The team that designed the pretty damn good Imperium Galactica 2 takes several giant steps backward in the successor, reaffirming the industry trend of making nothing but inferior sequels with higher system requirements, and my personal reluctance to buy any game ever again.

Imperium Galactica II was a good game. Insanely complex and detailed, yet somehow not too clunky to deal with, it was a great deal of fun for the micromanagement freaks who like 4X games. It was also one of the few games of its type that was available, as shortening attention spans and lower tolerances for complexity steered the game world toward shooter variants and badly balanced rushers with prettier pictures. No doubt influenced by these trends and a desire to eat, the team eventually came up with Hegemonia, one of two spiritual successors to IG2. (The other is quickly entering the world of vaporware; even with a now-predicted release date of 3-4Q 2003, nobody will care much.)

I find it difficult to write a detailed piece on Hegemonia, since I have long since uninstalled it. In brief, yeah, it’s sort of a space 4X game in realtime, but it seems to really be a devolution of IG2. Gone are ship designs; you research hulls, you research weapons, you build hulls (the biggest you’ve researched, as anything else is pointless), and it automatically mounts your best systems. Gone is diplomacy, replaced by the ability to make merchant ships that automatically wander from planet to planet, making money for you. Gone is all planet surface work (development and ground combat), replaced by some uninspiring little icons you can build that are supposed to represent things like surface to space guns and biospheres. Even any graphic improvements over IG2 (minor at best) are wasted, since there is no need to ever leave your 2D icon-based tactical overview screen, which sort of reminded me of a game called "Air Traffic Controller" I played around 1980 on an 8086 system with all ASCII characters, in monochrome.

It does have multiplayer, I suppose. It’s hard to tell, since the gamehas this tendency to lose synchronization and split into a number of single player games. How often does this happen? Every time, at least in the tests Kynn and I ran. Doesn’t matter how big the map is, doesn’t matter how many ships there are, at some point the game will split off. Total number of multiplayer game attempts: about 50. Total number of completed games: zero. Fortunately Dreamcatcher came out with a patch during our play period, which as far as I could tell fixed absolutely nothing. It’s still the current version. More buggy goodness can be found at the Hegemonia tech support forum. It’s really frightening how I looked at it tonight, and though the posts were from my last visit two months ago.

Rating: 4/10. I think I may have enjoyed the single player game for a while, but the whole multiplayer experience destroyed it for me. Then I dug up and installed Imperium Galactica II. I think they got their release dates reversed on these titles.

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