You know a game has a certain special something when you’ve been playing it until 5 a.m. and the only thing you’ve had to eat in hours is the bag of Skittles sitting conveniently within arm’s reach. The only things reminding you you’ve been playing too long is the low-battery warning on the iPad, and the fact that the sun is starting to rise. Imperium Galactica 2, an updated port of the classic strategy PC game from Digital Reality, is one such game.
For the uninitiated, Imperium Galactica 2 is a 4X strategy game that was originally released back in the early 2000s (4X stands for what you do in these games: explore, expand, exploit, exterminate). You play as one of three galactic races, each of whom has their own gameplay bonuses and penalties, as they attempt to survive and prosper during some rather turbulent times for the galaxy. Starting out as nothing more than a single colony with maybe a few ships, it’s your job to build up your empire as the dominant beings in the galaxy, either by sheer force, diplomacy, or subterfuge. It is, essentially, Civilization in space. But whereas Civilization Revolution for iOS was a sort of stripped down version of its PC counterpart, Imperium Galactica 2 for the iPad is the full game.
Shock and awe.
The gameplay is pretty intense, and it has the kind of absorbing devilish attention to detail that’ll keep you awake at nights. Whether you choose to expand militarily or remain relatively peaceful, you control every aspect of your empire and its people, right down to the smallest elements, from taxes, morale, trade, and health, to urban-planning, building construction, population growth, crime, exploration, military encounters, and a whole lot more.
If this sounds exhausting and maybe a little paralyzing… well, it can be. Some of this can be automated, which will become a necessity as your empire gets bigger and bigger and the micro-management becomes more daunting. There is, thankfully, an excellent tutorial that walks you through the main gameplay elements so you’re not playing the game entirely without a net. Frankly, though, getting lost in all this can all be part of the fun.
The battle system, whether you’re using your invading ground forces or engaging in heated space hostilities, is fairly involved as well. Fights take place on a separate screen, and you can control your units either individually or as groups. On the bottom and right portions of the screen you have different options like various force formations, special unit abilities, and retreating for your troops to use. As you progress in the game you’ll discover different kinds of units and technologies to upgrade or customize, and bringing them into the fight can offer you new tactics to use.
The menus can be a bit overwhelming at times. They’re as well designed and sleek looking as seems possible, but each aspect of the game has it’s own unique menu, and with so many options available it can sometimes be a formidable task to keep it all straight. Thankfully, the tutorial is again very helpful in this regard, and there’s a handy dandy question-mark button on the bottom that can help you out when you get confused.
The in-game graphics have all been redone with new high-res textures, and the game looks better than it ever has. The same unfortunately can’t be said for the video footage, which pops up in the form of cutscenes or diplomatic messages. These are grainy, muddy, and ugly, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what you’re supposed to be looking at.
The game also has a couple bugs that need to be mentioned. As your empire gets bigger and older, there’s an increasing tendency for the game to crash. You can save your progress whenever you want, and there’s an autosave as well, but when you’ve been playing for hours on end, it’s a real kick to the gut to have to go back and redo something you’ve already done. Also, we experienced an unusual bug where we would occasionally get caught in a never-ending loop of a battle against an apparently invisible enemy, and we would be forced to shut the game down and reboot.
Despite these bugs, Imperium Galactica 2 for the iPad is a hell of game. It was a hell of a game 12 years ago, and it’s aged amazingly well. It’s as addictive as it ever was and Digital Reality has done a remarkable job updating it for modern strategy gamers. It can be overwhelming at times, but this is a game that every strategy fan should be playing.