SummaryA great empire management game
The GoodI've played MOO3 some time ago, with only one opponent in a huge galaxy, just to learn the effects of my decisions, because it's really complicated stuff beneath the simple interface..and finally, after one night of efforts, I had over 400 planets, with tens of thousands of ships, most of them, if not all, of obsolete designs and a score of 13(?)millions (after finding all Xs).
This is not a game in which you are the big daddy controlling every aspect of life, like a pharaoh who has a dream and decides to build a great city in the desert...no, the civilization itself makes the right (or wrong) decisions about where to expand (even if you might prefer not -so- close to the enemy), what and where to build (hey,where's my piggy farm on that breadbasket planet?!) and what races they like or not. (Please, do not alienate my Sakkra allies!)
The only big decisions you make are in 4 fields:
1. Diplomacy: You decide who gets what treaties, what are the technologies exchanges, if you want to be at war or not, who are your allies.
2. Development plans! Yes,you heard right...the odd, ugly DEA interface where you can make HUGE differences about whatever your empires is discovering new tech, building infrastructure, address starvation problems, or worst...resource shortage.The Biggest plan you can make is on "All planets". My setting is usually: "primary:blank", "secondary:infrastructure" and "tertiary:research", then on crisis situations you can fill the Primary objective with mines or food or military(colonization vessels included!). It's quite pointless to be more specific, but you can try to be, for the fun and experience of being the Big Brother.
3. Military design: Even if it's an automated feature which is highly recommended, I also recommend to delete your transport early in the game, as well as military bases, in order to allow the AI to concentrate on building colony ships (and set auto-colonization on, this will remove a headache of always knowing when your ships are ready and put them on active duty). It's a great idea to build smaller IF (missiles) ships, which get ready early on, when needed, then continue with larger carriers and finally, short and long range beams. In this game, missiles are your best friend for dealing with aliens, but in order to defeat the Antareans, you have to use exclusively carriers (about 20 armadas will do the trick). Always obsolete (but DO NOT scrap) designs in which you have too many ships, because the very poor AI tends to build less expensive models exclusively, almost.
4. Tech: Early on,concentrate on getting mines better, after that, usually invest in Physics and Energy. That can make a huge leap over your competition.
So, you cannot decide what and where to build, where are your colonies going to be, you do not always understand fully the new technologies(as IT IS in normal life), if you are at war or peace..but the great satisfaction to be the "invisible hand" beneath your civilization (and not just a lousy dictator) is unequal to all the other games I've played since.
The BadThe very, very poor AI gets you mad: it's a game of colonization, mostly (and that's fully automatic in my games), you never get attacked, the other races are very polite and do not declare war except when you are a hated race by their people (in this case, as in normal life, you cannot change much, so you cannot choose your allies and your enemies).
Combat screen is fun to watch, but the game is too unbalanced on the advantage of missiles and fighters over direct fire(like in real life, maybe). The key is to equip your ships with early missiles and small fighters, but lots of them!(On my Leviathan carriers I have 100 squads of plasma fighters.)
Sometimes,d espite your great efforts, your viceroys forget to build farms, starving the whole empire (and have to go at DEA screen, the most important in the game), otherwise you set up some projects, but they all get ..-1 turns to complete! Otherwise you'll have mines on farming planets, exclusively, 3 to 4 military DEAs on one planet or more than one gov DEA.
And there are others, countless bugs (like setting Military defense as primary on new conquered planets and see the AI building ..Mobilization Centers!!! instead of shields and guns).
The only unrealistic detail is the ability to warp your ships across the galaxy at the mobilization centers.
The Bottom LineThat's a must if you want to learn how to rule a country in modern times, it also gets you into the diplomatic problems, like being unable to choose your enemies and your allies, despite your personal agenda.
It's a game I like and played it a lot. Even if tends to be boring in the beginning, you'll be rewarded greatly later.