I have now played a few multiplayer games and one big single player game (among others), so I now have a nebulous grasp of the game. I have to agree that my expectations have been met and even exceeded in certain areas. Note that I hope this dosen't sound like sycophantic rambling, but rather like a bit of well deserved praise.
1. My first reason is the genre and gameplay of SoaSE. As a real-time space game, it has little compitition, as far as I have been able to discover. Nevertheless, it excells in the gameplay department. The planets, gravity wells, capital ships and structures all combine to produce a great feeling of running a Space Empire. This brings me to reason two.
2. The graphics, especially the strategic zoom, are the backbone that supports the rest of the game. I suppose this is really due to the amazing Iron Engine, but the visuals are truly invigorating. Watching a starbase rule a grav well as a fleet moves in front of it with a star in the background all over a cloudy skybox is a sight to behold.
3. Continuing in the same vein, the option to hide the HUD is a great feature that enables some stunning screen shots. (For those of you who don't know, enter cinematic mode and then press Ctrl-Shift-Z [default] to hide the HUD.) The screenshots I have obtained have been the best space screen shots I have ever seen. On a side note, I do hope Rebellion makes the Tec and Vasari weapon FX more visible. The Advent beams are quite obvious compared to the Tec lasers, for example. Anyway, I couldn't resist raving about the fantastic screen shots that SoaSE produces.
4. In general, I also love the research trees and the SB upgrades.
5. The support provided. I basically decided to buy after I saw that SD/IC released the 1.3-1.32 patches over the summer. After suffering with poor support for C&C games like Kane's Wrath, SoaSE is a nice change.
On the other side, there are a few things I wonder about.
1. As players are already severly punished for having large fleets, up to 75% taxed for upkeep, I think that the penalty for resource rates on planets away from your homeworld is too large. Currently it is 10% per jump, but that seems a little severe. (Multiplayer people also say tax and extracter income is already marginalized, this only makes it worse.) Perhaps it should only be 5% per jump, either initially or after you research a culture upgrade.
2. I guess I also don't know about capital ships like the Dunov and a few others (and the Advent faction). I don't know from my own experience, but the people on the forums seem to think the game is unbalanced in some parts. Has Stardock confirmed that there will be no more balance patches?
I like the multiplayer side of the game, but I don't like waiting for games to start. Also, some games become protracted (more that 2 hours) and I don't want to quit. On the other hand, I have also had a few games that were really fun, and also lasted less than an hour. Unfortunantly, as a full time student, I have very little time, so I'm not on much.
In the final analysis, (what a terrible way to begin a sentence!) SoaSE is great, and I am looking forward to Rebellion. Thank you for the great game, SD/IC.