Imperium Galactica II: Alliances iOS Review

Let’s go back to the classic ages of RTS games, the late 90’s to be specific, with the Imperium Galactica series. Digital Reality scales down the desktop science-fiction real-time strategy experience, replete with all the colony-building and resource management the series is known for and brings it to the iPad. But how does Imperium Galactica II fair over time? Is it a warp-speed success or a merely a relic of a bygone age?

The Imperium Galactica series originally released on MS-DOS wayback in 1997. The sequel (of which this iPad iteration is a port) followed in early 2000. The space conquest games were critically received very well, receiving solid reviews and a pretty loyal following. Taking the conquest and colonisation game into the space realm, the Imperium Galactica series, whilst not possessing the well-crafted UI and brand recognition of games such as Civilisation and Sins of a Solar Empire, instead provided a wonderful aside to that series and satisfied the space-based lust of strategy gamers. But that was well over a decade ago and now the games industry has moved forward exponentially, providing us with block-buster experiences and multi-million dollar investment, not to mention a plethora of indie developers providing fantastic experiences for the price of a McDonalds meal. It is only fair to ask – how well will Digital Reality’s game stand up to what is already out there, as we have seemingly since moved on to vastly differing and, in many cases, much more comprehensive experiences?

First impressions are good, and the game appears ported to the iPad with no concessions, which is a good start considering it was released on inferior tech. The CG intro does an excellent job of setting the stage for the beginning as well as giving a hint of what is actually happening in the game world. Maybe the intro will be more relevant to people who’ve played the previous game in the series, but, as a new comer, it still sets the tone rather nicely.

As is the case with any new strategy game, you will always check out the Tutorial mode first. In this case, you are subjected to a hideously compressed, newcomer unfriendly, and uninteresting video. The Tutorial isn’t interactive in any sense; it’s just six minutes or so of the game being explained to. I personally found this video from the developers YouTube channel far more informative – http://youtu.be/B3IFqhZBrQ0 – than the actual Tutorial mode within the game. I suggest the best way to become acquainted with the game would be via the Scenario mode, which immediately throws you into the game and allows you to form some understanding of the basic game mechanics. Safe to say, this isn’t a game you’ll pick up and play from the get-go.

Visually, the game hasn’t been updated all that much. The porting process may not have damaged it’s original charm, but it does show it’s age. The landscapes seem dour, the colour palette is lacking and the game is, quite frankly, lifeless. Scenes only really come alive when there are battles, and even these are a slow, almost ponderous affair, not at all like the action packed and sped-up trailer. The textures are generally lacking and there seems to have been no effort made to update the game with the additional graphical and processing power of the iPad. When you take this into account and look at the plethora of games freely available on the App Store, things don’t bode well.

Fonts could also be reworked or changed completely to fit with the game’s aesthetics. The HUD also seems very basic in its premise, yet clicking one of the icons bordering the game screen brings up a multitude of options that are confusing especially due to their lack of explanation. I’ve been playing strategy games on various formats for years, and this has been the most unfriendly and unwelcoming strategy experience thus far. For the first-time RTS player on an iPad picking this up on a whim, you’ll be over-burdoned with convoluted menus and game-mechanics, probably resulting in you quitting not long after delving into the game without waiting to see what the game actually offers underneath it’s poor introduction.

As with all RTS games and especially in the case of this one, perseverance is key. I just worry it won’t get the necessary time investment due to it’s initial appearance.

I could write about the sound, but there is nothing to shout home about apart from the aged, yet well done, CG cutscenes. The soundtrack to the game is a looping and lackluster affair. It merely fulfills a role without really furthering the aurally acoustic experience of a gaming endeavour.

The game campaign begins with you being given the choice of three races: the Solarian Empire (Humans), the Kra ‘Hen and the Shinari. After choosing a race, you take on the role of the leader of a galactic empire with one sole aim – expand. Each race has it’s own pro’s and cons. The Solarian’s possess wonderful research skills, the Kra ‘Hen excel for beginners intent on mass destruction, and the Shinari are deftly skilled in the art of diplomacy and trading.

I choose the Solarian Empire, the humans an apparently innovative race with strong research abilities. As I love to do in all strategy games, I research, slowly build and then conquer and colonise other planets, countries, domains and citadels. You name it – I conquer it. Or at least I thought that’s what I would do. I spent more time trying to understand the unintuitive layout of icons and settings than actually expanding my empire. I advise you to keep your youtube browser open at all times in order to grasp the most brief understanding of what you are doing and its possible implications; whenever you check the YouTube app directly on the iPad, it closes the game proper and you have to reload it again. To be honest, I have spent more time battling the game than battling the enemy, with game crashes coming frequent and rather often. Case-in-point – when you get to a certain date in campaign or skirmish mode, the game just repeatedly flat-out crashes. This is a damn shame. There’s a good game underneath all the convoluted menu’s, information-lacking tutorials and frequent game crashes, but I, like so many others, can’t get to that point due to various factors.

As an example of how far technology has progressed, Imperium Galactica II on the iPad is an interesting prospect, but technology has surpassed this and it is a shame that the developers haven’t taken the opportunity to fine tune game-mechanics and appearance to make it more appealing to a wider demographic and to welcome new science-fiction RTS fans from other games.

On the iPad, there are some really good examples of RTS games: Command & Conquer Red Alert, Kingdom Rush, Civilisation Revolution and Starfront Collision. They all do RTS much better in their own style of game. Considering its conception as a casual gamer’s device, the iPad is rich in good titles across the board, and a game needs to be great to stand out from the crowded market. It’s a shame the makers didn’t enhance on the original and make it a must-have purchase for the portable strategist; sadly, Digital Reality missed a trick with this release. The convoluted tutorial will put off the majority of gamers, and the unstable game will put off the series and genre stalwarts. I am sorry, but this time it seems the developers are the ones that should lose their planet.

5 out of 10
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