narrated by him, which you can watch below. Warning: Get some popcorn ready, it’s almost 3 hours long.

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