I am history's greatest monster!
In these sorts of games, war is inevitable, but what is not quite so inevitable is one party using high-tech gravity-manipulation weapons to explode stars and wipe out whole solar systems in a single cataclysmic event. But in my defense, it was slightly easier than playing whack-a-mole with the enemy's fleets and colony ships. It's something I learned in my first campaign, when the enemy resettled their planets while I was gathering reinforcements. So, obviously, I decided to kill billions rather than be slightly inconvenienced.
That's probably my favorite part of the game. Not the mass genocide, but the fact that you can alter the map on such a profound level. You can create or destroy planets and stars, collapse solar systems into black holes, disperse nebulas, and even build megastructures like ringworlds and Dyson spheres. I like having that kind of freedom. There's nothing better than becoming a super-powerful elder civilization and making a permanent mark on the universe.
It really makes me want to play Space Empires V, because it goes even farther in that direction, making the big stuff even more visually impressive. Although that's not as big a deal as I thought it would be before I started the game. I thought for sure that Space Empires IV's primitive graphics would keep me at arm's length from the underlying mechanics of the game, but it turns out I got into it almost right away. The only thing that really held me back was the terrible user interface. I've gotten used to modern 4X games that remind you when you have an empty build queue or have an unmoved unit. Having to remember stuff all the time is sooo haaard.
Or maybe I'm just growing soft. There is something to recommend to getting back to basics. Not a lot, to be sure, but something. I definitely enjoyed my time playing this game, but it's another one that's been rendered obsolete by advances in the genre. I'm looking forward to SE5, to see if it stacks up, but given the existence of a sequel, I can foresee no reason to ever play this again (well, perhaps if I'm ever stuck with an old computer, I suspect Space Empires IV would run on a toaster).