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Before there was Stellaris, Endless Space, Galactic Civilizations or Sins of a Solar Empire, there was Imperium Galactica, made in Hungary. The game I am about to review in this article is the second (and last) game, released in 1999, with its 1997 predecessor being a spiritual sequel to the 1995 game Reunion, which in turn was heavily influenced by the 1990 game Supremacy. It's an interesting point of trivia, that Imperium Galactica, Imperium Galactica II and Reunion all had their soundtracks composed by Tamás Kreiner.
Throughout the article, I will be using screenshots from the game, which I believe is protected under fair use, as this article is a review of said game. Without further ado, I begin by imploring everyone reading this article to begin listening to the amazing soundtrack of the game, as we begin exploring the wonderful world of Imperium Galactica II: Alliances.
In case it wasn't made obvious by now, Imperium Galactica is a game about space. More precisely, it's a 4X Grand Strategy game, where you control a space empire.
To sum it all up, you control an empire that spans multiple planets, though at the beginning of the game, it's usually just two planets and a small fleet. It is your responsibility to manage the buildup of the infrastructure of said planets, which the game calls "colonies".
You colonize planets by sending a special type of ship - the Colonizer - onto them, however, it's worth terraforming said planets first using the Terraformer ship, because planets with a terrain type that your species likes are going to give you bonuses to production, tax income and population growth.
Unusually among other 4X games, in Imperium Galactica, the first two Xs - Explore and Expand - are highly interconnected, as your ships' and colonies' sensors have a limited range, and the further you get from your nearest colony, the weaker your sensors get, forcing you to actually build new colonies in order to explore space. Expansion is also vital for technology, as you are required to build more science buildings in order to be able to research higher-tier technology.
However, building new colonies is not the only way to expand: conquering other empires' planets is also a legitimate strategy. It typically goes like this: you take a fleet that is carrying tanks on it, and simply order to move onto an enemy empire's planet - or neutral empire's, if you are willing to declare war. Hostile planets are typically protected by a few space cannons and space bases, so you are guaranteed to get a space battle similar to when you encounter a hostile fleet. Once you have neutralized the planet's space defenses, it is your tanks' turn to win the planetary invasion against the defensive fortresses built on the planet and tanks stationed on the colony. Once you have eliminated every single hostile tank and turret, the colony is yours.
However, it takes more than a large fleet and large armada of tanks to win your space battles and planetary invasions. Sure, trying to overwhelm your enemy with numbers is a legitimate strategy - and in fact, recommended for one of the races I will mention - it is arguably better to rely on quality over quantity. But how do you increase the quality of your ships and tanks? Via research and planning, of course!
In addition to building up your infrastructure, researching new technologies, redesigning your ships and tanks, fighting space battles and invading enemy planets, the game also features diplomacy, espionage and trade.
The goal of the game varies, because there are three modes:
The Multiplayer/Skirmish mode, where the goal is simply to be the last one surviving, defeating every other hostile empire. You can set up the beginning parameters, pick what race you are playing as, how many planets, what starting technology levels, etc.
The Mission mode, where your goal is predefined: reach a certain population, conquer a certain planet, defeat a certain empire, defend a certain empire, etc.
The Story mode, where you are presented with a semi-linear story that integrates with your empire-building experience. You can either win by defeating every other empire, or by completing any of the other alternative victory conditions that are presented to you during the story. Be careful though, as there are some alternate defeat conditions too!
Imperium Galactica II: Alliances features 8 playable races, 3 of which are also playable in Story Mode.
The main ones playable in Story Mode are:
The Solarian Federation, who are just humans, called "Solarians" for some reason. They research new technology 30% faster and cheaper. Otherwise, they are average and mediocre in every way. They are also the only race able to research both the paralyzing beam and the anti-material beam, of which every other race can only research one or the other, but not both. The Solarians are a well-rounded race for new players.
The Shinari Republic are a race of horned aliens, who get double the trade income and their spies succeed at double the chance. However, their military is weaker, and they lack access to several weapon technology (albeit they do have exclusive access to the Ship Manipulator, which turns enemy ships against each other). Their military weakness is not that much of a weakness, as you can simply compensate by building and buying more ships, overwhelming your enemies via sheer numbers. If you are an advanced player, or dislike battles and prefer to simply buy your way into victory watch as your spies make all hostile planets defect to you, play as the Sinhari.
The Kra'Hen Empire are a race of invaders from another galaxy. Besides their statistical bonuses and malluses - 30% cheaper ships, 30% faster shipbuilding, 25% more productivity, but research is 30% slower and more expensive, exclusive access to Destructor Rays - their playstyle is unique: they are literally incapable of diplomacy, espionage and trade, but also cannot be spied upon. This means that you will never have any allies, and once you have attacked another empire (or they attacked you), there is no making peace - if you are stuck in a multi-front war, you're screwed.
Also, in story mode, the Kra'Hen Empire has some timed missions that you must complete on time to prevent defeat, e.g. completely destroying another empire on behalf of the God-Emperor.
The other five races - only playable in multiplayer, skirmish mode and the single-player missions - are:
The Antarian Empire, who look like the grays. Their radars are better (allowing faster exploration), their ships are faster (letting them always decide when and where do space battles take place, unless you are more technologically advanced than them) and their ships can equip extra shields.
The Iberon Empire, which are aliens who build buildings twice as fast, build colonization ships faster and cheaper, and their ships can host more weapons.
The Godan Kingdom has a 150% population growth rate on all planets, not needing terraformers at all. They can also put more torpedoes and shields on their ships.
The Cheblon Clans has the ability to see what's on planets without building spy satelites, and are better at diplomacy than other races.
The Toulen Empire has a 30% bonus to population growth, and can put more bombs onto their ships.
There are also several races that are completely unplayable, appearing in story-mode only (as enemies), or as races that your spies can be.
The game features a tutorial that teaches you the basics. After that, I would recommend playing the Solarian campaign: the Shinari and Kra'Hen are recommended for advanced players. The campaigns, the story-mode is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the game mechanics and the various other races, before you get to play against them again - or as them - in Skirmish mode.
You want to be rather frugal and conservative with the spending, and not research much first - if you are Shinari, by all means, build trade-related buildings that give you credits upon arriving ships, but for other races, it is arguably more profitable to just hunt down trading ships. Unless you're playing as the Godans, it is strongly recommended to terraform every planet before colonizing them, as the suitable planets will give you a 150% population growth.
Even in story-mode, it's worth to build up a decent-sized armada early on, as you never know when you have an urgent mission to crush some pirate fleets and occupy their planets. It's also important to learn to utilize your race's strengths and the weaknesses of enemy races: e.g. the Kra'Hen's complete inability to conduct diplomacy leaves them vulernable to multi-front wars, thus it only takes an aliance of two empires to gradually grind them down; the Shinari's spying and trade strength allow them to subvert other empires and generate lots of money, which can be used to buy a huge armada that compensates for their supposed military weakness; the Godan don't need to waste time building terraformers; the Solarians will keep the technological edge in the hands of a smart player, etc.
You're learn how to exploit the AI's weaknesses pretty fast. The game might be a challenge at first, but it takes no time for even the hardest difficult to be a cakewalk, as long as you know what you're doing.
If you've already played games like Stellaris, then getting into Imperium Galactica II won't be too hard.
Imperium Galactica II is an amazing game, way ahead of its time. To me, it's an evergreen, I can always come back to it and never get disappointed. The controls are flawless. The interface is nice and convenient. The gameplay is pretty entertaining, and the story mode campaign won't disappoint you either. My only complaint would be, that ground battles are always rigged in favour of whoever is standing still, and against whoever is on the move - which is to say, that even when you're the one attacking, the best tactic is basically wait for the enemy's tanks to come and attack yours.
The graphics are pretty damn good for 1999, looking rather decent even by 2021 standards.
As I stated in the beginning of the article, the soundtrack is amazing, and I often listen to it even outside the game.