An empire can be built on trade or prosperity but more often than not, it is built on conquest.
Apparently galactic civilizations are no different, and the latest DLC for Galactic Civilizations III lets you feel every bit like an alien Napoleon as it adds depth to its already complicated mechanics. With a focus on planetary invasions, customisation and a host of other changes, the Crusade expansion is vast, and worth every penny for the player who likes to get stuck in.
For those who haven’t played a Galactic Civilizations game, they work like a traditional grand strategy, turn-based, grid empire builder. You settle your planets, build space stations to mine resources and build a space navy to defend all you have built, or steal what others have. You manage building queues for planets and spaceports, and focus on building a civilisation that works in one way or another. A productive civilisation is good for producing the warships needed for conquest, a strong economy is needed to assert power in other ways, and investment in research can allow you to eclipse the other empires through advancements that give you the edge.
The third entry into the series very much feels like a Galactic Civilizations game, with a focus on the ability to customise and design spaceships that have different modules and parts that allow you to exploit your current technologies. This customisation extends from the aesthetic to the functional, with the functional changes being very important to the gameplay.
With the new Crusade expansion this customisation has been expanded dramatically, mainly because of the introduction of a civilisation builder which allows you to create your own custom faction. It is extremely easy to use, with you getting a net spend of points to adjust the way in which your new civilisation acts and the bonuses/penalties it receives. I created a super colonial civilisation that was set up to have high growth and high movement in order to set off into the stars quickly. With this thought in mind, I was also able to change my starting spaceship to be a colony ship. Other options you can choose include the type of lifeform your species is and the tech tree that you follow.
Creating a base for all the ships that you will make in the game is another task you’ll have to take on. This can take a considerable amount of time to do if you want to get it right. The mechanics to design these ships are difficult and involve sifting through many lists, but it does mean that you can make something truly unique. I instead chose to download other people’s hard work from the Steam Workshop and change the skin to look like an old-fashioned airship. This customisation was simple to do, and the added interest of writing dialogue for how your species interacts is rewarding in the same way building the perfect park that only a few people will see in City Skylines is rewarding; it’s professional pride.
Playing Galactic Civilizations III with my new civilisation started off really fun and allowed me to explore early. I made an active choice to study technologies that allowed me to explore further and faster than all others to fit in with my roleplay and gameplay style. To my disappointment, this is as much as the game felt different using my own civilisation. Sure, the ships looked pretty, and my own sense of roleplay helped, but I didn’t see any noticeable difference in reactions to how others interacted with me and how I interacted with the world. All I had done was essentially a reskin with a few gameplay tweaks. While this may be hugely rewarding for some-players, I always feel like I want the game to notice I am a different race. Instead, I felt like I was the same-old just with a few new tricks and some sweet looking ships. This may just be because I tend to get bored of customising and fell into the same routine of automating huge parts of my empire, though. It certainly seems that Galactic Civilizations III benefits from a hands-on approach.
However, despite this, since the expansion, Galactic Civilizations III does play significantly better. The way that you generate materials over time feels more balanced, and the whole game feels more dynamic. No place is this more obvious than in planetary invasions. With a whole new approach to how you invade colonies, you don’t have to just spam ships and hope for the best, but instead plan how many legions you will send, what escorts you will bring and where you will place these legions. With a host of support techs available to boost this ability you can really get stuck into this new mechanic. A slightly smaller overhaul is the new citizen system that allows you to train new citizens (and promote them thereafter) to be specific roles such as scientists, administrators and entrepreneurs. These allow you to further specialise your approach to the game. Placing these citizens within colonies will give more refined boosts to that colony, or you can choose instead to leave them for a small empire-wide boost. This again gives you a choice between micro and macro gameplay.
All in all, the Crusade expansion for Galactic Civilizations III comes highly recommended. While it will only provide a slightly better experience for those who don’t like to delve into every customisable aspect, those who do choose to customise every ship, mastermind every invasion and govern every planet in its totality will find that the expansion creates an experience that is worlds apart from that of the vanilla title.