At RPS we're determined to bring you the hottest PC news within at least 28 days of it breaking (Except when we accidentally repost a story from three months back due to ultro-thickness. And the time we came within a mouseclick of posting a story that was a year old, due to them only making announcements to do with the 40K MMO a year apart. The basts). So it gives us great pleasure to be among the last to inform you Stardock have released their second and final expansion for their splendid Galactic Civilizations II. 27 days ago. Yes.
A good old rant about what makes it interesting beneath the cut, clearly.
Okay, we've talked about the game before, when I did our Beta impressions way back in December of 2006, those halcyon days when more than half of RPS' Gaming PCs had internet connections. And actually the main point is shown there - for me, at least, the main thing that's added is an extra helping of charisma. That each of the major races have their own unique tech-tree is a challenge in terms of strategy and all that... but the secret, quiet appeal for me is in terms of charm and storytelling. The GalCiv universe has been critiqued for being a little uninspired - but by integrating the personality and history of the race into the tech tree it creates a unique storytelling environment, and sells those cultural experiences brilliantly.
(This goes off on an aside but... well, people often get hung up on when games are going to have stories as good as other media. Which is an interesting question, and I completely understand it... but I think we should ask why stories which we'd turn our noses up in any other medium become oddly compelling when placed in a game. There's something going on there, and we seem unwilling to pursue it. But, as I said, I digress.)
To choose an example, the quick-breeding Torians. They're a slave Race subjugated to the Drengin - who you'll remember from my Beta Impressions I linked to earlier in the post, and if you didn't click through, here's another link. I feel for your mouse-wheel - who only are recently freed and trying to get on with being a space-faring race. Except they weren't a space-faring race to begin with. They were a bit rubbish and stuck on a planet having lots of crazy sex with one another in a ET-meets-Bonobo monkey kind of way. So when you start, while you've got a large mine-structure industrial thing to build, you can't make any other kind of factory. You have to make do with this old-tech before you work out how to start thinking like a Space-Racer. It's an experience unique to the Torians, and the other races have their own stories buried in their technical progress.
Which makes me think of one of the standard comments I make about Civilization - in that it believes in the idea of an inevitable march of history. That, in a real way, all nations stories are the same and it couldn't be any other way. This is expressed solely through the tech-tree. Meanwhile, Twilight of the Arnor tells twelve sci-fi stories through the method Civ uses to close down historical dissenters. I don't think I've ever seen anyone use the tech-tree for a similar purpose, and I suspect it may end up being added to my narrative-techniques-that-only-work-in-games toolbox.
There's lots more in the game, of course, but that's the big thing that caught my eye.
I also love that it's called Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor. It's kind of an Ur-PC Game name. You can tell by its title that it's not the sort that's even slightly ashamed what it is. It's the sort of PC game that's dressed up in leathers, has grown a big moustache and dancing chest-bared on a float in a PC-game parade, before going home to have sex with a similarly moustachioed leather-clad PC game (Like Armageddon Empires: Cults of the Wasteland). I love it for it, and I think it's neat as hell.
And, really, I wrote this post because it's a month and I think that's enough time for people to have stories to tell about it and they need a forum to do so. Anyone else digging it? With or without ill-advised metaphors?