I tend to play aggressive warlike empires and what I've noticed in the past half dozen games as the patches have gone on and on is that unless you can crush an empire or two in the early game the mid-game because such a slog of defensive alliances/guarentees that making progress is almost impossible without some random act that cripples AI nations.
By the time mid-game rolls around every single war feels like WWI where half the galaxy gets involved on both sides and giant fleets just crash back and forth against one another without making any real progress.
Here are a couple observations:
Defensive allies are all too willing to commit every single ship in their fleet to a war front halfway across the galaxy. Without the concept of attrition or supply lines it can get kind of ridiculous how far away these fleets are committed. It effectively leaves AI empires defenseless for almost a hundred years and while it might stymie my attacks because I wasn't expecting enemy reinforcements from halfway across the galaxy it seems poor of the AI to commit its entire force to such a long distance.
In other games you can sue out enemy allies as you win the war to whittle down the enemy to just the ones you're actually trying to conquer. That ability to parse out your opponents was removed so when you start getting 4+ empires in a war on one side or the other making any real progress towards your goals becomes moot. It just becomes a "who's attrition counter rises up the fastest" which given it seems weighted against the attacker means wars are not fun just frustrating.
By mid-game the galaxy becomes stupid stable. Sure there are some random rolls of a fanatical purifier advanced started AI empire that might get rolling early on and become a force to be reckoned with but in several games in a row everyone around me ends up with 2-3 defensive allies (at least) and given how hard it is for AI to calculate its chances the AI just ends up sitting on its butt.
It seems to be next to impossible to invite allies into my wars. I used to be able to butter up an ally and get them to commit some forces but now even allies with superior forces and claims on the enemy will still veto the war invite. First of all they need to make those factors more transparent and secondly with the AI unwilling to engage in any war that is not entirely one sided (i.e. superior vs. inferior) then everything becomes static again.
With such a static mid-game that means the game is ENTIRELY dependent on a fast spread early game. I've found that unless the AI happens to be a complete putz then the technology gap doesn't get past 1 level difference by mid-game which means that there just isn't enough leverage to be able to put down 2-3 enemy empires compared to your one.
For example, I am fighting a force of 4 empires. 2 of them are trapped behind a rival fleet so it's really me + ally vs. 2 of them. Ally of course refuses to commit so it becomes a 1 v 2. I build up my fleet and bribe marauders to take care of one of the allies while I attack the first in a lightning strike.
Ends up not mattering at all. Because of how combat works even though I outnumber and outgun enemy fleet every time we still end up with equivalent casualties (despite me being one tech above) and then by the time I repair my fleet his fleet is repaired and so we just stalemate over and over again. I could grind ahead and press the advantage but due to the huge number of starports in the way it would just grind down my fleet and then he would wipe it out.
Anyway despite me winning the battles they gain the advantage in warscore because attacker ships are worth more than defender ships in combat calcs. I have won 4 massive fleet engagements, I can replace my ships faster then he can and occupied 1/3rd of his space but I am somehow still losing. Then the ally arrives and ends up routing me because they commited all their space force into this war instead of protecting their home planet from marauders.
Combat just isn't fun anymore. It used to be about luring the enemy into traps and using allies strategically but now it just feels like trench warfare where you grind and grind and nothing happens.
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