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I liked 1 and I loved 2. 3 Was a huge disappointment. 2 still has the best graphics in my mind. In 3, you are lost in a sea of sliders.
When making fleets, you are forced to make task forces. While this was interesting at 1st, it became more of a hindrance than anything else. I ended up making my giant ships into 1 ship task forces so I didn't have to deal with making tiny ships for the picket slots you have to have on armada's. This can be dealt with easy enough, but the fact that when a ship was made, it wasn't ready for service but stuck in the reserves was annoying because it forced you to take 1 extra turn to make the formation. And when you have multiple planets on multiple systems making the ship, you have easy display to show you how many of those "Deathstars" are ready for service. You have to double click on each system and then go into your reserve tab to see how many are ready. In the end, its an idea that sounds cooler on paper than it does in reality because there is no quick way to see which ships are ready or which are ready for a refit without keeping track of your task forces on a piece of notepaper.
As for technology. Much like advance buildings on the planet, there is no sense of achievement. In 2, a cutscene shows the new technology you just finished and the implications of it. In 3, all you get is a sentence on your turn summary that says "Lasers are now complete." While this multi-project research may help you in the game, it doesn't explain what is being studied or what you will get out of it without going into this poorly explained "matrix" and even then, the info isn't avialable without then going into the in-game encyclopedia.
Colonies are over complicated as well in this game. In 2, you send a colony ship, it makes a colony that ready for orders. In 3, If you send a colony ship, depending on the quality of the planet, it may or may not become a full colony. If it doesn't, then you have to send more ships until you have the 1,000 people to make it one, which then comes back to dealing with ship formations. This is something else that looks better on paper than implication.
The only thing they seemed to do right was the diplomacy. The diplomacy web to show who feels about who is great. Now I have one screen to see that my 2 allies actually hate each other and are at war with each other. And being in the senate has more to do than just simply voting on the next president. Now you can vote on ordinances and regulations. Like tariffs on trade routes, sanctions on other races, and a multitude of other little things.
In short, this is a game that looks better on paper than implication. I know some people will go against my idea that there needs to be pretty graphics for achievements, but that's why we play these games. For the sense of achievement. I want to see that Meklar holding the pointer showing me that I finally achieved the stellar converter and telling me what I can do with it. I want to see the colony ships landing on the barren planet surface rather than waiting for the colony name to go from "orion" to "Orion" to show that there is enough people to start building there.