I see some nice ideas here that would help to make one of the best computer games even better. So, first the things I agree with:
Combat – we certainly need at least some basic tactical options, like close in - withdraw - attack a particular ship. Ideally, ship size, speed and weapon type should also be factored in (imagine a fleet of fighters probing the defenses of a capital ship, easily dodging its cannon fire and then fleeing in all directions!). Certainly, it all must be done with the AI in mind - computer opponents must be able to use those features efficiently.
Range – it sucks as a concept. I believe, it should be removed altogether and replaced by the number of weeks a ship can survive without attending friendly planets or starbases. Better still would be to split it into ‘personnel’ and ‘technical’, keeping the ‘support’ modules for the people and adding ‘power source’ modules. Then most components should have a ‘power consumption' property, especially engines, weapons and some defences.
Economy – at the very least, we should have the ability to transfer food and production between planets.
Politics – elections should really make sense, so that war-wearied people vote for pacifists, citizens of a manufacturing capital – for environmentalists (there should be more parties, including greens).
I could go on, but I’d rather proceed to the things which haven’t been mentioned before and which, IMO, badly need correcting.
SAME PLANET QUALITY for all races is unbelievably stupid. Almost any science fiction book dealing with aliens will tell you that their environment preferences are different, often hugely so. Even if they can walk on each other’s planets without a spacesuit, their comfort ranges (and comfort, I believe, is one thing you should look at when determining planet quality) are surely different. So, I’d propose adding a whole lot of properties for each planet – gravity, mean temperature, atmosphere density, humidity, atmospheric content of oxygen and several other elements, lighting conditions, axial inclination (for those who don’t know, that’s what makes seasons possible and, effectively, increases the usable area of the planet), land/water ratio etc. They could still sum up to some aggregate 'planet quality', but that would vary between civs, because each would have a comfort range and increase/decrease weights for every property. Eg, humans feel comfortable at 0,8 - 1,2 g, average humidity (50-55%), 10-20°C (Earth now has around 15°), 20-22% O2 etc. Every additional temperature degree decreases PQ more than an additional humidity percent, while temperature has a higher increase weight for humans. Yor, on the other hand, would be quite resistant to low or high temperature and absolutely indifferent to atmosphere density, but high humidity and high oxygen content would be very bad for them. Someone, let’s say, Drengin, could stem from a high-gravity planet orbiting a dim (or distant) red star, and so feel uncomfortable below 3 g and in bright yellowish light. Each race could be made unique, as they should be.
The number of usable tiles shouldn’t completely depend on PQ. Planet size and terrain should be the factor here, and PQ (or, better still, particular planet properties, race-specific) could make it cheaper or more expensive to construct and maintain improvements (say, you can have a whole lot of factories on a huge piece of rock, but people don’t like to work there and they have to wear bulky protection suits).
If we allow different races to share a planet (which is an absolute must), then PQ should be calculated proportionately. Perhaps, the Drengin garrison stationed on a conquered watery world feel uncomfortable, but it’s the billions of indigenous Torian slaves that really matter.
Actually, I devoted quite a lot of thought to it and even intended to make a mod, but just couldn't find the means to do it (speaking of which, GalCiv2 isn't really that moddable - you can do little beyond adding 'content'; I hope GalCiv3 will be at least as moddable as Civ4). If anyone’s interested, we could discuss it in more detail.
BRUTAL PLANETARY INVASION is another thing which really shocks me. I think that after just one invasion the only ethical option available to the player should be ‘pure evil’. I strongly believe there must be some alternative way to conquer a planet, without slaughtering all of its inhabitants. You could enslave them (remember the Torians?) or even grant them equal status, which still doesn’t change their alien nature. Civs should have more of a political rather than biological meaning.