This release's major new features are the free camera (allows for RTS style controls) and the ability to build and replace colonies. It also improves the user interface and gameplay with new settings, better menus and many other smaller tweaks. Performances have been increased in a noticeable way too with a more constant frame-rate during very long games and quicker game loading and saving operations. Finally, this version features around 40 bug fixes.
The following feature is only available in the Deluxe Edition.
Empire rulers will be happy to learn that it is now possible to select which colonies will be built in their territory through a couple of handy menus. Of course, building and replacing colonies costs a lot of money, and depending on your faction, your colonies may better suited for specific planet types.
It was a popular request. The whole game can be played with standard RTS (real time strategy) controls no matter if you play as a solo pilot or at the empire level. Note that the video above is from an earlier build and that the user interface has been improved since then. Switching between ships on the fly has also been made easier as the ship you're using will only pause its current order instead of canceling it completely.
The following features are only available in the Deluxe Edition.
This feature adds a few new settings to the Ship Setup menu, allowing you to choose between 3 different combat behaviors for your ships. “Standard” is, well, the current combat behavior: mid range combat where distance is determined by the weapon with the shortest range. With “Keep Distance”, the ship will try to stay as far away as possible from its current target while still being able to hit the opponent. Finally “Ignore” will mean that the ship will go on with its current order (or stay still if no current order) when under attack. Note that weapon systems are independent from this setting, meaning that you can set the ship to fire back even in “ignore” combat mode, which will surely become a very useful tool to those wanting to micro-manage large fleet battles without the combat AI getting in their way.
Regarding carriers, in a similar fashion, you can choose how your carrier(s) will use their fighters. 3 different modes here again. Offensive is the current one, fighter wings are sent to different targets according to their threat level. Defensive in which the fighters will try to stay around the carrier. And passive, in which fighters will stay docked unless given explicit orders (through new keyboard shortcuts). Another setting allows you to choose which fighter you want to carrier to “rearm” itself when getting repairs.
The game is using a new, more futuristic looking font and many menus have be redesigned accordingly. The screenshot above shows the new docking menu making full use of the font.
The galactic news are also more useful, with additional, better written messages that can be filtered according to your needs.
You can also change settings on multiple ships simultaneously with the ship setup menu. Optional icons can shown on the border of your screen to locate stations, gates and mission targets that are outside of the screen. Additional graphic and gameplay options are available in the also improved Game Settings menu. The trading menu will indicate of you're making or loosing money making a transaction. The list could go on.
And of course there are dozens of other improvements, including new graphical assets, exploding asteroids, a much faster game saving/loading, and better performances in general. It also includes bug fixes for all the issues that has been reported by the community. A complete changelog is available here.