A handful of Xbox LIVE-enabled games on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 have supported cross-platform gameplay in the past – most notably the recently-released Skulls of the Shogun – but turned-based strategy game Galactic Reign takes things a set further, allowing you to truly buy the game once and play it anywhere. Plus, the game is just plain fun.
Galactic Reign is, at its core, a relatively simple turn-based strategy game. Players are tasked with building up their fleets in order to expand their faction’s territory and conquer the galaxy. This can be done with either the Alkari Ascendancy (a technologically-advanced species), the Sundog Battalion (a powerful species), or the Zorn (a strategic species).
Like any good strategy game, each ship type has various strengths and weaknesses which can augmented with weapons and upgrades using resources (Pro tip: you can name each ship to make it easier to differentiate between similar models). Resources, however, can also be spent on researching new technology or colonizing planets. There are a number of ways to earn victory points, and the first team to reach 25 wins the game.
The game’s most remarkable feature is the Battle Videos, which depict the epic dogfights between fleets in a beautifully rendered cutscene. These videos are rendered in the cloud and then downloaded to the device, and you can pause or rewind them at any time to analyze the ships on the screen. Here, you’ll be able to get a good look at the make up of your opponent’s fleet and learn valuable strategic information.
Battle Videos take a few minutes to render and then download, but they’re well worth it. No two are ever alike, since the size of each fleet, the type of ships involved, and the location changes from fight to fight. If you’re playing the game on Windows 8, you can choose to save the videos to your device as well.
While the multiplayer component is the primary game mode, Galactic Reign also includes a training simulator mode called Battle Academy. This mode contains 60 different combat scenarios, each of which is designed to help you learn how to handle a particular situation. With the conquest and research portions of the game removed, you need only build a fleet capable of eliminating the enemy and then watch the fireworks. While Battle Academy is fun, I found the scoring system somewhat opaque. Sometimes it was easy to three-star a conflict, while other times I repeatedly failed to gain even a single star.
Presentation-wise, Galactic Reign is amazing. The music sounds great and is somewhat reminiscent of the Mass Effect score, while the aforementioned Battle Video graphics are often jaw-dropping. The galactic map is a simple top-down two-dimensional interface, but that’s all it really needs to be. The sound effects are quite good too. My only complaint is that the fleets are colored according to the home and away teams, rather than you vs. your opponent. As a result, there were a few instances where I wasn’t completely sure which fleet was mine.
My favorite aspect of Galactic Reign, however, is the true cross-platform gameplay. Skulls of the Shogun supports Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox 360, but you need to purchase the game on each platform. This, of course, is because the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store currently are not unified in any way. Microsoft is reportedly working on changing this, but Galactic Reign manages to get around the limitation with a neat little trick.
Like all Xbox LIVE-enabled games, you can download a free trial on any platform with limited access to the various modes and features. But if you purchase Galactic Reign on one platform, all of the features are automatically unlocked on the other free of charge. The game’s UI still notes it as a trial and you won’t be able to unlock achievements on the second platform, but otherwise it’s the full game.
I’m not generally a big fan of strategy games, so I wasn’t sure if I’d like Galactic Reign going into it. The gameplay, however, is a lot of fun and quickly won me over. The impressive Battle Videos and unique cross-platform features are just icing on the cake. I’d definitely recommend giving the game a try – there is a free trial, after all.
Download: Windows Store ($5.99)
Download: Windows Phone Store ($4.99)