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Space Empires IV Gold

Space Empires IV Gold

Space Empires IV Gold is a follow up to the very successful Space Empires IV strategy game. As with most games of this type you start the game with one planet and your objective is to end up running the galaxy. Unlike most space strategy games there are a number of winning conditions. This means that you do not have to conquer every other species in the galaxy, although some of them may not feel that way.

Space Empires Main Game Screen

Space Empires IV Gold has a nice simple display, consisting of 4 areas. At the top is a button bar which provides an easy way of entering commands. On the right are two boxes, the top one gives details of the current active object, such as a ship or planet and the bottom one shows the explored parts of the galaxy. The remainder of screen shows the current star system or the battle area. See picture.

While this display is used through out the game it is at times overlaid with other smaller screens. For example if you select a planet and then click on the build icon [the one that looks like a crane] the build dialogue is displayed over the main screen. See picture. This allows you to select a variety of items to build. These items are divided into three categories, Ships, Facilities such as research centres, space yards, mining facilities, farms and so on and Units which are basically weapons. The number of things that can be build is impressive and depends upon your racial attributes. For example, the picture shows the Terran Empire which has a Religious attribute thus allowing access to various Religious artefacts. Other races have access to, for example, Temporal or Crystalline artefacts.

Space Empires Build Screen

Before you can build anything in Space Empires IV Gold you have to have discovered it. At the start of the game you have discovered a few basic things, such as a small ship, a colonising ship, basic research facilities, simple mining and farming and so on. This enables you to design and build ships which enable to you explore and colonise near by systems. Note that there are three basic types of planets, Rock, Ice and Gas and at the start you will only be able to one of these types. Each of these basic types also has a number of sub-types so some will have a suitable atmosphere for your race, some will be large, some small and so on. This means that initially you have to pick which planets to colonise carefully. As you colonise new planets you chose what to build and at the start you will have a limited choice, but you can research into a truly impressive range of topics. This will eventually allow you to build bigger ships, better farms and mines, more intensive research centres, more powerful weapons and so on. Eventually you will also discover how to colonise the different types of planets, allowing for faster colonisation.

Needless to say, you are not alone in this galaxy. Eventually you will bump into other races. What happens then depends upon the characteristics of the other race and what you do. How you treat the other race will affect how they treat you. And how other races will treat you. When you first meet another race they do tend to shoot first, but you can open a dialogue with them and propose various treaties ranging from a non-aggression treaty to a full partnership. Once you have negotiated a treaty you will need to keep talking to the other race otherwise they might get upset and declare war.

Space Empires Battle Screen

At some point you almost certainly have to fight another race and when you do the main screen changes slightly. The display will normally show the star system that you are in, however during a battle the main screen "zooms" in to show just the immediate area around the battle. At the same time the bottom right hand box changes to show a diagram of the complete battle zone. You can scroll around the battle zone and select individual ships and/or battle fleets. And control of the fighting is relatively simple. Directing a battle is fairly simple but I have to admit that I personally found it a bit difficult to move the ships exactly where I wanted. This has improved as I played the game, but I still occasionally put a ship or two in the wrong place. Another thing I do not like about fighting is the use of Point Defence Cannons. These are use mainly to target incoming missiles and fighters. The trouble is the game will fire these automatically with out any intervention on your part. Now I can understand why, they are an automatic defence system, but often they target the wrong enemy. For example if you have a lot of missiles coming for your fleet you may wish to protect one ship at the expense of another. You have no way of doing this. Actually I have to admit that might not be strictly true. It is probably better to say that I have not found a way of doing it.

The reason for qualifying the previous statement is that Space Empires IV Gold has been designed from the beginning to be customisable. It is relatively easy to modify the game either slightly or so extensively that it is almost another game entirely. There are a number of "mods" available which change Space Empires IV Gold quite dramatically and a number of others under construction.

All in all Space Empires IV Gold is an excellent game, but as is common with most games the AI is not perfect. Within the game you can not only play against the computer but also ask the computer to take over for you at certain times. At the start of a battle, for example, you are asked if you want to direct it yourself or let the AI direct it. The trouble with letting the AI do it is that it often looses what should be a simple win. Now this is not a problem for your forces since you can direct the battle, but it does mean that your opposition is not always a difficult to beat as it could be.

To summarise, Space Empires IV Gold is one of the best space strategy games I have played. It has good graphics, an excellent range of items to research and build, and simple and intuitive interface. The AI is not as strong as I would like but that is true for all games of this type. All in all well worth buying.