Starkiller: Regarding MOO3, it’s probably hard to find a “fair” review of MOO3, as it is today. MOO3 bashing seems to be “en vogue”, but I guess very few of the bashers have had a real look at it.
By “as it is today”, I mean MOO3 plus one of the user mods like Chocolate or Tropical. Both mods contain significant gameplay and AI enhancements plus higher res graphics - mod descriptions and downloads should be easy to find. If you are interested in reading about the core changes of both mods, go there: http://bhruic.dyndns.org/patcher/ - Bhruics patch collection is probably THE foundation for today’s MOO3.
I understand that MOO3 isn’t for everyone, and it’s quite different from MOO2. All 3 MOO’s are on my hard disk, I still play all of them occasionally, and my personal preference is MOO3, followed by MOO1, then MOO2. Just my personal attitude.
Why don’t you try it yourself? Install it, get Tropical or Chocolate (doesn’t really matter which, Tropical is probably easier to get used to, initially - not easier to play), too, and start playing. There will be a learning curve, don’t expect a beefed-up version of MOO2. You have to decide how much micro-management is good for you (ranging from a lot, really a lot, to very little).
If you want a tough game, set difficulty to Impossible, choose a small galaxy with lots of opponents. Play one of the more “exotic” races like the Ithkul. There are also some ways to make your life harder by tweaking AI settings using Bhruic’s patches.
Good luck and have fun!