GC II changed my life. This game is a low-quality mess.

Posted on Sunday, July 12, 2015

First: I played an endless amount of GCII in high school and it distracted me from many problems and helped create interest in different fields for me. I took that interest and have worked to translate it into a career. Stardock is one of my favorite developers and I am proud to support and continue to support them. Accordingly, I bought a founder pack the day it was announced.

And I am so disappointed in this game. The core gameplay is strong, but it's strong because it is iterative. But that isn't enough, because if you are going to produce a sequel to a great game and only iterate on it, you need to include core features from the prior game.

Let's talk about things from GCII that GCIII does not have:

  • Espionage (even basic espionage as it appeared in Dread Lords)
  • Super Abilities (an expansion feature)
  • Heavily differentiated tech trees (also an expansion feature)
  • Outstanding AI (perhaps this is an opinion but I am terribly disappointed that the game has not lived up to the standards and promises set early in its development)

So three and a half out of four of these were features added by Dark Avatar and Twilight of the Arnor that built on Dread Lords' foundation. And GCIII doesn't have them. And that is not okay. I talked early about iteration, and what I'm observing is that GCIII iterates on Dread Lords: not DA or ToA. We're playing a new game that lacks major features that its predecessor (ToA is GCIII's predecessor, not Dread Lords). Why play it? What does it bring that's new?

Adjacency on the planet screen? Starbases that are marginally easier to manage? More complex combat that is still not interactive at all (something that was on the drawing table when the game was announced but never came to pass). An easier early game? Very marginal graphical improvements? None of these things are significant changes and none of them are worth the loss of the features I mentioned earlier.

Bigger maps? More opponents? Too bad this game's a dog, performance-wise.

We do have multiplayer but...there are 1500 people in-game and one lobby up in the multiplayer browser, so that's a big success.

We have a few new features, too.

An poorly designed UI that manages to obscure information and make the player work harder to manage their empire. I'll quote what I said in this thread (with some additions).

The UI is slow and lags when doing things like clearing notifications. Meanwhile, I have to click all of my ships to know where they are going. In GC II I could see their paths on the minimap and had highlighted spots on the main view to identify spots ships were heading, while telling me how long they would take to get there. Also worth mentioning is that there are still spots where text doesn't physically fit and the game continues to be filled with glaring spelling and grammar issues (just like GC II -- I guess some things never change). And let's say I want to move from shipyard to shipyard to change rally points. Nothing tells me, unless I move into the govern screen, which rallypoint a shipyard is set to. Indeed, if I move to select a rallypoint, the existing one isn't highlighted. 

If you look at your fleets, you'll see that the fleet management options have been incredibly limited. Some examples: there's no auto-retreat, and there's no upgrade-all command. The details window doesn't provide any additional information. Well...that's not entirely true. It tells me the crew size and the combined mass of the fleet. Very useful. This screen is a lost opportunity considering that the game has added a lot of additional functional customization options for ships.

Ships also auto-join fleets they share a hex with (this can't be turned off) and when ships arrive at a fleet, the fleet's prior commanders are overriden and you end up with more "idle ship buttons." If a basic fighter arrives to join a major fleet, the fleet should not to ask for new orders. A "go-to ship/fleet" command would be nice, too.

I try to tell my friends that Stardock is one of the best companies in gaming, but I'm really not seeing it. C'mon guys, do better. There's almost zero reason to play this over GCII with expansions.