I've played the beta for a few hours, took a lot of screenshots and made a large number of mental notes that I would like to share. Most of them are UI-related, because I'm not sure there's a lot I can give constructive feedback about system-wise at this stage of development.
Lots of cool bonuses, but the "+1/+2" aren't very clear. I am assuming these are customization prices? In any case, the +25% bonus in the tooltip is what's really interesting, maybe it should be what's displayed so I can pick my faction at first glance instead of fishing for hidden information?
There's no feedback on what's happening with the quick build interface. If you click on "build", nothing tells you that the items has actually been added to the queue. Also, "cancel" is not an intuitive way to leave this menu - it feels like we're canceling the last build order.
I have quite a few problems with this whole thing. There should be a way to cancel something in the manufacturing queue that doesn't require using one of the 3 buttons of "available projects". It's not that it takes a lot of work, it's just nearby, it's just not intuitive, because "manufacturing queue" and "available projects" are 2 different captions. How about a "cancel" cross on each item of the manufacturing queue? There's plenty of space for that.
Then: improvements. What they do is really confusing. It's completely opaque. It took me quite a lot of guesswork to understand what the deal with "levels" was (the system is interesting, actually). One of the problems is the name: levels often indicate progression in games, like in GalCiv2 with ship experience. A term more closely related to "synergy" or "efficiency" would be better. Also: listing the level in the construction or tech unlock tooltip (just underneath the name) isn't very relevant since it's going to be zero anyway. It makes it a bit confusing.
What levels actually do for each item should be on the tooltip. Sometimes it's the same as the base building bonus (that's the case for factories), but sometimes the base improvement bonus and its leveled bonus are two different things, like starports. Adding a line saying "+10% manufacturing per level" would be awesome.
Also, don't list the manufacturing costs with the bonuses and maintenance, it's really confusing. In fact, ideally, maintenance, cost, and provided bonus should be listed separately.
Planetary statistics could do with tooltips explaining very roughly how some of these numbers are obtained.
Maybe it's just me, but the ships still look a bit "lego". Maybe it's the cockpit...
So, I'm fine with the policies being on the Good/Evil axis because it's all funny tongue-in-cheek, not meant to be taken seriously. However, while I understand that this is a placeholder (only one event), please balance good and evil mechanically. This isn't a roleplaying game or real life where "doing good" is its own reward. They're labels with some fluff attached to it, really. The problem is that here the bonuses are strictly better the more evil you are (BTW, it still says merciless while the tree says malevolent). This would actually be fine if the benevolent tech tree was clearly better. That would actually be a great way to differentiate playstyles: benevolent benefits in the long term, malevolent reaps more immediate and local rewards.
Concercing the trees themselves:
What are those "plus" signs between levels? I'm not sure what function they serve. Am I supposed to be able to take policies from all trees, and have a finger in each pie? So, I can be both good and evil? Also, it seems like the choices at each tier aren't exclusive.
By the way, do Outreach Group improvements give a penalty to research? That's not what the description says - I shouldn't be less good at research because others are copy-pasting my results. It's especially weird because the static bonus for this ideology unlock... is a research bonus.
Nebulae are great. They look a bit awkward from afar because of the hex tiling, but that's probably unavoidable and at least it's very clear. From close-up, they're really gorgeous. Varrying the colours a tiny bit would be great. I'm an amateur astronomer, and deep space objects have some colors you might want to try .
Mechanically, I find their bonus interesting but they could be more awesome. This sensor-blocking effect could also work for ships outside of the nebulae trying to see what's inside or on the other side of it, basically a sort of line-of-sight dampener. This could make for really cool ambushes.
Finally, I think some survey goodies are a bit on the strong side. +2 moves for the whole fleet is a tiny bit strong early game, and finding a ship with 8 attack and 6 defense twice in 5 minutes could be a game breaker. That said, the anomalies themselves are quite good looking .
So, this is supposed to be Mackinac Island-like? (Class 8 = northern Michigan according to the founder's vault PDF)
That's a bit harsh! The thing looks like a nightmare to live on.
These planet global bonuses are not really easily available. Only way I know is to hover with the mouse to get a tooltip, and there's no clear indication that there's a bonus in the first place.
There's a small enemy starship under the green "+". I was actually wondering where the heck it was when I zoomed in from the global strategic view. I think those ships should always be more visible in this sort of case.
Planetary statistics do not update right away when I start building "economic stimulus" (or other such bonus-producing projects), or when I change the planetary governor settings. It's a bit wonky, in fact. I'm not sure what makes it update the numbers, I'll investigate it further.
Something that really needs fixed: borders that touch the edge of the maps are visible even when I haven't explored that place yet. There's some red Drengin border on the lower edge of the map. It's very nice of you to tell me where they are right away, but I think it's not a planned feature.