Galcon 2: Galactic Conquest takes the premise of a multiplayer Real-Time Strategy game and distils the concept down to its purest form. It is to Star Craft 2 what Doom is to Half Life 2 in the FPS genre – frenetic, simple fun.
Set to a backdrop of an abstracted galactic war, you take control of an empire hell bent on total rule. Matches come in two sizes, 23 or 48 worlds, and on less powerful machines you will notice the impact of larger map sizes once all your forces are in motion.
Prepare to launch
Battles take place in single screen arenas, filled with the planets you, your partners, and your enemies rule over - all of which are marked with striking neon colors against the black of space. A number on each world marks the amount of ships on it or, in the case of unoccupied territories, how many craft are required to capture it. This number is hidden on opponents' planets, however, launching attacks against these proves a more risky affair.
Attacks are launched simply by tapping on the world(s) of the fleet(s) you want to use, and picking your target. The selected planets then send half their forces towards the designated planet and, if your numbers outweigh you opponents, you can claim it as your own.
Each world generates new ships automatically, with larger planets creating them faster. It is a streamlined system that works well with Galcon 2’s fast pace, avoiding the heavier resource management of larger RTS titles. This creates an interesting push-pull dynamic, as you quickly assign forces to claim high-value targets and rapidly grow your fleet while trying not to compromise on defense. It’s frantic, and often you can find yourself being lulled in to poor defensive decisions as you send too many units towards a planet of unknown power leaving key territories undefended – a particular problem against more canny online opponents.
The big red button
The manic, tactical play is incredibly compelling, especially with a UI that hides your opponent’s power, and creates an almost Battleship-like mystery mechanic. But for all of its clever mechanical polish, Galcon 2 does have problems.
My biggest issue was that I really struggled to distinguish between my planets and partners. Though opponents’ worlds were clearly marked, co-op partners all looked a very similar blue. This saw me regularly losing my ships as, when trying to select multiple attackers, I would end up sending my fleet to a partner's planets as "reinforcements", leaving me and my worlds undefended and underpowered.
Oddly the solution to this was the game’s colorblind mode that is hidden in the options (not a setting that I usually have to make use of). This provided a distinct contrast between everyone in play, as well as making all my forces a completely different color.
The free-to-play nature is also a problem if you are in an area with poor connection. This makes it nearly impossible to play on the move (or at least on the subway) as the game is constantly trying to login. It a shame, because the fast one shot style of play Galcon 2 specializes in, is perfect for gaming on the move - but as this is designed for multiplayer I guess I should look to the original Galcon for that.
A mouthful of mayhem
Galcon 2's fast-paced and abstract take on the multiplayer RTS genre creates a great little game to jump into for a quick couple of matches. However, its twitch nature does rob it of the greater depth that draws many people to the genre – a fact that may undermine a more lasting appeal. As a free-to-play game it is certainly worth a taste to see if you find if moreish, but don't be surprised if it feels more like an appetizer than a meal.