…stronger planetary bombardment.
Master of Orion 2 was, is, and always will be my favorite 4X game. I love Stellaris and play the shit out of it, but MoO2 was absolute gem of game design, with hardly any 4X game even approaching it's beauty even now, after 25 years. If it was moddable like Stellaris is, I bet there would be hundreds and thousands people still playing it, myself included.
I remember playing MoO2, and I remember that both me and computer didn't used doomstacks. Instead, multiple fleets was used from both sides. Why? Because MoO2 was different from Stellaris in one very important way: planetary bombardment.
In Stellaris, enemy fleet in your territory is annoyance. Yes, it can capture systems with mining stations (which is stupid in it's own way, I'll explain why), but starting from middle of game, when your economy is driven by resources extracted from planets, it hardly matters that much. Enemy fleet can bombard the planet, but damage done is laughable, and you need to station fleet for years to cause any significant damage. Since I started playing 2.2, situation got even worse – I hardly ever see a pop killed or building ruined.
In MoO2, enemy fleet in your territory is catastrophe. First of all, if it have bombs, you can say goodbye to the planet in which enemy fleet has parked, because even major planets could be completely obliterated in 1-3 turns; small colonies could be destroyed with one salvo. Destroying your starbase was practically a death sentence to planet; you had to stop enemy before he could cause the damage.
The second thing was blockade. In Stellaris, devastation cause all the negative effects – planet still receives resources from the empire at large (which is all kinds of stupid). In MoO2, blockade hurt – all food supply was cut off, leading to your population dying off pretty quickly. It also cut off the production supply and disallowed to buy things quickly.
General solution? Inflicting devastation should be much faster; large fleets should be able to entirely destroy the colony in a few days. This is very logical – we can destroy most of our civilization in a few hours right now, imagine the possibilities in the far future. This will make stopping every enemy fleet a priority. Even if you engage in epic space battle with another doomstack, if even one small fleet managed to get through – you are screwed, because raid fleet will bomb your main industry colonies to hell, rendering you unable to continue the war. This will make having secondary fleets able to stop raiding parties more important and give starbases another role besides FTL-inhibiting fleetsin chokepoints and raising naval capacity. AI should also go for destroying mining stations and outposts completely with raids instead of conquering the system without losses and then giving it back after your main doomstack rapes the enemy fleet and starts to control the damage. This will also make more distinction between ship classes. You can't really raid with cruisers and dreadnoughts, but you can destroy mining stations with corvettes and bomb planets with destroyers while escaping retribution from massive main fleet.
Other important thing is that even if fleet "just" blockade the planet and not returns it to Stone Age, it still should hurt. Planet should be cut off from rest of empire in resources. Resources shortages as a whole is laughable in Stellaris, but this absolutely should be fixed for blockades. Pops should die very quickly without food (I'd say about a month or two for every pops which is not supported by planet itself), energy shortages destroy districts and cause damage, and consumer goods shortages lead to pops shifting ethics and demanding from government to drop the white flag (which leads to martial laws and summary executions, which leads to major happiness penalties and even more ethics shift). If you blockage long enough, there must be a chance of planet surrendering without any invasion – just when they understand there is going to be no help coming and they are on their own.
All of this, of course, require AI which know how to raid things and what to bomb, but this doesn't seem like a very hard thing to do. It will also shift paradigm of war very strongly. Instead of slowly taking enemy territory system-by-system, there is going to be a lot of rushing, hit-and-run, whack-a-mole style. But I think it will solve at least one problem of this game.
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