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How to rule the galaxy in Galactic Civilizations III: Mercenaries

GalCiv3 Mercenaries FinalKeyArt

How to Rule the Galaxy in Galactic Civilizations III: Mercenaries

Even in the massive sandbox universe of Galactic Civilizations III, there can only be one ultimate supreme leader of the galaxy -- and we think it should be you. We suspect you'll agree.

But it won't be easy. You'll need to muscle, sweet-talk, or buy your way to the top of all the other species vying for control of the universe in the newest installment of this classic 4X franchise. We loved the base game when it came out last year and its newest DLC, Galactic Civilizations III: Mercenaries, builds on top of that rock-solid foundation.

The new DLC adds two new races, two new tech trees, new ships, a new campaign, tons of improvements all over the place, and -- of course -- the namesake mercenaries feature, which lets you hire freelance heroes to specialize your forces. All of that is on top of the hundreds and thousands of ships, races, and other goodies that modders have built through Steam Workshop.

That's a lot of awesome stuff, so we put together a quick guide to help you master it all and ascend to your rightful place at the head of the galaxy.

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Start At Home

When you're just getting started, don't worry about all the enticingly exotic alien species. New players should stick with the good ol' classic humans as their first race. Their tech will be familiar and pretty easy to understand -- plus, you'll be conquering the galaxy in the name good ol' mother Earth.

But first you've got to rally your troops behind you. Keeping the citizens on your planets happy is key, and there are a lot of great tools in the game to help make this easier at the start. You can (and should) rely heavily on Governors to build out your planets.

Once you've mastered the game a bit more, you can build the planets out yourself to specialize their purpose perfectly. But for now, keeping your population happy and wealthy will make sure your own banks and trade freighters are filled to fuel your empire's expansion.

And when you really want to feel like an emperor, pull up the command screen, which lets you issue mass orders like making all of your shipyards build a particular ship at the same time.


Make Some Friends

I know you're itching to conquer, but before you go all Duke Nukem on the galaxy, you should play it safe while learning the ropes. Galactic Civilizations III is a deep strategy game with many, many options for you to discover and try out over time. But, for new players, we highly recommend that you start off being friendly neighbors.

Diplomacy 101: If one of the AI species talks to you, don't ignore them. Respond quickly and at least pretend to be nice, trading techs whenever possible to get you both ahead. Don't screw them over on trades or treaties. And, most importantly, learn which races you can trust.

Each race in the game has nuances in their personalities, desires, and strengths that you can learn over time. You want to make sure that you're the one backstabbing your allies -- not the other way around!


Find Your Win Condition

After you've mastered the basics of the game, it's time to experiment with the different win conditions you can pursue. Your four options are to race up the tech tree, subdue through diplomacy, ascend by holding onto powerful artifacts, or the old-school tactic of just murdering everyone.

At this point, it's a good idea to start branching out into other races as well. Be sure to play to your own race's strengths when choosing a win condition. You can't go wrong with the early tech choices -- everyone needs the basics like factories and money -- but you'll want to specialize by the time you hit the Age of War.

Having so many different ways to win makes every game feel incredibly unique, and you'll learn something new every time you play. But we don't want to send you out into the void without some help, so here's some brief tips for each goal.

  • Conquer: Learn the strengths and weaknesses of each weapon system and use them to counter your opponent's defenses.
  • Tech: Trade tech with others and supercharge your own research so that you always have the best in the galaxy, if push comes to shove.
  • Diplomacy: Build lots of defenses and do everything you can to make people love you -- so that war refugees from all across the galaxy defect to your peaceful planets.
  • Ascension: Scout early and often to find the artifacts needed, and rely on strong defenses and diplomacy to deter aggression.

No matter which route you take, you're going to want resources. The expansion makes it easier to find them right away, so grab any you can to get ahead of your neighbors.

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Master Every Detail

After you've dabbled in all of the win conditions and learned the intricacies of each, you're ready to really dive into the details and start min-maxing like a madman. First up are your ship designs.

There are a ton of pre-existing ship designs to choose from, especially with mods included. But the ship customization options are so deep and compelling that you won't be able to resist digging into it yourself.

It's not just simple rock-paper-scissors -- Galactic Civilization III's combat options a wonderfully intricate web of strengths and weaknesses that you can exploit in many different ways. For example, if you see an enemy building heavily armored ships, you can build your own heavily armored ships to compete or research weapon types that bypass armor or build ships that take advantage of a totally different weakness in that ship.

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Bring in the Specialists

Sometimes the best way to counter your opponent's build isn't to invest heavily in researching new tech and rebuilding your fleet. One of the best features of the new Mercenaries expansion is that you have another option to consider: hire a mercenary with resources. Each has a unique personality and back story, plus a special perk or combat effect. There are over 70 mercenaries available in the Expansion, however you will have the opportunity to play up to 36 mercenaries in each game, which enhance's the game's replay-ability tremendously.

So when you've been fitting your fleet with short-range kinetic weapons only to find out that your enemy went with long-range beam weapons that'll toast you before you can touch them, you have options. You could boost the range on your mass drivers, upgrade your shields, or hire the mercenary that'll give your fleet the ability to shrug off beam attacks entirely.

Each of the mercenaries is a tactical option that you need to know when to use or save for later -- this current enemy fleet isn't the only threat you'll face!

Go Forth and Conquer!

We hope this strategy primer will help you get a leg up on those AI jerks when you dive into Galactic Civilization III: Mercenaries, which came out on February 18! And when you're ready, you can jump into a multiplayer game and play co-op with a friend, and rule together (or backstab them at the last moment and have everything to yourself... it's your call).

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