Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords (commonly GalCiv II or GalCiv2) is a 4X turn-based strategy computer game by Stardock. It is the sequel to the original Galactic Civilizations (in turn based on the OS/2 games Galactic Civilizations and Galactic Civilizations 2), and was released at North American retail and on Stardock's online subscription service, TotalGaming.net, on 21 February, 2006. An expansion, Dark Avatar, was released in February 2007. A second expansion, Twilight of the Arnor, was released in April 2008.
GalCiv II's artificial intelligence is challenging without being given resources and abilities not available to the player, as is common in the majority of strategy games. GalCiv II omits multiplayer and is marketed on the strength of its single-player experience.
With the disappearance of the Precursors, ten younger civilizations were advancing but they could only travel from one Stargate to another. The youngest, Humanity, created a revolutionary technology called Hyperdrive that could allow ships to travel great distances across the galaxy. Now it is a race to explore, colonize and conquer the galaxy. The evil Drengin Empire plans to wipe out Humanity and others, but these races soon will learn that there are worse things in the universe than each other.
The game is played in what is known as a "sandbox" galaxy mode, where the objective is to achieve victory over AI opponents in one of four ways - military conquest, cultural domination, universal alliance or technological supremacy. The sandbox analogy represents the free-form style of playing, where the player is free to develop the game however he/she chooses. This "sandbox" may be customized in terms of galaxy size, planet habitability and similar features as well as difficulty of the opposition. The game also includes a story-driven campaign, featuring the titular "Dread Lords".
Each preset race has a distinct combination of AI, personality, and built-in advantages. The Korx, for instance, focus on money, and thus have an economic bonus. The Terrans are excellent diplomats, the Drengin have superb ships and soldiers, the Torians have fast population growth, and the Yor have very loyal populations.
One criticism of the original Galactic Civilizations was its lack of ship design features. New ships simply became available when the appropriate technology was researched to create them. Galactic Civilizations II includes a highly-configurable 3D ship design editor. Technological research now unlocks components that players use to create their own custom ship designs in 3D from a variety of hull bases. The users' ships are rendered in real time and shown on both the main screen and in fleet battles.
Every ship is designed around a particular class of hull - tiny, small, cargo, medium, large and huge - and has a predetermined number of hit points and capacity. Each ship component takes up a certain amount of space. Technological advances can lead to enhanced components that take up less space (but which typically cost more to construct). Existing ships may be upgraded to use these new components, although it is often cheaper to use them as cannon fodder and replace them with newer ships.
There are three types of paired "offense-defense" combinations:
Defenses work best against the offensive weapon they are matched against. A defense mechanism used against a mismatched attack is diminished to the square root of the defense value (with a minimum of 1). For example, nine units of shield defenses would afford the same protection as only three units of armor when used to defend against mass drivers.
Engines are another component, and become available in increasing power/size ratios with later research. Several extra components available at all times include sensors, life support (for extra range), colonization, and construction modules. Each component may be added multiple times with summing effect; a player could create a fast long-range fighter with two lasers, two ion engines, a support module, and a shield.
A wide variety of non-functional components ("jewelry") such as wings, pylons, wheel structures, and lights may be added for artistic purposes. These take up no space and cost nothing to build. There are several sets of jewelry, one of which is assigned to each race, though the player is not restricted to choosing from these.
Galactic Civilizations II is powered by a custom 3D game engine, although most user interface elements are displayed in 2D. Planets and ships are restricted to a single plane in space, but the user may pan and zoom as they wish, even to view the details of individual ships. Players may zoom out to view the galactic map on a wide scale, at which point the ships, planets and anomalies are replaced by icons. It is possible to play the game in this mode.
The player's ship designs are tested in full-screen fleet battles in an environment separate from the main screen. The battles are not user-directed, but it is possible to watch from several viewpoints and fast-forward and reverse through them. Planetary invasions are dealt with separately, depending on a combination of general technology, soldiering ability, quantity of forces available to each side, and optional methods of attack (which tend to provide advantages at the cost of decreasing planetary quality or destroying planetary improvements).
The AI also makes use of technological developments to design ships of its own. At higher difficulty levels these ships are tailored to the opposition, so players sending fleets of laser-armed ships may find them repulsed by shielded defenders, while those preferring to employ mass drivers will find that they come up against heavily-armored opposition instead.
Stardock is still improving the AI's capability through a series of updates.
In the original Galactic Civilizations, planets were part of a star system, and located in the same square. In Galactic Civilizations II, each planet (or colony) is a completely separate entity in space. Moreover, planets may now only have a limited number of improvements built upon them. A planet's class determines the number of improvement tiles that are available for building. There are improvements to aid manufacturing, research, planetary influence, morale, and the economy, as well as several "wonder"-style improvements similar to those popularized by the Civilization series of games.
Certain technologies allow the unlocking of extra tiles, a feature that allows more advanced races to make better use of a low-quality planet. Planets may be focused on military production or research, allowing the creation of military outposts or research bases. In addition, a proportion of tiles offer bonuses for manufacturing, research, agriculture, influence or morale improvements built upon them.
The necessity of customizing planetary improvements (which is a big part of the game) can be an increased burden on the player. To help with this, the game offers an auto-update system that can automatically upgrade any available planetary improvements as new technology becomes available.
For example, one random event involves the creation of a super-serum that can enhance soldiers' performance at the expense of halving the life expectancy of those who take it. The player may forbid its use and destroy all of the research at government expense (good), only allow it to be used by those who volunteer (neutral), or require all army recruits to take it (evil). In this case, the "loss" of the good choice is mostly an opportunity cost in terms of the foregone advantage.
The main advantage to making good choices comes in diplomacy with other races; good races are more picky about interacting with evil races than evil races are with good races. In addition, once the "Xeno Ethics" technology is researched, it is possible to pick one of the three alignments, which grants access to various bonuses and improvements. Picking an alignment other than that already established by the player's actions costs significant amounts of money.
Some random events affect not only individual civilizations, but also the entire galaxy. These galaxy-wide events can upset the balance of power, transform weak races into powerful ones, lead to wars between allies and even result in chaos. In one event, a civilization unearths an archeological relic that will eventually transform them into "god-like" beings. Some events can spawn devastating pirate fleets across the galaxy or triple one race's influence. Others are more benign, with all civilizations experiencing a short-term economic boom, or a "wave of xenophobia" (usually triggered by prolonged warfare) that halts tourism.
All four kinds of starbase may also be upgraded with defensive capabilities. The AI is more than willing to make its own starbases, and may take exception to the player building them too close to the AI's planets.
At the beginning of the game, the player chooses one of eight political parties, each with its own advantages. These advantages are cumulative with the race bonuses, so they may be used to cement an established advantage, or to shore up a potential weakness. However, these bonuses are only preserved as long as the player's party stays in power, which depends on keeping morale up (generally above 50%). If the player loses an election they do not lose control of the game, only the bonuses previously granted. In addition, the bonus of the party currently in power (if you are not) is applied as a penalty to your civilization instead. Morale also has an effect on reported population, and thus on tax revenue, so it is important not to tax for short-term gain.
The player can eventually research advanced forms of government that grant significant bonuses to the economy and social production. However, it becomes increasingly harder to keep morale up while progressing from an imperial government to a republic, democracy or galactic federation.
Each race has customized text used during negotiation that signifies their current relations with the player. Relations depend on a number of factors, including current trade, relative ethical alignment, belligerence, military might and past actions. AI players may decide to initiate technology trades or demand tribute from the player, or to warn them of perceived threats.
According to Stardock's CEO Brad Wardell, as of March 2008, Galactic Civilizations II has sold around 300,000 copies in total, bringing in an 8-digit revenue, when the budget was less than $1 million.
Copies of the game purchased from Stardock's online store use product activation before the game can be played. The game can only be installed and activated a limited number of times before needing to contact support. Installing on a computer without an internet connection require the files to be downloaded into an archive on another computer, and an activation data blob emailed to Stardock; a signature file is returned to be used on the activated computer.
According to Stardock, Twilight of the Arnor is the final expansion for Galactic Civilizations II.