Crusade is the space strategy game made by 4X nuts for 4X nuts. Let's do this.
What is Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade?
In 2015, Stardock released the latest entry in its popular 4X space strategy game series, Galactic Civilizations III. 4X means eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate and is turn-based. GalCiv III was well received (81 metacritic) and has a recent Steam review score of 82.
However, coming from Galactic Civilizations II (94 metacritic), there was some grumbling because it wasn't a huge change from GalCiv II. It did play it a bit safe because GalCiv III was developed alongside with Stardock's new, 64-bit, multi-core game engine.
Crusade, by contrast, is the opposite of Galactic Civilizations III. It is insane. No sane company would make this as an expansion. Some will argue that Crusade is what GalCiv III should have been. I say nonsense. There is no way all of this could have been attempted on a brand-new game engine. The things being done in Crusade are the result of multiple years of experience with this new engine and a lot of training in using the engine's new multi-core job system.
The goal of Crusade is simple: Make a strategy game that also feels like it's taking place in a living galaxy.
EACH GAME IS YOUR STORY
I want to emphasize that. Galactic Civilizations is a sandbox game that is played as a 4X. We include our own civilizations in the game, but we encourage users to create their own, too. To bring the point home, Crusade doesn't include any new campaign or "story" driven material whatsoever.
The Drengin Empire is still waiting for karma to strike back..
Let's take a look at how the first turn of Crusade is. For those of you who have the base game, please comment below about how these decisions might be different.
The first turn...
This is my story. Your story will be different.
I have created a civilization called the United Earth government.
I designed every aspect of this civilization in the Civ Builder. That means the ships that they have. What their starbases look like. What technologies they will have access to. What ships they can have. What planetary improvements they can construct, and even what citizens they can have and what they will look like.
The United Earth Gov will be playing against a bunch of civilizations that I downloaded from fans, along with the stock GalCiv civilizations.
I'm playing on a huge, tight cluster galaxy. I chose tight because I really like seeing the galaxy as an ocean with islands made out of stars.
The story begins
The first turn of the game. What my ships look like and what they are called are unique to the civ I created. I have no talent for art, which means all my ships came from fans via Steam Workshop. There are over 10,000 ships already online to choose from.
My civilization started out with a Constructor because my Civilization has the "inventive" trait. It also has an attack ship because I chose the "Angry" trait.
When I zoom out with my mouse wheel, I see that there is a relic. This is super awesome because they're pretty rare. The dotted hex on the screen is the range of my constructor ship. As long as the object is within that hex, the starbase affects it.
Note that I do not start with a Shipyard. That is because this civilization doesn't have a trait that provides for that (and most don't). Deciding whether to rush build a shipyard is an important decision.
Hitting the TAB key OR pressing the "Research" button in the bottom right of the screen brings up the available technologies to research.
What technologies I have available are based on what civilization traits I have. There is no longer a fixed "tech tree," but rather a tech tree that is generated based on the civilization's traits.
The tech screen is simpler than it was in the base game. I know every game wants to have a fancy research system, but I don't like to fight with a UI. Techs are just a menu of goodies I can add to my civilization.
In this example my choices are:
- Colonial Settlements: A bunch of missions are added to my future Shipyard.
- Planetology: Allows me to build Brindle's Observatory.
- Artificial Gravity: Lets my ships go (+1) faster.
- Militarization: Lets me build armed ships.
- Universal Translator: Lets me talk to alien civs.
- Xeno Commerce: Lets me start making money.
In addition, what goodies a tech gives you can also change based on what civ traits you have.
I chose Artificial Gravity.
Next, I am taken to my home planet (that's Earth by the way, contrary to...rumors)...
Now, the first thing is that the Harmony Crystals here provide something locally (to make people happy) if I build on them and they also will provide a resource that is needed for a variety of other things later on.
So, what should I build?
In the base game, the player started with a Shipyard so that wasn't even a starting choice. In this example, I will probably build a shipyard because my starting planet (again, EARTH) doesn't have any unusual traits other than the flood plain.
What does winning look like?
You can with through conquest (good luck with that). You can also win via influence (a cultural victory), technology (become a god via tech), Ascension victory (take control of the Precursor Ascension Crystals and move to a higher dimension, good luck with that), and Diplomatic victory (get everyone to ally with you - this used to be the easiest way to win).
Since Crusade has a different alliance system (under the covers), late game players see the civs break into blocks.
At the start of the game your government consists of...well, you.
You have yet to get anyone to help you with construction, research or administration. And don't poo-poo administration. Seriously. I just finished getting Stardock's books ready for the accountants.
If you're coming from base GalCiv III you will notice all the numbers are really small now.
And on turn 1, you of course have 1 planet. In this case, Earth. What do those numbers mean?
- Planet Class: Earth is now a class 11 planet. This is how many tiles you get to build on. We upgraded Earth from a 10 (GalCiv for OS/2) to a class 11 because GalCiv III takes place in 2242 whereas GalCiv I only took place in 2178 so we decided it had improved.
- Population: Earth starts out at a 10. We have abstracted this over the years as it feels weird to take a billion people onto a transport.
- Influence: 3.1 influence is pretty good. But that's because it's your capital planet.
- Approval: 60%. People are pretty happy.
- Research, Net Income, and Construction: These are actually pretty big numbers.
You can also create your own designs. In this fan made ship, you can see the first row (of several) parts at the bottom of the screen used to construct it. The game gives you building blocks that you can use to create anything you want.
If you go to options, you can have access to all the ship parts.
When making your own ships, you simply take a part from the menu and drag it over to one of the red dots to stick it. You can then choose to animate it, rotate it, resize it, etc.
As you can see from the above screenshot, I am a true artist...
But ships aren't just about how they look. You arm them with weapons, defenses, engines, special components, etc. to counter what your opponents are doing.
Now I'm back to the main map.
You may notice that only Earth and the moon have a little blue circle around it. That's not a selection cursor. That's your empire. That's it, pissant. You don't even have Mars in your sphere of influence yet.
I send my constructor to be closer to the relic. I send the survey ship out to explore and I send my little battle cruiser out to explore. At this point, I am ready to end my first turn.
Ending my first turn
For Crusade, we have really worked to make sure that each game feels very different and that each of your turns is interesting and meaningful.
Crusade will be out very soon. You will be able to get it for $19.99 if you already have Galactic Civilizations III and we will have a package that integrates GalCiv III and Crusade for $39.99.
Let us know what you think in the comments.