Release notes here!
This one has a ton of improvements from the main menu background to the message you get when you inevitably lose. (Ok, it’s not completely inevitable). And just about everything in between. We’re approaching beta rapidly. For the full story please read the notes on the wiki, but here are some highlights:
1) The lobby has a lot more options, including difficulty settings for all three parts of your AI opponent (the occupying Sentinels, the roaming defensive Warden Fleet, and the predatory Hunter Fleet). The framework for showing a large number of (moddable) custom option for each faction is also in, and is used to support the difficulty options.
2) Tons more units now have their proper graphics (thanks to Pepisolo and Goldenwolf!), as do flak and lightning explosions (lots of iteration there, may not be done). Badger also fixed up a ton of squishy vis-layer bugs causing the wrong number of ships to show in squads, lots of shots to not draw properly (or at all), etc. Thanks, Badger (and for a ton of other changes too)! Together with ship on-death explosions and shield on-hit effects (both possibly still too subtle) the visual feedback of the game has improved massively. Naturally, this involved multiple distinct subsystem swaps to get the particle-like behavior necessary.
3) New Camera! Again! This one’s actually good! When it doesn’t get locked into a psychedelic death spiral! (we fixed the death spiral bug before this release). It’s also regrettably closed-source, but modding other cameras is still possible.
4) The play area around each planet is now much larger and feels much less like a cage match and much more like AIWC. We may go even larger, let us know what you think.
5) Some major rebalancing. Starships are now “cap of one” units and thus very powerful individually. You also have to unlock even the Mark 1 variants, which effectively means that one of your first decisions is which 3 Mark 1 starships to unlock for your starting fleet (or to get Mark 1 and 2 of a single type, or to save some Science for other stuff). The choice makes a pretty big difference in the feel of the initial fighting. Similarly, turrets are no longer unlocked by default, but unlocking them is very powerful since you can put a full cap of each turret on each planet you control.
6) Also part of rebalancing, but worth its own point: Shields are very different now. The mechanic itself is the same, but you’ll see _way_ fewer shields than you used to, on both sides. Battles now see serious casualties much earlier in general. Not even your Ark has a shield now (the Ark’s now just a 600,000 hit-point Armored Ball Of Iron, its combat role is mostly just replacing your fleet ship losses mid-battle). If you want a shield early on you have to unlock a shield starship, which means only getting 2 of the other types (at most), though that’s generally still worth it.