I’ve been reading this thread and debating whether or not to jump in. I loved GC 2. So far, I don’t love GC 3, though it’s similarity to GC 2 means I do have fun playing it, at least for a while. I realize that we’re in Beta and things are not polished and many pieces are missing, so I’ve been giving it the benefit of the doubt. And, I want to encourage the developers to keep pushing because whether the game is evolutionary or revolutionary, I will spend many hours playing the final product.
That said, the game so far is evolutionary more than revolutionary. I can’t blame Stardock for that. I’m reminded of the Civilization series and how Civ 2 Gold Edition was the best version of that game until Civ 5 came along. Civ’s 3 and 4 where just evolutions of the game and didn’t really add much to the basic gameplay. Still, they sold. Civ 5 was revolutionary. The new combat system (ranged units and stack limits) made it a very different and very enjoyable game. The diplomacy system where AI players have long memories was great and actually changed the way I played the game.
What would I love to see in GC 3? How about a whole new way to do colonies. Option 1: let us build cities instead of improvements. Kind of like a mini, basic version of Civ. You start with one city and you can specialize it: Industry (Detroit), Economic (New York), Diplomatic (Washington, D.C.), Cultural (Hollywood), Research (Cambridge), etc. Then, as you meet some criteria (population, for example), you could found another city, and so on. Planet conditions would affect city growth, placement, and type. Cities could suffer from disasters or be bombed from orbit. You could also choose super projects and wonders instead of founding another city (a lasting choice that makes the planet more valuable and effects what that planet can do). Option 2: This has been mentioned in this thread—a lot more tiles so we can truly specialize planets (shrink the tiles on the colony management screen to fit twice the number and lower improvement bonuses to balance the game).
Tech tree: I agree with the comments that tech should have more meaning. The specializations are not bad, but allow players to only select one, not all three. That locks players into a set of choices such that (for example) missiles could be smaller or be less expensive or have longer range but not all three. I also favor the camp that says fewer techs that matter more would be more interesting. The Civ 5 tech tree offers an example, especially the techs that relate to wonders or major military/improvement advances. I haven’t played Beyond Earth yet but that tech tree also looks interesting.
Combat: Okay, this was the major gripe I had with GC 2. Combat was boring. What good is designing our own ships down to the last detail if it means almost nothing in combat. The developers have already said no to tactical combat. Okay, I get it. BUT, combat needs to blow me away for me to love this game. I want to make tactical choices that matter in combat, not just watch pretty graphics of my ships exploding. That’s cool the first few times but over the course of a game, you just fast forward to the results. I do like the idea of commanders who gain experience (good and bad?) and perhaps have traits (like the Total War series). I am eagerly awaiting Beta 3 to see the combat system.
Colony Rush: We’re all familiar with the early game colony rush. It was a hallmark of GC 2. GC 3, so far, is no different. Diplomacy and tech trading actually made it worse because the tech ages are too easy to cross, leading to rapid expansion. The game Horizon uses range, supply, maintenance, and terraforming techs as a means to delay expansion so that players are still colonizing well into late middle game. I like that model over the early rush because it makes the early and middle game a lot more interesting (colonizing is fun). Civilization has a similar mechanic without the terraforming.
Late Game (last one, I promise): Adam said it best in one of his recent streams—You realize you’ve won the game 150 turns before it ends; mopping up is not fun. This is the Achilles’ heel of all 4x games. Either through diplomacy (alliances formed to oppose a dominant player), or the unwieldy nature of managing a huge empire (rebellion) or whatever, I should never feel that I’ve won the game until I actually win it (or the game should simply tell me I’ve won, score me for the leaders boards, and give me a choice between continuing—for those few who may like mopping up—or starting a new game).
That’s it. As always, my opinion.