Dar Avatar was a by-the-book expansion for the successful turn based space strategy game Galactic Civilizations 2: Dread Lords. The new features added content without destroying the gameplay, and the colorful additions were carefully selected, enough to reinforce Stardock’s place among the top companies that actually listen to their fan base. Twilight of the Arnor is the second (and last) expansion for GC2, and the impressive list of changes makes you eager to see the new developments. If you’re a 4x aficionado.
The story continues the conflict between the two remaining super-powers in the universe, the Korath Clan and the Drengin Empire, who still fight over what should become of the conquered races: enslave them to supply the workforce requirements or simply exterminate them. Little did the two know that they are only puppets of the Dread Lords, who retreated in the shadows to plan their next move. In the mean time, a small Terran vessel manages to escape from the blockade of Earth and runs into a representative of the Arnor, a Precursor race believed to be extinct. The Arnor offer knowledge of the Dread Lords plan and also suggest a solution to put an end to their reign: the collection of Ascension crystals, which the Dread Lords use to create their fleets, and the destruction of these crystals by throwing them into a super nova. But since super-novas are not easily found in the galaxy, the Terror Stars enter the scene, which can help create one with their Death Beam. Therefore, during the single-player campaign (as well as in skirmish mode) the Dread Lords will be featured as a minor, albeit powerful race, and we’ll also get to see the awesome power of the Terror Stars.
Right off the bat we notice a new galaxy size available when creating a new game – Immense. This size is a healthy chunk bigger than what we had to work with before, and if generously populated with stars, planets and asteroids I believe it will take months to complete a serious session played on this map type. I even estimate than around mid-game, when things become a little complex, it will take you even an hour or two to hit that “End Turn” button. And in a game where the “let me fast-play these 10 turns so I can get some technology” strategy was never a good idea, it may look more like a second-job than an entertaining activity, but in the end it all depends on your play style.
In order to keep up with the storyline, a new victory option has been introduced, besides the existing types of Conquest, Influence, Technology and Alliance: 5 Ascension crystals have been scattered on the map, and all you need to do is to set up a star base at their location in order to gain one Ascension point per turn. 1000 points are needed to ascend to a higher state, in other words an Ascension Victory. This new condition adds some interesting strategies, as only one crystal will be gained every turn no matter how many bases you have, and so the reason of capturing more than one is just to deny them to your opponent. At the first glance the game gets a time-limit, as the 1000 necessary turns are more than enough to explore the tech tree in-depth, and also a sense of urgency, while rearranging the friendships in the galaxy according to the crystals gained, but then again, maybe not.
First of all, if you developed nicely and ended up a small Marshall in your little corner of the universe, your opponents will be either too scared or too uninterested in your Ascension plans, making this type of victory even more boring than the Technology one. If, on the other hand, you chose a higher difficulty setting and you’re surrounded by trouble-makers, you’ll notice that everybody gangs up on you because of your crystals. I rather enjoy gang-banging, even in single-player, but the problem with this course of action is that it makes useless an important and pleasant part of the whole game: diplomacy. While in the past trading, tech exchanging, declaring war or begging for peace were a lovely balance act that made the entire experience feel not-so-single-player, now all these are tossed away just because you gathered too many white thingies. I myself have found little to no satisfaction in this type of victory, whether it was too easy or impossible. However, since it’s just that, an option you can discard, heck, I can’t be too mad at Stardock.