Missiles are clearly the strongest for a Neutral with a strong economy and NLCs(You get new torpedoes faster). Beams are the best for Evils(Psyonic Beam, specifically). Mass Drivers are the best for pacifists/diplomats who hold out on war until the high-tech era and suddenly unleash ships filled with compact Black Hole Generators.
At the bottom of the tech tree, missiles rule. The Stinger does twice the damage of contemporary beams and guns. At the top of the tech tree, missiles rule again with the Black Hole Eruptor being more powerful and smaller than the Doom Ray.
Lets look at reality for a moment - we're researching missile techs right now, and are widely employing missiles on modern fighter aircraft, ships and ground systems.
We've already got lots out of the guns line and they're still there but have taken second place to missiles since the early '60s due to a factor that will disappear in space combat - range.
Humans have just started on beam(directed energy) weapons - in the form of anti-artillery systems and the Airborne Laser(an aircraft-based anti-missile laser that takes up all the space inside a Boeing 747!). The current problem with DE weapons is atmospheric refraction/distortion/dilution, which won't exist in space.
So we clearly have an edge in missiles - in TA, with the unique tech trees, I expect the Terrans/Altarians/Arceans to focus on missiles, the Drengin/Korath/Thalan on beams, the Torians/Yor/Iconians on guns, and the Krynn/Korx/Drath to be unfocused on any specific weapon type.
This is perplexing...
1. How can missiles be so overpowering, generally speaking? Did you miss some factor in the analysis?
2. ...such as defenses for example? Can you give us similar tables for different defense technologies?
3. And what is the point of mass drivers at all, generally speaking?
4. And why do you have the super weapon at a certain point in the particular branch of the tech tree? I suppose it's nice to have a primary target at a later point in the tech tree you can strive to reach, but if it's too strong then it becomes a bit pointless to research past that step in the tree. At least there should be 2-3 such points along the entire branch. This sounds even much worse than the plasma cannons in MOO2... if you almost never use the other weapons in the tech tree that sounds like failed game design.
5. Does DA bring any significant changes (rebalancing) to the choice between weapons?
Given the rock-paper-scissors, I wonder if the design idea was that basically you have the strongest tech, missiles, but when your enemy adapts to that, you switch to the second strongest, beams, and the generally weak mass drivers would be used for a real surprise when your enemy has no defense for this supposedly useless weapon technology. I would see this giving nice R/P/S play in a multiplayer game, but dunno when it's single player...
1. Missiles have only one drawback - research costs. Otherwise, they rule.
2. Point Defenses are like beams in defenses(low research cost, mediocre performance), Armor is equivalent to missiles(high performance, high research cost) and Shields are just plain weak. IMO, defenses are pointless in DL - if you have high enough attack and high speed, you can kill the enemy without ever getting shot at. DA rules beef-up defense effectiveness, but I think that offense is the best defense.
3. Mass Drivers are small - in the super high-tech ending saga of long drawn out games, you can fit tons and tons of Ultimate Miniaturized Black Hole Generators in those huge hulls - however, you must be Evil, since the only weapon strong enough to hold out until you reach the top of the tree is the 10-damage Psyonic Shredder.
4. There is only one true super-weapon - the ridiculously expensive Nano Ripper. The others - Psyonic Missile, Psyonic Beam and Psyonic Shredder are all Evil-only techs. For Good and Neutral, you just climb as normal.
5. No, in DA, the weapons are largely the same. Defenses have been boosted up, engines have been nerfed and combat rules have been changed to help defenses.