Blow %$^& Up: Galactic Reign Review

We are finally starting to see the Xbox games for Windows and Windows Phone start to really roll on along. This last week we saw the release of Galactic Reign, another cross-platform game for the Windows platform. But unlike Skulls of the Shogun which is on Windows Phone, Windows 8/RT and Xbox and requires a purchase on each device in order to be used, Galactic Reign is the very first game that you purchase once and have on all platforms. It is extremely unique in that regard.

So what is this game all about. Galactic Reign is first off a strategy game, very much akin to Risk and Civilization. There are two modes to the game: Multiplayer and Battle Academy. This is very much a Multiplayer oriented game and the focus is around the Multiplayer games. Battle Academy is Single Player, but it is not the strategic conquest game that the  Multiplayer is and enjoys, but rather as a de facto tutorial scenario system to help you learn strategy and tactics when it comes to the ship-building aspect of the game. There are three factions to the game: The Alkari, Sundogs and the Zorn. Each one of these factions has completely different ships and different ship-building tactics that you have to employ.

This is the Main Menu

This is the Main Menu

Multiplayer

This is a turn-based strategy game. I love turn-based strategy, you simply cannot recreate the depth of tactics and thinking that is required with any other genre of gaming out there. Galactic Reign is deep in these roots of tactical thinking, but the gameplay is easy enough to grasp that casual gamers all the way to hardcore gamers can enjoy and understand. This is a 4X strategy game, also known as an empire building game. You and your opponent are placed on opposite sides of the map, and you have a goal of conquering the map. You can find opponents from your Xbox friends list or by email, or you can have the system find you a random opponent. You must colonize planets to gain resources to build your fleets and research new technologies to best your opponents. You are given at the start four fleets to expand your empire and this is the max that you can have at any given point in time. Your ultimate goal is to capture the ‘Artifact Planets’ of which every map has three, for each Artifact Planet that you control that is not occupied by an enemy you gain 1 Victory Point per turn. You win by accumulating twenty-five victory points before your opponents do.

Galactic Reign Map

You and your opponent issue your orders at the same time as each other and then the moves are resolved simultaneously and battles are fought between two fleets that occupy the same planet at the end of the movement phase. The two opposing fleets will battle automatically, you do not control your fleet yourself. The computer decides the outcome of the battle and fleets fight until one fleet is completely destroyed and only one survives. Now this is where Galactic Reign truly differentiates itself. The battles are actually simulated in the cloud and not on your device and the battles are rendered in gorgeous HD and then the video footage is downloaded to your device for you to view.

The Multiplayer aspect of the game is the real bread and butter of this game, and it is really fun. Battles are not tremendously long usually lasting around 15-16 turns depending on you and your opponent’s skill levels. The idea of doing a strategy game like this with a Words With Friends or Draw Something approach to multiplayer turn-based combat performs extremely well in this situation, and it is great to see a developer investing in this.

Battle Academy

This is the Single-Player Aspect of the game and mostly exists for you to go up against challenges of designing fleets that are superior to the opposing challenge fleet and take them out. It teaches you how to effectively build fleets to counter an opponent’s fleet effectively and take them out. You pick a challenge and then you are told the strength of the opposing fleet that you are up against. They give you a few hints before you go into designing the fleet that you will use to beat your opponent. You go into the ship-building sequence. This is pretty cool, because you get to design your ships to have weapon load outs and other systems to be the most effective for your strategies. Once you’re done designing your ships you then purchase them and hit play. The stats are then uploaded to the cloud rendering engine, and the battle results are figured and downloaded to your device for you to watch and see the results if you win you get stars based on how well your fleet performed and you can move onto the next challenge.

Battle Academy Galactic Reign

The Battle Academy aspect of the game is really simple and could use some more depth to it, but it is a great way for you to learn how to design fleets effectively, which is what is was designed to be used for.

Graphics and Audio

The graphics on this game are gorgeous to say the least. The cloud-rendered battles are amazing and fun to watch, and I am a sucker for gorgeously rendered space battles. The ships are HD rendered and truly console-quality, which is easy to do when they are rendered in the cloud. The battles are enormous and you can see that when watching the videos, there can be literally thousands of vessels going against thousands more vessels, and as the fleets get bigger so do the battles get bigger and more epic. It engages you and pulls you into each battle, and everyone is rendered differently from previous battles.

Galactic Reign Batlte

The menus and the game maps themselves are elegant and simple. They have been created with simplicity in mind, as I said before anyone can pick up this game and not feel too overwhelmed by what they see. Everything in the game looks polished and thought out.

Galactic Reign Battle 2

Galactic Reign’s score is what you would expect to see out of a space game. The music matches the setting of you controlling a vast space-faring empire. The battle music will change based on who is winning the battle through the battle as you watch. The sounds for guns firing and ships speeding through space are excellent and coincide very well with the battle videos.

Gripes and Changes the Developers Could Make

There are two major gripes that I have with this game, but the really well-polished nature of the game as well the extremely fun gameplay mechanics can make them forgivable. The first is the most difficult: it can take a while for the battles to be rendered in the cloud and then downloaded to your device, and if you don’t have a great internet connection this can take even longer. The battles are really high quality, so it makes sense that it can take a while. You can however turn off the pre-rendered battles to speed up the game but you and your opponent must both have this selected to completely speed up the battle. There is not a lot that they can do to improve this, and they should not get rid of the gorgeous battles, which is what really differentiates this game from the rest of the pack in the mobile gaming market. The other major gripe is the lack of any solid single-player. This is a game that could have a really strong single-player campaign. The developers should really add this to the game, it would make the game only that much better. And they have the races already in play to create a great story campaign. Or at least make the multiplayer game have a single-player choice. Another thing that would be really awesome is the inclusion of a pass and play multiplayer. Games that have this multiplayer aspect in them are a huge boon and add to our devices becoming board gaming devices and this game sits very well into this genre.

Lasting Appeal

Although matches between you and your opponent are not usually very long and you can be waiting a while for your opponent to make a move, you can have multiple battles going on at once, this makes the game very easy to handle, but I did find it best to sit down and start making several moves all at once, because the majority of people are willing to sit down until the battle is complete. Matches are usually not going to drag on for days like in Draw Something or Words With Friends. There is a lot of replay value because each of your opponents is a different person and everyone has a different strategy to play on the field of battle. The Battle Academy part of the game is very short and is not a true single-player experience, this game is all about the multiplayer matches. Also because of the cloud engine, this game requires an internet connection to play. Overall you can have this game going and play other games, watch a movie or be sort of productive in your own distracted way.

Buy Once and Have Everywhere

You can actually play this game without having to fully buy it. The trial version of the game includes one faction: The Alkari, the multiplayer and all the battle academy challenges for that faction. If you want to use the other two factions and play their battle academy challenges and also get achievements , you can buy the game at $4.99 on either platform right now.

One thing that makes this game really awesome Is the buy once and have it on all platforms aspect of the game. If you buy it on Windows Phone or on Windows 8/RT you have it on the other platform. If you buy the game you get all the features on the other platform. There is a caveat though, you don’t get the achievements on the other platform unless you buy it there as well. To get it on the other platform though without paying for it again to get achievements on that platform you must select trial when you download it on the other platform. You will then see that you have all the features of the game available on that platform except for that platform’s achievements.

Overall

Galactic Reign is an awesome game. It is incredibly well put together and a lot of fun to play. I enjoyed playing it a lot and recommend this game. It is a lot of fun and you will enjoy playing it as well. If anything the trial part of the game which lets you play as much as you want as the Alkari is worth it by itself and provides all the core aspects of the game for you to enjoy. The graphics are gorgeous, the soundtrack is engaging and the gameplay is simple enough for everyone to enjoy and get into. Also with this being the first cross-buy Xbox game, there is a lot of opportunity for this to expand and grow the marketplace even more with titles that do things like this. And if this is any indication that gaming is starting to pick up for the Xbox Windows ecosystem, then I am excited to see what is coming next. Galactic Reign is one of the best titles available for Windows Phone and Windows RT/8 and I would recommend having it in your library.

[Galactic Reign in the Windows Store]

[Galactic Reign in the Windows Phone Store]


  • URFN

    I bought the name on the weekend. Even though the prerendered battles take a lot of time, I know this is actually integral to winning the game. My fleets were small and consisted of one or two ships, it was easy to tell why I won or lost the battle. But in the latter turns, my fleets were quite large and complex, So understanding the outcome required the video. I found that by pausing the video, I could see details about what happened, when and why. Tapping on the screen will show fleet details.