Space Empires V Review

Since it debuted back in 1993, the Space Empires franchise has always been about three things: maintaining an in-depth (and punishing) space strategy game, mods and pleasing the fans. The first three games were shareware, but after huge fan support Space Empires IV picked up a publisher and was released in 2001. The fifth title in the series, Space Empires V, is now available in stores and continues the long tradition of strategy love. Having never heard of this series till I got the game, it was time to buckle down — and buckle down I did, since this game offers so much, and there’s a lot to learn. You have to step over (well jump over) the learning curve and invest some time into the game in order to truly get what it offers. Even though this game probably won’t sell too well, the game is like a cult classic film: hardcore fans will love it, but new folks will have a hard time adapting to it.

The strategy is really based around on what you want. Yes, you start out on your home planet in a vast galaxy where you can explore and conquer the various neighboring planets, but how you set out to do that is based on you. Want to create fleets of ships and ransack planets or maintain friendly talks and create ties with planets? Let’s start with the ship creation. At first, you chose what ship to create. After running through various ship plans and deciding what you want, you can physically build it by selecting the different required components, and then place them around the ship. For example, general components include a bridge, crew quarters, engines, weapons/shields and life support. The ship layout is broken down into three sectors, A (armor), O (outer hull) and I (inner hull) and you place the different components around the ship. Obviously, you should put key components away from the outer hull so they’re protected. After the initial building, you can name your ship, save the plans and you’re off!

Research is the next aspect. You’re given research points based on how many research plants you have. Of course, you’ll be allowed to divulge a % time to researching different things, and the number of different projects is vast. There are weapon technologies (missiles, warheads and defense weaponry), theoretical science (chemistry allows for plasma weaponry while biology allows for biological weaponry), cultural advancement and applied science (includes vehicle component upgrades). Note that research and ship design are just two of the many different options you can pursue in Space Empires V. As I’m sure you can tell by now, it can get complex to not only think of what to pursue but how to keep up with what is happening. There are many different menus that describe everything, and trying to keep up with everything is tough.

Continuing on the subject of in-depth strategy, Space Empires V offers another aspect that’s been key in the series: diplomacy. Since you’re tackling many different planets across many different galaxies, you’ll be bumping elbows with races far and wide. Therefore, it’s wise to see what other planets can offer. Diplomacy ranges from the rather simple concepts of negotiations, peace treaties, war declarations, seeking help and trades to the more complex actions. For example, when you sign a treaty with a planet there will be so many different conditions you can attach to it. These conditions can range from sharing intelligence, technology, defense, maps and trade — but if one side thinks they’re getting the short end of the stick it’ll make the process much harder. While it may seem complicated (and it is), it opens up wide amounts of different possibilities on how you can keep the galaxy in peace or in war. The detail is very in-depth, and that’s always been a key with the Space Empires series.

There are some downfalls, though. Bugs are still rampant, but Malfador Machinations has released many patches to fix them. The visuals are really nothing to gloat over, as they are not necessarily the high point of the series — the gameplay is. Controlling can be a little frustrating since you can easily miss something and not know which menu it’s in, or miss a reminder since many most of the menus do take up the entire screen. Lastly, the game may put off new players or new fans of the series, since the difficulty is definitely punishing.

There is multiplayer included with the game, as well, composed of either simultaneous-move or turn-based games. But the AI is easily the downfall in multiplayer. It’s simplistic, yes, but also pretty foolish at times. Nonetheless, the replay factor is not necessarily on the multiplayer side, but for the single player aspect.

Space Empires V is the ultimate nod to classic 4X strategy games like Masters of Orion or Galactic Civilizations. The game is very hard compared to the other franchises, but improves on certain aspects. Compared to GCII, the AI is lacking but the depth in diplomacy is huge. If you’re a fan of 4X games or want to engage in one of the most in-depth strategy games released lately, then Space Empires V is your ticket. The community is attached to the new game already, therefore mods are aplenty, which can only enhance the game.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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