by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Not So Much "Different" As "More"
From what I have seen of this game, I am of the opinion that if you have played Galactic Civilizations or even Civilization, you will be instantly familiar with Lost Empire: Immortals. After all, what is the stock formula for practically every empire game out there? You start with a single planet or city, build units to explore the neighbourhood, colonize new areas, research new technologies and conquer/dominate your rivals.
This story starts out, "Once upon a time..." there was an Ancient star travelling race called Aeons. Then, for some reason, they disappeared. (The "why" will be found out as the game progresses.) There are now just six major races about to fan out across the stars, and one of those races is yours. You all start out from your home planet with limited resources, looking for inhabitable planets with lots of useful resources and usable real estate. Each system will have 0-8 planets. Each planet is rated according to how healthy it is for your race to inhabit. At the start of the game, the galactic map is generated so as to make each game different. And, of course, you are in a fog until you've visited a system, so you won't know how useful it is to you until you get there.
Each player starts with one planet, a Scout fleet and one Colony fleet. The player must decide how much of the economy is to be spent on building one new vessel at a time, per planet equipped with shipbuilding facilities. Ships are, of course, only as good as the player's current tech level. You start out with a few very basic ships and over time Research ways to improve them, so you get to continually change the contents mix of your ship designs.
Each of the major races starts off at approximately the same level of technology. Then it is up to the player to decide how much of his economy to invest in the research of one new technology. Research is broken into eleven categories, with many future techs having prerequisites of one or more techs having been researched beforehand. When a tech has been successfully researched, the player will be able to determine what is next on the agenda.
And from the economy, whatever doesn't get spent on Science and Ships should be allocated towards planetary improvements of either industrial output or improving the quality of life for the citizens. That is, let's get more out of our citizens, or else make it possible to sustain more of them on the planet - so that way we get more output because we have more workers. Now, how does all that differ from all of the other space empire games you've played? Welllll, it goes like this...
Getting down to the nitty-gritty
You'll notice that I referred to Galactic Civilizations above. That's because as far as space empire games go, the GC series of games is pretty much what most gamers today are familiar with. If you're a long time gamer from when computer games started to appear, you'll recognize titles like Master of Orion and Pax Imperia. All these games utilize the same foundation template. The main differences are the background history premise details and the graphics. And the graphics are primarily a direct function of where computer hardware tech is in Reality.
There are, however, a couple details that are significantly different. The main one is that MORE: 5,000 systems is a HUGE leap from the several hundred that were available in the Galactic Civilizations series. Which is why, though watching the space combat occurs as a rewindable real time experience, there is no fricking way that you could run your space empire as a RTS. The scale of events is really an area where a turn-based strategy system pretty much becomes mandatory.
The other significant difference is that Lost Empire: Immortals allows for multiplayer games with up to ten players. Though the game only has up to six player races, apparently in multiplayer you can design additional distinctive races, just so no two player positions are near identical. (I certainly hope that design your own race feature is available for solo play as well!) Given that there isn't an AI out there yet that can fully and completely emulate a human psyche - complete with the ability to charm your socks off during the wheeling-and-dealing, and then backstab you when you least expect it - this may prove to be the game's salient virtue. Add in that really HUGE sandbox for everybody to play in and all the contenders with find that their interaction options are considerable.
My personal favourite of the distinctive features is that the Fearless Leader of your race changes over time. Each Fearless Leader has a distinct forte which he can apply to his race's operations, ranging from scientific ability (my favourite), to improving industrial output, to prowess in inter-racial horse-trading. Personally, I never could see the sense of having the same leader through the entire run of the game. Leaders most often have a political foundation within their society, and with the exception of leaders like Castro - who seems determined not to pass on the reins of power, despite his advanced years - most political leaders have a term of office that is measured at most in terms of a decade or two. Given that some of these games can span a period of a century or more, having the same leader at the end as when you started the game is downright ludicrous. Left-handedly, you should be cautioned to not get too attached to the leader you start with.