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Galaxy Harvest


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Rating: 3.9/5 (39 votes)
Comments (9) | Views (6,002)

Galaxy Harvest

SatoriHave you ever looked out into the clear night sky, churning and teeming with a myriad of twinkling stars, and wondered if there's life on other planets? Pondered your own infinitesimal smallness against the still backdrop of a cosmos much too vast for any sane person to reasonably comprehend, and wondered about your place in the grand scheme of things? If so, Galaxy Harvest, the realtime strategy game by Lev Simonov and Anna Maskaleva has your answer: Biomass. Yes, biomass. You see little Billy, it just so happens that keeping an advanced civilization humming along doesn't come cheaply and the yawning maws of those huge reactors that power it aren't going to feed themselves. That's where you come in. Biomass makes the perfect fuel source to keep a sophisticated, well-developed civilization thriving. Oceans rich in aquatic life, continents thick with musty pine forests, galloping herds of unsuspecting giraffe roaming innocently across the plain, generations of humans and yes even you, all of them have an important place in keeping a refined civilization ticking over. They're all just waiting to be scooped up and thrown to the reactors as biomass, and they're just the ticket. You can even seed nearby planets with life if you're the kind of civilization to plan ahead and you're willing to play the long (long, loooong) game and stop by again in a few billion years to reap what you've sown.

Galaxy HarvestThe basics of Galaxy Harvest will be familiar to those who've played realtime strategy games before, and the game features a clear tutorial as well. Click on a planetary system to survey it and if you decide that it's a worthwhile investment you can spend a fair chunk of your existing biomass to seed it with life which will grow and develop on its own. By default now, Harvesters will be sent from your homeworld at regular intervals to cull some of that life and bring it back. You'll eventually be able to research options that can enable you to seed planets too cold, hot, or corrosive to ordinarily support life, seed regular planets with a larger chunk of biomass to hasten their growth, and even improve conditions on the planets to make them thrive. As they grow though you'll want to keep tabs on their level of development, since for some reason civilizations that have developed beyond a certain point tend to take exception to being culled (the nerve!) and shoot down your Harvesters when they arrive. Quelling uprisings is a matter of apportioning biomass to send out the appropriate category of attack ship to respond, but that will also deteriorate living conditions on the planet and affect your bottom line.

Galaxy HarvestLeft unchecked, insurgent planets will extend to other planets and form their own federations (which is bad, for you). But Tech Points are gained if you subdue planets which have been allowed to develop beyond a certain technology level (for you, that's good). Trouncing upstart civilizations isn't the only way to gain Tech Points; you can also glean them by exploring unidentified space phenomenae and occasionally by discovering ruins of ancient civilizations when you colonize. Tech Points can be spent researching improvements to things like your range, ship capacity, rate of travel and firepower, but can also be used to improve your effectiveness at seeding a planet with life. Researched techs can then be purchased on your homeworld with, you guessed it, more biomass. However phenomenally bleak its premise, Galaxy Harvest's RTS action brings plenty of playability. The tutorial system is comprehensive and gradually adds new game elements through the levels as you play so you never feel particularly overwhelmed. The inclusion of a fast-forward feature is certainly appreciated, enabling you to skip past aeons of planetary development while still being able to attend to things when needed. For all its gameplay we found the underlying question Galaxy Harvest presents to be engaging and thought-provoking... just how barbaric can a civilization become and still deserve the title, and without civility is there any point?

Play Galaxy Harvest

9 Comments

silent george November 24, 2014 6:14 PM

Am I missing something? I've been harvesting for 4 million year, have 23 tech points, but everything in the tech lab is locked.

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silent george November 24, 2014 6:28 PM

Oh, thanks. I was wasting time trying to get the tech lab to open up, and didn't notice that you could upgrade the tech itself on the HQ planet. It needs to glow or something during the tutorial.

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Patreon Donator Infant Tyrone November 25, 2014 12:13 AM

Aside for some jerkiness in navigating around the universe (which is probably my machine, to be honest,) I had a grand old time with this. It reminds me of Spaceward Ho!

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An interesting concept, and it looks like I would enjoy playing it, but there is just waaaaaaaaaay too much going on at once. I think it would have been a wiser decision to have very limited functionality in the beginning and slowly add more and more options as you progress through the first several levels. So first level would be just exploring. Second level would add sowing/seeding (also, should be consistent with terminology--use one word or the other). Third level would add Harvesting. And so on and so on...

Personally, I just stopped playing after exploring and seeding one other planet because I simply just didn't know what was going on. There's percentages and decimals around each planet, stuff is scrolling across the bottom of the screen, I've got "AutoHarvest" check boxes and slider bars. Size, Habitability, Lifeform...!

It was just too damn much at once and not much was explained to me other than the fact that I use biomass to send the ships to explore and stuff. Okay...? So I need to spend biomass... to get more biomass?? How exactly does that work!? I can just let the game sit idle and my Biomass gradually goes up. Why explore? Why play!? Just in the time it took me to write this comment I managed to achieve well over the required 1,000 biomass goal of the first level and I never even clicked on anything! So now what? Just spend all my biomass to explore and seed/sow everything just to... um... well, I guess to replenish the biomass I had spent? This game makes no sense.

Like I stated: This *looks* like an excellent game, full of strategy and planning, but without any real explanation of what *anything* does, it turns into a what-does-this-do? clickfest. Or an idle game, depending on how you look at it. Either way: Pass.

I'd give it 2 out of 5 stars. One star for looking cool and another for having potential.

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The comments made by Baxter Cornelius seem to be a little biased; based on what I can tell, he only did the first level, where as the game tends to explain itself better later on.

The game however, is not without flaws and achievements so here are my thoughts on it.

The game has a certain Master of Orion-y feeling to it (may be mostly because of the music, though). The main levels (which to say, the tutorials) are structured in a way as to introduce more game elements, which by itself is a good way to introduce the game, although the first level does let some explanation to be done (for those not familiar with this kind of game setting).

The second level introduces you to technology and upgrades, the third to enemy civilizations (which become your source for tech points), the fourth to planetary climates, the fifth to the different "personalities" enemy civilizations can have, the sixth to terraforming, the seventh to Locusts, the eight to black holes and the ninth to extra tech. The tenth level is the final test.

The game itself has some minor issues. When selecting a planet, the camera centers itself on it, which is bothersome when having a global focus. A button to turn off the centering would be helpful, although this problem is lessened the less zoom (i.e. the more planets you can see) you have. There also doesn't seem to be autopausing while checking the planet list, which is odd, but manageable.

A quick analysis of the plot shows some flaws. The intro cutscene introduces you to the Galaxy Empire that lacked a resource - biomass. To produce it, they sent seeder ships to every planet for it to grow and be harvested in an never-ending industry. I find it hard to believe that an organization of that magnitude can't find a way to produce (and control) biomass in any sufficient quantity. The role of biomass is also never explained thoroughly, although both the player and the AI use it for everything so... biomass = unobtanium?

On to the game itself. The mechanics are solid, they work and they make a compelling gameplay, if at times you have to play with the slowest speed setting, due to everything that happens as you scale your worlds. They may be overly simplistic, and here are my main problems with the game.

To start with, the game pretty much automates the process of harvesting for you. This is good - it prevents me from checking on menial tasks and concentrating on actual problems. However, as you get deeper into the tutorial, you get access to two more harvesters, a heavy harvester and a battle harvester. The game never uses any harvester other than the regular one, which then means that whenever I feel like a planet needs a good harvesting, I need to do it by hand.

The battle harvester suffers from another problem. Its main use is to remove population from enemy civilizations or Locusts. The problem is that they cost more than what they take. This happens until you have developed your Capacity up to level 9-ish. Even still, travel costs scale by distance so even with the bare minimum technological development it may not yet be cost effective to use them.

The second set of problems comes with the enemy civilizations. You need to defeat a planet for tech points. This is an interesting mechanic, coupled with the fact the amount of tech you get is paired with how much you have, makes managing all competing empires an interesting problem. However, due to the limitations with the tutorial and the tech tree development, there are few incentives to keep them around after the tech tree is filled. Also, they are a constant threat to your headquarter. Nothing stops me from blasting their planet with a single fighter as soon as they get to a level where they can threaten me.

There is also a babysitting issue with the civilizations. Despite being a threat, whenever they expand to another planet, they also convert it to their tech level (which is a bonus if the planet was underdeveloped). However, there are civilizations that destroy themselves and the environment. This makes managing the civilizations your concern, because those civilizations, if left to their devices, may never reach the higher tech levels needed. Considering that you get the civilization's personalities when the planets reach level 4, there is little stopping you from keeping "good" personalities ans wiping out the bad ones at start. This micromanagement is offsetting, to say the least. Locust, which are similar to barbarians wiping planets, are also easily dealt with, because of the delay they have when appear and attack.

The last point is the terraforming. Attacking a planet cuts down 0.1 points of habitability, which determines (as well as current population) how fast population grows on a planet. Some civilizations also increase or decrease their habitability score as they exist (effects of pollution, I suppose). Planets with 0 and lower habitability can't harbor life and any remaining life gets killed off. As I said earlier, you need to attack planets. Luckily, there is also a terraformer (that gives up to 0.5 points to a maximum of 1.3). The problem is that it costs too much. This is also coupled with the slow return on investment harvesting gives. Without terraforming, the game will eventually bog down; however terraforming eats a lot of the profits. There is also an option late into the game to create a black hole, which speeds up tenfold a planet's development. However, auto harvesters don't follow that speedup and hence where it would matter to use the heavy harvesters, the game forces you to do it by hand. As the tech level of planets is also developed, it means that in order to control the planet effectively, this is only usable near your HQ.

Minor nitpicking is why the HQ has health and can't be moved, but overall, the most glaring faults have been said before.

I'm currently at the last level of the tutorial. The other missions (at the "Random Sector" tab) are simply random maps where you have to fulfill different sets of objectives, which, depending on the objective, may be enjoyable challenges.

I would give it a 3 out of 5. It has a solid gameplay but is bogged down by the many issues it has, making this RTS more of an industry simulator (which the intro cutscene is quick to point).

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I eventually managed to end the tutorial (and greeted by a message stating they didn't expect anyone to get that far).

I've started a random game (this case the locust invasion) and to be fair, the lack of the upgrades one had in the tutorial is a challenge to cope, more so because locust strike early enough such that it may be preferable to let planets develop longer (so that they can defend themselves). This may be however broken by the following though:

In the end of that game, I managed to advance all 2nd tier technologies until I no longer had biomass to either harvest planets or seed them or defend myself. I then lost due to successive strikes.

After restarting, I noticed I could use heavy seeders. After checking the tech screen, I noticed I still had level 2 tech.

This seems like a bug, mostly because (in this setting) it takes off some of the challenge in gathering tech points and it allows for more developed planets early on. On levels where technology is needed, this might remove a lot of the challenge.

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halogen3.14 January 21, 2015 9:03 AM

Anyone managed to

find out what the deep blue (atomic symbol like) special ability of the civilizations. I have completely beaten the game and have played for at least a week but still there is no instance of that special ability popping up in any of the civilizations?

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