I am impressed that Stardock is continuing to patch this game a year-and-a-half after release. Thanks for demonstrating a commitment to quality and customer service that is sorely lacking in most video game companies today.
I played two games on 1.90, both as the Terrans. My first game was on a medium map at normal difficulty and I achieved a technological victory. My second game was on a large map at gifted difficulty and I stopped playing once my victory was inevitable and the AI no longer posed any threat.
Here is my feedback based on those two games….
As others have mentioned, cultural growth has been nerfed too badly. In previous versions, it was too easy to win a cultural victory, even without specifically trying to do so -- all it took was building a cultural starbase to cover each planet, and then victory was almost assured. However, the fix in this patch has taken things too far. In my two games, I was unable to flip a single AI planet. In one case, an AI race colonized Mars, right next to my capital Earth. I covered Mars and Earth with two (2) cultural starbases, each kitted out with the latest cultural modules that I had researched, but Mars never flipped.
The AI declared war on me a couple times but completely failed to prepare its military before doing so. They sent several single ships into my territory, but no fleets. The AI should not declare an unprovoked war unless it has some fleets and transports ready to invade enemy territory. They also left many of their planets completely undefended, not garrisoned by even a single ship. I configured some troop transport ships with a bunch of engines for speed and captured a big chunk of the enemy’s empire in a single turn.
Research time is too fast, and the human player quickly outpaces the AI as soon as the human builds out some research-focused planets. I was discovering two, and sometimes even three, techs in a single turn by going into the tech tree and selecting a tech several iterations beyond my current state. To try to compensate for this, prior to beginning my second game, I manually doubled all Terran tech costs in the Age of War and quadrupled them in Age of Ascencion, but that made little difference. Once my research focused planets were up-and-running I could still discover most techs in 1-2 turns. Too summarize, in the late game the AI falls hopelessly behind in research. Maybe research buildings are overpowered and should be toned down because the human probably makes better use of them than the AI does. Or maybe the Player should only be allowed to discover a maximum of one tech per turn. Excess research over the cost of the current tech being researched would still carry over towards the next tech in the tech tree, but the carryover would be capped at 99% of the cost of the next tech.
It is prohibitively expensive to upgrade ships, so much so that I scrapped all old ships and built new ones rather than paying for upgrades. In past games, my modus operandi was to build a bunch of obsolete ships and keep them stacked at the central point of my empire. As soon as I went to war, I would immediately upgrade all of the obsolete hulls to the latest technology. Thus, after a one-turn delay to await the upgrades, I could send a large, fully modernized fleet straight into battle. I suppose that was an exploit to be corrected, but the fix and gone too far and upgrades are now too costly.
On my medium map game, I do not recall seeing any Elerium anywhere the entire galaxy. I did not have any Elerium mines myself, and my scout ships could not locate any Elerium whatsoever. Resources should be scarce to make them strategically relevant and worth fighting over, and since this is a strategy game, the Player should have to make tough choices about how to best utilize his resources. That being said, resources are too scarce now.
The new functionality notifying the Player that a starbase can be upgraded is a good concept but you need to add a ‘skip’ or ‘ignore’ button. I often leave constructors sitting in my starbases awaiting a technology that I will research at some point in the future. This is particularly true for Xeno and Mining starbases. If, in the meantime, I research say a shield technology, I do not want to have to eject the ship from the starbase and hit the space bar to end that ship’s turn, then move that ship back into the starbase the next turn. As currently designed, namely without a ‘skip’ option, this new functionality has made the starbase micromanagement problem worse rather than better.
Regarding AI ship deployment and design….
The AI should deploy its ships in fleets rather than sending individual ships into battle alone to get annihilated piecemeal.
Later in the game, the AI should put two (or maybe even three) engines on its ships so they can move faster. When a fleet on a large+ size map is moving at say 5 hexes per turn, that fleet becomes strategically irrelevant.
Once average planet population has achieved a certain threshold, the AI should begin configuring its troop transport ships with two invasion pods instead of the standard one. In other words, each troops transport would carry 6 soldiers instead of only 3. Often, a single pod of 3 soldiers is not enough to conquer a planet, whereas in most cases six seems to be enough.
The AI should escort its troop transports. Several times the AI sent slow (one engine) unescorted troop transports towards my planets and I wiped them out easily.
Like I already mentioned above, the AI should garrison its planets with ships to deter invasions.
Other general comments….
Regarding the Player Achievement buildings of which only one per Player is allowed, the AI seems to be able to build multiple instances of them. For example, an AI planet might have three (3) Citadels of Revenue and another planet might have two (2) Manufacturing Capitals.
The Benevolent Ideological Trait ‘’Enticing’’ (Prominence III) does not flip starbases. When I selected that trait, none of the AI starbases within my cultural sphere of influence converted to my ownership.
I read in several places on the forums that the Shield Punch technology does not work. I have not verified this myself but if it is an issue then maybe it could be fixed in the next patch.
The functionality for a Player to partially automate starbase modules construction was released in a prior patch IIRC. The procedure is that the Player would click on the starbase and select the desired module, whereby an order would be placed at a shipyard for a constructor, then the constructor would be built and would travel to the starbase and build the requested module. This is great and was meant to reduce tedious starbase micromanagement. However, when I try to upgrade my starbases, it seems like the constructors are being sent with only a single construction module, and since they were moving very slowly I assume they had only one, obsolete engine. The Star Trek mod by Horemvore handles constructors very well because they move fast and carry multiple construction modules.