Talk about a hidden jewel. This game has it almast all to become a legend; too bad it has not a big name like EA for publisher.
You are missing some serious 4X fun if you pass this one. It has aged very well and is truly a benchmark on the genere. Don't believe me give it a shot and see for yourself.
For me THIS is the perfect 4X game along ROME:Total War.
-Has a nice tutorial and manual; not a steep learning curve.
-Can appeal to a very broad audience; vets and newcomers alike.
-AI plays reasonably well.
-Races have it's strength and weaknesess very well represented.
-Incredible modding capabilities; this is a highly replay value few other games have.
-Most mods are available even today at the developer's forum and play smoothly.
-Easy to set up mods and get rid of them.
-Very stable; I had zero issues regarding system stability in Windows trhough XP to 8.
-Mods enable to work wonders regarding the playable races.
-Most 4X games are insanely difficult or plain dumb. This game can be configured to a healthy middle ground or not... your choice.
-Very nice fleet management.
-Some screenshots are awesome.
-Very fun close battles and just perfect Electronic Warfare for your ships.
-Has a depth you won't believe until you realize you spend a lot of time tinkering with the designs and fleet roster and you realize you enjoy it as much as the battles.
-A true and worthy successor to Master of Orion 2.
-Easily one of the most valued games judging by the price/quality ratio.
-Empire management is a BREEZE, efficient, elegant and comprehensive.
-Nice diplomatic stance and neutral roaming monsters (menaces).
-Research is absolutely perfect.
-The most polished and fluid UI alnost perfect.
-Massive scale? hell yeah. Even has custom maps for a quick skirmish type play.
-A game with some seriuos lore.
-Should you want the AI to simulate the battle it can do it nicely.
-Nice physics engine that won't "CLIP"or clump your units. Actually you can use size as an advantage; more nimble and small vessels can outmanover largar ships for a nice and devious tactics.
-Once you understand special weapons, intelligence and fleet layouts you are going to like it because it adds another depths to the tactical side that can cripple "stronger" empires.
-AI can be seriously hampered by bad decisions, however this is rare.
-Very hard to aim your long range weapon in some cases when a planet is between you and the enemy fleets. (your ships oblitarate a target on range though not always the ideal target).
-Some designs are a little too restrictive, but you can manage with some creativity.
-Somewhat dated graphics and sound effects.
-Some weapons require manual launch and targeting but those weapons are very nice and nasty.
As you can see a nice old school game that will knock your socks off should you manage to give it a chance. The cons are only minor and certainly won't matter once you give it a shot. Highly recommended.