Galactic Civilizations II: The Dread Lords
The 4X Concept

Galactic Civilizations II (GC2) is an example of a popular class of video games called 4X, which stands for explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. These empire-building games involve warfare, but also rely heavily on diplomacy, research, technology and resource management. Many of the games take place in outer space, but some, such as Civilization, use Earth-based environments.

Galactic Civilizations II, like Master of Orion, is a turn-based strategy game. A player takes command of one of the rival races and sets out to control a galaxy, all with 3-dimensional graphics. The player has to research technologies, build factories, amass resources and explore star systems. A particularly appealing facet is the ability to design your own starships based on the technology you've developed. The game does not have a multiplayer option, so first the player takes his turn, then the machine responds.

Galactic Civilizations II, which was released in 2006, has exceptional artificial intelligence [source: Lackey]. Playing by the same rules as the human player, the game's AI acts very much like another human player could by lying, conniving and strategizing to thwart you.

The mind-bending quality of GC2 is that there are multiple ways to win. You can try for victory by spreading cultural influence, using your wealth and technological superiority to attract allies. Or you can turn ruthless and become a tyrant who conquers by military might alone. Victory comes when you have gained control of the universe, either by destroying enemies or forming alliances with other races. No matter what your strategy, you have to balance power with diplomacy, making alliances where they're to your advantage.

The richness and complexity of the GC2 world has attracted strategy gamers since its inception. As one reviewer put it, "It's the type of game that typifies the 'one more turn' feeling that has you riveted to your monitor until 4 a.m." [source: Rausch].