I am a big fan of space empire games and was hoping for this to finally break the spell of bad luck I have been having trying to find a game I can really enjoy to play (I think I am about 7-8 games and £100 down now with no real winner) Sadly this was not the case as I have not enjoyed this game, so much so that this is the first review I have been compelled to write.
As a point of reference my favourite space empire games so far are Star Wars Supremacy and Imperium Galactica 2.
I find the gameplay here impossibly difficult, there is only one basic strategy of expansion as quickly as possible which proves impossibe against AI oponents who seem to have an endless stream of better equipt and easily replaceable ships and space stations to which there is no defence. Combat usually comes down to numbers/technology and on a game that is not massively graphically interesting this means battles are dull and also very long as they are also turn based. Even when I manage to win a battle I find the opponants have so many more ships that any progress is nerfed pretty quickly.
The tech tree is fine as you can discover new technologies (although this happenes randomly thorugh a breakthrough system), but it is difficult to see any positive results of better technology and it takes an age to research or build anything. The technologies mostly just improve something you already had rather than giving you a new item/building.
The turn button will become your best friend in this game. Building a medium ship, say a cruiser, even at a reasonable point in the game with a few planets will take at least 20-30 turns and each turn equaltes to a year. This is a long time for anything to be build and means that unless you have at least 5-10 decent planets building a fleet takes so long to build if an enemy declares war on you suddenly you don't stand a chance.
Graphic are suitable to the task but there is a lack of any real customisation on your ships other than put laser here and cannon here, you also can't really chose what core systems (engines etc) you use as the games just choses whichever you have reasearched furthest (this makes it impossible to create armadas of large, cheap ships). Planets also don't have any 3D models but just a picture of the building which is very behind the times and I expect a game in 2014 to be visually much better than games I played 10 years ago, this is not.
Fleets are limited to 10 ships (for some unknown reason) but you can send more than one fleet into a combat zone. I don't see the point of the artificial limit on fleet sizes then as again this just means a lot of clicking to move all your fleets into one area.
There is also not a lot to build on your planets, most planets are limited to 9 building overall, when you consider there are 5 different types this does not leave much scope for development.
Like most games diplomacy seems to rely on the AI demanding things on a whim for no real reason and refusing any request no matter how reasonable or bennificial to them it may be. Also there is no espionage/spying aspect to the game.
I want to like this game and can forgive some its less developed aspects if I had been rewarded with good, or even adaquate, gameplay. It is good good have a simple game, and in its defence this is a simpl,e game to understand and play, which is easy to get into unlike some 4x4 games which are very complicated.
On a more positive note this game uses a credit system and most items/ships costs billions of credits. Its nice to see a more realistic game where a planet's output is not 120 credits and its costs 400 credits to build a unit, I do like a more realistic financial scale! Although saying that and back to the negative there is no way to really change you financial settings to improve morale/make more money other than a simple click button for each planet, not a great fine tuning financial system.
Sadly though the lack of any real strategy/tactics along with the ridiculous pace at which the AI progresses in its technology and ship building means that I would steer clear of this game presently, if it was reduced to £5 it may be worth a purchase but at £11 I still feel cheated.