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Starpoint Gemini 2 | Officially release. Available now on Steam

Distant Worlds: Legends Review

By on December 12th, 2011 7:59 am

Ok, I thought it was about time to stop playing Distant Worlds: Legends and start writing its review. The review is a bit long because Legends brings many new things to Distant Worlds and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything major, good and bad. Well, most of it is in fact very good, let me advance that already.

Legends is Distant Worlds’ second expansion pack, after Return of the Shakturi, released 11 months before and Distant Worlds original 9 months before that. Distant Worlds is a single-player 4X real-time space strategy game for the PC.

Both the devs and the community have been very active lately and a couple of days ago Matrix Games and CodeForce released Legends’ first official patch (v1.7.0.6). After trying that and after playing quite extensively for the past 2 weeks I’m now finally ready to properly review Legends. So, here we go.

What’s new in Legends?

The major additions and changes that were promised (at least that I could take note before release) were:

- Leaders / new character system
- Influence spheres
- New ships models (around 600!) with better graphics
- Ability to track where your ships are headed (ship vectors overlay)
- Potential colonies, scenic and research locations shown on main map (more overlays)
- Expanded technology tree (e.g. carriers, new planetary facilities, wonders)
- Race-specific events and victory conditions
- Improved fleet management and automation, including fleet postures
- Improved modding support, including full race and character modding
- Improved refueling system (more intelligent fuel management)
- Improved diplomacy system with refueling and mining rights and immigration policies
- Improved performance and sharper graphics

I can confirm that’s all in Legends plus these other interesting new additions:

- Research events (setbacks, research crash breakthroughs)
- Declarations of war now shown on main screen as galactic news
- Elegant new race-specific victory conditions system
- Resources events with new resources found on planets
- Catastrophe events and more menacing space creatures (the dreaded Silvermist)
- Races now have key resources that provide specific bonuses
- We can now see where ships are headed (with a vector, not just coordinates as before)
- Custom ship designs are now signaled with a different color
- You can set the game’s difficulty level

Characters

The character system is Distant Worlds Legends major improvement. Characters are special people who specialize in different aspects of your empire like economical, social, intelligence or military aspects. You have Embassadors, Colony Governors, Special Scientists, Intelligence Agents, Troop Leaders and Fleet Leaders. These characters are varied in nature and you can tell that your play style does influence their appearance and progression. For example if you negotiate often in the diplomacy screen you get diplomacy skill increase on your existing Embassadors and new Embassador characters also tend to emerge more. At least I experienced that.

Characters have positive and negative traits which makes them feel realistic and fun to play. You have a leader, only one; that’s you. If you don’t like yourself much, or other characters, you can dismiss them and new ones will eventually be generated. Some character traits are unknown at start so you have to put your character to the test before discovering their abilities. This is a very interesting and fun detail, since it involves a surprise factor.

Your characters level up with time, according to their past events (which are logged by the game for you to consult at any time). It’s really very cool to see your agents for example get specialized in sabotage or espionage due to the fact that you keep sending them to those kinds of missions. If they keep succeeding in their missions they will continue to level up those skills which makes the intelligence system much more fun and immersive to play now. Moreover you can’t recruit as many agents as you want as before. Agents now emerge so you have to take care of them much more carefully than before. I particularly prefer how the intelligence system works now.

In summary the Legend’s Character system is what I was expecting it to be and more. It is really a new experience to play Legends over Return of the Shakturi just because of that believe me. Characters provide extra strategic choices, gameplay depth, personality and immersion. And the expansion would probably be already worthwhile just because of that.

But there’s plenty more

Your colonies now project influence spheres. At first I didn’t quite understand what those were really about, but after playing Legends for a while, and after going through the galactopedia and the manual (both very good by the way), I finally got what they’re real aim is. By the way, in-game documentation is very good with links to the galactopedia spread all over the different screens to assist you in case you have doubts. I guarantee that you’ll have doubts many times :)

Planets project these influence spheres based on their strategic value (population and development level). The more of it they have the bigger the spheres will be. Inside your sphere of influence is all the territory that the other races see as under your control so they will avoid building mining stations and colonies inside your space. Due to this new feature you can now grant mining rights to the races you want, another cool new feature that deepens diplomacy options even more.

In addition to mining rights you can also decide to offer refueling rights to your neighbors, for the ones you’re not in a mutual defense pack already that is. Another nice one.

Another interesting new diplomacy feature is the ability to set immigration policies on your colonies. Distant Worlds allows several races to peacefully (or not so peacefully) co-exist in the same planets, which is a good feature in my opinion. In Legends you can now set policies to influence the way immigration works. For instance if you don’t want a particular race to be present in your colony you can set it up for relocation and slowly your private sector passenger ships will transport those races elsewhere (you can set immigration policies empire-wide if you need). If you want to enslave a particular race for economic bonuses on a colony you can also set that up, among other options like don’t accept a particular race completely at a colony (or colonies) or decide to slowly exterminate a particular race. Enslavement and extermination have a strong negative impact in your reputation (the way other races see you).

An old negative aspect of Distant Worlds has finally (and thankfully) been addressed in Legends, which is the way ships looked. This was a big complaint of mine in Distant Worlds since the beginning, as you can judge by my Distant Worlds original review. Ships looks were really very poor and unappealing. That is no more! With the help of a mod fan (nicknamed WoodMan in the Distant Worlds forum) the devs have injected 600 (yes, 600!) new ship models. Ships are now sharper and much more interesting, however there’s an option that allows you to use the old models if you prefer.

Research and the tech tree also had some improvements. There are now new weapons (rail guns that partly bypass shields); carriers (a special type of ship hull class that is suited to hold fighters); new planetary buildings (like the terraforming facility that is used to increase the colony development after a major catastrophe). There are also wonders now, Sid Meier’s Civ style. Below you can see 3 of them. From left to right you have the Gizurean Universal Hive, the Rusan Technology Installation and the Shandar Lava Palace Resort.

Wonders are special structures that provide significant bonuses to the race that finishes them first and are unlocked by researching required techs. There are 15, which vary in development, research, ships speed, defense, among other bonuses.

There are also two new nice twists to research that made it even more interesting. Now there are research crash breakthroughs and research setbacks events. The former causes a tech to breakthrough much faster, the latter causes an entire research on a particular field to be lost. Scientist characters also play a role here. If you happen to find one with the Creative trait your chances to breakthrough techs increase. Here is another example of good association between characters and gameplay.

Refueling, another headache from the past has now been further improved. In order to solve past annoyances which required too much fuel micromanagement we can now set a % that determines how many (a % of) ships in a fleet need to be out of fuel before they ‘assemble’, meaning they will get more gas before attacking (\Edit this only works when your fleets are automated). This is a VERY important implementation. In DW previous installments it was very annoying to witness that sometimes your fleets were crawling because of a single frigate having no gas. Now if you set a low % of refuel order before attacking, that fleet will refuel at the nearest refuelling point before embarking on its attacking plan. This is another big plus.

There’s plenty more meaningful events added in Legends. There are now the new race-specific events. For example a race enters in a biological cycle where it will behave differently, more aggressively or friendlier. There’s the new catastrophe events. For example I had a major earthquake in one of my major colonies that decreased the planet’s quality significantly and I also lost a good amount of population. There are resource events now. I was surprised and very pleased to see this new feature. Now your colonies may occasionally discover a new source of a particular resource not found before. This seems to be a particularly rare event (it only happened to me once) but it is a nice new touch. And there are also the new research events (crash breakthroughs and setbacks) that I already mentioned above.

A word on the new victory conditions system

Till now Distant Worlds provided only the traditional dominance, conquest, time types of victory conditions. You reach a certain percentage of population, or number of colonies and you win. Although not a complete innovation in these types of games Legends introduces a new and more elegant victory conditions concept: races have their own victory conditions. These are specific goals that each race has to obtain to achieve victory. If you play with the humans you must achieve more mutual defense pacts, earn more income from tourism and trade than other races, for example. If you’re an Ackdarian you must possess the biggest capital ship of the galaxy and possess at least 50% of all ocean planets (Ackdarians are amphibians). And so on. Then there are many other interesting goals like the need to destroy most enemy troops (of the Boskara), enslave 25% of other races present in your colonies (of the Dahyut), build the Universal Hive Wonder (of the Gizurean) or start the fewest wars in the galaxy (of the peacekeeping Ketarov).

There’s really plenty of different flavors and variety on these goals, and that’s why I thought this new victory conditions system would deserve a section of its own in this review. The way victory progress is calculated and measured it’s also very interesting as you can see below.

Depending on your victory conditions setup at game start you will see victory progress which includes both the traditional and the race specific victory conditions. In red you can see the percentage of victory progression with respect to the Humans specific victory conditions. In blue it’s the economies’ %, in green the population and in yellow the territory %. This is all merged into a global victory progress bar which makes it very easy to grasp who’s in the lead. The first race to achieve the red line boundary on the right wins. You can set the weight of the victory conditions boundary now also. Default is 80% but you can be stricter or looser on your approach to victory. You can disable race victory conditions if you want and go only with the traditional population, territory, time or economy goals.

User Interface improvements

The User Interface has always been Distant World’s Achilles heel, its major weakness. The original game’s UI was inappropriate to play a game of this magnitude. The game’s potential was there already but without a good UI, sadly, we couldn’t experience enough pleasure playing the title. And unfortunately players can’t play potential alone yet. Return of the Shakturi solved most of the UI problems by introducing quick action buttons and the empire navigation tool which were surely most welcome.

Legends improves the UI even further, to the point where finally I have no major complaints about it anymore. For instance, now you’re (finally!) able to track where your ships are going by clicking on them or by turning on the ship vectors overlay, which will show you where all your civilian private ships or your state controlled ships are headed. Previously you could only guess where most ships were headed (particularly civilian ships). You would need to check the ships coordinates to know the ships’ direction. Clearly this was insufficient to say the least. This is now fixed and the ship overlays and vectors shown when you click ships are extremely useful features to have and another big plus for Legends.

Another interesting new UI feature is the ability to track colonies, scenic locations and research locations directly on the main map through overlays highlighting. Previously you could already see those special locations if you accessed the Empire Navigation Tool (a menu in the left side of the screen) but now you can switch on/off map overlays that show you where those places are with a circle around them all together. This is a very interesting and damn important feature to have during expansion planning since we can now zoom-out the map and look into the exploration’s big picture. Instead of going one by one we can now see everything glowing in the map which eases exploration and expansion by a significant order of magnitude.

Another simple, but very, very important new feature is the ability to track who declared war to whom in the main screen without having to go check that in the diplomacy screen every 5 turns or so. The devs were listening, as always. Simple thing to do, big plus.

The first Legends’ patch solved many fixes and improved the game’s balancing, judging from the patch notes, but it also added a very nice little tweak to the design screen interface. It’s now possible to easily distinguish your custom designs from the default and AI made ones. A simple new addition, but all helps.

Last but not the least fleet management is also significantly improved. There are now fleet postures. These are orders you can give to your fleets for them to act autonomously. You can order your fleets to attack or defend and you can set the range to which they will defend your territory independently from your actions (system, nearby systems or a whole sector away from the home base you set). This is also a VERY important new feature, specially against pirate raids or space monsters that appear out of nowhere (or other alien races as well). Many times you would have a fleet stationed in a planet and a marauding pirate would assault your mining stations nearby and the fleet would just seat there. Now you can set these fleet postures and not worry about minor skirmishes. Another big plus!

AI and automation

I don’t know if the AI is competent enough, I probably would need to play Distant Worlds Legends in full automation for a month straight to know that for sure but what I can tell you is that after dozens of hours of play (through DW original, RotS and now Legends) the AI feels competent. Diplomacy interactions are a good example of this. Negotiations feel appropriate, there are no WTF moments whatsoever. Overall diplomacy feels “authentic” and appropriate.

An important aspect about Distant Worlds automation is that if you like to play a higher-level strategy game style you can! Just turn many of the game’s aspects automated (for example ship design, colonization, diplomacy or espionage) and concentrate on other areas you enjoy more. The beauty of Distant Worlds is that it allows you to play in many different ways so you end up with many kinds of experiences and play styles.

The game is immensely complex so for many of you folks just starting now it is recommended that you leave automation on for some aspects of the game while you concentrate on others. I suggest you do this at least at the beginning, then you can slowly start switching off automation options one by one and start getting your hands dirty. I play fully manual now with some occasional suggestions left on and I can guarantee you that it is more than possible to control everything and have lots of fun with that at the same time. Even for an RTS. You just need to pause a lot to review your planning carefully from time to time and you’ll be fine.

Migration is 100% controlled by the AI and it works great. You can see your private sector moving people from planet to planet (from less desirable to higher desirable places) and also from other race’s planets to your own and vice versa. This feels realistic and it is at least fun to watch (since you can’t control anything that’s part of the private sector).

Your freighters are also 100% controlled by the AI. Freighters are the economic backbone of the game. They move all kinds of resources, luxuries to where they’re needed for construction, planet development or trade. There were some issues with freighters running out of fuel constantly in the past, going to the other side of the galaxy or moving around pointlessly in the game, but now, after the first Legends patch, that sort of things seems to have been finally resolved.

The bad, the not so good, and some suggestions

Let’s start with the worse thing about Legends, and Distant Worlds in general. Font sizes, blurriness and color contrast are a serious issue. It’s not just me, many people are complaining that some text in the game is very small and blurry/unfocused to read in places (tech tree and diplomacy screen in particular). Sometimes we can’t even distinguish a ‘+’ from a ‘-’. This is somewhat serious. Click on the image below to see an example of this (tech tree description text is very small and blurry).

This font size issue is not really game breaking or anything like that, but unlucky folks running this game on higher resolutions displays than the standard resolutions can get in trouble. Sometimes I have to lean on and put my glasses on in order to read stuff. Many people are complaining (myself included), others seem to be fine with it. I don’t know what’s causing this or how it can be fixed, so consider yourself warned. This is a serious minus.

Also, something that is really still a bit of a downer is that, although there are plenty of game setup customizations for you to choose from and many races to pick from you can’t yet customize your own race from scratch in Legends. This is surely one of the things that the devs should focus on providing next since it should not be too difficult to implement from what they have already. This is a slight minus.

When we give mining rights to a race the AI should acknowledge that. Currently they don’t say anything like “thank you” etc like with other gifts or treaties. It’s a small thing however. And we can’t request mining or refueling rights either, races are only allowed to offer them. In my opinion this is a slight minus also. The refueling and mining rights concept seems to be a bit rough on the edges still.

Another important thing to point out is that a couple more portraits for the characters of each race would surely be a nice thing to have. At least to have a small degree of variety. This is really not a serious issue but more character portraits would help with immersion.

Now some suggestions

When designing a ship it should be possible to increase or decrease the number of modules (or scrap them completely) in a faster way. Right now you have to click constantly to increase or decrease the number of components added/removed. It should be possible to edit the number of components directly if required.

Ships and facilities (the little icons on space ports and planets) could show build progress (as with a fill color that gets filled up as ships get built). This would be a very nice feature to have for colony ships and space ports construction in particular since they take A LOT of time to build. Instead of going through screens and menus we could just check build progress in real-time. That would be a great new feature since I lose a lot of time with building progress checking.

Another suggestion would be to show how many resources we have of a particular resource when we click on one in a planet. This would enhance exploration smoothness. That way we could know the number of resources we have in a nutshell without the need to go to the expansion planner. This would avoid breaking the flow of thinking also when we are carefully reviewing which systems and planets to colonize next.

You could have a way to store map snapshots. There are many levels of zooming and sometimes I find the need to capture a map (zoom and position) to restore later by pressing some hot key. I keep centering my maps on particular places all the time after being “distracted” by some event. This feature would surely be nice to have.

Further scattered thoughts

Another very interesting aspect about Legends is that you can actually, and surely be able to, win games peacefully if you want. This is not so common in 4X games but Distant Worlds manages to accomplish that for you if you want.

There’s a couple of new great music soundtracks (to add to the existing ones which were already very good).

You can now set the game’s difficulty from very easy to very hard. This will affect the amount of income generated by your colonies. Play very easy and you’ll earn more income than the other races, play very hard and it’ll be the other way around.

There is no multiplayer in Legends. Distant Worlds’ games are currently single-player only.

To play Legends you will need to own both the original Distant Worlds game and the Return of the Shakturi expansion. So, the all set, for the ones that don’t own the previous installments, will cost you around $63 (if you exclude VAT or other taxes required in some countries). It may seem a bit pricy but when comparing with some of the so called AAA games (that are “supposed” to be very good) that cost you from $50 to $70 for a single installment it doesn’t seem so much. Legends is to 4X space strategy fans as Skyrim is to RPG lovers, so the price doesn’t really shocks me.

Why wouldn’t Distant Worlds Legends be worth that much? Some will argue that Distant Worlds is a niche players-only game and that the price doesn’t really matter. I disagree. Legends is good enough to be appreciated by many more people other than the genre fans and, in my opinion, is totally worth the price.

Bottom Line

A very long review for an expansion pack wouldn’t you say? Yes, Distant Worlds Legends has it all. Powerful enough automation options for people who don’t like to micromanage and plenty of detail and depth for the micromanagers to be entertained for many months. What you can’t say is that there’s nothing to do in Legends. Boredom is to be found elsewhere.

The new character RPG system re-emerged Master of Orion 2′ leaders concept. DW Legends devs were wise to take the best of it and perfected it. Really, Distant Worlds Legends is what Master of Orion 3 should have been.

For people who never played these kind of games, that is to say: 4X, grand-scale, highly complex, space empire building games then Distant Worlds Legends is the perfect game for you to make your entrance. Don’t be afraid if at first you feel overwhelmed, I’m sure many of you will. Just go through the tutorials, the manual, start automated and then progressively turn-off automation and slowly you’ll get the taste of what it is to be in control of a space faring civilization. The Distant Worlds forum community is also a very helpful one so they will help you move around if you have doubts or need advice, for sure.

For the hardcore 4X space fans (that didn’t know much about Legends yet and didn’t play it yet) I don’t have much to say to them really. Buy it NOW! Most of you have it already anyway.

In my Distant Worlds Legends preview I stated the following: “In my opinion Distant Worlds Legends shows enough potential to be running for the best 4X space strategy game ever made (Space Sector: Adam Solo)“. I’m not disappointed. After playing Legends for a while now it really is what I thought it would be and much more.

I consider myself fairly unbiased about the game. Yes, I’m a fan of these types of games but the ones who know me know that I value honesty and sincerity. Take into account that I gave a 5.0 score out of 10 to the original Distant Worlds when it first came out. Also, if you need further proof of sincerity just check my Sword of the Stars 2 first impressions article. So, take that into account when you make your judgement.

I finish with this. If Master of Orion 2 was the 4X space strategy gaming reference of the nineties, then Distant Worlds Legends is the 4X space strategy gaming reference of the early XXI century. What are you waiting for? Buy it now!

Distant Worlds Legends

Distant Worlds: Legends

Buy it at the Matrix Games Store.

Space Sector score:
9.4/10
excellent
The Good:
- Huge universe full of things going on (alive universe)
- Good automation options let the player decide where to focus on
- Very rich diplomacy options. Negotiations feel right
- Immense depth provided
- Good game immersion. Not “just-one-more-turn” feeling but “just one-more-hour”
- Music is extraordinary
- Character system is very good providing cool new RPG elements to the game
- Appropriate User Interface allows the player to have full control
The Bad:
- Font sizes are inappropriately small and blurry in places
- Can’t customize races from scratch
- The refueling and mining rights concept seems to be a bit rough on the edges still
- A couple more portraits for the characters would be nice
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132 Comments


  1. Pym says:

    This game has potential to become a “classic”. Just a little more polishing, another good expension and that is! My favorite 4x game by far with this new “Legends” addon.

  2. David Carron says:

    “If Master of Orion 2 was the 4X space strategy gaming reference of the nineties, then Distant Worlds Legends is the 4X space strategy gaming reference of the early XXI century.”

    Pff. I’m STILL playing MMO2. I liked Sword of the Stars but the gameplay wasn’t the same caliber as MOO.

    I’m a big fan of this site and your tough early recommendation just gives that much more legitimacy to this one. I will absolutely look forward to getting my dirty mits on this game and playing the crap out of it.

  3. Fernando Rey says:

    This one has been in my list for a while, but now after reading your review, I am actually against getting it. If I do I will probably get hooked up way too much time to do anything else ;) Maybe if I find a deal for it, like on a Christmas sale; I can buy it and forget I have it. But I hardly doubt the later :D

    • Adam Solo says:

      ;) Yes my friend, if you have important things to do it’s better to finish those first than getting yourself into Distant Worlds Legends. Unless you have plenty of self control be prepared to tell your loved ones that you’re going to do something important that will require you to spend less time with them. If they love you, they’ll understand :)

  4. Ermdog says:

    Great review! Even after playing legends for weeks now I’ve still learned things from this review.

    I agree with the font, especially when it comes to the ‘+’ and ‘-’. I can never tell one from the other. It would be great if this could be fixed somehow.

    Your suggestions are spot on! All of those you suggested are things I also thought would make the game that much better. I hate having to go though screens to check on the progress of a ship or Starbase. A color filler or percentage bar would work great here.

    I also agree there should be a way to click on a resource and show how much of that you have. This would eliminate having to go though your expansion planner all the time.

    In my opinion those are the 2 biggest things that would put the game over the top, however minor, but for a game like this the better the UI, the better the game.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Thanks a lot Ermdog! I really appreciate that you found the review useful. Hope it was a fun read.

      Yes, font size and the blurriness is a pain. Funny that some people say don’t have any problems at all. Some say it may be because of screen resolution being too high, others that it may be related with windows true font setting. I think nobody knows for sure. Anyhow the game should be made more robust with respect to screen resolutions and adapt to that since way too many people are complaining. At the very minimum a workaround to fix this should be posted somewhere, if they can’t patch it.

      If there were no font issues, more character portraits, those points I suggested and a few minor glitches on the refueling and mining rights thing corrected I would probably even give this game a much greater score. There’s still progression margin no doubt about that.

      • Ermdog says:

        Do you find yourself Dismissing characters a lot? I find it funny that sometimes I get a character that has all negative stats. I just got a fleet admiral with 4 stats all in the negative and 1 stat at 0%. His trait is also a negative one. I immediately dismissed him since he has no positive to him(or at least I don’t think so). Was just curious if you get some bad characters as well? I don’t mind characters having some negative stats to them, but found it odd that they would give you one with everything negative.

        • Adam Solo says:

          I dismissed a bunch of them already also. I had a very poor agent and embassador, also with all stats negative. Couldn’t see the positive side of that :) I guess probably they would evolve positively with time however I was a bit impatient and dismissed them. I also dismissed myself (the leader) twice already.

          When you dismiss your leader another one will appear shortly after but when you dismiss other characters I think they take more time to re-emerge. I think all of them have different timings of reappearance when you dismiss them depending on your race’s characteristics.

          I don’t see this negative traits/dismissing as a problem since naturally an empire should have an appropriate number of characters (according with size, strategic value). If you dismiss one character (quite realistic in fact, kind a cool when I fire one) another one will naturally re-appear. So, I don’t see a problem when a character is really bad. Tough luck, fire him and hire someone else. The leader is particularly important. If you don’t like yourself when you begin the game is better to fire yourself quick and let someone else take charge :)

      • Ermdog says:

        Ok thanks for the helpful information. I wanted to make sure that the negative ones didn’t have any upside to them. The ones that I did keep took forever to build up a stat and it just wasn’t worth it. Just found it funny that I could get a fleet commander or Scientist that will hurt you and not help you at all. Kinda unrealistic if you ask me. I mean why are they a commander or scientist in the first place if they suck at everything and good at nothing? It’s not a big deal to me, but more of a waste of time. I don’t mind the ones with mixed stats, because then I really have to decide if I really want to keep them or let them go, but to have all negative just doesn’t make sense.

        • Adam Solo says:

          You do have a point when you say that it doesn’t make sense for a scientist or a commander to get even the opportunity to put himself to scrutiny by the Emperor when they have only bad stats. I see it like this. When a leader appears it doesn’t mean you picked him, it emerges naturally, maybe by bad reasons. If they have only bad stats I guess it’s an offense to take the Leader’s time to analyse him in the first place. If I remember correctly in MoO2 you also dismissed leaders occasionally. There were real bad ones but maybe they always would have a good thing about them. Having only bad stats is a bit of a waste of time yes, but I wouldn’t consider it to be unrealistic, only annoying probably.

          PS: Not really related. Why aren’t there women in leaders portraits (well, in the other species who can tell) but in Humans come on, gives us some more portraits, and some women also. It gets very lonely and cold in space :D

      • Ermdog says:

        LOL, yes I agree with you there. No women leader portraits and only 1 male portrait. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling when you have multiple portraits for leaders, something MoO2 had. It brings the game to life a little.

  5. Eystein Hansen says:

    A very good single player space strategy game. My only big wish is a high score so I can compete with myself. For me the computer AI is not fun to play as I soon figure it out and then my only competition is against myself. For example if I can win quicker, with more population etc.

  6. Adam Solo says:

    Matrix Games is preparing an update to this font size/blurriness issue where they promise at least to clear out the research screen a bit more. Cool! Here is the thread were they’ve announced that.

    • Ermdog says:

      Glad they got a new patch out that deal with a lot of issues. Finally font sizes in Research tab are bigger. My big issue that I’m glad has been fixed, is the part when your fleet chases the enemy out of your system. I hated when that happened, they would just sit out of the system. I also like the part where manually controlled fleets automatically refuel if a refuel station is in that system. Hopefully all I’ll have to do is deploy a resupply ship and the fleet will fuel on their own. :)

      • Adam Solo says:

        Yes, I also found the new patch nice ( v1.7.0.7). The font size on research is much better now. “manually coltrolled fleets automatically refuel if a refuel station is in the system” Is that so? Wow, I missed that one :) That’s a great one also.

        Here are the 1.7.0.7 patch notes for who’s interested in running a beta patch (latest oficial is 1.7.0.6). It’s quite worth it. No problem reported.

  7. Poutnik Santiago says:

    Just to be clear, I need the original Distant Worlds, the first expansion and now the Legends…..that’s about 66 dollars with now running Christmas Sale, right? That’s not very cheap. Any recommendation for an alternative of the same quality (this is going to be my first 4x strategy game).

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, to play Legends you need the base game + 1st expansion + Legends (2nd expansion) you’re correct. It will cost you around that yes.

      So, it will be your first 4X strategy title. I would say that 1) If you would love to be in charge of the fates of a space civilization; 2) You would like to explore a galaxy, colonize other planets and fight spaceship battles and 3) You like strategy games (doesn’t matter if you like turn-base or real-time), then I highly recommend you buy the full package.

      If you’re not sure then I recommend you buy the base + the 1st expansion (Return of the Shakturi). That will give you the right amount of flavor for a cheaper price. I don’t recommend you buy the original base game only :( because the User Interface is very weak and chances are that you will not like the experience, and ruin your entrance in 4X games. Veteran 4X players can start only with the base but be warned, the base is very far from Legends in quality, content, usability and accessibility.

      Consider that Skyrim costs you around $60 (not much different price). I love both RPG and Strategy genres and I own both games. I’m playing Legends more :) I think that says something, not all, but something.

      This video can be a good “demo” for you to see what you can expect.

      Let me know if you have further questions or need further advice.

      If you still prefer a cheaper 4X space game with “relatively” the same quality I recommend you Star Ruler or Armada 2526 Supernova. If you want to try a very simple but very fun 4X space game for free I recommend you 10 Min Space Strategy.

      If you are after something with more space action (not 4X though) I would recommend you Space Pirates and Zombies.

      • Poutnik Santiago says:

        Thank you for your advices. This is really my entrance to the 4x world. I consider myself a strategy lover (not an expert though). I used to like games from BlueByte (Battle Isle serie), which I know is a different genre, but I like the idea of huge space and colonizing and exploring it with my tiny little ship packed with scanner and lasers a few rocket launchers. I don’t know if here you more control the fleets and planets or rather a ship or two (or a pack of them). I have an impression you can do both (from videos on Matrix homepage). I was considering several games from Matrix Games (since they are on sale now – Distant Worlds, AI War: Alien Bundle and Armada 2526 (with possible Supernova expansion). And I wasn’t really sure how much the games differentiate from each other. When reading about AI War, I even noticed a “tower defense feel” description, but couldn’t find more game description to clear this out. I don’t want a tower defense game or combat.
        I also bought Skyrim recently and start playing it (I am still very early in the game) and I like it. I guess I would call myself an overall gamer. I like RPGs, cars, shooters, strategies, well…basically everything. Just trying to choose well, cannot really buy everything.

        • Adam Solo says:

          Of course. Games really are expensive.

          Regarding your comment: “I like the idea of huge space and colonizing and exploring it with my tiny little ship packed with scanner and lasers a few rocket launchers. I don’t know if here you more control the fleets and planets or rather a ship or two (or a pack of them). I have an impression you can do both (from videos on Matrix homepage).

          In 4X games you control many aspects, from combat, to research, to ship design, to exploring, colonization, espionage, diplomacy, etc. You take the seat of an Emperor deciding over all those things. However you can decide to automate stuff and concentrate in what you like more, Distant Worlds allows you to do that. So, if you want to focus on battles you can! While the AI takes care of the rest. Or the other way around. There are many ways you can play Distant Worlds. This is one of its major advantageous over other 4X games out there, where you have very limited automation options available.

          You have next a quick overview I did to help other folks like yourself deciding between Distant Worlds, Armada 2526 and Star Ruler (the three big 4X games recently released). Hope you find this useful in case you don’t have the time to go through all my reviews, although I recommend you at least to check the pros/cons and score on those reviews if you have the time.

          —- (Very) quick overview of Distant Worlds, Armada 2526 and Star Ruler —-

          Armada 2526: TBS, (RTS for battles), great eXploration feeling. Great first-half game. Lacking tech-tree and space combat. Reminds you of Master of Orion 2. Supernova (the expansion) brings good things like trade, improved research and many other things.

          Distant Worlds: RTS, 2D, complex, steep learning curve (but better now with the expansions), lots of automation options if that’s for you. Diplomacy is one of the best, research is good, space combat is ok. Original (vanilla) not recommended. Return of the Shakturi (1st expansion) is good, Legends (2nd expansion) is great. UI has been significantly improved in the expansions.

          Star Ruler: RTS, 3D, best ship design ever, good depth, good UI, good music, few annoyances, ok/good space combat (not Sins but good), light diplomacy, weak/light research.

          My personal preference is for Distant Worlds Legends first, then Armada 2526 Supernova and then Star Ruler.

  8. Poutnik Santiago says:

    Okay, thanks for your quick info. I think I will go for the Distant Worlds and maybe try Armada demo or something. Thanks again. I will read the reviews anyway. Just found this site, so it will give me some time to go through it.

    • Adam Solo says:

      You’re welcome. There is no demo for Armada 2526 available unfortunately. You can find some videos on youtube however that show you some of the gameplay features for both the original and Supernova.

  9. ono says:

    Thank you very much for your reviews. Is your native language German or Dutch by any chance?

    I do have one main question for you and would greatly appreciate any in-depth answer you have time to supply. I ask because the purchase price (64 Euros on sale for download-only) is usually many times greater than I am used to for a TBS. My question is this:

    - What is the late game like?

    I ask this and mean the following: I rarely play a TBS game to completion, and it bothers me. HOMM3 was the closest I could get to a “good” sense of closure; in most of the other TBSs I have played, I find the late game problematic for the following reasons (if you want, you can see my threads from 2 years ago on my ideas of how to rescue Late Game in E:WOM, e.g. here and to a lesser degree here.)

    1. Tedious, gigantic micromanagement: By late game in most 4x TBS, your empire is quite large, and you need an hour just to browse through all the crap you have going to see what’s what, then make decisions about it, etc. It’s often a pain. I play games to have fun, not mimic office management. This includes GalCiv2 and my fears of E:FE as well. For this reason, I never finished a game of CivIV, not one.

    2. Competition: Rarely do I have a game when I have a decent competetor late game. Either I have already been wiped out in the Early Game, or I survive to Mid Game, which is often still interesting, but usually start pulling away at the end of it. By the start of Late Game, I am usually so far ahead that the competition has no chance, but am still miles away from my victory conditions.

    3. Lack of Options (boredom): Often, in Late Game, I’ve already done everything there is to do. There’s no real exciting research that will change anything significantly, my cities (planets, colonies, whatever) have already been fully built up, and there is nothing left to build. GalCiv2 and CivIV were particularly guilty of this. I can only build tanks (spaceships) and move them around. This is particularly annoying for a Builder kind of person (that’s me, the opposite of a Warmonger), and I usually start wars just for something to DO. I click End Turn and drink coffee, eventually go to bed, and never bother to re-load the game again.
    Currently, I am becoming distressed with Armada 2526 supernova for all of these reasons: great early and good mid-game, but poor to bad endgame.

    What can you say about DW? Is there ever a sense of “closure”?

    thank you

    • Adam Solo says:

      No, my native language is Portuguese, that’s why sometimes you will eventually find typos on my articles (sorry about that, I’m committed to improve that though). It’s funny that you’re not the first person to ask me if my native language was German. That or you’re the same person that asked me the same thing in another place :)

      Yes, the problematic 4X strategy “Late Game” issue. I can’t count the number of Civ4 and Civ5 games I’ve played (Civ4 much more), GalCiv2 games and other 4X titles, and I can surely easily count my actually finished games (only a bunch). Although pertinent it is actually not surprising that you bring this up because I’ve been witnessing this same “problematic” pattern over the years. This, as you know, has been reported over and over by many 4X gamers of all genres, again and again. So, there definitely seems to be a problem.

      The “problem” still persists

      This topic deserves a thread in the Space Sector Game Design forums, because there’s so much we need to talk about this. First of all, maybe there’s nothing really wrong with late games being sluggish, with no meaningful goals. Look at some leading RPG games like WoW. The game doesn’t have an end for god’s sake, but people keep playing it and playing it, starting over and over with different avatars and they don’t seem to get enough of it. And we don’t get enough of 4X games either. I’m not saying that the no-end concept is a fatality for 4X games (or that I defend that) but we should at least consider that possibility.

      If not, consider this. I must have played like more than 250 Civ4 games all together. How many did I actually finished (actually retired or win the game)? 25? How many of those did I win? 10? Was that a problem? No :) Civ 4 BTS is my favorite game of all time, and I have a ton of fun playing it. Could it be better? I think so … since I would like to feel more satisfied at the end just like yourself. But you see, we get our kick from these games not from the ending itself but from the progression of the game, that is so, so immensely rich. So this is probably partly the reason why people don’t invest on powerful endings and/or storyline for 4X games more. That, and because it’s hard. We’ve discussed this in a tangent article about story here.

      Now, to your specific questions.

      1. You didn’t finish a Civ4 game? Don’t feel bad about it, it’s normal :) Didn’t you have a lot of fun playing? Yes, it could be better by the end, but probably not that much. DW is no different. You start small, slick and agile. By late games you feel huge, cluttered and sluggish. At least that was my feeling in my Return of the Shakturi games (1st expansion). I haven’t finished a Legends game yet (I play hard, fully manual, slow, large games. I like to play it epic). So, I can’t tell if in Legends that sluggish feeling has been substantially fixed, at least in terms of performance. I think that performance has been improved. On my not-so-small current Legends games I feel that moving around is much slicker than before (and the devs did promised that), but I can’t be 100% sure yet.

      2. This pattern of not-having enough competition (or having too much of it in some cases) happens all the time in 4X games. However that doesn’t make it alright of course. I found Distant Worlds Return of the Shakturi (I didn’t play the vanilla base much) to be quite easy to play, at least for a veteran 4X player like myself. You could bribe AIs way too easily and so it was a constant to be on top of stats if not all the time. I’ll say 90% of the time after some point. I can tell you that this has been fixed in Legends. The devs learned their lesson and now it is much harder to bribe the other races. And they start with a negative distrust modifier (all of them) to avoid early-and-too-easy-friend-making approaches. I don’t find that to be the best way to avoid that (to have a negative modifier for all AI races at the start, since it feels a bit artificial) but I like the idea though.

      Another thing that got fixed in Legends w.r.t. to this topic, is that you can now set the game difficulty level. It’s the same kind of difficulty concept as Civ4′s or Civ5′s, more or less. In “very easy” you make more money (have more bonuses than your opponents), play “very hard” and it will be the other way around. I know this is a bit of controversial topic but I’ll say that I think this is a good solution, in the meantime that AIs aren’t made smarter. Civ5 guys tried it, to make AIs smarter I mean (more cunning like Humans, more unpredictable) and they SCREWED the diplomacy system and how AIs behave to a point that makes you sick. Don’t know if that’s substantially fixed now though. I play hard and now in Legends I’m at the middle in stats against 12 AI races. Yes, they make more money because I’m playing in “Hard”. But it’s not only about the money. It seems that AI races expand more than before, have stronger fleets and negotiate harder (they aren’t willing to go friends with you so easily that’s for sure). This is the result of very hard work by the devs for sure. They hear the community and they fix, and fix, and fix, and balance till they get it right. Legends is now a much more polished product then RotS. I wouldn’t even start to compare it with the original :)

      3. Boredom does not exist in Legends. How did they managed to do this? There’s a log going on. There’s a ton of events now (good, bad, catastrophic); There is a new menace (nano eating machines: Silvermist) that you’re always hoping NOT to find; there’s the character system that is sublime (with a few fixes, more portraits and little balancing fixes needed to avoid only negative trait characters to appear so often); there are pirates and ancient pirates around the corner; there are other space monsters (although I find those more annoying than entertaining); the AI provides a good challenge now, since you can set the difficulty level. So, you’ll not get bored too easily in Legends, although you may feel overwhelmed at times, specially if you decide to micro-manage everything (put everything in manual). That’s the way I like it. But be warned, be prepared for a HUGE time sink if you go this path. It’s fun because there’s always something left to do but be warned that the game may reach a point of being unmanageable by late games if you play large, huge maps, in hard difficulty and fully manual and WANT to decide everything. Maybe you just can’t decide everything in a universe so large as DW’s. We just probably have to accept it :)

      One important aspect about the not-running-too-fast-to-a-point-where’s-nothing-left-to-do issue is that research options are really a lot, and it takes a considerable amount of time to go through it all (and you can even tweak the speed if you like to make it even more epic). Research is also capped in a right way. At least it feels right. You can’t just build and build and build labs and increase your research points and consume the tech tree in half an hour. Your entire research is capped by population (mainly) so it’s not that easy or fast to get decent amounts of research points. You really have to look for research locations with bonuses and take care of your scientist characters in order to increase your research output.

      Another important aspect in Distant Worlds Legends w.r.t. to “late games” pointless endings is its new Victory conditions system. Races have their own now. You can decide to use only those, only the traditional goals or a mix. And you can even set a threshold of “winning closure” to 80% or 50% if you like. I think this “little” decision was a brilliant one. By setting that victory threshold you can still run for your goals but it’s almost as the game telling you when you reach 70% (for example) the following “Well done Sir! Now, that was all you needed to do, you can retire now and sleep by the beaches of Orion, since from this point further you’ll win almost for sure. Do you want to continue running your empire Sir? Or do you want us to take over the dull parts so that you can start a new exciting game in a different galaxy?”.

      A word on Armada 2526 and its expansion Supernova

      I like it, although I prefer DW Legends. Now, w.r.t. to initial/mid/late games. Armada vs. Legends:

      Initial Games:
      The winner is Armada 2526 Supernova.
      I think Armada 2526 initial games are better. You really take more from eXploration. Visiting star system by star system. Many have some goodies. Some are poor, others are rich. It’s a lot of fun. DW Legends start smaller and a bit more unappealing at first, but things start to get very interesting soon.

      Mid Games:
      The winner is Distant Worlds Legends.
      The rich character system, the diplomacy that feels more alive, the research that feels more epic make the mid-game experience of Legends a much better one in my opinion. Armada 2526 Supernova mid-games are good, but just not that good in my opinion because tghe tech tree is more feable, the diplomacy does not feels so right and you start to get bored more easily than in Legends.

      Late Games:
      The winner is Distant Worlds Legends.
      Armada 2526 (even with Supernova) late games are not particularly interesting. I don’t like Armada 2526 battles so much. You reach a point where there’s nothing left to do much faster than in DW. The tech tree lacks personality and it’s not very deep (although you can set a slower research speed alright). Late games have the “steamroll” feeling effect of Civ4 and Civ5. “Ok, I win, now I’ll just move around my mega fleets and wipe out everybody” – the same pattern you witnessed (unfortunately) in MoO2.

      But Distant Worlds Legends costs you $64 (if you don’t have the base and the 1st expansion) while Armada 2526 Supernova costs you what? $45 for both the original plus the Supernova expansion? If you’re a serious 4X gamer you must own both. If you’re not, and you don’t have much money left from holidays shopping I would go with Armada 2526 (just the base game) or Distant Worlds Return of the Shakturi (1st expansion only).

      Conclusion

      Distant Worlds Legends is very complex. There are a ton of things going on all the time from start to finish. The “Late game” issue persists however. You will feel at some time that “you’ve won and there’s nothing left to do”. Probably there isn’t :) That’s why I love the idea of races having different victory conditions to give more flavor to end games, because you have to concentrate on those goals by the end e.g. have more continental planets, or enslave more or build a bigger ship. You start working on those race-specific goals probably only at 50%-75% of the game, and the victory threshold is a nice “little” but brilliant tweak that allows you to be have a nicer closure feeling without the need to eXterminate everybody till the last alien standing up.

      I hope you enjoyed my long answer. It surely was a pleasure writing it.
      Cheers
      Adam

      PS: And please do feel invited to open a thread on the Space Sector Game Design forums about this topic!

      PS2: Your links are not showing up. Can you please include them so that I could have a look at your writings?

      • ono says:

        Thank you very much. That was a very rewarding reply, obrigado!

        Of course I cannot say anything about DW yet, since I do not own it, but I will beg to differ with you on a theoretical point: I think a game is flawed (albeit, perhaps, only a tiny bit, depending on how bad LGT is) if its end game gets bogged down in what I call Late Game Tedium (LGT or EGT for End Game Tedium). This is the first link to a thread I started specifically about that:
        http://forums.elementalgame.com/378632
        Sorry, I am not finding a way to make these links show up as links in your threads!

        I believe a sense of closure is important. If what you are saying is true, it sounds like Legends makes this more possible with a kind of a workaround (a predefined threshold). Does that threshold also apply to AIs?

        Of course, everyone will have a different concept of what “fun” means to them; you found CivIV-BTS incredibly fun despite its lack of closure, but while I greatly appreciated that game, I only played it once (without finishing the game) and never started a second game, it is currently not on my present machine. In other words, for me, it was not fun (enough). I need closure to find a TBS fun. I wrote a little more on that here:
        http://forums.elementalgame.com/374597

        I greatly value your opinion as well as those of others here, thank you in advance for your replies.
        obrigado
        ian

        • Adam Solo says:

          Sie sind herzlich eingeladen Ian.

          I have to agree with you from a theoretical stand point because the all point of a strategy game is to defeat your opponent anyway, all the way through. So, if it is boring to do so in the end, something feels wrong. But players do forfeit in chess right? And in other strategy games. You don’t need to eXterminate your chess player till the last pawn :) Players don’t go through all the tedium and painful ending when they see they are defeated. After all “people should know when they’re conquered”.

          So theoretically you do have a point but I’m not sure on the degree. I think it’s worth it to improve the sense-of-closure but to that respect DW Legends has done already good steps in the right direction. You DON’T need to conquer all the planets and to kill everyone else around to feel satisfied (why would you?). There are many other ways to win, and when I wined in Civ4 BTS, mostly from diplomacy, I did get a sense-of-closure although I did feel the need for more yes.

          But I understand your point and I agree. It’s very important we keep discussing this topic to optimize the sense-of-closure of strategy games. So that we feel our time was worth it. But in the end don’t forget. You should get pleasure from progressing in the game and not only by its end, because if that’s the case then I would call those games as flawed.

          PS: How about Civ I, II, III and V. Did you play more games of those?

      • Adam Solo says:

        “it sounds like Legends makes this more possible with a kind of a workaround (a predefined threshold). Does that threshold also apply to AIs?”

        Yes.

      • bertipa says:

        This topic deserves a thread in the Space Sector Game Design forums…

        We ‘Game Design’ trolls are already working on it, Zeraan opened a while ago this thread:

        http://www.spacesector.com/blog/forum/thread-748.html

  10. ono says:

    Thanks Adam, aber Du musst mich gar nicht siezen! ;.)

    Of course, it is a matter of taste as well.
    If AIs were to “forfeit” (like human players in chess will often do), I would LOVE it. That would be exactly what I would be looking for. I wouldn’t even mind some of them willingly pitch in together to conquer me (“unfair cheating”) under the right circumstances.

    Did you read my longwinded essays on Late Game Tedium et al. via the links I posted above? just curious what you think and if that would help the conversation.

    I played (and finished) more games of CivIII than I did any other of the series. Not sure if I could say why. I have not played and do not own Civ5, and am not looking to purchase it.

    I think that if the game Star Chamber (with its “expansions”) were not a TGC, and if it actually had any AI whatsoever (it is pure multiplayer as a consequence of it being a TGC), this would pretty much fill my definition of a TBS game as close to perfection as I can imagine with a non-AAA budget (in any genre, but it’s nice because it is a space genre). I cannot fathom a more brilliantly paced game, and such ingenious design. End Game is beautiful. But the game is only 30 turns long.

    You have my interest in DW piqued very high. I really will consider trying it out now.
    By the way, I purchased Armada + Supernova for 15 Euros total (together). That is less than 1/4 the price of DW + SotS + Legends!

  11. Gareth says:

    Nice review, only just found your site.

    Regarding the end-game, I have an idea – let me know what you think.

    Once you have eliminated/amalgamated all of the other races/opponents – only then when the galaxy is united does a new element of the game open up which requires you to utilise your resources for the galactic good (or evil depending on the rpg elements).

    Not sure what can come after galactic domination though, what could you do that would be fun once you’ve conquered the known galaxy?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi Gareth, welcome!

      Well, for a moment I thought you were referring to a type of end-game where the remaining races in the galaxy must unite to fight a common enemy or threat. I’m not sure where (can’t remember now) but I think that has been done before.

      But you make a good point, since the “eXterminate” phase is not satisfying many people. Now, regarding your idea of “what comes after eliminating/subjugating all the other races”. First of all that’s unusual, because in this type of games (strategy) you have an objective (or objectives), you (try to) make the right decisions and you win. (Chess->king is captured, Dominoes->no more pieces left, 4X space game -> dominance / no more opposition left).

      Some games let you continue to play after you have achieved dominance but how many times did we actually continued playing in a pure sand-box faction? Very few (or none?).

      But, maybe the game could have a sand-box mode for the most part (the traditional way) and only then a special type of gameplay would be unlocked. Something like an action game boss type phase. I think this is what you’re referring to. Maybe you need to build a galactic wonder, or maybe you need to stop an alien invasion from another galaxy, or maybe you must do your best to find a cure to a galaxy-wide plague. The possibilities are endless. This special “end after the end” could be random, so, you didn’t know what you needed to do. It would be a game in 5 acts instead of 4.

      Maybe you have just discovered a new ‘X’ for 4X games. eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate and now … eXcel ;)

      • Gavin says:

        Hi Adam.
        First thank you very much for great review. I’ve played DW:RotS some time ago and now I’m very tempted to try the Legend.

        Now to the actual topic of ‘Late Game Tedium’.
        Best approach I’ve ever seen was in Rome: Totat War (when playing Rome fraction). There was a radical plot twist and when you were ‘too powerfull’ and your former allies – forces of Senate and both other noble houses were now after you (with most advanced troops of course). That certainly erased any previous ‘boredom’.
        Similar concept was also in Alpha Centauri (But it were native Centaurians, not your fellow human colonists).

        I believe, that designers of DW:RotS aimed to same goal with appearance of Shakturi, and were successfull to certain extent. However, as you’ve stated previously, it was much too easy to form wide alliance and crush them.

        So perhaps, if the AI of other races was weighting
        - actual power of all known parties
        - trend curve of that power
        and based their uncooperation/hostility on ‘too big to be good’ approach AND formed alliances (perhaps even federations) among themselves, it might lead to interesting engames.

        • Adam Solo says:

          Thanks Gavin!

          Yea, “4X late games”. A big one.

          The diplomatic weighting you talk about could be the answer. When/if a player becomes too powerful it should be seen as a threat and the other weaker factions should cooperate to give the player a hard time (and a more enjoyable one also). The problem I guess is how to balance this right. Civ V tried this, and failed miserably, in my modest opinion. The problem is the weighting, the balance, the fine equilibrium. Too much warmongering and too much alliances against you and it’s too unfair (when even long time friends attack you without a good reason). Too feeble alliances and it’s not a challenge. I will not say it’s easy, I think it’s hard as hell to get a proper adaptive alliances system working in late games.

          Civ IV had none of this and it was … boring in the end. Civ V did it badly and it was too unrealistic and unbearable to accept (more the later than the former perhaps).

          In space 4X games it is usually too easy to win diplomatically. GalCiv2, DW, Armada 2526 etc. Very easy to make friends, make those friendships last, etc. And usually when the devs attempt to make twists we can easily spot that they’re cheating. Shakturi and Master of Orion 2 use the formidable race to vanquish model. If I’m not mistaken (it’s some time now) in GalCiv2 races could defect, or better word was join other empires and make them unexpectedly stronger at unexpected times. That could be a good one to explore further …

      • Gavin says:

        I have no doubt, that finding such equilibrium would not be easy.
        However, I can think about several ‘rationalizations’, that would make such disruption in diplomacy quite believable.
        For example:
        - massive espionage/covert ops effort from your real opponets, to frame your nation of atrocities/ill deeds/pirate support… and disrupt your alliance (this could be even within game mechanisms-target is not player’s nation, but his allies’ nations, so players defensive espionage should be limited). This is already present, I believe, but not utilized properly by AI.
        - insurrections: from time to time, there appears charismatic leader… which can take important chunks of your’s friends teritory (and navy) to the opposition – or even yours (also could be part of common game mechanisms, preventable by good domestic espionage)

      • Adam Solo says:

        “- massive espionage/covert ops (…) to frame your nation of atrocities/ill deeds/pirate support… ”
        Good one. There’s too little framing in these games but lot’s of potential on achieving that. Civ 4 has the “bribing a 3rd party to attack another” mechanism, but framing should be made more suitable.

        “- insurrections: from time to time, there appears charismatic leader… which can take important chunks of your’s friends teritory”
        Another good one. As you say a great charismatic leader could emerge from no where and take control of part of the navy, or take control of some colonies (in a particular system perhaps). Usually this is done through insurgence, but always in response to your bad management practices. But making this an unpredictable event I think it would be more fun. It’s unexpected? Good. It’s challenging? Great! :)

        These are great ideas to dissect in the game forums under the Game Design sub-forum. There’s already an “End game issues” thread there by the way.

  12. Jared C says:

    Not sure if its worth it to buy all 3, just to end up playing the one. I really wish they didnt require you to purchase all 3.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yea, it can be a bit pricey, specially now that the sales period is over. It’s a tricky situation because I don’t think buying the core game only is worth it. If you don’t want to go all the way through then buying up to Shakturi can still be a very enjoyable experience. Then you can climb the ladder later on to Legends if you really liked it. Maybe they will provide a gold pack in the future, but there’s no word on that yet.

  13. Moulders says:

    Can this game only be bought from there website or is it available anywhere else? £60 is to much for my blood ;/

    • Adam Solo says:

      Currently it can only be bought at the Matrix Games store. It’s a bit pricy yes but totally worth it if you love 4X games. It’s the best there is at the moment (no multiplayer and a bit difficult to master at first though).

      You could start with the Return of the Shakturi expansion first, to get of taste of it. Then you could judge if you want more or not (you will). I don’t recommend you buy only the core “Distant Worlds”. If you decide to buy buy with RotS at the minimum.

      • zenkmander says:

        I’m in the same boat, I can’t afford to pay $90 for this despite how much I want to play it! Is there any chance you can get a special sale going through this site? Maybe you can work something out with Matrix Games :)

      • Adam Solo says:

        What I can say at this point is for you to checkout this blog regularly. You may get a good surprise, soon … ;)

  14. Davian says:

    Hello Adam Solo

    Just want to say I have bought Distant Worlds and its expansions and that your excellent site and reviews and the discussions were instrumental in me deciding to get the game.
    I hope I like it now…!!
    So thanks for this excellent site.
    By the way your english is great.

    Davian

    • Adam Solo says:

      Let us know your experience playing DW Legends. If you need any help let me know or head to the distant worlds forums. There is a bunch of excellent people there always eager to give you a hand.

      On my English, well, I’m always improving. Thanks!

  15. Kregoth says:

    Sense I enjoy distant worlds a lot I figured I would share this with all of you.

    http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=3026592 This is the newest Beta version.

    This is the best part though: Pre-loaded Optimized Designs

    oAdded new feature that allows usage of pre-made custom ship and base designs loaded per race from folders at game startup:
    oNew designs subfolder under main game folder can contain subfolders for each race containing saved design files, e.g. “C:\Matrix Games\Distant Worlds\designs\human\”
    oThese design folders are also used by any themes/mods (i.e. you can create a designs subfolder cointaining race subfolders in a theme)
    oThese designs are loaded for each race at game startup and are used as optimized designs for each empire
    oThese optimized designs are used whenever an empire has all the required tech and is within current construction size limits. These optimized designs are always preferred over all other designs, unless made obsolete
    oIf multiple optimized designs for a single subrole can be built (e.g. multiple optimized destroyer designs), then the most advanced design will be preferred
    oOptimized designs also guide AI research decisions: preference will be given to research projects with components required by the optimized designs
    oBecause of the above, you should make custom designs that use the race-specific tech and tech focuses (from Empire Policy) for the race, otherwise there will be many required research paths, and research will be diluted, e.g. Boskara designs should utilize Shaktur Firestorm torpedoes (race-specific tech), and Phasers (Empire Policy tech focus)

    I am really looking forward to how this turns out, you could really customize a game down to a lot of detail using these pre-designed folders, as the AI will use them too.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Davian says:

      Do you or Adam know are there any serious issues with the newest beta patch?
      I have updated to the latest official patch…but I held-off on the beta…I wonder should I install it?
      Any opinions or feedback welcome.
      Thanks

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi Davian,

      beta patches seem to be pretty stable from what I could witness in the forums but sometimes they are a problem for some people (the large majority seems to be ok with them though). However, to my knowledge there isn’t anything radically different in the new beta patches besides probably this new “Pre-loaded Optimized Designs” feature that I’m not sure yet what it is for. I mean, we can save custom designs already, I see that now there are these “pre-loaded” optimized designs but probably Kregoth will be in a better position to tell you why that’s so special.

      I would wait for the next public patch. That shouldn’t take too long to happen I guess.

      • Kregoth says:

        It will basically allow you to create all your preferred ship design and then let the game automatically choose those over any other design as long as you have the tech and research needed for them. So automatic ship designs are made using your preferred ones. So instead of loading up each individual ship design you want to use, you can just create a preferred list of ships that will be the default design choice for you and the AI to use.

        The AI opponents will use them as well if you made them for there race. not only that but the AI will tend to research and build based of your designs, allowing you to customize how the AI will tend to research and design ships to help further customize there difficulty in a way.

        The devs are checking the forums and by what they are saying they plan to take the best design posted on the forums the community and themselves have made so they are included when its an official release. it sorta there way of solving the AI pretty horrible way of building ships as well as furthering the customization of game play which Distant Worlds is awesome for :)

      • Adam Solo says:

        But we could already save our custom designs to use later if we want to, if we have the right techs.

        Haa, so it’s about the “automatic” ship design, now I know why this wasn’t clicking for me. I manually design everything, so, this change doesn’t impact my gameplay. However I see that this can help the AI build better ships.

        I see that many people prefer to leave ship design automated. I prefer to manually design everything and I don’t find that too much of a hassle. In fact I love to customize all my stuff.

      • Kregoth says:

        Ya that is the point it is supposed to help with the automated aspect and improve the AI in using it when automated, sense they tend to build pretty shitty designs. It should prove interesting once it fully fleshed out… I can imagine this really helping in improving AI design choices while allowing for much further customization of AI opponents.

        I think it would be awesome if they could incorporate this into the Galactopedia so that you could see them all listed and use them as your go to place for references, as well as allowing other players to submit these designs into it. The Galactopedia is already a giant Wiki, it would be nice to have an area inside it with shared designs and strategies the players could access while in game :)

  16. Davian says:

    I have been reading through some of the readme files for the beta patches; and there are lots of things I like the sound of…very tempted!

    Is there a printable doc of the hot keys that I can get anywhere for reference…ideally all on one page?

    • Adam Solo says:

      The DW Legends manual includes the hotkeys over 3 pages. They could have fit them in 2 but they didn’t bother :)

      • Davian says:

        Yes…I agree.
        This matter of game manuals not being user friendly is something that I often notice and wonder about. It is as though they are designed to ‘look’ good…rather than to be useful to the player. All the information the player might want to have in a handy printed form by their side as they are learning to play the game, is spread across multiple pages loaded with spurious art work that has no use or relevance at all.
        Personally I would prefer a manual that can be easily and economically printed…in other words without all the background art deco nonsense they usually employ which makes printing awkward, expensive and wasteful.

  17. fafrin says:

    Any follow up on your comment on 23 march re. suprise,possible gold edition perhaps?

    • Adam Solo says:

      I’m waiting on Matrix Games to make an announcement. I don’t have knowledge of a gold edition coming out I’m afraid … at least at this moment.

  18. fafrin says:

    Thanks for the quick reply I only found this site today but looking good :). I’ll wait a little while to see if Matrix come up with any offers.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Welcome then :) Yes, I’ll say that if you’re interested in Distant Worlds Legends, you should definitely want to wait at least a few more days till the “announcement”comes out. It’s really more of a Space Sector announcement than Matrix though ;)

  19. David says:

    Hi Adam…or other DW players

    I have done the two tutorials…but every time I try to begin a new game I quickly find myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data and menus etc.
    Any advice on getting started and easing into the game?
    What kind of game would be best for a beginner?
    Is there a guide; have you written about it?
    Any advice welcome
    Thanks

    • Adam Solo says:

      Which game do you have? Only the DW core, the Shakturi expansion or the Legends expansion? It’s important because the user interface, the experience and the way you play and learn are different.

      • David says:

        I have Legends 1.7.06

      • Adam Solo says:

        I confess that I’ve thought about writing a beginners guide for Distant Worlds Legends at some point but then I saw so many videos popping up on youtube with walkthroughs made by fans that I saw no point in going further (you have the Let’s Play Distant Worlds series or the “Distant worlds – Legends” Episode #N series).

        But, personally I don’t like to learn to play games with videos. I usually have much more fun learning by myself so, here are a couple of tips.

        The most obvious way to learn to play the game is to let the computer handle some things for you while you learn by watching. Maybe let the computer handle designing and building new ships, or research perhaps. You could then take some time to explore the menus, witness things happening, etc.

        Now, that sounds nice but the trick to learn and enjoy the game is really the opposite, at least for me it is. You should try everything manual with all suggestions you can left on. Pause a lot, and I mean, A LOT. Take time to play and learn. A great place to start is the ship design screen. Customize your own destroyer (this is much more fun after you’ve researched a new weapon or a new system however).

        The research screen is pretty straight forward right? Just choose 1 tech from each branch, starting with the less expensive ones, and you’re set for some time. Tip: Start researching Marsh colonization as soon as possible so that you double your chances for finding habitable planets to colonize.

        Then, at some point, lose your fear and put one constructor in manual. Use it to build a gas mining station in a gas giant planet with Caslon (Caslon is very important in middle-late games to fuel your Armada). Follow your constructor, see that it first gets its supplies from your homeworld and then heads to build the gas mining station at the place you order it to build it.

        Order your homeworld to build a colony ship.

        Build 4 or 6 more explorer ships.

        Put all available explorers in manual and order them one by one to explore all systems of a particular sector – each one in a different sector (you do this by right clicking and choosing “explore all systems in sector X”).

        Let some time pass. You may be attacked by a pirate ship. Put your fleet in manual and order an attack. You must create a fleet for that in the fleets window. The User Interface is intuitive enough to help you through.

        Check your characters. If you have an embassador send him to the homeworld of a race you want to be friends with. Start negotiating trade deals with potential friends (the ones that have similar government styles for example). Trade deals with grant you extra income in the long run.

        And so on, and so on. The taste of game starts being felt after some time, specially when you found your second colony and decide perhaps to build a support star base there with a recreational center and a medical facility to help boost happiness and colony development. You could design this support base yourself in the ship design screen.

        So, you see, it’s basically start exploring things one at a turn, but the trick is to not being afraid to let everything in manual control. You can leave some features with “suggestions” and a few automated if you really don’t like them that much, but to me the game is fully enjoyable with everything at manual and pausing a lot. That way it’s almost like a turn-based game. You do your stuff and when you’re happy you let some more time pass. Then you stop, do stuff, etc.

        Let me know if you need any specific guidance. The game forums are also a very nice place to ask for specific doubts (which you will have for sure). The in-game tutorial system is also very good. Give it a good read-through and you’ll get familiarized with the game’s concepts very fast. There are many links in-game to the in-game manual in case you want to check the menus and learn what things are for.

  20. David says:

    Thanks for that Adam :)

    one specific question…what set up would you recommend for an easy first game experience?

    I will follow your advice. I think I was looking at the screen and wondering – what do I do? The game seems to be able to play away on its own.
    I remember battling with MOO3 to get it to do what i wanted!! Did you experience that one? Man that was frustrating; but once you get it that the game is supposed to be played from a high strategic level it turns out to be a very good game.
    So I will leave most on automation at first and manually do a couple of things. The game is so ginormous; very intimidating.
    Wish me luck; and thanks again.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Don’t worry, what you’re feeling is perfectly natural for the first couple game sessions. Once you pass the intimidating-threshold you’ll love this. The first space 4X game I’ve played was the original Master of Orion (the first). Boy, I hated the experience. So intimidating, so many options, I felt lost (I was 10 or 12 or something). After a couple of days I simply fell in love with the game, till this day. So, keep it up, don’t give up! The rewards will be great :)

      That sentence “the game seems to be able to play away on its own.” is exactly what I think kills the game pleasure. Don’t let the AI do much of the stuff, otherwise your game will become a movie. How can you feel powerful if the decisions are not yours. How can you feel immersed if you’re not taking part of the game?

      If you have some experience in these types of games , if you played at least a 4X title a good deal before, no matter which (a Civ game, a Master of Orion game, Alpha Centauri, BOTF, Armada 2526, Star Ruler, a GalCiv game) I would say: “Forget about the automation!”. Leave suggestions on for a while (except the ship building one!) and take control of everything. Pause a lot (as I said before). It’s like playing in slow motion. One little thing at a time.

      Ship design will keep you busy for a while. Then choose your techs you would like to research. Then shift for exploration (build some ships and send them to nearby sectors). Then turn to building mining stations. Then maybe you’ll find a neighboring race, interact with it. Perhaps there’s not much you can do diplomatically but with time diplomacy will be a delight with so many things to do (trade agreements, techs exchange, offering mining rights, defense pacts, maps exchange).

      Depending on your background on this sort of games, and your likes (more of a builder, pacifist, space combat lover) I will be able to assist you further.

      • David says:

        Hi Adam

        Why do you say not to leave the ship building suggestions on?

      • Adam Solo says:

        I don’t think the AI does a very good job at picking up what to build next. I always turn that suggestion off. But, you could try it on for a while as you’re new to the game.

      • David says:

        Last time I tried a game the suggestion was for a large military ship that would have used up all my cash; my instinct was to start with explorer ships and then colony ships; and mining too.

        But you are right; I should turn off all automation and stay in pause and work my way through the various screens and that way get to grips with the game play. I need to explore and colonise and mine and research; and organise whatever military I have.
        I’ll begin on a low difficulty in a smallish universe with just three or four other races; with the hostile one far away; so by the time I meet them I will have some clue and the resources to deal with them. Will turn off the story lines too. I will do them when I know whats going on.
        Thanks for the encouragement Adam; wish me luck :)

      • Adam Solo says:

        Hi David, how is your playing going? Already got the hang of it? Already feeling that dopamine flowing? :)

      • David says:

        Hi Adam. Sorry for the delay replying. I think I was a bit guilty…I’ve not ventured into DW yet…hangs head….I got distracted; but I did follow your advice and watched a couple of vids of an excellent Lets Play by RiotHouseLP on youtube; and that helped to dispel my confusion. I feel that I get the game now and will be able to play…hopefully soon…when I get undistracted.

      • Adam Solo says:

        Yes, it’s the lack of time issue. These games require time, and I mean quality time, not “hum, I’m going to create 4 more ships, explore 3 more planets and save”. As we all know it doesn’t work like that for 4X games.

        DW is a huge time sink. A great time sink like Civ is or Master of Orion or any other excellent 4X game is. Would I want to play more DW:Legends, yes, but how? :)

        I’m glad you’re getting a hang of the game after watching the LP vids.

  21. fafrin says:

    Decisions,decisions,do I try Distant Worlds or wait for Legends of Pegasus/Endless Space?

    • Adam Solo says:

      You know my opinion on Distant Worlds Legends and Return of the Shakturi. I highly recommend them. But it can be a bit expensive if you only have budget for one game in the coming months.

      Legends of Pegasus launches on the end of May. Endless Space has a tentative release date for the summer … but it’s very uncertain if they will make it.

      Then you need to weight also that DW is real-time while LoP and ES are both turn-based. Maybe that will make you wait? Anyway if you have the cash it’s a no-brainer. Unless you have very limited time to play games. DW can require a great deal of time for you to extract the most out of it.

  22. fafrin says:

    OK payed up,downloaded,ran game,OMG!!Whats happening??too much info! head spinning,brain overloaded!!HELP I surrender! (back to solitaire:)) I’m going to have to sneak up on this game

    • David says:

      I had to laugh when I read this!
      That is exactly what happened to me.
      Adam gave me some advice in comments on here; and one of his hints was to watch a Lets Play on youture. There is a really excellent one by ‘RiotHouseLP’.
      I promise you, if you watch a couple of those you will get a much clearer idea of how to begin to get into the game.
      I have not ventured into the game yet myself – got distracted – but I am not so intimidated after watching the LP. Highly recommended.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yep, that’s the nominal reaction to the game :D I’ve been there myself and I’m supposed to be preaching 4X games here.

      One thing, you do have all the expansions right (up to Legends)? I ask you this because if you only had the core game you would be in serious trouble. With Shakturi and now Legends Distant Worlds is now “only” hard to learn, before it was a nightmare.

      Checkout David’s suggestion on the “Let’s Play Legends” videos on youtube. He seems to be having fun with them :)

      Other suggestion one guy has given in the DW forums was to play without opposition (setup everything easy with no real threats) for a while so not to feel the tension and anxiety that bad things will happen soon. I agree with him that this would be a nice way to learn the game at your pace. By the way, switch-off event alarms (pirate attacks or monsters) they are too annoying and irritating, at least at first.

  23. fafrin says:

    I’ve got the two expansions and I’ve only spent a couple of hours on the game so far,I’ve been playing a lot of Armada ’till now and have to say I’m dissapointed with the graphics, the eye strain that others have reported is going to be a problem for me (poor eyesight) but I’ll stick with the game to see how it pans out.Will keep you posted.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I’m sad you’re having trouble with Armada’s graphics. The visuals do glitter a bit at times yes. Perhaps some graphical option in the game could ease that or trying to reduce your monitor brightness, or perhaps a drivers update could do the trick …

      With DW you’re not with much luck on visuals either due to your eye problem. Well not perhaps on the glitter issue but on the font size. As I said in the review on the “bad things” section the font sizes are very small and blurry at places, which can be quite discomforting. I always wear my glasses when playing. This has been highly debated in the DW forums. The devs did mitigated this a bit by enlarging font size in the tech screen but only in a beta patch that has still not been made public. Other than that we are out of luck on the font size issue. It’s not a show stopper or anything like that but it’s surely a problem, at least for some people it is.

  24. fafrin says:

    Sorry poor grammer on my behalf I’ve no problem with the graphics in Armada,it’s Distant Worlds graphics I find disapointing but it’s early days yet I hope to spend another few hours being baffled tonight :) will keep you posted.

    • Adam Solo says:

      So, with what exactly are you dissapointed with? You mention eye strain. Is it due to the tiny/blurry font issue? Other than that I think DW graphics are ok. Not the most pretty stuff alright but ok.

  25. fafrin says:

    Having watched ‘lets play’ and sitting while the game ran for a couple of hours I’m feeling a bit happier with it ,I still hav’nt a clue about whats going on but that’s what a steep learning curve is all about I suppose :)

    • Adam Solo says:

      I recommend you try to play with everything in manual, leave only suggestions on. Yes, it may seem counter-intuitive but this way you don’t have the feeling that you’re watching a movie or having “what’s going on” moments but instead you’re playing a game. Perhaps you don’t know yet what you’re doing but you’re at least playing and not watching. I don’t know about you but I can’t stand a game that I’m not controlling considerably.

      Setup all manual with suggestions, then design your first escort or frigate. Play around with the ship design to see if you like it. I really like it, others don’t so much. Then move to research and choose 1 on each field, read a bit the tech trees (yes they are quite big but the tech breakthrough pace is comfortable).

      Then build a couple more explorers and send them explore nearby sectors of your homeworld. When you spot a colonizable world build a colony ship (in fact build it way before that because they take a long time to build).

      Don’t expect much from the game in the first couple of hours (because frankly very few stuff is going on). But this is normal in all 4X games. Things start small and sluggish but after they get in motion you can’t get off the just one more turn (or one more hour) state.

      Which other 4X games have you played by the way?

  26. fafrin says:

    I tend to stick with a game when I buy it so I WILL get into this :)

    As to which other 4x games have I played? just about ALL of them,Assendacy,Alpha Centari,MOO,Gal. Civ,Armada and others I can’t remember at the moment!

    • Adam Solo says:

      I see! So, you’re a old timer in what 4X games concerns and you will be alright. Although you wouldn’t be the only long time fan of 4X games that I know that could not like DW. This is good in a sense because it shows that there is enough variety, enough different flavor. This is another sign that shows that 4X games are pretty deep in their offer and reach.

  27. fafrin says:

    Old timer indeed :),I started Gaming LONG before the advent of PC’s,being a wargamer and board gamer.

    Just to give you an idea of how old,I had my first wargame in 1966!!! (I lost :)) So SF could still be then ‘Perhaps one day man will walk on the moon’

    • Adam Solo says:

      Ok..! :) I see better now. I started in the mid-eighties with the great turn-based tactics Rebelstar series for the ZX Spectrum. The percursors of titles such as X-COM: UFO Defense.

  28. fafrin says:

    I owned a zx :) The pinnicle of technology:)

  29. Harry says:

    I dont like it.
    I have bought the game plus all expansions..

    But its totaly overwhelming in the beginning.
    But now after 20 hours.. it is boring.. Automated colonization.. Automated ship designs.. Automated research.. Automated defending..
    I want control.. I want to design everything. research everything. I want to see a planet with my buildings on it to be proud of it..
    And this refueling stuff is totaly annoying.
    Sorry but that game is NOT better than MoO2 .. you should reduce the score for normal users.. The graphics are so ugly.. the ships in Moo2 are better.. This for a 2011 game…
    The nice things is that everything is moving and floating…

    I regret spending so much money

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi Harry,

      it’s true, the game can be quite overwhelming in the beginning. But don’t worry, there’s a simply solution for you, rest assure you will not regret having invested so much money. The key, the problem, is automation. When you say “I want control” I know EXACTLY what you mean, because I’ve been there myself. You need to put everything in manual my friend. Some people may like to use automation but in your case (the same as mine) you need to have full control of things otherwise you’ll go mad and frustrated because you have the feeling of being watching a movie.

      I didn’t said DW: Legends is better than MoO2. It’s in the same league as MoO2 however. Graphics are not great but that’s not the reason people like to play 4X games in any case. Ship models were ugly in the beginning, but now they are much better, I don’t have a problem with them anymore.

      So, I totally understand your feelings about the game at the moment, because as I said before I felt the same myself (and hopefully you bought all the expansions, I can’t imagine what you would say if you bought only the game core). Now with RotS and Legends the UI is way better, ships look nicer and there are more interesting things to do.

      Again, try playing your games fully manual. Leave only “suggestions” activated in some of cases if you like. I leave some suggestions on. And then play at slow speeds (0.5x, 1.0x) and pause often to carefully review your decisions. Then let me know how that did it for you.

      • harry says:

        Hi,

        I am still motivated to find some fun here..
        I spend a zillion dollars for it..

        But still it is far away from “is the 4X space strategy gaming reference ” or a 9.4 score..

        The fighting is so boring.. and i still dont understand why the half of my fleet is going out of the solar system and in and out.. i want them to fight till death to destroy this fucking space station.

        Will there be any terraforming?? Planetary development is not happening now.. i dont care because i cant build anything on it in the beginning.. Just a space station thats it..

        If you research manually it is much better.. then you understand what you have..

        But the ship design process is very annoying too.. you nee hab modules living modules thrust engine hyper engines and vector engines?? wtf! It could be so nice.. one engine type enlarge your armor or shield if you like.. and put some weapons on it..
        I will play this game till end.. lets see.. I am still dissapointed.

      • Adam Solo says:

        I think it is a space 4X game reference. Like GalCiv2 or Master of Orion 2 are. I didn’t said DW was better than MoO2, or GalCiv2. Reviews are subjective, but when you start saying that game X is better than game Y you enter into even deeper subjective realms (due to nostalgia effects most of all, or particular individual experiences). That’s why I avoid doing that. DW is a reference, not “the same”.

        If you’re after great (and gorgeous) space combat (tactical I mean) perhaps you should look more at Sins of a Solar Empire instead. For me a pure 4X game is not really about combat. It’s about the strategy behind, the warfare, the decisions of when/if to go to war, not really how combat is fought in the end (formations stuff like that).

        DW is much more about empire building, expansion, research and diplomacy. Like in the early days of Civ. Civ games (up to 5) didn’t had a tactical component. Combat was mostly rock paper & scissors like. MoO2 has tactical combat but not like in a semi-realistic way like Sins but more like an “excuse” to give you the experience to see your ship creations in action. That’s how I see it at least. We have to agree that MoO2 combat mechanics were poor, especially in late games. But they were awesome for their end: to allow the player to experience their ships.

        Colony management is a bit light yes. Nothing like MoO2 or IG2 for example. The focus is more on trade, resources (although it could be so much better here), constructing space stations, expansion, exploration. Not really on colony management or combat no.

        Yes, go manual. Everything, not just research. Combat, ship design, colonization. Experiment will all manual with a few suggestions left on.

        Many people have issues with DW’s ship design. I’m ok with it. The hab, living modules are there more for flavor and immersion than anything else I think. I personally like the distinction between vector and hyper engines.

        By the way, what sort of space 4X games did you love to play in the past?

  30. Eon Blade says:

    I liked the first two DW-games so much that I’ll buy this Add-On in a moment.
    I would also like to that you Sir for a great site.
    I’ll be awaiting the 4th part with entusiasm
    (Please excuse my poor english)

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi there Eon, welcome to the blog!
      Thanks for you kind words, and don’t worry too much about your English, I understood you perfectly :)

      If you liked the original DW and Return of the Shakturi then you definitely need to get Legends! About the new DW expansion there’s no info available yet besides the release date that is set for the end of this year.

  31. Smeghead says:

    Very good, balanced review.

    My only issue is that you seem to skim over:
    1. Optimization needs some serious attention. The game gets clunky and bogs down in the mid to late game. Actually, the performance is far from stellar in the early game.
    2. AI for computer opponents is something akin to being locked in a cage with a schizophrenic, rabid hamster. Pretty scary and dangerous if you’re a toddler (early game), but little more than something to decorate your boot heel if you’ve grown up a little.
    3. UI screens are easier to find, but still lag seriously. You’ll be left twiddling your thumbs for several seconds each time you need to access your ships roster, for example – making it less and less useful as the game progresses.
    4. Diplomacy is like trying to follow a political position from Mittington Romney. There seems to be little “casus belli” to as to why another empire chooses to go to war with you, aside from a simple “like/dislike” system.

  32. WOdzu says:

    Thank you Adam for this detailed review. For me it was always a MOO2. There was nothing else compared to it. I’ve played it since it’s realease till 2009… I was searching for any game which would have everything what MOO2 had and just some more content. Like for example influence which I guess is a very nice idea.

    Your review gave me a hope that Distant Worlds might be that game. A worthy succesor of my beloved Master of Orion 2:)

    I still would like to have a turn based game and a turn based combat but I think I must live with what I have… Also, after two expansions they still not gave player the possibility to create a custom race?!

    I would like to also read about ship design. Propably you wrote about it in previous reviews. Has nothing changed in this expansion?

    Thanks for informing us!

    • Adam Solo says:

      Thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate it.

      Since MoO2 there has been no game that is “everything what MOO2 had and just some more content”. That would make that game a MoO2 remake in fact. There have been games close to MoO2 in some aspects. For instance I tend to think that Armada 2526 was one of those that captured some of that MoO2′s essence (the exploration feeling, the different types of rich, poor planets).

      Distant Worlds however is not really like Master of Orion 2. It’s real-time, you can’t customize your race and there’s practically no colony management besides setting taxes, constructing a few buildings on-ground and some others in-orbit. You can also set assimilation/immigration policies there. There’s Leaders now (in this Legends expansion) like in MoO2.

      Yes, it’s as you say. No custom races yet. To be strictly like MoO2 (which I think was what you were referring to) a 4X game needs to be turn-based for both the strategic and tactical layers. And it needs to allow full race customization. Well, DW doesn’t qualify for those two.

      But yes, I consider DW: Legends to be the space 4X game reference after Master of Orion 2 and Galactic Civilizations 2. Will we have a new reference in the near future? ;)

      • Wodzu says:

        I see you are very active here, thats good for us!:)

        MOO2 remake is something I am dreaming of. Graphics which were preseneted in MOO2 are totally acceptable by me. What I would like to have is:

        MOO2 + 20 more buildings, + 20 more techs + more diplomacy options + more flexible ship design + 3D galaxy and that is it! I am happy! :)

        Unfortunatelly every game seems to lack something which I like.

        I see that none of todays games have turn based combat. And I see that games shift towards more “realistic” space combats which increase system requirements. Is this really what players want?

        Also, sometimes I am surprised that easy-to implement features are omited by the devs. For example the leaders. This is something which increases fun and yet players needed to wait for the 2 expansion in DW to have it. I haven’t played DW but I am guessing that single ships can not gain experience like it was in MOO2. Which is another simple thing which increases fun – you like to care about the ship which you have from the beginingn of the game.

        Thank you for explaining me the difference between DW and MOO2, I thought it have more complex colony menagement. So this leaves me waitinig for some future game to come;) But probably I would not be able to play in it due to system requirements…

  33. fafrin says:

    I still can’t get the feel of this game, there’s simply too much going on in the background for my taste,I’m just going to have to wait for Endless Space and hope it grabs me.

    • Adam Solo says:

      When you go full manual and pause often you should not have that “simply too much going on in the background” feeling anymore. Now with the improved UI and all.

  34. harry says:

    I played a game.. I was the ruler.. bigest number of colinies away with science and biggest army..

    Then a refugees of eruktah cames new to the game..
    My GDP was 1300 for the whole system.. and his was 2600 for one planet.. haha and he had all science.
    My Empire was split into two because of civil war. And then the army of eruktah attacked me at 10 planets at once and I was dead in seconds.. From the appearing of this new race to my death lays 3 to 4 hours.

    VERY FUNNY.. I played this game 30 hours.. And I have not any chance.. Time wasting..
    I cant even reload and try to make it better.. because his army tech and gdp is dimensions away from mine right from the beginning.
    yeah. stupid game that i cant resell.

    my critics to the game… after turning off all automatic function like you suggested it made more fun but..:
    colonies growth is too slow..only the main planet is important.. The GDP of my second planet was 70k.. my first planet had 1000k..
    You cant boost the development of any planet.. If I want a second good planet I have to wait 100 hours or so.. Till then the game is lost or won.
    Terraforming is missing..
    The leaders and heroes just are there.. but I dont care because their bonuses are so minor.
    The design process of a new ship takes too long. Because you have to think about fuel tanks and hab modules etc.. that doesnt make fun.. I want to build weapons and shield.. and some nice extras which can decide a combat.

    And the resources are completely nonsense.. it is too much the hundert types of resources. And I never had lack of any resources. So I dont care..
    Combats are ugly.. and you dont have too much control here.. because your fighters leave the system and returns like they want..

    In my oppinion the score is much too high..
    8 is for people with affection to space 4x will have fun
    9 is excelnt.. everyone who have fun with strategy game will have fun here..
    9.4.. is a much higher score over the score of your Moo2 review.. it is a score like extraordinary excelent..
    That is the reason why I spent money for this game..

    My score is 7.5..

    • Adam Solo says:

      About colony growth and development I also had a few issues with that. It was a bit too slow yes. If I’m not mistaken that was been increased a bit in recent patches. Make sure you have the latest public patch, which is 1.7.0.6 if I’m not mistaken. And, don’t forget to upgrade your population transports designs so that they can transport more migrants. The AI will then build them eventually. If you want them to build them now delete the old designs and the private sector will build new ones with the new designs.

      Terraforming is present in the game with a facility that you can build in your planets but it will be useful only on planets that suffered disasters. Don’t recall if they do anything on quality planets though.

      I find the leaders bonuses to be quite high if you really happen to use them. If you don’t fight your admirals will not gain experience. If you don’t spy your spies will not evolve and so on.

      Being it a time consuming, and even complex task at places, the ship design process is not consensual. Some people like it and some people don’t. If you find that part tedious perhaps you should try and leave that part automated.

      Resources could be made more interesting yes. That’s one thing I would love CodeForce to update in the game. They should be made scarcer if we want to make things more interesting. We could have an option at game setup to configure how scarcer we want them to be.

      Combat was ugly in DW vanilla, now it is ok. You didn’t read me saying that combat was beautiful like Sins.

      The game has a steep learning curve, so it can be difficult to master at first. But, after a while, when you find your right amount of automation, the game starts to shine.

      I had tons of fun with DW Legends (addicting fun) as rarely I did since Master of Orion 2 and Galactic Civilizations 2. The game really excels in creating a sense of immersion because it really convinces you that you’re the ruler managing the fate of your empire. There are lots of things going in, the galaxy really feels vast and alive.

      The game is more realistic than other strategy games, which tend to be more abstract (I’m not saying one style is better than the other), so things take more time to learn and do but ultimately it is a far more rewarding experience than anything out there space 4X’s gamewise.

      And it’s not like it’s only me saying this. Look at this extensive list of reviews. And note that many of the 8.0′s are for the original game and not Legends. For Legends you see only 9.0 scores there. And as we are in the subject check also metacritic.com and gamespot.com DW Legends scores. They don’t have big samples but they help illustrate the picture.

      I’m convinced that the large majority of people that loves space 4X games, or strategy games in general, will like Distant Worlds Legends. The price is high but the reward is equally high. This isn’t the same as saying that everybody will love the game but give it another shot!

  35. Joe Kundlak says:

    Hi Adam,

    thx for the reviews of DW! From what I read I very much like the game concept and presentation (at least the Legends’ one ;).

    What I would like to know is how it compares to GalCiv 2 in more detail? I have some vague memories of playing GalCiv2 a year or two ago, but the games did not last too long (because then I became a father and… you know everything else :).

    If you (or someone) can contrast the main features of these two games and also highlight the strenghts of GalCiv2 over DW and vice-versa?

    Thx!

    Joe

    • Der Doktor says:

      GalCiv2 is turn-based and DW Legens is realtime strategy.

      In my opinion GalCiv 2 Ultimate is one of the best turn-based 4x games after Imperium Galactica 2. Both I played for many hours. MoO2 I never played but MoO3 for few hours.
      DW Legends I purchased yesterday. I played the tutorials in 3 hours with a look in to manual. Legends addicted me. This game will be my next favorite RTS 4x game after Supreme Ruler 2020 and Crusader Kings 2. It’s more complex and has an deeper management as GalCiv2 (in my opinion a little deeper). It was Love at first sight of the gameplay. ;-) Legends is not an graphical overhaul game like Starcraft 2, Supreme Commander or Haegemonia but it’s functionally and enough. I try the indivdual parts of management in the next weeks. ;-)
      The price of $70 for Legends is high but every cent worth. GalCiv2 Ultimate was on sale for €8 on Gamersgate last week. You’re a fan of 4x games you should have both games.

  36. sly says:

    I finally got my hands on this game (DW:Legends – v1.7.0.16). After only several days of play, I HAD to delete it from my system. The ridiculously small fonts and bluriness of unreadable text was SUCH a detractor that it made gameplay labored and taskful. I spent more time trying to figure out what some things were saying on the screen than actually enjoying the experience of building an empire; not to mention the headache I was developing from apparent eye strain. As a mature gamer, my primary focus is to play games now for ease of enjoyment. And when I have to fight with a UI or fight to be able to simply read what is on the screen because of poor font choices by the developers, then the game loses most of its appeal. I enjoy the VAST scope of the game, as you could possibly never go bored with so much to do in this game, but unreadable fonts and words are a dealbreaker for me. Hopefully, Matrix Games will get off of their ass and address this issue in an update as a lot of people have complained about it.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I also find font sizes and occasional blurriness annoying at places, although the recent Legends patches did fixed that to a small extent – tech screen text is now larger. But from that to a complete show stopper is still a long way. What resolution are you playing on? I play 1900×1080 and played 1280×1024 on the past and apart from annoying at places I didn’t found that to be a critical issue. Although it is a problem no doubt, as I stated in the review negative points.

      By the way, the fonts issue is being discussed in this Matrix games forum thread. There’s some tips there too, maybe that can help you mitigate the issue.

      • sly says:

        Yep, I saw that thread previously. There was nothing helpful there, but thanks for sharing. Plus, the overall tone of that thread is that Matrix Games knows about this problem but are choosing to really do NOTHING about it. So, until they pull their head out of their butt, my wallet is closed to this game AND this gaming studio.

  37. David says:

    I wonder what the general word is on the latest patch?

    I have not applied it yet myself. In fact I havent really gotten into the game much yet due to distraction. But anyone who has used the new patch and wants to comment please do.

    Thanks

  38. Hawawaa says:

    Hey Adam! Looky here! – http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=3206160

    Distant Worlds Shadows! Oh ya!

  39. JohnR says:

    Ok Adam, between your own and Scott Tortice’s glowing review at GameSquad, I’m going to fork out the $70-80 for the Distant Worlds ‘suite’ as my Christmas present to myself. I really like the space opera look and feel of it, kind of like the universes of Roddenberry and Lucas.

    I get the feeling that this one is a hidden gem and maybe hasn’t been marketed as well as it should. Surprised it’s not on Steam.

  40. mek42 says:

    After going through 3 world gens in DF and not being happy, I splurged and bought the game, all three – and am trying Legends now. My challenge now is to find some getting started guides without strategy spoilers.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Don’t neglect the tutorials. They will do a good job getting you started. My suggestion is for you to try with some things automated and then switch those off one by one until you have everything under your control (you can leave a few “suggestions” switched on though). The learning curve is quite high in the beginning. Use the in-game documentation (Galactopedia). It does help a lot. Then, pause often, and you should be on your way to enjoy the game.

      • mek42 says:

        I went through the tutorials, they were helpful. I pretty much took your earlier advice of all manual, though I tend to leave most of my explorers on auto. I might need to try different system densities to find my sweet spot.

        Thank you for review and advice. (In case anyone cares, my biggest 4X previous experiences have been Civ (III and IV), SMAC (long, long time ago), SE:V and DF. I guess also Dominions 2 and 3 if they count and I also enjoy EU III, though I haven’t gotten into CK2.)

  41. Daniel Judah says:

    After going through the game, I honestly find the game overwhelming, and confusing. Though the automation works great, sometimes I don’t understand why the AI does this and why the AI does that. I already done the tutorials, and I set most of my options on “Give me advice” so that I know what the AI is doing.

    For example, I understand that the AI will attempt to build resort stations (they choose places with “nice views”, or when AI will attempt to build colonies (they choose places that has nice resources and good quality).

    But sometimes I don’t understand why the AI choose to attack a stronger pirate faction (though I already set it to retreat), and why the AI don’t choose the stronger fleet available to destroy a threat, instead of relying on closest but weaker fleet? Sometimes I also don’t understand how the AI determines where and how much ships they produce, or how they allocate the governors, or how they manage the fleets.

    That aside, I am not saying this game is not good. This game is, in fact, one of the greatest I have ever played. Though the learning curve is really steep, the presentation of the game is really nice. The graphics are great, the GUI is really friendly, the symbols really great, and the universe is so big.

    So many things to do, so much random events (though sometimes I don’t understand the event), great research tree, great resource management, all of the things in this game is great. Except, their learning curve.

  42. Thorasta says:

    Hmm. I just read a bunch of your reviews – and this is the game it seems most logical to play, but needing to buy three products rather than a package deal led me to choose another one.

    That and I’d prefer to find it on steam.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Too bad. Well, lookout for a sale. Maybe they’ll do one when Shadows (the 3rd expansion) comes out.

      • Thorasta says:

        One day of Star Ruler and I’m done with that one. The early to mid game is great, but the late game just runs away from you. Diplomacy == “Bribe me with resources you can’t possibly have or WAR!”

        A typical game for me went like this: (I played 4 games, didn’t sleep much)
        I’m #1 in research – Wahoo, I will kill them with my superiority!
        I’m #1 in economy – Wahoo, I will outbid them in everything!
        I’m middle for Colonies – I can live with that.
        I’m _dead last_ in military – BUILD BUILD BUILD size 200 gank fleets! (followed by – HAHA I will CRUSH you! …whaaaat is that a size 350 fleet with as many ships as mine? My ass hurts, again.)

        It was worth the $20 to play with their ship builder. You’re right that someone needs to take notice of that. Version 1 of something that could prove awesome.

        I might have to pony up the $70 for legends…

        • Thorasta says:

          I’ve played a lot of distant worlds in this half month. I’m glad I got it, but it does have a few glaring problems.

          The AI is just too easy. Starting a game on the hardest difficulty – giving the AI 1-2 tech levels advantage – I struggle with the inevitable early war, but once I have secured the resources to build a fleet I just stomp on the offending race’s home world – and from that point on the game isn’t a challenge.

          Tech trees: I have a real problem with the weapons tech tree. Torpedoes are Hugely more powerful than any other weapon (but you have to design your ships with “point blank” fighting to avoid the large damage dropoff with range).
          Tech trees in general are unbalanced – you need more seperate techs in high tech than anything else. The energy tree has two critical skills – repair bot (which you can steal from ikkuro) and hyperdrives. Everything else is nice to have, and I’d definitely get the beginning techs to level 3, but investing heavily in thrusters or engines or shields or power plants beyond that is very non-critical. Early game ship size 300 is plenty, late game 400 will win easily (out of a potential 1500)
          Once you can build a size 400 ship with torpedoes, 30 degrees or better turning per second (which is cheap to do at low tech levels) and a couple of repair bots – you become pretty much unstoppable. Chasing/running speed helps too, but not as important as turning thrusters. Superior forces are taken out with hit and run tactics (kill their warp inhibitor ship first and run if you have to). Stations might pose a problem with their area affect attacks – but adjusting your ships to have 4 torps and a lot of shielding and armor takes care of that.
          Given 200 space to invest in defense or offense – the more defensive ships win simply because they have time to run when they are hurt, repair bots fix them, then you return 30 seconds later and kill some more. repeat.

          When I played with the shakturi turned on, I found they consistently arrived in the galaxy when everyone was way too young and they were too powerful. The only tactic I could find to beat them was to hit their home planet as hard as I can as early as I can – preferrably before they have declared war and built up a lot of tech to reinforce that planet.

          I like how the most asshole races (insectoid) have the most useful technologies – it means either you have to be really diplomatic to get them to sell them to you, or simply send your spies to steal it.

          Keeping the difficulty level in these games challenging – without being too easy or too hard – is really the biggest problem I’m having so far. I’m tempted to try sins of a solar empire or one of the others you (Adam Solo) have reviewed next, but having a hard time choosing.

        • Adam Solo says:

          @Thorasta
          One idea would be for you to wait for the third DW expansion: Shadows (ETA: late April as of now). As you’re hot with the game at the moment I guess it would make perfect sense.

          Other than that I don’t have anything on the same lines that I can highly recommend at the moment. StarDrive is still on the works (currently at beta). And, other space 4X games will take a bit more time to release.

          Sins: Rebellion is a good option if you never played any Sins game and don’t mind it being a bit lighter 4X. Armada 2526 Gold is another good option, if you don’t mind a subpar tactical combat experience and no ship design. The exploration aspect is strong. Colony building is also a good aspect, and the AI is ok.

  43. Jonathan Roy says:

    Can military control be automated by the AI? That is, could I focus more on colonization, economy, research, etc, and let the AI worry about defending me?

    • Ermdog says:

      Yes, you can have it so where your military is fully automated…to a degree. If you wanted to let the AI worry about defending you, which I do, you need to form fleets and set the fleet options accordingly. You need to set the fleet stance to defend and choose the range in which you want your ships to defend. Once you set what you want your fleet to do, click automated and they will do exactly what you have set for them. I like to build defense fleets and set defense areas so they will automatically attack ships within their range. Please read the article below for more help on fleet automation

      http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=2973167

      • Jonathan Roy says:

        Great, thank you! Now if they’d just have a bundle selling the base game plus various expansions. To hop in as a new player to the latest version would be $100 USD.

        • Ermdog says:

          Yeah it is one pricey game with the expansions and it’s no secret that this is a major complaint for players looking to get into the game. Matrix Games rarely have sales, but I would think they would have a sale before the year is up. Christmas and Black Friday are still left so they might do something.

          If money is tight and you are looking to get into the game, I would suggest the base game with the first expansion, ROTS. ROTS offers key interface features which the base game does not have, and really make the game a whole lot better to play.

  44. David Walsh says:

    Even when Matrix do have sales the reductions are generally very minor.

  45. Ermdog says:

    Well speaking of this game. Has anyone had trouble loading this game? I’m currently talking with Matrix Games about the issue but its been a good 3 days so far and we have not been able to fix the problem. I updated shadows to the latest patch then it just fails to load when I hit play. I looked in the forums as well and saw others could not load the game as well, but the solutions there were not helping, and feedback there seems to be dead. Just seeing if anyone else has the problem.

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