Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords
Creating an engaging, long lasting turn based game isn't something you see every year. Most fans, myself included simply wait for the next Civilization game to be released and suck the life out of the last one. The first Galactic Civilization demonstrates why so few developers even attempt with the genre. Getting the game to balance, while still being engaging game after game is incredibly challenging, especially when you consider all the different aspects that have to interplay together. One little flaw, for instance a military unit that is too powerful can end up taking a dynamically created game and turn it into a linear experience that wears out quickly. So how does Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords hold up? I admit I did have high expectations partly because the problems from the first attempt were 'tweakable'? or obvious. That's not to say there weren't balance and gameflow issues, but it still had a solid infrastructure to build from.
Having high expectations is always a quick path to disappointment but in this case it was worth it. Finally there is a turn based game on a galactic scale that puts forth a similar balance and complexity that made the Civilization series so successful. From the planet management, to the tech paths, to the civilization controls, there's a lot to offer here and many different ways to get it accomplished.
There are numerous ways to run your civ including creating unique military units in addition to ones that are provided or focusing on diplomatic solutions to solve your problems. Tying it all together is an intuitive interface that puts all the pieces together in a fashion that's easy on the eyes.
Where Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords really shines is in the execution of the game. In one example for instance, depending on how you want to approach the game, you can focus your research more on military techs without getting to the point where there's 80 turns to the next tech or requiring research on a bunch of unrelated techs. Since the tech tree isn't completely dependent on its other branches, you can pursue a number of military, economic, or whatever type of techs to create a specific skill that the can be honed against your enemies. It also creates weaknesses, especially in the extreme, but the bottom line is you have the flexibility to make the call.
Oh by the way, there's also a fairly involved campaign that gives the galaxy personality, traits, and history, making the experience more interesting then a bunch of random civs with no relation to each other.
The bottom line is if you're a turn based gamer (it's 3:00 AM and you're telling yourself again, 'Just one more turn' '?), Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords is not something you are going to pass up easily.