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Thread: Dark Avatar Impressions

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    yin26
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    Dark Avatar Impressions

    Hey, I hope everybody jumps in and gives their thoughts on this game. Rather than give a review, I'd rather be more "organic' and post thoughts/screenshots over time as my impressions develop into a clear image. So, having played *very* little so far (I'm on the third episode of the campaign), here are some initial thoughts, and I hope you share yours:

    * VALUE: I have to say, $39.00 for a Gold Edition that includes Dread Lords and Dark Avatar is pretty astounding. Normally you'd only see the X-pack on sale now for $29.00, and you'd be forced to get DL if you wanted DA. Of course, for those of us who already have DL, we can send in proof of purchase after getting DA and get a $10 refund. I'm sending mine in today.

    * Alright, though, so what's the value in terms of the game itself? Of course I'm still figuring this one out. I can say that it's certainly a prettier looking game, and some of the UI has been reworked to make finding information a bit cleaner. There are still some ways I'd like to see a number of little touches made better (like the autopilot lines are too hard to see, as is most of the asteroids, etc., due to such a dark background, which even when tweaked in the options area is still a bit awkward), for game of this complexity, I have no real complaints so far.

    * Much has been made of the new AI, which you can set to use maximum CPU time. I can't attest this yet, though I have seen the AI be a bit better, even on Normal difficulty, in targeting your troop transports, etc.

    * Customization! Well, if you've read any of the big reviews, you'll see all about this. It's a customizer's delighted, from an expanded ship design tool to being able to create your own opponents from scratch (even some control over their AI routines). While there are modders out there who could have done this for us, for Stardock to allow the lazy layperson like me that chance to mess around with some of the key settings like this is really great.

    * Espionage: One thing you notice in the campaign, which seems designed to work somewhat as a tutorial that has you focus on something in particular each mission, is a revamped espionage mechanic. Rather than just spending on espionage and getting info on a civ over time, you spend and then get spies over time. You can then place those spies on an enemy tile, which closes down the tile and starts the information gathering process. The enemy can cancel our your spy with his own and/or do the same on your tiles. It's a super clear, effective, but not game-wrecking addition. So far I like it.

    * Reworking of the early game is very nice. Again as stated elsewhere, it's much harder to blindly go for a colony rush as most planets are not open to you until you research something rather costly down the tech tree. This forces a much more interesting balancing act on the early game, which previously I found a bit predictable. To help you develop, though, you can mine nearby asteroid fields. Even here, however, an interesting twist is that these mining colonies can defect to another player if their culture is more powerful than yours in that sector.

    * Reworking of combat is also subtly but powerfully influencing how I handle battles: Now, each weapon on a ship gets its own turn rather than all weapons being added up and shot at once. This effectively means that a ship doesn't waste shots on a ship it already killed that round but uses any unfired weapons on the remaining ship(s). I'm still sorting out the implications here, but this promises to put a premium on ship design.

    * Simplicity: Now, don't get me wrong. DA is a very complex game, worthy of years of study. But unlike Civ 4, which is outstanding in its own right, there is a certain simplicity that's hard to explain. Culture is there, sure. And you can do culture bombs. Tech is all there, and you have the same kinds of tech beelining discussions that you have in Civ 4. You even have resources as in Civ4...but somehow DA distills all this into an experience that seems easier to digest. One other gamer said DA is beer and Civ4 is wine. Maybe that's fair, but I tend to drink a lot more beer than wine, don't you? What I mean is sometimes you want wine, but the mood needs to be right...and when it is, the experience is wonderful. But a beer is pretty much a good thing whenever you want to sit down and relax.

    * I haven't put all this together in coherent form yet. Once I finish the campaign and can run the free-form mode through its paces, I'll be able to say a lot better whether all these parts make a great compilation of improvements over DL, but I can say this much so far: If you liked DL but got a bit bored with some of its mechanics, I think DA offers enough tweaks to the system and promises of much better AI to at least check it out. Be sure to get your rebate! And if you have *any* interest in strategy games along the lines of Civ, Europa Universalis, Total War, etc., and haven't tried GalCiv 2 yet, then the Gold Edition is a must buy. The support from Stardock alone virtually guarantees that DA will continue to cater to its fanbase.
    Last edited by yin26; February 16, 2007 at 13:32.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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    Solver
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    Hey Yin,

    Glad to see you're here and enjoying DA . My own review will be up soon, which, despite being somewhat organized, still contains many different thoughts and musings. I hope to contribute more thoughts here after that gets published.

    DA is pretty damn great. I'd say it still some suffers from an uneven AI (the AI is very good, but in certain areas it's not just poor, it's atrocious) and some UI issues, but my overall impressions are extremely positive. The gameplay changes of DA really matter, they're fun and they're good. Of course, the AI CPU setting is .
    Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
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  3. #3
    yin26
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    Hey, I was hoping to get a Solver review! People should treat your word as Gospel as far as I'm concerned. Man, I'm sorry to read that parts of the AI are that bad...like what? More importantly, do you think it's fixable or part of the game? For example, are there some ship designs that still kill the AI no problem?
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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    Solver
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    Some of the AI problems are really the same as in vanilla. AI's decisions about whether to make peace are atrocious, for example. Here's an example from the game I played last, to be in my review. In a nutshell:

    Only two civs left in a Medium galaxy, the Korath and myself. We have just about equal population and influence, with the Korath maybe having a couple more planets. Graphs show that I am ahead of the Korath in every way except for military (which is more due to the differences in how AI and humans build ships).

    Korath declare war. Fine. I get some better ships and take some 3 star systems from them. Graphs show a sharp decline in their pop and research. Their military is still almost twice as good as mine, on the graph, but I'm kicking their butt (again, different methodologies). At this point, they would only sign peace for a huge amount of tribute from me - though, by now, I have double their population and they've had no luck in the war whatsoever.

    Another stupid AI thing is with the super ability of the same Korath guys. The AI doesn't really use spore ships, and its performance in defending against them is poor. And don't get me started on the AI response to Plague...

    Oh, and you'll be getting that review in two days .
    Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
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    yin26
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    O.K. I don't want you to leak the review! Yes, I recall running some tests in DL where I wanted to see how long I could go with NO military and then turn on a dime to bring out the biggest, baddest ships. This saved untold amounts in building costs vs. investing in earlier ship builds. Now, this should have led to the AI killing me easily...but often it didn't. Sorry to hear you are seeing this in DA. What level of difficulty is this on? Are there other settings you tried to counter this behavior? I'll save my many other questions for later.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

    "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

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    Solver
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    Actually, I don't think you can get by without building ships for too long anymore. Well, it depends on whether there's a civ out there that hates you. And if the Drath are out there, you better build lots and lots of ships. But if you happen to be kicking the AI's ass while the AI still has more ships than you, it won't realize it's time to sign peace.

    I started playing DA on Challenging, for refreshing memory, and moved back to Tough, which has full AI algorithms enabled. Maybe they need to rename the difficulties - in reality, "Normal" is a complete cakewalk . The Normal-Challenging climb is pretty steep, though, Challenging can actually be what it says if you get unlucky at the start.
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    yin26
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    Hmmm, well that's improvement in my book. As for your abilities, remember that you have a particularly keen sense for strategy gaming. You, sir, are Super Human when it comes to analyzing games...or at least Human 2.0 These days, I rate myself as Human Beta.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

    "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

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    Solver
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    Well, that's two separate things. The issue of being able to survive with no military is a separate issue completely from the AI not understanding when it's getting its butt kicked. The former issue is not really the case anymore, the latter has had no improvement.

    And stop praising my strategic abilities, if they were that great, I'd be beating all games at the highest difficulty .
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    yin26
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    I recall a lot of the "butt kicked" problem was tackled with vassals in Civ4, so there's hope. As you say, this is a very different kind of issue than being able to have NO military until you HAVE to have it.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

    "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

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    Solver
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    Hey, Stardock fixing problems over time is basically the sole reason I got Dark Avatar in the first place. As you might remember, after playing GalCiv2 initially, I felt that it, while very interesting in concepts, had too many glaring AI and balance flaws with not enough depth, ultimately. GalCiv2 v1.0 isn't a game that I would consider buying an expansion for. GalCiv2 v1.4, though, was definitely good enough to see what the expansion is about. And DA itself certainly is great.
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    yin26
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    Originally posted by Solver And stop praising my strategic abilities, if they were that great, I'd be beating all games at the highest difficulty .
    By the way, what I'm really trying to say is your ability to understand the issues conceptually and write about them. That's a gift. I also imagine that you could, if you wanted, master the smallest details in your gameplay, but you enjoy the variety of playing more than one game, and you enjoy interacting in the public sphere on an intellectual level about gaming itself. Anyway, other than that, I really don't see any use for you.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

    "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

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    Solver
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    yin26
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    Solver: Did you complete the campaign? Anyway, I'm on the episode where some certain somebodies show up and make a certain something pretty hard to do. I think I've figured out how to approach it now and find it interesting that a campaign mission would be this involved this early (like 3rd or 4th episode in?). The difficulty here is a bit uneven, and I could imagine many players calling it quits on the campaign at this point...but I actually enjoy the challenge. Still, some pop up help just to help you avoid really stupid decisions when a script seems in play might be cool. For example, those somebodies don't seem to expand for x turns, which ideally is time you should spend doing x something. Help like that would be good just so you don't have to invest an hour or so to determine decisions you made early on were completely off target.

    That said, however, if you actually pay attention to the story line and think things through, it all makes sense what you have to research, etc. But thinking things through is a weak point of mine, I guess.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

    "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

  14. #14
    Hydro
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    I just got DA and have a few observations. I came late enough to DL that Iím likely only a journeyman, but overall I am enjoying the game.

    Speed: engines now take much more space. My previous strategy was to rush to Impulse 3 or so, cram engines on a cargo hull with a survey module, and gobble up all the anomalies in creation (speed 13 does that). This used to generate prestigious amounts of cash, but it doesnít work so easily anymore so the early game is a bit more challenging to avoid my economy imploding. My late rush in DL had many spd 13 colony ships Ė no more! I have spd 4 or 5 if Iím very lucky. Likewise, by late mid game I canít get speed 50 constructers and heavy transports flying all over the universe while my battle fleets plod along at spd 17 or so. Now if I want spd 5 I have to sacrifice. Moreover, there is a nasty special event that limits all speeds to 5 parsecs a turn (happened in my last game). In my experience the AI did not research engines and even if they did they didnít use them, preferring weapons and maybe bit or armor to speed. So, I think limiting speed is a good thing since it makes the galaxy smaller (and therefore more epic), makes the human player have harder decisions (speed/weapons), and nerfs a prime area of human advantage (without a blatant AI cheat). For me this is evidence that Stardock is paying attention.

    Super abilities: This adds whole new nuances to the game. Iíve only played with Super Adapter (can colonize toxic and aquatic worlds at the start). This gives each race flavor, and hones strategy to your race Ė which is a good thing. Iím looking forward to experimenting with the other abilities.

    Spies/espionage: so far Iím unimpressed with the retooling. The Iconians have a 50% racial espionage bonus so I expected my spies to do something. But no, they were all summarily eliminated after ~4 turns by a very weak AI. At least I still got some general info out of the deal. Iíd be interested to see if others had different experiences.

    Colony rush: this wasnít much different since Iíve only played the Iconians/super adapter, which allows me 3 world types instead of the 1 that other races get. Of course, the toxic/aquatic colonies took forever to be productive since they have a huge (50%?) production penalty until I get level 2 colonization tech, which is hugely expensive. But this does make me make careful choices, none of which are no-brainers or linear (like other games). **NOTE Ė perhaps this is why my economy seemed to be doing better in DA: the production ability of the aquatic/toxic/rad/high-grav/barren worlds was so poor that they generated much more in taxes than what was used in a normal colony, creating an apparent surplus.**

    Asteroid mining: for me this is just another thing to fight over. They do seem to flip a lot. I practically invite the swarms of AI mining ships into my territory so they can set up a mine, and then have it flip to me shortly thereafter. Perhaps the AI could be improved a bit on this front. The production boost is nice, particularly early at my capital. Mines at a distance are almost worthless until you get level 2 or 3, at which point the attenuation gives you something, although by this time your planetary production makes the mining bonus pretty irrelevant.

    New improvements: fusion and other multipliers can really crank up production when combined with manufacturing capital. They are only really useful on manufacturing-specialized or biased planets (in many cases a standard factory is better). Of course, if your economy canít supply enough resources to utilize the extra production then it is kind of a waste, so you need to be careful.

    Economy: I havenít worked up the difficulty food chain yet in DA (Iím at Normal), but my economy seems to get into the green faster. Not sure why, and with only a few games under my belt this is purely a qualitative observation. See my note, above, on colonization.

    Combat: in my games I didnít play past later mid game, so I didnít notice much difference. Overall I had less armor due to engine size; I had to keep my guns up to be competitive with what the AI was doing.

    AI tech trading: as in most of my games, the AI tends to cluster their military research in such a way that Iím suspicious they are either patterned similarly or trade their tech. For instance, in many games almost all the AIs get either mass drivers, missiles, or more rarely direct fire. Moreover, the levels they attain are similar. Of course, this makes countering with the correct sort of armor easier, and I havenít seen the AI change course with a new weapons line (like I do to the AI to be tricky: early ships are a weapon type I know I wonít pursue, then I change to Ė say Ė phasers with all new capital ships; the AIís investment in armor to counter me is less useful).

    Eye candy: the new ships are pretty, and graphics sharp. I donít have the talent or patience to create the masterful ships Iíve seen at the Stardock site. Very impressive.

    More observations will likely come with more gamesÖ

    Hydro

  15. #15
    yin26
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    Great post, Hydro! Some solid observations there, for sure. I'm determined to finish the campaign first (because I've never finished a campaign that I can remember), so I'm not seeing the "real" game yet, so your feedback is helpful.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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  16. #16
    Solver
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    Ah, so you playing the campaign first? I haven't even started the DA one yet. Still, I love the concept that was also in GalCiv2 - alternate missions. If you lose a mission, you can play a different (and easier) one instead. That's very good for those challenging missions, avoids the frustration of being unable to continue the campaign because some mission is too hard.

    Hydro, a very good post. Believe me, the colony rush can be very different. My last game was pretty unusual, I had lots of good planets nearby (class 15 or better, one class 19), but all these planets had some sort of an extreme condition. As a result, I was forced to prioritize the extreme colonization techs, which left me with worse economic techs, initially. The great planets were more than worth for it, eventually.

    Also, try ships without engines. Not any good if you really need some distance on them, but an all-weapons ship will pack quite a punch, after all. The AI won't hesitate to use such ships. And forget defenses, they're much weaker now than they were in vanilla - I no longer bother with defenses unless I have really good one, certainly not on fighters.

    Use AI's weapons lines against them. They're reasonably okay at using defenses against your weapons, but they'll often have a fairly advanced weapon in one category (such as Sparrow missiles) without even having the basic theory tech for another weapon. Since you can see which techs they have in diplomacy, and you can usually tell which civ is the most likely to attack you, you can prepare yourself better.
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  17. #17
    yin26
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    Yeah, this campaign thing is new territory for me. I just got passed that mission I was talking about...and I didn't know about the alternate missions thing! Cool.

    By the way, on the topic of the use of spies, the campaign features great uses for them, but that might not be reflected in the larger game as well as it does in the campaign. But one good use I can see with spies for sure is that --other than being able to shut down a major enemy tile for a time at least-- is that when you are reaching that "tipping point" in the game and you start having the ability to outspend your opponent. At this point, if you keep pressure on the espionage side, you can *really* start to cripple the guy. It's a super nice mop up phase feature, even if there is a lot of back and forth initially.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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  18. #18
    Hydro
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    Master Yin and Solver,

    Why thank you!

    Solver, your article was an excellent in-depth review, although I was disappointed you punted on your observations on Super Abilities. Personally I think youíre teasing us, and perhaps that may come later. You gave GC2A a solid 9.2/10 (or I assume it was a 10 scale!). There wasnít a breakdown of key elements with individual ratings (UI, aesthetics, AI, ďnewnessĒ, look-and-feel). A Yin Scale/Evaluation would have been interesting.

    Iím still struggling with what I call the Fun Factor for GC2 (DL and DA), which for me is a combination of strategy/options, AI competence, aesthetics, and the immersion associated with the game (e.g. emotionally hooked so that, for instance, I care if I get backstabbed by the Drath). At first take the first three are good to excellent, but Iím not quite sure about the last. For me a long-lasting game needs all four to be at least competent, and the fatal lack of immersion is why I didnít like GC1 so that it quickly became shelfware (and, indeed, why I ignored GC2 for so long Ė a bad aftertaste). On the opposite end, the excellent immersion of SMAC has made it a long-lasting game even if the AI is largely inept. Civ4 is also shelfware since it is so buggy and refuses to run properly on my Dell Ė it has a huge PITA factor that sucked all the fun out of the game. Of course, others will value these (and other) elements differently.

    Well, musing over. A few more observations on GC2A:

    World types: the different types of worlds leads to interesting strategic problems and opportunities. Since different races will (or wonít) get various colonization tech it is highly likely that empires will be much more co-mingled. In general the AI will colonize every world they see, and it seems they grab the first one they come across Ė kind of a wave of colonization. The AI is good enough to select the better of a few nearby planets, though, but distance is a key factor (which is good since at speed 2 colony the AI colony ships take forever to get anywhere). The result in my games so far is that many empires have very intermingled borders and a number of outposts/outlier planets. Now, what does this mean? Obviously it implies that defending these will be more difficult, so you MUST get at least a token military force up to increase your empireís military ranking or the AI will view you as meat (watch for declining opinion; military ranking counts significantly here, it seems). Second, beyond getting your overall empire military rating up, you need to get good local defenses. This will be very expensive on toxic/aquatic/grav/barren/rad worlds since they take so long to get their own production, and sending ships from across the galaxy really isnít an option. For instance, I colonized a PQ26 (!!) rad world by the Korath. Obviously, no one in the area has rad tech. I know this will be a big problem, and Iíd better have the economy to buy improvements outright to get it up and running, and perhaps redirect my research to get level 2 rad tech colonization so the planet isnít crippled for so long. Otherwise all Iíve done is gifted the Korath a beautiful world (with a sucky production potential until I get level 2 rad colonization tech), or have it fall victim to a nasty spoor ship. Third, having AI planets in your general sphere of influence is an opportunity for influence flips if you have a small AI colony in your territory; likewise, be careful that your influence doesnít slip if you have a world by a influence-heavy AI like the Altarans or Torians. Fourth, when you do finally go to war youíll have lots of internal mop up to do, especially since fleet speeds will be slow. Leaving these outlier colonies behind the lines is not an option (unless you station a good starship to paste any ships they might build) since a single fighter can cause lots of havoc to non combat ships and resource starbases.

    Aside: I suspect that at more advanced levels a human player will have to decline far-flung colonies no matter how juicy since they will be almost impossible to defend. As I said, there is no point building up a planet and then effectively gifting it to a hostile AI.

    Economy: in my last game I upgraded to Challenging. As in previous games, my economy improved much faster than in GC2L, and magnitude of my early game deficits were smaller. Although more analysis is needed I think I was right that the production-challenged toxic/aquatic/rad/barren/grav worlds do influence your overall economy Ė taxes are larger than the pathetic production needs, resulting in a better budget situation. On the flip side, it is maddening how slowly they develop, and any economic surplus is easily taken up by having to rush-buy improvements so it doesnít take 50+ bloody turns to get one improvement done.

    Aside: Also on economy, I am an acolyte of Velociryx, who convinced me long ago that the key to strategy games is a good economic underpinning. With a good economy and proper planning (and a bit of luck) you have more options, which is where GC2 shines (other strategy games are essentially linear so it doesnít matter). Cash is king, so to speak. That is why I pay attention to trends in how a game plays, even if I havenít worked on the nuts and bolts.

    Super Abilities: My experience is limited, but already the Super Manipulator Drath is causing trouble. The Ďgoodí Drath got my buddy the Altarans to go to war with my other buddies the Arceans (the Altarans even called me to notify me that Ďother powersí had convinced them of the Arcean threatÖhmm, I wonder who that might have beenÖ). Now, from a strategic sense this excellent for the Drath as two of its neighbors who might have been friends are going to beat each otherís brains out. The Drath can now grab more colonies, secure its borders, get newly liberated resources, and generally be more powerful in that area of the galaxy. It makes my life as the Iconians much more complicated in many ways: the Korath and Krynn are by the Altarans, who may very well swoop in and eviscerate my potential allies and trade partners. The usefulness of Super Manipulator ability is becoming very clear. For those who are fans of Star Fleet Battles, the motto of the Tholians come to mind: Letís You And Him Fight.

    Another powerful super ability is Hive. The Thalians are even more aggressive than in GCL about spamming out colony ships and constructors. In GC2A they are by far the best colonizers in the game that Iíve seen, and always seem to have a robust economy and industrial level. I suspect this ability (like Super Adapter) wanes in the mid and late game, but if you can establish a good base for your empire then you are better set for later stages.

    Super Adapter is hugely useful in the early game since it increases the planets you can colonize from 1 (worlds that anyone can colonize) to 3 (any, toxic, aquatic) of 6 six world types (all, toxic, aquatic, rad, barren, and heavy gravity). As Solver mentioned in his review, you can sell these techs for huge amounts of money to a minor power or a major power. Iím pretty careful, though, and will only consider selling/trading to a minor that is well inside my territory (so it doesnít sell/trade/tribute the tech to someone else) or an ally or likely ally. Another side benefit is that your empire is likely to be more contiguous, since the AIs canít grab the toxic and aquatic worlds that you can colonize from the start. Strategically this is very useful. A disadvantage is that it is tempting to colonize juicy worlds in other AIís spheres; ships take a long time to get there due to slow speeds, the colonies are vulnerable for very long time, and will take lots of resources/economy to get up to speed (see note, above, on world types).

    Well, back to GC2A. My home improvement projects and life in general are on hold. Good thing it is cold and nasty here in the Chicago area.

    Hydro

  19. #19
    Solver
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    Solver, your article was an excellent in-depth review, although I was disappointed you punted on your observations on Super Abilities. Personally I think youíre teasing us, and perhaps that may come later. You gave GC2A a solid 9.2/10 (or I assume it was a 10 scale!). There wasnít a breakdown of key elements with individual ratings (UI, aesthetics, AI, ďnewnessĒ, look-and-feel). A Yin Scale/Evaluation would have been interesting.


    The moment I started writing it, I totally knew it's going to be large. I'm a windbag. A complete one. Now, if I included my comments on those Super Abilities that I've had a chance to evaluate, that would push the whole review over the size sanity limit. That's not to say that it won't come in the forum .

    And I suck at giving scores. I generally prefer to review without giving a score at an end, but if I do give a score like I did now, it's a general impression. I don't want to break it down into elements . And Yin's scale is, of course, Yin's .

    Iím still struggling with what I call the Fun Factor for GC2 (DL and DA), which for me is a combination of strategy/options, AI competence, aesthetics, and the immersion associated with the game (e.g. emotionally hooked so that, for instance, I care if I get backstabbed by the Drath). At first take the first three are good to excellent, but Iím not quite sure about the last. For me a long-lasting game needs all four to be at least competent, and the fatal lack of immersion is why I didnít like GC1 so that it quickly became shelfware (and, indeed, why I ignored GC2 for so long Ė a bad aftertaste). On the opposite end, the excellent immersion of SMAC has made it a long-lasting game even if the AI is largely inept. Civ4 is also shelfware since it is so buggy and refuses to run properly on my Dell Ė it has a huge PITA factor that sucked all the fun out of the game. Of course, others will value these (and other) elements differently.


    You are fairly demanding. I prefer Civ4 overall, but GalCiv2 won't become shelfware for me too soon. GalCiv2 has good strategic depth, overall AI and it's a very pleasing game aesthetically. Immersion is very, very much a personal opinion. I wish GalCiv2 had a great soundtrack like Civ4 does, that helps immersion too.

    About world types: yep, empires are more mixed up now, and a negative observation in that regard is that the AI will grab extreme worlds in star systems of other civs, ignoring influence. Such planets often become extremely easy to flip culturally. Even the AI, which is generally incompetent at culture flipping, can sometimes do that. For the human, it takes hardly any effort.

    Oh, and the AI sucks at choosing the best planet in a system. Your observation that "the AI is good enough to select the better of a few nearby planets" is, sadly, wrong. Well, it's somewhat random, really. IF the AI sees several planets at once, it will colonize the best. If not, it will not. An example. I approach a planet with a colony ship. I see it's class 10 and I click the star. The star says 2 habitable planets. I won't colonize - I will instead move my ship further the next turn to lift the fog over the other planet. It may well be class 18. The AI doesn't do that. If it approaches the star system from the map's left, it will colonize the best planet it sees after the ship's movement there ended. If the best planet is separate on the right, it will be left uncolonized.

    Then again, there's another colonization trick the AI doesn't really use. If I colonize a planet and there are other non-taken habitables in the system, I'll colonize them ASAP. Which means, if there's not another free Colony Ship in the immediate vicinity (there's probably not), the first thing I do is rush-buy a Starport + Colony Ship on my new planet, and proceed to colonize the other planet at once. I found that waiting for a Colony to arive from elsewhere will usually just cause the AI to grab the planet instead.

    On the flip side, it is maddening how slowly they develop, and any economic surplus is easily taken up by having to rush-buy improvements so it doesnít take 50+ bloody turns to get one improvement done.


    I was once lucky to have an extreme world with a manufacturing bonus square. Such a world develops nicely even with the 50% production hit. Of course, if you have high-class extreme worlds, do get the advanced colonization tech to eliminate the penalty.

    My experience is limited, but already the Super Manipulator Drath is causing trouble.


    If you see the Drath in DA, kill them! Fortunately, they're not a great military race, so a rush against them in order if you start nearby. Otherwise, once they get their econ up and running, they'll be bribing civs to fight you for not much compensation.

    The Thalans kick ass. I actually think that the AI could do even better with them, they're a really powerful civ. They're the only one without a second habitable in their starting system, but I really like playing the Thalans given how much ass they kick.
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  20. #20
    yin26
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    Hey, I love reading posts from you guys!

    Hydro: Ah, I see a bit of Vel in you already. I agree that econ is king, and it strikes me that GC2 seems a little more pointed in this regard than Civ4. It's a little harder to "do everything all at once" it seems here. As for my scale, I'm too lazy! Speaking of...I have to go read Solver's Magnum Opus. I didn't realize it was posted! Back in a minute ... or maybe hour?
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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    yin26
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    Solver: WOW! Man, I'm telling you: Please get into gaming as a profession. We need you. That was one of the best reviews I've ever read. The criticisms were sharp but usually came with advice on possible fixes. The praise was direct but not fanboyish. In other words, you came across as highly competent and very fair. That's a super hard combo, my friend. Well done!
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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    yin26
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    Couple of thoughts on various things:

    1. The AI not checking a bit over to see if a planet is of higher quality demonstrates at least a lack of cheating. That's good. Clearly, though, if the AI can't be programmed to check out its surroundings a little better, then maybe there can be a tech that essentially reveals planet qualities to everybody (not just the AI, which then would be a cheat). It should be a low-level but obviously critical early game tech.

    2. One thing you guys have both done in your posts at various points is speak about the civs as if they have real character, which mostly it seems they do. I agree that SMAC was perhaps the best ever at this sort of thing, but GC2 is doing a pretty darn good job of it, too. That, in part, is why I feel like the campaign actually holds interest for me.

    3. SOLVER: Did you know that you can use the scroll wheel during negotiations? I agree with your criticism, of course, and see this fault in ALL negotions built into these games. Just give us a "Best Offer" (gold only) option, please! And if you want to reward the micro manics, give them a 5% bonus if they do the negotiations "by hand." But the scroll wheel really helps...and do you remember the days before the text turned green!!!
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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  23. #23
    Solver
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    Hydro: Ah, I see a bit of Vel in you already. I agree that econ is king, and it strikes me that GC2 seems a little more pointed in this regard than Civ4. It's a little harder to "do everything all at once" it seems here.


    I also like to think of myself as Vel's student... and the econ foundation in GC2 is damn sure interesting. Spending is a fun thing. You can have the capacity for great research (tons of labs), but actually have crap research because you're near-bankrupt and need to allocate more to money. It's an interesting economic system, though in all fairness, I do not think GalCiv2 and Civ4 can be compared in this particular regard - the economies in the two games are very, very vastly (I just used some crappy English) different.

    Solver: WOW! Man, I'm telling you: Please get into gaming as a profession. We need you. That was one of the best reviews I've ever read. The criticisms were sharp but usually came with advice on possible fixes. The praise was direct but not fanboyish. In other words, you came across as highly competent and very fair. That's a super hard combo, my friend. Well done!


    Thanks Yin . Notice my comment here . Oh, but I have to mention that I am not in Korea, so I'd probably end up bankrupt very soon if I hoped to get paid for playing or reviewing games .
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  24. #24
    Solver
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    1. The AI not checking a bit over to see if a planet is of higher quality demonstrates at least a lack of cheating. That's good. Clearly, though, if the AI can't be programmed to check out its surroundings a little better, then maybe there can be a tech that essentially reveals planet qualities to everybody (not just the AI, which then would be a cheat). It should be a low-level but obviously critical early game tech.


    It's not lack of cheating, it's the lack of understanding that moving the colony for one more turn instead of colonizing might reveal a better planet. Unless there's a foreign colony right at the same place, it's worth it. So, it's a simple trick that the AI is unaware of, not lack of cheating.

    2. One thing you guys have both done in your posts at various points is speak about the civs as if they have real character, which mostly it seems they do. I agree that SMAC was perhaps the best ever at this sort of thing, but GC2 is doing a pretty darn good job of it, too. That, in part, is why I feel like the campaign actually holds interest for me.


    Yeah, very good stuff there. Unique text helps a lot. The GalCiv universe is a fairly thought-out sci-fi creation by Brad, so the civs do have actual backgrounds. I feel that some civs (like the Korx) have less of a personality, but overall the personalities are interesting. Oh, and the actual AIs also differ somewhat so different civs play differently.

    3. SOLVER: Did you know that you can use the scroll wheel during negotiations? I agree with your criticism, of course, and see this fault in ALL negotions built into these games. Just give us a "Best Offer" (gold only) option, please! And if you want to reward the micro manics, give them a 5% bonus if they do the negotiations "by hand." But the scroll wheel really helps...and do you remember the days before the text turned green!!!


    Yeah, I know. I even discovered that you can type in there. But it still drives me crazy.

    And a big, loud "no" on the 5% bonus. It's the same as not having the "best gold" button at all, as you would not, essentially, be getting a best deal, and you would STILL have to go by hand to find it. That sucks. Just, please, give us the "fill maximum gold in here" button and be done with it.
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  25. #25
    yin26
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    What I mean by no cheating, of course, is the AI doesn't know already where the best planets are. Even Civ still retains this kind of knowledge, right, though Soren doesn't consider it cheating? And I don't mind "giving away" 5% if it makes the micro people happy to earn something for their pain! Heck, call it a transaction fee or something:

    "Click here to have your agent negotiate the best price in gold, minus 5% for his handling fee."

    I'd click it for sure! Maybe even have a later tech reduce the fee or get rid of it entirely. I'm just saying if you want to retain some atmosphere on this (which, I think, is the point of the 'negotiations' in the first place), a system like this might work.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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  26. #26
    Solver
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    No, Civ4 thankfully doesn't have that sort of cheating. The Civ4 AI has certain discounts, but it doesn't know things it's not supposed to know. Although the pathfinding algorithms sometimes may make it appear that the AI knows if certain spots have your units or not - it's a fairly complex thing.
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  27. #27
    yin26
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    I recall Soren being surprised when people pointed out that the AI knew where certain things were and calling that cheating. His response was something like 'Of course the AI cheats like this, but that's no big deal.' I could dig up the thread.

    My point, actually, is that if the AI can't be made to do these things without cheating, then a certain bit of 'help' would be fine with me. For example, maybe the AI simply gets to know the quality of planets before I do, or it gets wider range sensors or something.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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  28. #28
    Solver
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    Well, in this particular example, the AI doesn't really need to know planet qualities beforehand. It does a pretty fair job anyway, though that extra bit of investigation could be a good addition. I'd say that the GalCiv2 AI doesn't really need any information cheats - in GalCiv2 AI, there's not much hidden information. With just minimal espionage investment, you know lots about other civs anyway, there are no resources that pop up in the mid-game, ships defending a planet are visible, etc.
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  29. #29
    yin26
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    The thread to which Soren responded is here: http://apolyton.net/forums/showthrea...hreadid=142303 His reply I can't replicate here (for NDA purposes), but basically most gamers agree that the AI needs help. What I find interesting is that CalCiv2 is trying to push this cheating as far back as possible and still have a competent AI. Of course, sometimes this leads to the AI making mistakes that a human usually wouldn't, like looking at a grouping of planets before colonizing the best one in sight. It seems like that could be fixed, though, either with a new AI routine or with some simple tech.
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

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  30. #30
    Solver
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    Yeah, I remember that thread along with Soren's reply now. It's somewhat complicated technically, too, but overall, I found that I don't mind the extent of AI cheating that is present in Civ4. What I hate is very obvious cheating, such as the Civ3 AI always knowing where resources will pop up or knowing as soon as you move defenders out of a city. With subtle and relatively insignificant cheats, I am willing to accept those as part of a price for having a competent and fun AI.

    I am, after all, a self-confessed AI whore. Have to mention SMAC here as an exception, the game has really poor AI, but I kept playing it for a long-time because of absolutely awesome depth and atmosphere.
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