Thursday, February 15, 2007
Plymouth, Michigan, United States – This week, independent software developer Stardock released Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar, an expansion to their PC turn-based strategy game Dread Lords. Industry websites IGN and GameSpy responded with Editors’ Choice awards, while UGO gave it an A. The expansion had previously been named as one of GameSpy’s Most Wanted Games of 2007.
Reviewers cited the significant increase in customization options, better artificial intelligence, and an improvement in graphics quality as decisive factors. UGO’s Adam Swiderski noted that “if creating a fleet of death-dealing starships sounds like fun to you (and it really should), this is your dream playground,” while GameSpy’s reviewer suggested that “after a week of playing Dark Avatar, you may forget Master of Orion altogether.” Criticism mostly revolved around “uninspired” ground combat, a too-generic tech tree, and the continued lack of multiplayer support.
The original game received some publicity for its lack of copy protection, but gained far more by the actions of a StarForce forum administrator, who made a post linking to an illegal BitTorrent download of the game. StarForce developer Protection Technology later claimed this to be a poorly-considered attempt to demonstrate the result of not using their software, which is designed to prevent software piracy. The result was a media backlash against the company, including satirical commentary by gaming webcomic/blog Penny Arcade describing the action as “extortion.” Its writer, Jerry Holkins, asked that “publishers distance themselves from a company that has shown such contempt for their industry.”
The expansion is available as an online purchase in CD or digital download form through Stardock’s gaming subsidiary, TotalGaming.net. A compilation of the original and expansion has also been released as Galactic Civilizations II: Gold Edition and is available in stores, say Stardock. Their retail game releases still contain no copy protection, but online activation is required to download updates.