Or they do if you want them to; that's one of this games most pleasing features you not only control the size of the universe (a tiny one means a short, sharp challenge, a huge (and they can be very big) universe means that the game can last for weeks, allowing you to fully put your stamp on the galaxy and explore all that this title has to offer.) you also dictate the personality and intelligence level of your opponents. So, you can be faced with a pure evil genius, hell bent on your complete annihilation (like some freaky love child of Stalin and Alex Ferguson) or, if you prefer a somewhat simpler challenge you can create an adversary full of the milk of human (or alien) kindness, with all the intelligence of Robbie from Eastenders.
Or indeed, you can have a combination of both. The choices are limitless.
Graphically the game is functional, but nothing to get too excited about. Save for some nice movie sequences at the start-up and intro stage, you're left with a top down view of space with little detail (think, jazzed up "asteroids") and not really what you'd expect in today's market.
Similarly the sound is nothing to write home about, don't however let this or the rather basic graphics put you off, the graphics wouldn't enhance the game greatly if they were stunning, what this baby relies most heavily on is its addictive game play.
As I mentioned briefly before, the basic concept of the game is to achieve dominance of the galaxy by colonising planets and subsequently keeping them protected, developing sophisticated weapons, communications and medical technology, progressing politics and trade and keeping everyone else happy, whilst your enemy's try to do the same, and all the while, you're trying to undermine his civilisation through espionage or blocking off trade routes.
Sounds simple? Actually it is. Having played the game for half an hour, I concluded that I'd never be able to keep track of all my ships and planets, whilst developing TV networks and allocating resources to mine for gold, but things do seem to take care of themselves if you're organised and take the empire building slowly. The ability to set the skill level and scope of the game really helps in giving the game solid, long term appeal.
This is not to say that you don't find yourself a little overwhelmed at times and if you're not careful, you can find you lose planets to your rivals without realising!!
The control system is fairly straightforward as you move around each ship from your fleet in turn either colonising a planet, or picking up an anomaly (space debris that will provide power ups or not, as the case may be.). You can have ships patrol or guard a planet or piece of space as you send others out exploring for further riches.
I kinda liked this, and despite not being a game that one can pick up and play instantly, I've found myself going back to it again and again. It's a bold twist on the diplomacy/god game that will appeal to the Trekkie proportion of the population, but is well worth a look.
8 out of 10