1. Do you need to capture all of the planets belonging to a player before he is finished? Do asteroids count? I played this LONG game, and captured almost all the plants from an AI player. My numerical superiority was overwhelming. It would have been nice if the AI simply calculated that it has no chance and surrendered. I've seen it done in CIV4 and it saves a lot of hassle for players to "mop up" things (I absolutely hate having to hunt for that "last" building/unit in RTS games).
Everything counts, even if they managed to capture the pirate base. Every single colony to wipe them out. That said, we only have one available game mode for the beta, and we can expect at least one more (without flagships to start) at release. Whether or not they'll add modes with different victory conditions, I don't remember ever getting a concrete answer, but there were discussions on it. As well as modes of surrendering to avoid the 'swat the fly' mechanic. We'll have to see
2. Interesting enough, the AI did imploy a cluture attack about mid game (the first time I saw this in about 6 games I played). Maybe I was not paying attention, but my planet (one jump from my homeplanet) suddenly fliped. So here is my question: why do all of the orbital structures stay in your control, after the planet fliped to the enemy?? It's not logical at all. Also, when you flip a planet, you then have to send forces to remove all of the orbital structures as well. Any particular reason this was implemented?
Not everything still works. Phase inhibitors, for example, only work while the planet is in your control (because it needs to be counted as 'friendly' territory). Unfinished construction is cancelled when a planet flips, but for the rest of them, why is it not logical? The planet population isn't tied to the structures in space (especially military defenses). And just to wager a guess, I would say this mechanic was put in place specifically so that a culture player would still need a military for something. It would suck if you have your fleet in a planet's grav well and have all the defenses suddenly turn on you just because the planet flipped
3. Is it just me or the fighter/bomber hangars are the ONLY reasonable way to defend a planet? I tried the cannon, but because of the limited range I felt it completely useless.
They are very versatile, but gauss cannons and missile platforms have uses also. It's easy to around them, but if they're defending exactly the spot the enemy wants to be in, then they have no choice but to destroy them
So with their placement you just need to be very careful. They need to be in just the right place to force the opponent to engage them.
4. The game feels very repetetive mid-game and onwards. Maybe that's because of the poor AI, but for all the diplomatic/bounty/artifacts michanics, I never felt like I had much to do other than build ships/capture planets/kill AI.
This ties into various other game modes that we may or may not see. In general, MP games are far from boring, especially in FFAs there tend to be a lot of diplomatic twists to keep everything interesting. The AI is hardly a challenge now, either, so that's a big contributing factor to the boredom of fighting it.
5. Will there be Beta 5? What other features will ship with the complete game (other then a 3rd race)?
Beta 4 is the last announced beta before release. The devs have deliberately kept a bunch of stuff under wraps so we'd all get a surprise at release. The stuff we know to be in the works (or were told would be and for now haven't heard otherwise): improved diplomacy, improved market functions, some UI tweaks for market/research/diplomacy, superweapons, possibly a few more features for the races (we were told they would not be 100% complete in beta, so could be more than just superweapons), tweaked exploration making it more fun, random space stuff/events, fleet manager, AI upgrades, random galaxy creation, more game modes (at least 1 more). I may have missed something
Some of this stuff we may or may not still see patched in beta 4.