When I saw this game on the shelf at a reasonable price, I bought it, hoping I was wrong. The guy at the shop proceeded to tell me how epic the game is and started blurting out all sorts of good strategies to play. I smiled, agreed, and left :)
After loading the game up, the first thing I noticed, is there is no campaign mode. Since I am one who likes a good story, I was a little disappointed. As I was to learn later though, that is not what this game is about. I moved onto the single player games, and picked the first scenario, expecting a small universe and reduced tech tree.
So there I was playing my first game, with 14 planets to conquer and only enemy. I finished the game with relative ease, completed the entire tech trees, and had the largest fleet I could put together. My prediction had come true, the game had no dimension.
So, having spent the money, I decided to soldier on. This is where it started to become interesting. The first single player scenario is obviously designed to get you into things, the following scenarios start forcing you to think about strategy. You have 3 races, each of them have different strengths and weaknesses. It is up to you to learn how to harness them.
I have not yet played this game multi-player, and I believe this is where the strategies will truly come to life. When playing against the AI, going the TEC route (pure strength and firepower) is the safest bet, but I am certain that the other 2 races will do better in a multi-player environment.
Be aware, this is not a quick game, you can spend many hours on 1 scenario. I have played 1 scenario 3 times over, for over 2 hours each, giving up when all hope was lost, until I finally realised the fundamental mistake I was making right at the beginning (make sure you have a home world !!!!). So if you are looking for instant fun out of the box, this is not your game. If you are looking for more of a committed experience, this is it.
One of the best things about this game, is it's epic nature, a battle is not lost before you can blink, ships do not blow up at the merest sneeze. You have plenty time to bring in reinforcements build new defenses or ships while combat is underway.
It seems that the visual effects and damage are not all synchronised e.g. when bombarding a planet, damage is dealt whether or not a bomb is currently exploding. This is also evident is you load some of the many customisations out there. Changes to a weapons fire rate for visual effect will definitely un-sync it's damage caused. This can be a little off putting.
The UI has a sort of auto follow, the camera follows the ship you are focused on, but often it focuses on something you aren't interested in and you have to do all sorts of gymnastics to get back to the action.
After having played 7 single player games, I have yet to receive a single quest, or play against more than one AI player.
Sometimes they just spoil the fun, but they are of course part of the game, live with them, or choose to exclude them. They provide valuable experience for your capital ships, but conversely if you are struggling a bit in your early game, they will cause your demise.
This is a good game, but expect to spend a lot of time learning it. I cannot wait to play this thing multi-player.