Space Empires V PC CD-ROM
Published by Empire Interactive
Developed by Malfador Machinations
Release Date: Out Now
In-depth space strategy titles are one of those games that most people appreciate when they have been done well. Galactic Civilizations II was a superb example of this. It had all the required 4X ingredients (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate), oodles of depth and to top it off it was well polished when it was released. Before Galactic Civilizations II you're probably going back as far as Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri for a game that really did the whole space thing really well. There have been a few series that we haven't had a chance to look at though. One look at the name of Space Empires V tells us that four previous games have appeared in the series and we haven't seen any of them. Perhaps we should have done because Space Empires V is actually very good.
Those of you who have played games such as Master of Orion 2, Star Trek Birth of the Federation and Galactic Civilizations II (or I daresay previous Space Empires games) will pretty much know what to expect with Space Empires V. You begin in your own solar system with your chosen race with the whole of space as your rather large oyster. You'll design and build your own spacecraft, colonize other planets for precious resources, research umpteen technologies and generally look after the well being of your people. Of course there's a rather large fly in the ointment or rather there's several flies in the ointment because there are other races out there that also want their piece of the galaxy and some will even want your piece of the galaxy. Naturally diplomacy is called for and in some cases war is necessary (and at times desirable) for you to get your own way. Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many other intricacies and considerations. Where Space Empires V stands out is the amount of depth the game has and the attention of detail it goes into. Make no mistake there's a lot to get your head around.
The game offers a Quick Start, New Game, Tutorial and Scenario modes. Quick Start preselects everything for you except the race you'll play as. New Game allows you to configure every aspect of your game including the option to play the game as a multiplayer game if you so desire. At the time of writing there are no included scenarios in the Scenario mode but I daresay some will be made available in the near future. You'll want to begin by undertaking the tutorial but be warned it's rather on the long side. It takes around two hours to go through but thankfully you can save at any time and come back to it later. Surprisingly though the tutorial doesn't cover half of what it should do. There's nothing on diplomacy or warfare and having played through the tutorial in one sitting I felt rather let down by it. Politics, Intelligence and looking after the well being of your population were also aspects that the tutorial neglected to cover. Fortunately the manual makes a better job of things and essentially you'll have to read it if you want to make up for the deficiencies of the tutorial.
Space Empires V will bowl you over with the sheer amount of depth the game contains. You could easily spend an hour just setting up a new game if you wanted to. There are 14 different race types. You'll get to choose the name, logo, spacecraft styles of your race etc. You'll also have to choose the type of government they use, their racial traits and the type of society they are (are they artisans or farmers for instance). Is your race emotionless, psychic or even an ancient race? All of your choices will affect how your race plays. Of course you also have to throw in around ten different victory conditions and lots of galaxy configurations. There are lots of details to consider when you're setting up a game but it essentially means you'll have virtually unlimited replay value with the game. Of course you can just skip all of the configuration options (except for picking a race to play as) by selecting the Quick game option from the main menu.
It's not just the game creation that will have you bamboozled with options. Creating your spacecraft for instance will allow you to place your bridge, crew quarters, life support systems, auxiliary control, armour, engines etc. You'll also get to name the ship and select what its primary purpose will be. Want to colonize a planet? Well you'll have to consider what planet type your race can survive on and what atmosphere they breathe and find a suitable planet. When your colony ship arrives at the planet you'll have to choose what colony type you prefer. The choices are Construction Yard, Farming Colony, Intelligence Compound, Military Installation, Mining Colony, Refining Colony, Research Colony and Resupply Base. These are just a few examples of how many options are always available to you. The diplomacy in the game also offers a wealth of options and allows you to strike bargains in a fashion that suits you. The research options in the game are plentiful and easily outnumber those seen in previous strategy games. In total the game includes 100 solar systems with each one having 15 planets. Combat offers you the choice to take an overview of it or take control of every ship in your fleet. A combat simulator has even been included. Options are the key theme in Space Empires V and at every turn there are plenty of them to consider.
There's little to complain about when it comes to how deaf gamer friendly Space Empires V is. All information in the game is given either through icons or text and as a result it presents no problems for deaf gamers. One area where the game may fall short in peoples' eyes is the graphics, which simply look OK. The game isn't as visually pleasing as Galactic Civilizations II (although to be fair there are some nice effects in use with some of the explosions looking impressive), but with that said it certainly looks good enough. Processing times between turns can be a bit on the long side at times but this isn't a game where you'll simply what to end your turn a few times in succession because there's just so much to do.
If you've read earlier reviews about Space Empires V it's fair to say you probably will have encountered plenty of comments about how bugged the game was upon release. Occasionally there are advantages in having to wait for a game to be released here in the UK and this is one of those occasions because since the release of the game in the US there have been many updates made to the game and in its current state (version 1.25) there's little to complain about. In fact for fans of space flavoured 4X strategy games Space Empires V is definitely a must own game, especially when there are places online selling the game for the ridiculously low asking price of £17.99.
Space flavoured 4X strategy games simply don't get any deeper than Space Empires V. The amount of flexibility the game offers is amazing. It's also well worth pointing out that this UK version doesn't have the multitude of bugs that plagued the US version upon release.