Part 6: To Callisto and Beyond!** Note: The stuff in the 'spoiler' area is meant to be read, and is not actual spoilers. It's just a new way I'm trying out of putting a video in an update and not giving away stuff about it you happen to accidentally read below the link. Intended usage is to watch the video, if you choose to, then read what it's the not-really-a-spoiler spoiler text.
To Callisto ... and beyond!
A tough call to make here on Caern. I like him a lot, but 3 BC a year is half of what our surplus was. Still, I decide to hang onto him and just grow the economy. Recruiting a leader of his caliber later would be quite expensive. And so Jarred gets the ax officially.
Immediate afterwards, we get our first look at the space combat screen. Briefly.
I don't like space monsters. First thing I did in Stellaris after a couple test games was mod them out. It's not the implementation so much as just the thematic concept of them to begin with. The ones in MOO1 are kinda dumb too, but they aren't overbearing. There's only two and they only attack once you're more than capable of dealing with them. There's a justification for them in terms of them going around randomly devouring stuff until they are defeated.
MOO2 can do that also, but then it has these static, wanna-be small-g guardian things as well. They just guard star systems for no good reason, and no bad one either - they are just there. They don't impact the system at all. They don't consume, make it radiated, destroy the environment - they just attack everyone who comes into a system that they never had any intention of doing anything with in the first place. Then there's the fact that you you can be certain they are guarding a fantastic planet of better than homeworld quality. Because they ALWAYS are, and I don't like 100% predictable elements either.
In fairness, I'm being harsh on the space monster concept here just because I personally don't like it. By itself, that's not enough justification for trashing a feature. Also, they do serve a gameplay function in forcing the player into earlier development of their combat fleet than in MOO1 - the Farmer's Gambit is much less effective and he who turtles too long will rarely profit from it. That's a debatable but definitely legitimate and probably good goal. You might even say they help equalize starting conditions and smooth out galaxy-generation randomness. I'd prefer they be made space pirates, or hostile small colonies of an inferior race, or somesuch. Mercs hired by a consortium of business leaders who think our growing power is a threat. Whatever. The predictability that great planets will always be guarded by one of these things though is something I can't just wave away. It's a heavy-handed approach that needs more variety thrown into the equation for me to really embrace it.
From a tactical POV, what also bothers me is you can't even see them because of them being off-screen here and there being no option I can find to start the battle paused to look around. So I have no clue how far away they shooting at me from, or how fast they are moving - my recon could theoretically communicate that stuff back to the Situation Room on Sol I to warn them. Except all I get to see is my ship being blown up by something. If you look really carefully and quick, there is a minimap to give us a vague idea - but it's just too fast.
Anyway, I'll have to get back to that in a bit, because Dr. Buttinski informed me that he simply must report on the latest edition of Cool New Toys(tm). TBF, cold fusion is a rather remarkable achievement.
We certainly know what these do by now. Unfortunately I can't design/rename them as Colonizers.
These are new, and this desc. had me befuddled for so darn long. What in the heck does 'function like a colony but no population' even mean? Almost everything a colony does requires population. What this really means apparently is that it is a refueling station - a means to extend your range when you don't want to colonize any planet but want to explore further. I say 'apparently', because that's what people who know more than I do say it is, and I've never actually used them. If I find a decent chance to use an Outpost I will do so.
We have specific troop transports for invasions, filling the other role that the generic transports held previously.
Physics is next up, the last of the multi-advance starter techs. A first beam weapon for starships, the laser rifle gives us +5 over the starting Pulse Rifle for ground troops, and then a space scanner. Which we don't have yet, although the star base has an improved version of what we don't have any version of. Roger that.
Here's what that Space Crystal was guarding - a third bigger than a homeworld, good environment, and ultra-rich. These things are quite often the maximum possible size of 25M population. I don't understand why population amounts aren't a hundred times larger than they are - MOO1's were small and these are a fraction of that. With each citizen representing proportionally more of course. It's a surface-level thing, but still.
This definitely will be an early military goal now - to defeat the Crystal and take Rav. We are now down to three systems outside of Sol, and a single Recon. The other planet is a medium-sized Barren, 4 pop. Not interesting.
This will take a while. Outposts/Transports cost 100 Industry, but a full Colony Ship costs 500. All pollution concerns are shelved for now, and research reduced to minimal levels of what the lab can do on its own. Getting this out ASAP, regardless of cost, is vital to the future of our species.
Our remaining recon gives a report on the final system in range ... only to discover it's not the final system in range. We found a Stable Wormhole - there are no unstable ones by the way. Wormholes connect two systems and are a one-year journey for all fleets, regardless of distance. They don't require any additional range to traverse. So we can now travel to that white star to the right of Rav next. Galileo II, being Toxic, will suck forever. Toxic is the worst planet type in MOO2, not Radiated. No farming, 50% maintenance penalty, if they aren't Rich fuhghedaboudit. And sometimes even then. Galileo I is Medium, Barren, Poor, 4 max. So the wormhole is the only useful thing here.
This is most of our balance, but I can't turn down the Labor Leader bonus, which grants 30% productivity to all factory workers in a system. Director Rash-lki is installed as governor there to hurry along our colony ship, while Captain Caern is informed his services are no longer required.
Praxis has but one planet - Medium, Ocean, 4 max, Rich. Not very big, but good. Ocean planets tend to be that way - the idea is that the need for underwater habitats limits the potential population and there just isn't much land period.
Our new Director has her photo up as the Leader on Sol I for all to see, and Industry is up to 21. It'll normally take five years travel time, but the paperwork gets filed at your home star system, so assigning somewhere here skips that delay unless they are coming from an assignment elsewhere in the galaxy.
GNN Returns ... and more
Things are happening quickly now. GNN reports that the Psilons have suffered a computer virus. That event is still a thing.
And then the Silicoids decide to be unpleasant.
They are nearby. Rav and Praxis will be important systems to try to slow their advance. Hopefully the Crystal bothers them. We can surmise they just settled in Rosemund, bringing them within range of us. AFAIK contact works the same as before - diplomatic relations are automatically established once you have colonies that can reach each other.
The Races Screen, which is basically ported over from MOO1 with some adjustments. One is the new spying, which I can't do until I actually have some. We've got a vertical and less detailed relations bar, but with more potential races to deal with that's understandable. And we hilariously have an Ignore function. Does what it says - we can simply block all communication attempts from them after first contact. There's something to be said for trolling the galaxy.
Despite the initial hostility, let's talk to Geode. See what the hulking pinkish-purple crystal has to say.
Despite its 'salutations', you can't negotiate with these things. Surrendering literally ends the game - why it's done from this screen I don't know, and it makes no difference who you surrender to. We at least can declare war without waiting for them to do it. But more to the point, Silicoids are Repulsive. This literally means diplomacy cannot occur with anyone. They are in a de facto state of war with the entire galaxy no matter how they feel about them at the moment, and that will remain the case until they are either victors or vanquished. I'm not thrilled about bordering them.
The left side of the Report screen is the same as before. We're dealing with Xenophobic Industrialists. Kind of redundant with repulsive, but I guess they just really hate everyone.
The right side, tech area, drives me nuts though. First off, it was gimmicky before that MOO1 allowed you to know everything after getting a single spy into enemy territory, in terms of their technology. Well now we don't even need that. A race that won't negotiate just told us what secrets they've uncovered across the board. Right. Also, they're divided up totally differently from the standard research categories, about a half-dozen things that we don't have right now. You can see 'Laser Rifle' highlighted here - barely. But why couldn't we have something like the tech overview screen, or at least have consistent headings? I have no idea how to go about researching a specific tech I see listed here, because nothing tells me what field it is in. Guh.
I also wish that one of the games had at some point made knowing what techs someone has in a field a high-success-rate espionage mission, so that there was some actual investment and risk attached to that knowledge. The implementation here took one of the weakest MOO1 features IMO and managed to make it worse.
There's no Status screen there ... but behold the Info screen. Which is great, to the extent it works. First up here with the History Graph, we have a comparison not just now but over time with every race we've met. That's a pretty big addition, allowing you to see how you are progressing ... or regressing. They got off to a faster start but we mostly closed the gap and are now keeping reasonably close. Note that the game doesn't care about territory - we can turn on/off Population, Building, Fleets, and Tech as part of this calculation. Well territory is kind of taken care of under Population though, right?
Actually, no it isn't - because that part of it is completely broken. All races are stuck at 8M pop for all of eternity according to this. But the other three work. As does the very useful income graphic in the lower-left. Only problem there is it is always a turn behind. Still nice as an overview of where your cash is going.
Tech Review has the same breakdown of research that we saw on the Report display, only for ourselves.
Race Statistics gives us the trait breakdown for each race we have met. Turn Summary repeats that info for the current year, in case we closed the window but forgot to check on something.
The in-game help, searchable version. This is quite good and almost-but-not-quite-always accurate, as we've seen with the fuel cells already. Still, I find myself wandering here from time to time to find information.
Continuing to crawl along, we will get to Callisto eventually. We must.