I've decided to take a bit of a break from 1600/I/A/A/A games and am "touring" as many of the base factions on smaller maps as I can as they are being tweaked post-release. I'm now working on an Altarian Ascension victory (gotta get those cheevos, don'tchaknow).
The complaints throughout the beta about Altarians and terraforming have been hashed to death, and I don't particularly feel like going over them at length at the moment, except to establish some background. But I do want to make a complaint about a tweak that was made to the Altarians that, if anything, has made them even WORSE at Terraforming.
It used to be, a while ago at least, that the Altarians received two terraforming improvements when they researched the tech Paradise Worlds (much like everyone else unlocked two improvements for researching Environmental Resequencing). One was Biospheres, which can terraform any one tile anywhere and is a improvement that all factions eventually receive when they research the aforementioned Environmental Resequencing. The other was was an improvement called Bioshpere Manipulator which, in the opinion of many, was a crippled version of the Ultra Terraformer that everyone else gets (the UT could terraform all low level tiles). The Ultra Terraformer was great because it could affect multiple tiles, but was balanced because it was VERY expensive compared to the other terraforming techs. By, like a lot.
The Altarian version of it, however, it could only affect one tile, even though it cost exactly the same as the Ultra Terraformer.
Anywho, getting to the situation as it currently stands. The Altarians now only get one terraforming improvement, still called the Bioshphere Manipulator, when they research Paradise Worlds. While it is still a Colony Only improvement, instead of working on the low level tiles (like the Ultra Terraformer), it works on all tiles like the improvement Bioshpheres. That is, it mimics Biospheres instead of the UT.
Great, right? Well, no.
For one, instead of getting two tile improvement buildings at Paradise Worlds, they only get one. More to the point their version of Bioshpheres costs over twice as much as everyone else's. Everyone else has a base of 151 mps to build a Bioshphere. The Altarians, however, have a base cost of 360mps.
That is.... like a lot more expensive. In fact, not counting the Ascension Gate improvement, I believe there are only four or five improvements that cost more than this one. And this includes Galactic Achievements.
I get the fact that Altarians get to build it earlier than others, since it is in the Age of War as opposed to the Age of Ascension. Still, a whopping 209 point difference in build points is a LOT, especially for crappy worlds without much production. That only one terraforming improvement is unlocked instead of two when Paradise Worlds is researched is just the cherry on the top when it comes to Altarians and Terraforming.
This is a step back IMO. They now get even one fewer terraforming improvement than they did before AND it is one of THE most expensive things in the game to build (again, not counting the Ascension Gate). What's worse is that the Thalans get an improvement that mimics Bioshpheres even sooner than the Altarians and it only costs them the base 151.
If the Biosphere Manipulator mimicked the UT and could be used multiple times, I could live with the extra cost, though I'd be grumbling under my breath. Or if the Altarians got the UT/Bioshpheres combo during the Age of Ascension like everyone else, I'd live with the excess cost as this being a prototype of a sort. That it mimics Biospheres and "takes away" yet another terraforming tile away from the Altarians... Well, not a fan is how I am going to put it.