OverviewDark Avatar is the first of two expansion packs released for the critically acclaimed 4X space strategy game Galactic Civilizations II. It introduces subtle tweaks existing features to make room for several new gameplay mechanics to create an even broader range of viable strategies.
Having realized that their digital distribution system was significantly more profitable than selling through traditional retail outlets, developer Stardock elected to focus on selling Dark Avatar to owners of the original game through the "Stardock Central" update manager they were already using to acquire updates. They did, however, release a compilation pack to retail stores which included GalCiv2 and Dark Avatar so that new players could easily acquire the full suite.
Additions & TweaksDark Avatar includes a long list of miscellaneous balance tweaks, AI enhancements, graphical improvements, and cosmetic streamlining. Most of them were enacted to make room for several major additions to the gameplay mechanics.
New RacesDark Avatar adds two new preset races to the existing menagerie of ten.
- The Korath Clan are a societal offshoot of the Drengin who believe that all alien races should not simply be enslaved, but completely exterminated. They're even starting to develop different physical characteristics, and the two factions are engaged in an escalating civil war.
- The Krynn Consulate are a fundamentalist race who believe in establishing universal harmony by indoctrinating the galactic population with their religious beliefs. Towards that end, they excel at espionage and expanding their cultural influence.
ColonizationIn an attempt to diffuse the mad colony rush that characterized the early phases of nearly every game of GalCiv2, a percentage of planets in Dark Avatar feature harsh environments which require the completion of specific research before they can be successfully inhabited. There are five different varieties, including radioactive, toxic, barren, aquatic, and heavy gravity worlds, and each type has two levels of research that will make it available for colonization. The first allows a settlement to operate under the burden of a 50% penalty to all productivity, while the second makes it a fully functional member of the empire. Without the requisite technologies, colonies on hostileplanets can be conquered or flipped by superior culture but will remain completely unusable until the appropriate research is completed.
Harsh worlds ironically often have attractive Planet Quality ratings, but the advanced research necessary to take full advantage of them is expensive enough that they may remain unclaimed until the middle stages of the game. On the other hand, empires that discover several nearby worlds of the same type have a chance to focus their research and gain access to them before anyone else, and some races have a natural tolerance to certain environments.
Super AbilitiesEach of the twelve preset races now has a different Super Ability to help further differentiate their unique strengths, while custom races are free to choose one at the start of the game.
- Super Adapter - (Iconian Refuge) - This ability automatically grants the race the ability to colonize aquatic and toxic worlds.
- Super Annihilator - (Korath Clan) - Special research allows these races to develop Spore Ships which detonate in the upper atmosphere of an enemy world. The planet is permanently transformed into a toxic environment, instantly eradicating the existing population while leaving their factories, laboratories, and stadiums untouched.
- Super Breeder - (Torian Confederation) - By maintaining a 100% morale rating on their planets, the population will multiply at four times the normal rate.
- Super Diplomat - (Terran Alliance) - These races are able to manipulate the diplomatic process to secure much better trades and easier treaties than any of their contemporaries.
- Super Dominator - (Drengin Empire) - Every time a Dominator race goes to war, they receive a flotilla of free corvette-class warships around their homeworld.
- Super Hive - (Thalan Empire) - A racial hive mind allows for the near-instantaneous construction of factories and manufacturing plants, and allows their ships to travel deeper into space without a local supply line.
- Super Isolationist - (Yor Collective) - Starting with a native ability to colonize barren worlds, these races have more time to exploit their advantage since no alien ship can travel faster than three spaces per turn through their space.
- Super Manipulator - (Drath Legion) - These races have the uncanny ability to convince other races to declare war on each other, opening up opportunities to exploit their resulting weaknesses.
- Super Organizer - (Altarian Resistance) - When a race with this ability is attacked, all other races with their same alignment automatically flock to their aid.
- Super Spy - (Krynn Consulate) - These races gain instant access to counter-espionage centers that render that world immune from sabotage by enemy spies. They're also able to funnel a higher percentage of their income into espionage to recruit agents much faster than their peers.
- Super Trader - (Korx Dominion) - These races not only get double the normal income from interstellar trade, they start out with all the relevant technologies already unlocked.
- Super Warrior - (Arcean Empire) - When these races initiate ship combat, their vessels open fire one round ahead of their opponent in an attempt to destroy them before they can even shoot back.
EspionagePrior to Dark Avatar, espionage was an abstract idea where money spent on an enemy civilization would eventually yield statistical data on their relative strengths and weaknesses. The expansion pack revamped the system so that espionage funding goes directly into training individual agents who can be used to completely shut down structures on alien worlds, or to neutralize enemy agents operating in their own colonies.
Asteroid MiningMany solar systems now have asteroid fields which can yield bonus resources to nearby colonies by using specially equipped vessels to establish mining platforms. The benefit from these facilities drops of sharply with distance and they can be easily subverted by alien cultures, but by upgrading them into more advanced forms, they can eventually turn a backwater world into a manufacturing powerhouse.
In order to increase the value of asteroid mining and colonial power plants, a new planet-side structure, the base output of all factory structures was slightly reduced.
Mega EventsIn addition to the random events found in the original game, Dark Avatar introduces the option for unpredictable Mega Events which deliberately shake up the balance of power in the current game. Some examples include:
- the sudden emergence of fleets of unaligned robotic ships who indiscriminately destroy any space-going vessel they encounter
- the discovery of an ancient terraforming device that allows the colonization of previously uninhabitable worlds, triggering a new colony rush
- the decision by several existing colonies from multiple races to secede into their own independent empire
- the appearance of dozens of enemy spies on every colony in the galaxy
- the abrupt moral inversion of one of the AI players, causing the Drengin to suddenly become good-natured or the Altarians to become malicious and aggressive
These events are intentionally intended to destabilize the course of the game, but can be disabled during the setup phase of a new game.
- Instead of including copy protection on the CD or in the digital download, Stardock requires players to register their game with a unique serial number before they gain access to the many free updates which have come out since the initial release.
- Every player who prepurchased Dark Avatar through the Stardock website was granted access to the open beta which continued for several months before the official release. Feedback on bugs, crashes, and imbalances was actively encouraged through the dedicated forums on the main GalCiv2 website.
- One of the special projects available races with an Evil alignment is the Mind Control Center. According to its description, this special project is supposed to grant a 100% economic boost to its home planet and cause foreign planets to defect to the owner's empire much more easily, but neither of these affects appear to function in any version of GalCiv2, including Dark Avatar. This persistent issue was finally brought to the attention of Lead Designer Brad Wardell after the release of the Twilight of Arnor expansion pack, and he has pledged to finally get it addressed.
- The social schism between the Drengin Empire and the Korath Clan is highly reminiscent of the division between the Kzer-Za and Kohr-Ah in Star Control II. In both games, one faction seeks to enslave all alien races while the other wishes to slaughter them outright.
PC System Requirements
Processor: Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent pro
Video Card: 32 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible video card (32-bit color depth req’d.)
Hard Drive: 2 GBOS: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
Processor: Pentium 4 1.8 GHz or equivalent processor