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Space Empires V Review
game: Space Empires V
three star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Strategy First
developer: Strategy First / Malfador Machinations
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date posted: 03:00 PM Thu Jan 4th, 2007
last revision: 03:00 PM Thu Jan 4th, 2007

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Click to read.The world of 4X gaming - that is Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate - tends to not stray too far from the same simple formula. Of course, this formula is what makes 4X games what they are; changing the formula too much might ruin the experience. Thus, developers tend to make slight additions to the features and mechanics of their games instead of sweeping, overreaching changes. And in the case of Space Empires V, this means having the player go hands-on and micromanage virtually everything. While this may suit some players\' tastes, add in program stability issues and other various bugs and things can get downright frustrating.

The basis of Space Empires is about as straightforward as can be. You start out on a single planet and expand outwards, discovering other inhabitants of the galaxy. How you deal with these other cultures is entirely up to you. You can befriend them and form an alliance against common foes, or you can wipe them from existence via the force of your entire armada. It is the amount of detail in which you are allowed to do so that sets Space Empires V apart. From a unit standpoint, you are given seemingly limitless options and variations from which to build your starships and fighters. With a multitude of hull types allowing you to add any variety of armor, weaponry, life support, fuel cells, etc., the player could practically drown in options.

In fact, drowning in options and complexity seems to be a common theme in Space Empires V as a whole. Right from the get-go the player is required to set up a wide variety of variables and options that determine a lot about how the game will be played out. Needless to say, going through the tutorial is practically a must. And even after going through the pages of text the game provides there is still a good chance the player will be lost. The only real way to figure out a game like this is to dive in and just go through several rounds of trial and error. Yet even after you start to get a feel for things, your frustration will likely linger in the form of bugs and glitches.

One of the strongest points of Space Empires V is the incredibly deep diplomacy system. While most 4X games give you simple options such as trading technologies or forming alliances, you can place virtually any stipulation you desire on a contract with another race. Options such as revealing minefields, allowing docking at ports, placing barriers on research, and even establishing exact voting rights can all be done with a stunning amount of detail and precision. Of course, the aforementioned bugs come into play here and can sour what is potentially a fantastic system. For example, sometimes you will send a message to an apparently neutral culture only to get absolutely no reply, leaving you to wonder if the message never got there or if they just don\'t like you. Other times you will make a technology trade only to find the technology you got is not the one specified in the agreement.

Oddities such as this run rampant in Space Empires V. While the game features a vast technology tree, some of them are broken and will not improve even though they increase in level. Also, there are times when the game will straight-up lie to you and tell you something about a race that is entirely untrue. These and other such frustrations make playing the game tough, but at least the AI will give you a break. It seems as though the inhabitants of the galaxy come in two distinct mindsets: the emo ones that don\'t care at all, and the meathead ones that are too dumb to take seriously. Not only is the AI generally bad, but at times it will also come after you for no apparent reason. When an enemy dictator is demanding that you remove troops from a sector you have never even heard of, try not to laugh.

Graphically, this is one of the few areas of the game that likely won\'t cause you some amount of frustration. Planets, stars, storms, and other interstellar objects are well rendered, colorful, and have a wide degree of variation. We only wish there had been a little more animation to really bring things to life. While functionally it may not be the most efficient design, the user interface is also very space-age and nice looking. The audio is also up to par with moody space music and various \"pew pew\" sounds coming from your ships.

Ultimately the people who will enjoy Space Empires V have likely already bought the game and this review is a moot point. If you enjoy a ton of micromanaging, getting things down to the very last detail, and can handle the bugs and glitches that will be thrown your way, this latest Space Empires may be worth a look. But for those who come up frustrated and lost, don\'t say we didn\'t warn you.

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