Adding improvements and a greater opportunity for customization, Space Empires V offers players the chance to explore the far reaches of space while observing such natural occurrences as black holes, binary stars, asteroid belts, and cosmic storms. Galactic gamers begin by customizing the game conditions including planet atmosphere and type, victory conditions, unit capabilities, game and text fonts, score computations, damage type, ship experience levels, and then creating or selecting a ship that can be tested in a combat simulator. Players also select a race from 14 choices complete with their own research opportunities including organic, crystalline, temporal, and more.
There are a total of 6,000 tech levels, over 500 components, and facilities, and 100 solar systems with 15 planets each to research, build, and explore. Gamers can also customize the racial traits to coincide with their playing style, such as selecting a government that is not concerned with population happiness. All vehicles and ships can be altered through the text files, and experienced players can even create their own from scratch. Ships have three parts to them -- the armor, inner hull, and outer hull -- and players may alter all three. Components placed on the inner hull are the most protected while objects placed on the armor section are least protected, and will be the first items damaged in a fight.
After race, game, and vehicle selection, gamers can head out into the dark reaches of space to begin locating and conquering planets found within the system. Grey hexes found on the planet in question mean that it is unconquered, while green hexes on a planet belong to the player, red hexes belong to an opponent, and glowing hexes are warp points that transfer gamers to new solar systems. Earning credits to spend on such upgrades as weapons, energy shields, and more is accomplished by gaining control of a planet and the resources found there. Players may attempt to take over enemy planets, or use the diplomacy menu to keep the peace and barter with neighbors.
Multiplayer action is available in turn-based or simultaneous turn movement and files are transferable through a LAN, or TCP/IP. By visiting the Space Empires V website, gamers can download or upload customized and player created vehicles, ships, and more.
Space Empires might not be the most well known videogame franchise out there. You try asking a Crazy Frog Racer-buying mother what she thinks of the decade-old series and she's likely to tell you to get a life, you big spotty nerd - or words to that effect. Never mind that, though, because Space Empires has managed to gather a cult following of gamers who care dearly for their strategy based, let's say, baby. Evidential of that is developer Malfador's reluctance to change the way the game plays too much at all, with a tweak here and a patch release there to keep matters running smoothly. And this kind of suffocating devotion (plus a whole lotta bugs) from both parties is why Space Empires V eventually falls short of its peers, despite the enjoyment it provides.
Space Empires V is the most complex of the series so far, building on top of the 4x model of play (Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate) which it has stuck to since the beginning. Players control a race of alien beings challenged by the panicky task of colonizing a world and destroying its neighbors before their neighbors inevitably attempt to do the same to them. And that's about it, it's a contest in the midst of outer space to be the first, the biggest and the best and to eventually reign supreme. Buckle up, reader, for hyper speed, because here's where it gets complicated.
Your mission begins on a home planet, on which the first objective is to harvest resources to develop technologies that will help your civilization flourish. Much of your play time is spent not so much on the offensive against rival planets, but in the R&D stages, which, frankly, you could meddle with forever such is the depth and range of options on offer. The mere shell of a ship that you are presented with, given time, (a lot of time) can be transformed into the ultimate military machine, complete with missiles, mines, drones and fighters. As your world's knowledge base expands, so too do your building options, complicating matters to an extent which would terrify the casual gamer into submission, but give those with the passion and time to experiment with the title's myriad of interior decoration options an experience unrivaled by any other title, including those such as Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire and Galactic Civilizations. Space Empires V
By the time you've finished with all that Lego-tastic build work and taken care of a scarily untended-to beard (perhaps more the guys rather than ladies), then you can get stuck in to Space Empire V's other great achievement - it's scope for intergalactic politics and tactical negotiation. This, similar in vein to the create-a-ship options succeeds in trumping anything that the existing opposition offers in terms of variety. At times you really are given the sense of being thrown into the role of a leader who needs to discuss an urgent plan of action, a position where a level head and a somewhat unsettling tact for dealing with the nature of completely foreign nations will eventually prevail. A list as long as your arm (or a giant's arm more like) asks you to make decisions on sharing intelligence on weapons, the location of lucrative development material, whether to form alliances with other alien beings to double-team against one unlucky planet and so many more. Available in such a scale, again, it is possible that none bar the most dedicated players will plump for too much time with the complexity and time consuming nature of the task in hand.
However, it isn't just the magnitude of the governmental responsibilities on offer that might put the non-hardcore crowd off. In fact, the frequency of mistaken demands or instructions that prevails throughout your play time could be the cause of much frustration for any player. In fact, the ignorance, stupidity, passivity or sudden undeserved hostility of the game's AI makes negotiation (one of the most important elements) very difficult. Whether this is exhibited in the complete failure of communication (at no fault of your own) between one planet and another or in the form of violent threats for no apparent reason, it just doesn't look good. Yes, a patch could easily fix these problems, but as a 'finished' product out of the box, it makes Space Empires V appear slightly unpolished. That said, the title suffers from unnecessary bugs at nearly every stage, from the invention and unstable personality of your planet and its race to the inexplicable disappearance of certain physical elements which you were 'sure were there a minute ago.'
On a more positive note, Space Empire V's intricate menus are slick and polished in appearance and, though a little untidy at times, successfully allow players to quickly and easily navigate here, there and everywhere without too much trouble at all. However, lesser positive merit can be awarded to the appearance of the game's ships and environments which at best are uninspiring in their low-textured blandness. A host of booms, blasts and a suitably epic backing soundtrack are better, but you're likely to tire of these after you hear them on repeat after the hours of play necessary to enjoy Space Empires V as intended.
Space Empires V is a strange game, bursting with a massive expansiveness in terms of play, but let down by an unsupportive structure that newcomers to the series are likely to find off putting. The dodgy AI is the other major cause for concern, but going by the history of the series, one gets the impression that the dedicated band of followers that Space Empires has won't care about this latest in the series' lack of progression and fiddly mechanics.
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Space Empires 4: Gold, Sid Meier's Civilization IV, Sid Meier's Railroads!, Sid Meier's Pirates!, Space Colony, Star Trek: Starfleet Command 3, Star Wars: Empire at War, Sid Meier's Antietam!
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