So at long last, after a nearly stillborn Early Access birth process where backers comments, suggestions, and criticisms were largely ignored, Stardock releases Galactic Civilization III …complete with many of the bugs and missing features (such as obvious fundamentals as planetary invasions) that plagued it in Early Access. So if you buy this game, know full well that it’s not mistake, Stardock knows there’s issues and non-functional areas, they just fully expect you to “suck it up” until such time they fix it in a patch, or in a DLC. In the mean, time, they will take your money.
So is the game worth it? It’s a good start into the 4X Space genre, and it does have some complex systems. However, there is already some stiff competition in that field that Galactic Civilization III pretends to ignore. Even fans of the GalCiv pedigree will notice missing things from Galactic Civilization II, such as espionage (which will come in DLC maybe), 5 major civilizations - Arceans, Torians, Drath, Korath, Korx (cut out to add to future DLC), Terror Stars, Elections (both which may never come). Worse, when you compare Galactic Civilization III to other games, such as Endless Space, Stardrive 2, or Distant Worlds, things such as interesting and unique commanders, unique ships, specialized trade resources to gain a monopoly, complex planetary systems with many different planets, really interesting special events that change the direction of the Universe, or exciting end game content (like in Distant Worlds), …it’s just not in Galactic Civilizations III. It's not that Galactic Civilizations doesn't dip it's toe into, or has a whisper of some of these ideas, it's just that these other games are doing it all better, for the same price. I many cases, these missing features or others are promised to possibly appear "in a future DLC", so if you're willing to hang out and spend a lot more money, you might get the game of your dreams.
You could compare Galactic Civilization III to Civilization V, but the closest thing they have in common is they both have Civilization in the name. Civilization V (with it’s expansions) is a deep, complex, and engaging game. Galactic Civilization is just a shell of a game with missing features and the future promise of something better if you want pony up more money for future DLC. Perhaps the most inexcusable part of Galactic Civilizations III is ship to combat …there isn’t any. There is a fairly innovative albeit extremely kludgey and frustrating interface to design the looks of your own ships, like sort of a lego set. However, this lego set is not complete, and Stardock is holding some pieces for DLC, and gave some away to backers/customers that bought in the first weekend exclusively, etc, such that to build the ship of your dreams it might not be possible, or might only be possible with future DLC. In all fairness, you can still do a lot with the pieces they did include, however, that’s where it stops being fun. Stardrive 2, for example, has an interesting system where you place all your ship components for forward firing or side firing aspects, place individual blocks of armor, sensors, and other techs you’ve developed on your ships so when you go to fight with them, you can see your creations in action and your designs matter, it's not just graphical. It’s such an involved process they have a separate mini-game you can launch just where you can build ships and fight with them, to experiment. Galactic Civilization III has you graphically construct your ship with the polygons included int eh DLC you own, and hold some back, and then when you ships go to fight, there’s a lack luster explosion on the main map and your ship moves into the enemy hex. That’s it. If you want, you can see that battle in the “Battle Viewer” which never worked for me in the Early Access, but now is just an absolutely terrible, lower resolution affair where you can’t change the angle, has horrible effects, has ships operating in it as if there are only two dimensions in space, blobing together, doing stupid things, and pretty much, not even following the combat log of what the ships are reportedly doing. …and you can’t control any of it. Just watch it like a space voyuer. You can of course set your ship roles when you create a ship. …but once fleets engage, you’re just a spectator. Compare that to Stardrive 2, which as a much more interesting battle process, and you can define engagement ranges, ship positioning, prioritize targets, and it just looks better …and it’s clear that Galactic Civilization III isn’t up to par.
If you’ve never played a 4X space game, you might like Galactic Civilization III. There’s some things to like, such as the possibility of enormous maps, a lot of details for customizing your race if you don’t like the standard races given, some expanded victory conditions for players that don’t just want to conquer the universe, and a nice way to alter the look of your ships. However, if you have played a 4x game, especially a space genre, you will find there are many other better alternatives to Galactic Civilization III that offer more features and more to do for the initial purchase price. And if you can tolerate dated graphics, you might even look into Distant Worlds, which is still the undisputed leader of the 4x space genre based on the rich and unparalled level of detail and complexity of the game systems. Or just check out Stardrive 2, which is essentially a spiritual successor to Masters of Orion II, and is a fantastic game, and better than Galtic Civilization III in nearly every way, save for the fact Galactic Civilization III has multi-player (if you can find anyone to play against). Or even Endless Space, which is a bit of an older game, but still graphically superior to Galactic Civilization III in some ways, and has a much more interesting battle system. If you really want to get Galactic Civilization III, wait until the game of the year edition where they bundle all the DLC from the past year. whcih Stardock has promised to agressively push, together with it, and sell it for $40. At that time, it will probably be as feature complete as the competition I listed above, and with about as many bugs as it’s competitors, and also have multi-player making Galactic Civilization III an interesting choice. Until then wait, as you're just wasting your money, or worse, your time.