I agree with much of what barnacle bill says in the post above. I still have Steller conquest (both versions) on my collector's shelf. Although it seems to me B Bill is fundamentally a macromanager (from the post), I'm in the minority as a micromanager. When I play a game, I actually want to play the game and not just set it on "auto" and let it run itself. Although, it would be interesting if it was possible to choose an AI side and just "watch" it play out and see what kind of strategies the AI uses.
As far as my all time favorite 4X PC games:
1) MOO2 *****
2) DW ****
3) SEIV ***.5
4) Stars! ***
5) Ascendancy ***
Reach for the Stars, Ascendancy, Sword of the Stars, and Galactic Civilizations are honorable mention. Newer games that I bought but haven't played yet: Sins of a Solar Empire and Lost Empire Immortals (both did not install/work on my windows XP system for one reason or another: one caused my mouse pointer to "disappear" the other failed to load a ".net extension" and just crashed). I was unable to get the latter two to work even with tech support. However, I bought a newer system about 8 weeks ago (windows 7), and both these games installed successfully .. I haven't played past the tutorials though, so I can't give an opinion on these games yet (they aren't evaluated as far as the top 5 games above).
SE IV was a great game, but SE V was a serious letdown with its cruddy AI (though I’ve heard a patch has improved the AI), enough so for me to downgrade the game from 4stars to 2stars (on a scale of 1 to 5). Stars! and Ascendancy are both very old games (early 90s and 80s respectively) that I thoroughly enjoyed at that time. Galactic Civ ... it's been so long since I've played it, but there was something I didn't like about the game that I simply don't remember now (I'd rate it a 2.5 at best). This exact same comment goes for Reach for the Stars. Frankly, I have Sword of the Stars also, but I simply can't remember this game .. it might be another game that never worked/installed successfully on my system. Unfortunately, I've experienced this too much in the 2000 decade .. Games that fail right out of the box, they simply don't make games like they used to. As a rule: I'll take a great space game with great AI and crummy graphics any day over a mediocre game with mediocre AI but great graphics .. Stars! is an excellent case in point.
I agree with much of Registerd55 above, but I definitely don't like when space games are limited to "wormhole" type movement. C'mon, this is space, it shouldn't be possible to block star systems off to movement (or defend it & all systems beyond it that are connected “in series” as if at a narrow mountain pass) .. If it wasn’t for this one thing, I'd rate SEIV as a 5star 4x game. It had so many other great things: literally thousands of tech advances, making it almost impossible to research all techs in a game (which I think is VERY kool), also its awesome "small ship design" ... not only do you design carriers but you design the fighters & bombers that the carrier uses!!, this is just too kool & is unique amongst 4x games I played for this feature. I also love the satellites, mines, & minesweepers. If it wasn't for the "wormhole" only movement (which I really hate) I'd rate it higher than DW. One way to have a “border” in a space game would be to use a mechanism similar to that of “culture” in the Civ IV game, where the “culture” borders can even push back national borders and cause cities to revolt. I think this concept would work very well in a space map like DW, those far-flung outpost would eventually be “absorbed” by a neighboring AI through cultural “revolt”. This probably sounds good in theory, but in practice it tends to make military expansion more difficult (as it did in Civ IV) as newly-captured cities tend to revolt.
Right now, DW has the best combination of things that I like most in 4x games: huge galaxies, virtually unlimited fleet size (limited only by finances), a kool non-wormhole star system design (gotta love the moons & orbiting planets), variety of space debris (asteroids, planets, neutron stars, black holes, white dwarves, supernova, kaltors etc), good mid-sized research tree, diplomacy & spies, and plenty of ship design options. I love the concept of pirates in this game .. too Kool. The things that I don't really like about DW: clunky manual/auto ship interaction (I like to have more control as a micromanager), overpowered "rare" resources .. you basically win once you find one (if you get it early enough); those world destroyer ships can be a game decider if you find one early enough. This past game I've had the AI make some ridiculous deals in my favor: one AI gave me 12xx warp engine for something incredibly piddling in return (this is something that’s beyond my most advanced engine in my tech tree .. why on earth would they trade such a huge advantage!!), I also had another AI trade me (or sell me) an extremely high level of shields (tallassos 7 I think it was). These type deals the AI should not make unless as a last resort (say they're about to lose in a war and the "gift" is in trade for peace). Other than these things, the AI difficulty is very reasonable, and better than most typical "second millenium" 4x space games which are typically massively overworked in graphics and massively underworked in AI .. and, in general, quality of overall game design in terms of functionality. It's hard to remember, but there was actually a time games were made right the first time and the concept of "patches" didn't exist. Now it's like this: I have no expectation that a new PC game will even work much less work without a patch or update. This is not quality to me. DW has had some updates, but it’s definitely not at the bottom as far as “second millennium” quality goes. It actually worked right out of the box the first time, that’s a big plus to me right there. Anyway, I’d rank DW as the second best all-time 4x game based on the 4x games I’ve played: a strong 4 out of 5 stars.
There used to be a time I’d stay up all night playing a new game that I really liked & completely lost track of time in absorption. The last time I can remember doing this was with MOO2, hence it’ll always be a one-of-a-kind game for me (Kind of like “The Godfather” as far as movies go). I’m an old geezer now: when it gets late, I go to sleep. No “second millennium” game has overpowered this, though I suspect it’s more a function of age than anything else. MOO3 was the greatest PC game letdown I've ever experienced in my life, I'll leave MOO3 commentary on that note. Personally, I don’t think modern designers care about good AI, they mainly just want the game to be MMPOG-able (or whatever the acronym is). I already know that I’m not going to win against a bunch of hackers, so I’m not interested in massive multi-man online play.
< Message edited by rk0123msp@mindspring -- 9/1/2010 3:28:07 AM >
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die: