The IGN review of Galactic Civilizations II is up at IGN. The very thorough review goes over both what they see the key strengths (game play, AI, strategic depth, fun-factor) as well as what they feel are weaknesses (no multiplayer, not enough sound effects, land combat is passive).
Last year's Civilization IV pretty much set a new standard for the genre, becoming the reigning king of historical themed 4x games (and took the multiplayer crown as well). This year, another sequel, Stardock's Galactic Civilization II: Dread Lords, brings the same level of polish and sophistication to the science-fiction side of the genre.
The ship designer:
One of the coolest features in the game is the ship designer. I must have wasted hours and hours just tinkering with this aspect of the game, making everything from nimble scouts to hulking battle cruisers to bulging colony ships. There are plenty of pre-generated ships for boring players who aren't interested in tinkering with their own designs but the ship design tool here is so versatile and so convenient that there's really no excuse not to try it out.
And for balance (yea, I know we're the game's home page, we're supposed to flood you with propaganda but better to have someone get the game and be happy with it than to feel like they were led to believe they were getting something else):
I have to admit that the lack of multiplayer is a bit of a strike against the game, particularly so in the wake of Civ IV's stellar multiplayer offerings. The gang at Stardock reason that the game can do without multiplayer for now, hinting that the architecture required to include it is in fact lurking somewhere within the game. The justification that the game is a full ten bucks cheaper because multiplayer wasn't included makes it a little easier to swallow. Still, I'll never allow that this whole Metaverse concept, whereby players compare their scores online, is a substitute. That's like claiming Pac-Man is multiplayer because it has a high score screen.
We knew that not having multiplayer in the game would affect reviews. There's no way around it. We are still certain it was the right decision.
First, it allowed us to make the game and sell it for $40 rather than the prevailing $50. The sales figures seem to back that up. Simply put, we just didn't feel that players should have to subsidize the small % of people who play multiplayer. If there's demand, we can always add it later. The Metaverse, as mentioned, required we put in the plumbing.
Secondly, we simply wanted to focus on the single player experience. Seems like more and more games forgo the single player experience in order to put a checkbox on multiplayer. Or put another way, we think there's a significant number of people in recent years who feel like we do -- that single player strategists have gotten a bit shafted in favor of satisfying multiplayer. We'll likely add in multiplayer in some expansion if there's demand, but we wanted the base game to focus on the individual strategy gamer. Whether we made the right decision is ultimately up to you.
It's a very good review though in terms of outlining what you can expect in the game both pro and con. Despite the mark down for no multiplayer, IGN still gave GalCiv II the Editor's Choice Award.