I enjoyed playing the previous Galactic Civ games. In fact, I am still playing II. There are a few things I would change though, if I could. Aside from things like better graphics and three dimensional maps or a fleet combat viewer that looks less like a four-year-old's bathtub war games a have a few more practical suggestions. Many others have elsewhere commented on ideas I share. In the interest of brevity, I have omitted those. What follows are still at the top of my wishlist.
1. Make Constructors and Troop Transports and Colony Ships reusable. They may have to return home to take on fresh troops and supplies and there may even be time/money costs involved but it should be cheaper and more flexible than building a new ship for each upgrade to a star base or a new transport for each invasion.
2. Like Influence victories, there should be an Economics victory path that follows banks and stock exchanges; however, rather than one leading to the other, they should diverge and become separate but essential tech tree paths to victory. The Banking techs should lead to Reserve Banking systems with the aim to become the Galactic Reserve Bank. Coupled with the Galactic Stock Exchange, and economic victory would allow the victor to gradually acquire the means to manipulate the economies of other races and ultimately to buyout entire planets in a way similar to influence but from an economics perspective. Advances in banking should allow for the diplomacy power of offering other races a loan as a bargaining chip. Banking could then be used to extort your enemies, or prop up the economies of your allies in a much more dynamic way. Becoming the Galactic Reserve Bank would then tie the entire galactic banking system to your empire granting you an economic share in their success. Stock Markets should afford you the chance to buy up major companies through their stocks and by so doing acquire trade goods developed by other races. Even if you cannot produce them on your own worlds, owning the galactic businesses that produce them among the other races would give you access to the profits they produce. By using banks and stock markets, one may ultimately own the galaxy without having a large empire, military, diplomatic alliances, or influence. If one may dispense with the single galactic currency, and in its place allow each empire to have its own currency, we can begin to see the value of building a Galactic Reserve Bank. While the currency values for all the races rise and fall based on their own economies relative to each other, the empire holding the Galactic Reserve would be the security they all use to prop up their systems creating dependency and the power to manipulate a currency war. Not all of these tools need to be present for the Economic Victory to function, but it would make the game a bit more interesting than an Ascension Victory. No offense.
3. The Ship Creator needs a rethink on modules.
Constraints should be focused on energy costs of operating the module, not on size. A power-hungry weapon may deplete energy to where shields and other components do not operate properly without adding more power generation. There would then be a power source for each ship whether it be fission, fusion, anti-matter, or zero-point energy. The more power-hungry a ship becomes, the more power generation must be built in.
While mass would not be an energy constraint for systems operation, it should be included for selecting the proper propulsion unit. A ship bogged down with massive weapons systems may not be quick or maneuverable without adding more engine power. Other than cost, what is the practical use of a fighter that is just as sluggish as a freighter?
As for weapons, consider adding range and re-fire values for the weapons. Longer ranged weapons may require more energy, better sensors, and have a lower re-fire rate but would allow for fleets backed by ships serving a role say more like artillery. If we want fleets to be more than just the number of ships in a stack, or their combined fire-power, hit points, and defenses, we need ships that can serve in different roles and excel at doing so.
4. Fleet Combat should allow some tactical input without micromanagement. For example, the AI should select the best strategy for success, but if the battle is a suicide mission, the player should be free to designate which targets in the enemy fleet are a priority making it possible to carry out precision strikes against a more powerful enemy. We should also be able to interrupt a battle to instruct our fleet to retreat.
5. Diplomacy with other players or AI allies should include the capacity to designate targets of interest and the development of a cooperative strategy. If I have the best warships and weapons to fight the enemy, and my ally has a weaker economy that limits their ship production, I should be able to instruct my ally to build the cheaper Troop Transports to conquer the enemy planets while I supply the battleships to provide his fleets with cover. Also, allied forces should be able to form combined fleets, or at least have fleets that can occupy the same tile and jointly defend that tile as a means of shoring up allied forces.
6. Finally, on the choices-driven Good vs. Evil ethical system, i have a thought. Good vs. Evil is too simplistic, but it is a good idea. Why not allow for a spectrum of ethical philosophies represented by your choices, and expanding choices beyond good bad and neutral? No choice should be neutral, and all choices should pose serious costs and benefits. Enslaving a race may provide an economic bonus, but also require significant military costs in terms of garrisons to keep the slaves under control as well as contributing to organized crime throughout the galaxy. In the past, enslavement was the only choice that offered any benefit to the player. Choosing not to enslave them should offer several paths with their own sets of costs and benefits. For example, you could choose not to colonize their world after all, and instead focus on diplomatic and humanitarian aid while providing them with protectorate status so other races do not enslave them. It may cost you a planet and whatever production you might gain from it, but you lose nothing to garrisons or organized crime, and it could provide a small economic benefit with the possibility of incorporating their planet into your empire at a later date via referendum or whatever. I understand the argument for eliminating it from the game entirely, but I think a more multifaceted philosophical alignment of multiple ethical views each with their own costs and benefits could keep this as an interesting part of game play.
I am looking forward to your comments.