by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Hot? Or Not?
There are a number of elements to GC: Twilight of the Arnor that Stardock is touting that I, personally, do not find all that great:
First, the New Victory Condition: Ascension - In the older GC games, Ascension was accomplished by successfully Researching several specific technologies. In this game Ascension is accomplished by finding and successfully defending from all competitors several shards left by the Precursors. Acquire the complete set and your race ascends to a higher plane of existence. Succeed in doing that and you win. But ALL of the other races do not want you to win. So when it looks like you're getting close, don't be surprised if they gang up on you. My view of Ascension is, why would the others stop you? Your race for all intents and purposes would poof out of existence - leaving behind ALL of your real estate and stuff that they can freely latch onto and use for their own purposes.
Also the Updated Planetary Invasion screen begs a question. As mentioned above, it’s a much snazzier picture. However, that picture does nothing to convey the monumental struggle involved in seizing a planet. The game - and GC in general, goes into near minute visual scrutiny of ship-to-ship battles, but when it comes to a clash between armies numbering into the millions of troops and massive amounts of weapons and equipment, you get nothing more than a brief video of two forces slamming into each other. In a large game such as this, there will be scores of such battles - and they will start to look nearly identical to one another, despite however much the picture shows the unique features of each planet.
The Metaverse On-Line Tournament feature is another downer as this is what passes for multiplayer in GC. Players can play a specific map with a specific scenario and compare their scores with others online to see how they match up. This strikes me as nothing remarkable; sort of like seeing the list of initials next to the high game scores on a pinball machine. When competing against others in a strategy game, it should be head-to-head. As far as I have ever seen, no AI can compare with a live, breathing human being, especially if diplomacy is involved.
The new Updated computer AI can now emulate a novice human at lower Difficulty levels, while performing like a human expert at the higher levels. Theoretically this is supposed to not make the game so much harder, but rather make it more fun. I question how much more fun it is for the AI to have an easier time kicking my butt, as compared to just having it roll over and play dead. I anticipate a greater sense of satisfaction if I win against a smarter AI – IF I win, and then only at The End, after I have indeed won. Otherwise I’d be inclined to wonder how much of a masochist I must be to have chosen to subject myself to a humiliating defeat. (That’s why I set my games at “Normal” and leave it at that.)
Likewise, the new campaign storyline has some deep-set illogicalities. Millennia have passed and there is now ONE Arnor still alive, but there are now gaggles and swarms of hordes of Dread Lords. In a galaxy where the #1 and #2 positions are being contested by Evil Empire One (which wants to enslave all other races) versus Evil Empire One-A (which wants to exterminate all other races). And what is helping them towards their goals is that The Lurking Evil is able to play all of the races off against each other. That certainly makes sense: The big bully down the street wants to kick my butt and the butt of every other little kid on the block. The other big bully on the next street wants to out and out kill every little kid he finds. So, naturally, while those two are squabbling over which one gets to do the honors, I should pick a fight with one of the other little kids. My, but that view of the intelligence of the galaxy’s major races speaks volumes. Perhaps it would be best for the galaxy at large to let the Dregnin prevail. Like, it would be Natural Selection in action.
Anticipation is making me wa-a-ait...
GC2:Twilight of the Arnor was originally scheduled for release in November 2007. Then December 2007. Now the expected release has been pushed back to April 2008. Given the sheer mass of work going into this project, the inevitable delays are understandable. Given the quality of that work, the delays are easily forgiveable. Now add to all of that that Stardock has also been working diligently on a RTS version of GC entitled Sins of the Solar Empire and the phrase, “biting off more than he can chew” comes to mind. But when hunting for suitable adjectives to describe the people at Stardock, the word “lazy” doesn’t even have to be in the thesaurus (except maybe if you need an antonym).
Will the add-on be a worthy investment? Well, I’ll tell you: Right after I get done writing this, I’ll be ordering my own copy of Twilight of the Arnor plus CD. Thereafter, I anticipate being quite the grouch, waiting for the game to actually release. After which people won’t be seeing me for several weeks. (For which they will most likely be saying, “Thank God that grouch is gone!”)