I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of minimalism; I enjoy simple things, like toned-down aesthetics and bare-bones controls that do what needs done in a clean, efficient, and non-complicated manner. Galcon Legends, by designer Phillip Hassey, certainly embraces these ideas and works to maximize their potential. What comes of it? A uniquely entertaining, fast-paced strategy game to life with such simple artistry that I scarcely knew what I was in for based on Steam’s trailer video and promotional images.
I think perhaps my wife summed it up best when she glanced at what I was doing and commented off-hand, “It looks like simplified Risk in space.” The premise of the game is that you, as Buck the bill collector, must overwhelm your enemies in a frantic strategy-gone-mad race across the galaxy. The playing field for each level is made of any of a number of planets which range in size; the larger a planet is, the higher its production value when held by a player, and thus, the more important it can become to winning a match. The controls are all click and drag simplicity, allowing you to select one of your controlled worlds with a click, adding more with successive ones, box-selecting planets in a region, or simply selecting all of them with a double-click on any. From there, you select a target – enemy or neutral – and launch your attacks to attempt to wrest control from your opponent.
If this sounds simple, it’s likely because the core of it really is. Without much thought beyond throwing most everything you’ve got at the enemy with reckless abandon, one can pretty easily storm through most of Galcon Legends on its easiest difficulty, and see the story of Buck unfold. Beyond this minimalist trappings, though, there’s a deeper thing going on. You face enemies with unfair advantages; ships that can’t be seen, enormous fleets to crush you, or ships that move three times faster than your own, sweeping you from the battlefield before you know what’s coming. What’s more, you’re always made to be mindful of each planet’s defenses, represented by the number displayed on it; all planets have a number, even those unconquered, and finding the low-defense, high-production points early in a game can make or break your chances.
In addition, you’re given a slider along the right of the screen (also controllable with the mouse wheel), allowing you to decide what percentage of your forces to devote to any attack or defensive maneuver. You can go all-out and storm the enemy, but you’ll leave yourself open to attack. You can try chipping away, but this takes longer — I won most of my battles running 5-10% attack force, but in some situations, you’ll simply be overwhelmed by a more aggressive opponent if you sit back too much and allow them to storm through all the planets with good production ratings. Moreover, all of this happens at near-blinding speeds, even on easy difficulties, meaning snap judgments are your only recourse, and changing the slider on the fly is crucial to success when the action gets tense.
When you get down to it, Galcon Legends is, from a development standpoint, a simple game. The graphics aren’t overly flashy, the art design is good but not overdone, the sound and the controls and all of the trappings of it hold to the minimalism I mentioned. Underneath that simplistic veneer, though, there’s a pretty good strategy game that keeps you on your toes by always moving, always changing. Maps are randomly generated (it seems), and levels can be replayed with fresh layouts to keep things interesting. The story is nothing spectacular, but adds a fun backdrop to the action. With a nice, neat little $8.99 price tag (subject, as all things are, to occasional Steam sales, I’m sure), the only immediate drawback I can think of is the lack of multiplayer, which is available instead as Galcon Fusion, with its own associated cost to purchase.