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Gaming Reviews with Grimm

Patrick Keith reviews his favorite (and not so favorite) video games. Covering PC games and different consoles, Grimm goes into detail about his experiences with each game. Don't forget, Grimm has a knack for finding the rarest glitches when he plays any sort of game!

Space Empires V

So this is a turn-based strategy game set in the galactic scale where you build, manage, and dominate empires. Simple enough at first glance. Developed by Malfador Machinations and released by Strategy First in 2006, this was the 5th in a line of galactic empire games. Granted, there is very little story line. In fact the only story line is what you decide to make for it. You design your empire and its traits, government, social perceptions, and select the ship designs along with a general picture to show your race. In the end your goal is to either maintain a galactic peace or be the last one not being shot into a sun. I will admit to some bias since this is the first game that has ever allowed me to win a war by turning their home system into a black hole.

To begin with we’ll cover game play. First you run an empire, this means that you build planets up to support your empire, perform research to better your technology, and try to keep your people happy. Each system you can colonize is typically a sun with some planets and asteroids and maybe a small piece of a nebula. This can vary to a giant nebulae, 3 suns, or even discovering a black hole system. Travel is accomplished through the idea of wormholes that connect the various systems. Things get really interesting though as you start encountering other species because this introduces diplomacy, territory disputes, and the counterpart to research: Intelligence. Intelligence is essentially spying on other races, sabotage, and stealing their technology. Now with research and intelligence normally in other games you cue up a project and finish it to get the bonus, however here you generate points for both and then determine what percent of your total points every turn goes into what projects. You still complete and get the bonus, but you can choose to just rush one thing or work evenly on a number of projects that you may really need.

As far as fighting goes you get to play with another really nifty gadget. When designing your ships you choose what they carry and the placement in the ship. This means armor, engines, sensors, weapons, cargo, the list just goes on. You literally design your ships to do whatever you want. Between this and you ability to save design schemes you can literally have a ship for any occasion. For the battles themselves you either can engage in ship to ship combat or you can land troops and try to take their planet personally. Both combats are 3D and are done real time with the units fighting with your predetermined orders like “point blank” or “max range” or “don’t get hurt” with each unit trying to maintain this order. Now you aren’t helpless during this because you can alter time flow, give orders to units, and even give specific weapons targets. This is just the aggressive negotiations, though you can also negotiate by proposing treaties and alliances that give benefits and also restrict one or both empires. The A.I. is fairly good and unless you have them at a severe disadvantage they will not accept a treaty that doesn’t at least benefit them a modest bit. So normally this means you will trade treaties, modify, and swap again for several turns before you reach an agreement with another race…or resort to aggressive negotiations. Another thing to watch for is that some races have a penchant for a peace treaty followed by a war fleet once your guard is down.

Besides the game play, this game also includes a real handy tool that is essentially a compiler. All the game data is stored in .PDF format so you can open and read or modify with some thing as simple as Notepad. Then the compiler allows it to read your changes and apply them. Finally you can save the changes and revert back to fresh install, with your changes packaged and saved as a mod. This makes modding the game and adding anything from tech to ship designs easy to do. Also it’s fairly easy because the manual included can walk you through making these or similar modifications.

This game does have a few drawbacks though. First the Intelligence side of things can actually make game play as anything but an intelligence race very hard to manage. This is mainly because you can hurt a race that is on the other side of the galaxy and you only know of them because somebody gave you their communication codes. Oh, and they still don’t know you exist. However that can be fixed easily by turning off intelligence in the options when setting up a game. While handy this is a big downer because in order to enjoy the game without the possibility of being killed by imaginary saboteurs you have to disable part of the game. This brings me to another issue. The menus are very detailed and there are a lot of options when setting things up and creating the game. In fact there are maybe too many, since there are about 6 menus that can scroll when setting up a game, not to mention your race or starting tech, there is maybe a little too much for some people. Another issue is that you have solo play against a number of A.I. or you can play with another player by emailing the saved game packet. Granted the game takes care of packaging it up with a nifty name but this means your playing intergalactic chess through email with your friends. That makes a game go longer than it already does and the game is quite long since each turn is .1 years. The peace condition is peace through the whole galaxy for 100 years. That’s 1000 turns of peace in a game where late game turns take up to 30 minutes to complete. You can cut this down with the administrator system though. You can set mini A.I. up for yourself to monitor things like one who automatically sets up new colonies with your preset building choices, or a minister whose whole purpose is to take scouts and find people to make contact with. I’ll admit that this is nifty, but it’s also a little intimidating to think you may need an A.I. to help you manage your empire. At the same time it’s impressive you can have an empire so large that you might actually need assistance to run it.

All in all, this is a game I enjoy playing. I have a game that’s been running for almost a year now and I only have half the galaxy conquered. It’s simple to run but can be very detailed with a map that is random generated with a small galaxy or, in my case, a beyond huge galaxy. The mechanics of the game are well thought out and all run smooth for the most part and it challenges not only your ability to design ships and win battles but your ability to run an empire, mange its resources, and deal with a populace that actually reacts to war and your ability to protect them. It’s not a game for everyone because it can be very long and the details can overwhelm a player that doesn’t want to have this much complexity. However I will say that the ability to mine your jump points, bombard planets, team up against a race, and even turn a sun into a black hole make it one of my favorites.



Written By Patrick Keith. Edited by Tyler Clapp. All references, icons, and imagery are trademark to their appropriate owners, and author and editor take no credit for creation/ownership of these things, only the opinions stated in this article.