Galcon Fusion is a strategy game sometimes described as “Risk, in space, in real-time.” Players begin with a planet that generates a certain number of ships per minute (based on size), and must strategically use those ships to overpower the forces of opponents in order to seize control of all planets on the map. When moving ships between planets, you can choose any percentage between 5% and 100% (in increments of 5%) that represents the size of the fleet leaving the planet.
As a long time fan of gaming (real-time strategy games, in particular), I was excited to get my hands dirty with the Mac/iPad follow-up to the popular Galcon for iPhone. Galcon Fusion carries on the same concept as the original, but bringing it to the bigger screen, along with several new game modes.
In addition to the classic play style, the game adds a series of additional game modes that can be played at 10 difficulty levels ranging from Cabin Boy to Grand Admiral (this is also the scale used for your win-rank in multiplayer, more on that later). In Vacuum, you are the only player, and the object is take over all of the neutral planets on the map before time runs out. I find this is good practice for learning to manage your units.
Beast is a game mode in which your opponent begins with control of many small planets that each have a few ships, while you control two large planets with many ships. The idea is to effectively manage your fleet sizes to take over all of the planets before your opponent gets the opportunity to build a fleet large enough to overpower you. 3-Way is a relatively self explanatory game mode in which 3 players (you and two computers) fight to be the last man standing.
Stealth, Billiards, and Crash are all close variants of Classic gameplay. In stealth, your opponent’s ships will be visible when leaving a planet, but other than that are hidden from view, so their destination is unknown to you. In Billiards, the planets shift around in space and bounce off of each other, dynamically changing the playing field. Crash is played identically to Classic, except that fleets of ships will do damage to each other during travel, making the tactical movement of your units much more important.
Finally, Assassin is a 3 player game mode in which you must destroy the marked opponent before he destroys the non-marked opponent. This game, I find, tends to have a very cyclical nature to it.
Most of the game modes available in single player are available in multiplayer, though competitors in games other than Classic may be kind of sparse at the moment. Playing online will require you to create an account on the Galcon Fusion website. Once created, your online settings (such as default fleet size and preferred player color) will be preserved in the client. Also to note is that game settings can be changed in multiplayer lobbies (such as number of planets and game speed), a luxury not afforded to the single player mode.
As with most games that contain both single and multiplayer elements, the multiplayer brings an entirely new level of play into the game. I will be the first to admit: I’m not very good at this game, and some of the talent I’ve seen in multiplayer matches is quite impressive. As I mentioned before, your multiplayer record is monitored, and you’re given a rank (Cabin Boy – Grand Admiral) based on how many games you’ve won. I found it helpful that game lobbies were accompanied by an icon displaying the approximate average skill level of the players within (keeping me from joining a lobby of players who have far greater skill than I).
Part of the success of the original Galcon was the touch interface of the iPhone. Admittedly, that magic is lacking in the Mac iteration, as you control by clicking consecutive planets (or clicking and dragging) in order to send ships from one planet to another. I found this interfacing somewhat clunky, but after a bit of adapting, not terribly intrusive.
One of my favorite features of Galcon Fusion is the ability to play in what is called Retro Mode. Pressing F10 during a match will switch the graphics to Retro Mode, requiring the use of keyboard input (letters and numbers label the planets) in order command ships between planets.
The iPad version of Galcon Fusion is nearly identical to the Mac version (aside from Retro Mode, of course) and I feel compelled to say that the touch interface actually makes the game feel more fluid and intuitive. Aside from these minor tactile issues, however, Galcon Fusion provides a satisfying real-time strategy experience.