I’ve played GalCiv 3 since late beta, running an i7 with 12 GB of RAM. I haven’t tried the in-game campaign and have played only single-player using medium and large galaxies vs. all 8 in-game AI factions + assorted minor factions. You can go much bigger than that if your machine will support it, but I've found large galaxies make for very satisfying games. I highly recommend smaller galaxies for your first games, so that you can get going more easily. As others have pointed out, the bigger you play, the more RAM you will need.Summary
: Fun game, your decisions matter. AI factions are entertaining, imperfect, and improving. Ship designer keeps game interesting. Stardock user community is active and helpful. There is a learning curve and some rough edges, but lots of entertainment value for my money (more than most games).Pros
- Most of the decisions you have to make matter. Each tech you research, each colony improvement you build makes a noticeable improvement -- your ships become more powerful, colonies are more productive, your influence and bargaining power increase. You aren’t overwhelmed by near-meaningless busy-work or grinding to grow your empire.
- Every faction feels different, much more so than, say, in the Civ series. Tech trees change depending on which faction you play, and the strengths and weaknesses of each faction feel important. Plus, you can make all the custom factions you want, or download others' factions from Stardock's website (Steam workshop support should be coming soon, too).
- AI factions have personality and give you feedback. An AI faction might warn you off if you're amassing ships near their border, or let you know they value the trade route you have with them. I quickly get to like/despise/fear each faction in the game, and this also changes from one game to the next depending on your choices and how the game progresses. One game, I was planning to go to war with one faction, but then they surprised me with a small gift, expressing admiration for my society. So I gave them some help, we became friends and are now fighting an enemy faction together. This has made for a much more interesting story than the old smash-em-all slog that many 4x games become.
- Ship combat is more interesting than GalCiv 2 -- not just rock-paper-scissors, but ships are assigned roles like assault, guardian, escort, support, and these roles affect combat. Your ship designs and fleet composition make a big difference. Much like Civ, I would say the battles are fought strategically, not tactically (you're the admiral directing the war(s); you're not the captain making in-battle decisions).
- The ship designer lets you make any ship you want; customize load-outs and/or appearance as you like. You can even download and use others' ship designs – some users have already posted some interesting designs. I get weary of 4x games where every faction has the same old units -- not here. While I haven't seen it myself yet, word from other users is that the AI will learn to use the units you design too. Never the same game twice!
- Adjacency bonuses – e.g., two factories next to each other make each other better – make planning improvements on your colonies more interesting than just loading up a build-queue. It adds some strategic planning to your colony management without overwhelming you in too many details.
- If you love to micro-manage, you can tinker with just about everything, and most of the numbers you see have pop-up tooltips showing you where they come from. If you prefer, you can play a rewarding game without worrying about min-/maxing every little decision.
- The UI and graphics have improved dramatically over GalCiv 2. It's easy to move through the turns and most decisions can be enacted quickly and intuitively.
- Nebulae, black holes, wormholes and asteroid fields add more “terrain” features to the map than GalCiv 2 had, and these can be relevant for positioning, hiding, or escape. As well, there are more galactic resources which can be mined for improved technologies.
- The Stardock user-community is generally helpful and respectful; if you have questions, ask, and someone will answer pretty quickly.Cons
- If you're not really familiar with the GalCiv games of the past, or even if you are, there's a learning curve. There is a manual on Stardock’s site, and you may need to scout the web or forums for help. I’ve gotten answers to my questions from the Stardock user community usually very quickly. When playing your first game or two, expect to make an occasional unfortunate decision only to learn later that it wasn’t what you might have expected.
- Game is a little rough around the edges (some spelling errors, the odd tech doesn’t work the way it’s advertised, AI occasionally does something dumb), but no disastrous issues and improvements are happening all the time: 2 patches since release and version 1.1 is coming in June. I've had one CTD, but with auto-save I lost only a couple of turns, so no big deal.
- Espionage is non-existent, and Diplomacy is fairly basic – you can trade and ask another faction to go to war with/for you (for a price). Like with any other 4x game, I expect more to come in future patches/expansions.
- Not all information is accessible when you want it – e.g., you can’t review the state of your empire before responding to an AI’s trade request. While once in a while this can be awkward, it’s far from game-breaking.