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Space Sector’s Bargain List: Matrix Games 2013 Holiday Sale

By on November 25th, 2013 2:10 pm

Matrix Games’ usual end of the year sale has started and will be up until January 14th, 2014.

First the bad news. Pandora: First Contact isn’t in the list. Not totally unexpected though, since after all Matrix’s new sci-fi 4X game was released not two weeks ago. It’s a shame though since the game is really worth it. My review should be up still this week. In the meantime, have a look at my first impressions.

But, the good news is that Matrix’s usual suspects are now with 33% to 36% off. And with this I mean the entire Distant Worlds series.

Distant Worlds: Legends (SpaceSector score: 9.4/10), which is Distant Worlds with the second expansion pack, is, in my opinion, the best space 4X game experience around. And, on my top 3 ever (along with Master of Orion and Galactic Civilizations 2). This is the game I usually recommend any space 4X fan to get. It’s not a cheap game, since you have to buy the base game (Distant Worlds) and at least the first expansion pack (Return of the Shakturi) in order to enjoy it (I don’t recommend you buy the base game alone). And, if you like it, you’ll probably want to upgrade to Distant Worlds: Shadows (the 3rd and last expansion), which is also a great expansion pack. These Matrix’s sales only happen once or twice a year, so, this is always a good opportunity to get Distant Worlds at reduced price. Note that this game isn’t available anywhere else but at the Matrix Game’s store.

Matrix also sells another great space 4X title, Armada 2526, and its expansion pack Armada 2526 Supernova. However, and if Steam is not a problem for you, perhaps you should consider waiting for a sale there, as Armada 2526 Gold Edition includes the Supernova expansion and it’s usually much cheaper during Steam sales.

Other titles on Matrix’s sci-fi strategy catalog that you may be interested in are: AI War: Alien Bundle, a space-based real-time strategy game which includes AI War: Fleet Command, and its three expansions (AI War: The Zenith Remnant, AI War: Children of Neinzul and AI War: Light of the Spire); Smugglers IV: Doomesday, a turn-based space-trading game; and Starships Unlimited v3, a real-time space strategy game. But, I don’t have first hand information to give you on these last three titles. So, I recommend you check out some reviews before you buy.

For more information checkout our reviews: Distant Worlds (5.0/10), Distant Worlds: Return of the Shakturi (8.7/10), Distant Worlds: Legends (9.4/10), Distant Worlds: Shadows (8.8/10), Armada 2526 (8.0/10) and Armada 2526 Supernova (first impressions).

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  1. Lens Flares Suck says:

    Thanks for the info on Distant worlds, but I checked out the screenies and it appears to have a terminal case of ‘tiny fonts and tiny icons’. Like, super tiny.

    I really don’t enjoy games it’s so much work to get the information off the screen.

    I’d need a demo first to see how bad this is ‘in game’ and I’m not seeing one anywhere.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, like I say in the reviews, the font size is an issue. They mitigated that with a Legends’ patch (tech tree descriptions’ text increased) but the issue still remained to a good extent. The next expansion, Shadows, addressed the issue again, by increasing one of the game’s main panels’ size, which helped, and if I’m not mistaken the tech descriptions were increased again. But, in my opinion the issue was not totally solved.

      Now, for me personally I don’t have an issue with it anymore (after Shadows) but I understand that others may. It will depend on the size of your monitor (bigger seems to worsen the issue). So, overall readability still is a minus, no doubt.

      Here’s a few shots I just took from a game with the Shadows expansion (real size – as seen in-game at 1920×1080 – don’t forget to click zoom when you open it for actual size):

      Tech tree.

      Colonies list.

      Empire screen.

      Diplomacy screen.

      Colonies information.

      Galaxy map.

      • Ermdog says:

        Yeah the tech tree text is a lot bigger now and should be no problem seeing things. The main panel interface has a button where you can zoom in for bigger text but I don’t find the need for it anymore. I don’t have a problem with the text anymore.

  2. Expanding Man says:

    I’ve been eyeing Distant Worlds for a while now, but many aspects have kept me away. It is, together with its expansions, insanely overpriced by today’s standards, plus for a number of reasons I like to keep the list of distinct online game distributors I buy from to a respectably short list. On top of all that, the UI looks pretty lackluster, and that is usually a very important thing for strategy games.

    Is it really that good? Anyone else have good feedback on this?

    • BTAxis says:

      I think you’re justified in making all of those points. The game clearly feels like the one-man effort it essentially is, so in a number of areas that translates to a suboptimal user experience, particularly when it comes to the UI and other quality of life aspects. That said, there IS a good game there, depending on your tastes. It feels like the grand strategy of space 4X, with a learning curve and depth you might expect from that type of game.

    • Ermdog says:

      It depends on your tastes and what you want out of a game. I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND reading the reviews on this game and it’s expansions on this site. They do a good job of explaining what the game is about.

      This game has a steep learning curve and can be a pain if you like to micromanage everything. I love to micromanage things but it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything during mid/late game. Thankfully you can automate just about everything in the game and let the AI take over the things you don’t want to. The AI does a decent job on controlling most things, but I’ve run into issues, especially fleet posture, where they won’t do something they are supposed to do.

      Overall this is a good game, but it’s also a massive game in scale. If you don’t mind turning certain things over to the AI, and not being a control freak like me, you will enjoy this game.

    • buncheesy says:

      I resisted this game for ages but the last review here finally swayed me some 2-3 months ago as well as a small discount for buying all expansions being available.

      I don’t have a problem with the fonts but maybe if you have poor eyesight? I really like the large amount of information available from tabs on the main interface.
      the graphics are serviceable.
      the game has real depth and is one giant saga. you are forced to prioritize and accept some level of automation if your playing on the larger maps because of the real time aspect. I like this.

      In short this is the most sophisticated and expansive 4x space game out there and personally I think well worth the money (if on special or like me you just want it then with a smaller discount of 20% off). If you like the depth, management and epic saga and you can forgive the graphics you wont regret it but yeah it takes some commitment.

  3. piderman says:

    I don’t know if this is a bug or not, but the Matrix store didn’t calculate VAT for me this time (which it used to at the last sale), resulting in a very acceptable €40,- for Distant Worlds + RotS + Legends.

  4. Jeff P says:

    I initially bought Armada 2526 from Matrix when it launched several years ago. I found the game shallow and buggy, and was very disappointed by Matrix’s “it’s not our fault” attitude. However, I read Adam’s strong recommendation for the GOLD version earlier this year, and when the price dropped to less than $7.00 this past July, I repurchased the game from Steam and discovered that GOLD is much improved over the base game and have been delighted with the affordable gaming experience.

    Hence my quandary: I trust Space Sector’s evaluation of the Distant World series, but even at the discounted price of $50+, the price is very steep compared to what I could buy with the same $50 during sales at Steam, GMG, GG, or GOG.

    Matrix will have to do much better price-wise (or allow Distant Worlds to migrate to other distributors) before I will take the plunge on DW.

    • borgyborg says:

      Yep, on the majority of sales you could easily buy 10 decent indie games for ~ $60

      • Adam Solo says:

        It depends on your needs really. If you like to play many different games or just a few. If you prefer to play 10 different games, then buying those 10 games for the same price of one is preferable. But, if you prefer to play 10 game sessions of the same game, then buying a single deeper and more replayable game is preferable. I tend to play only a handful of games at a time, usually sandbox/4X. So, I prefer to spend $50 on Civ, Distant Worlds or XCOM than say $150 on 15 or so different games.

        • borgyborg says:

          I was thinking more of games like ftl, bionic dues, risk of rain, desktop dungeons and many more, which are small indie games that give as much or even more replayability than many AAA titles and in specials can be as low as $2. I find FTL gives a lot more than Xcom: EU ( I played the original UFO at release and even that had more strategy and options, especially outside of tactical combat).

          To be honest if you asked me 20 years ago I would have never guessed that games like starcontrol 2, moo 2, mom, xcoms would be rarely developed today and the funds of dev would be mainly spent on aesthetics and not UI, story, features that add replayability. Thats the main reason I started getting back into Indie games recently, the devs already know from the start that the game is focused around its gameplay (usually offering something the AAA titles dont risk doing) and not how good it looks.

  5. Towerbooks3192 says:

    Anyone who wants to get their hands dirty tryin a wargame, go for advanced tactics gold. You will never go wrong. If its on sale then buy it! Great game with a great random map generator.

    • Mark says:

      I’ve got it, but have been too scared to tackle the learning curve.

      • towerbooks3192 says:

        Its not actually very hard. Go and watch Das2468’s LPs about it and you will get the gist. Its only a matter of memorising shortcuts like m to move unit and n to create a new one and t to transfer. Its really rewarding once you go pass the learning curve. Its not as hard as hearts of iron 3. Also check their forums, it may be very slow but there are some great guys there that could help you especially Webizen. He even asks you to give him your save file and then give you some pointers on what to do.

        There is also a sort of mini strategy guide by the developer. It contains info such as some basic balancing of troops like 1 machine-gun per 10 infantry, and etc. Game is really rewarding especially with things like turning the tide of battle using your aircrafts and cutting your opponent’s supply line or defending your shores from naval invasion or doing the naval invasion yourself.

  6. Keith Turner says:

    Even without a sale on Pandora: First Contact, I believe I’ll be picking it up very soon myself. I’ve yet to read a negative thing about it in any of the reviews I’ve read. I’m still waiting on Adam’s review, but he’s hinted a few times that he quite likes it. :)

    • Happy Corner says:

      I would agree that Pandora is worth trying, but I do have some negative things.

      There’s no social engineering like there was in SMAC… I miss that.

      Some aspects of the game could still be more informative. For example, there are several different classes of weapons that have a base modifier (ie “+50% vs. Organics, -50% vs. Mechs” or whatever). You’ll unlock several upgrades for these weapons as you go up the tech tree, but all they show you is the *base modifier* – they don’t tell you that the new weapon contributes MORE to the unit’s strength (or by how much), so at first it looks like you’re just unlocking the same weapon you already had.

      Speaking of the tech tree, a big deal is made about the randomization of it. Maybe that keeps things fresh, but it’s also less flavorful. Techs seem to get connected to each other without any real regard as to how one advance could lead to another. If there’s something specific you’re *looking* for (“I need more anti-pollution buildings! Which path do I research?”), that’s also kind of a headache.

      Finally, the victory conditions feel underwhelming. A Science victory requires me to research X% of the tech tree? That’s it? I don’t have to build a colony ship or co-opt a planetmind or unlock some grand precursor experiment? Meh.

      Despite all that, Pandora does a lot of things right. Unit construction is definitely better than SMAC – hooray, now my gun helps even if the unit will only be defending! I like the operations, too.

      And the AI seems to be better than average, too. Before I took a break from my current game, I pushed a rival faction off my continent after a bitter and expensive war. Now they’re back – but they’re not attacking my cities with all the giant robot guards. No, they’re steamrolling over my much weaker neighbor, conquering HIS cities. I don’t particularly want to fight another war, but if I don’t do *something*, they’re going to wipe out my neighbor and be in a great position to start the shit with ME all over again. And now both of us are maxed out on nukes! When I get back to that save, I’m going to have quite a mess to deal with (in a good way).

      Not bad for a game on Medium difficulty.

      So yeah, give Pandora a look.

      • Adam Solo says:

        You know, I’ve been playing SMAC today for Pandora’s review and the lack of social engineering in Pandora is really something I miss from SMAC too. Great stuff there.

        I agree on the the weapon/armor modifiers not being informative enough. That was the part of the game I found the least intuitive. It took me some time but finally I think I understand the modifiers’ full meaning. But after that process is all down-hill from there.

        Every weapon and armor has a “base modifier” (+25%, +75%, etc), meaning that if you have a strength 4 boat you’ll get +2 strength if you equip it with an armor that gives +50% base modifier and +2 with a weapon that gives +50% base modifier, for a total power of 8. The +25% vs organic thing comes on top. So, if you fight an (organic) alien you get the +25% base extra on top of 8, meaning +2 for a total of 10 against organic. Plus other possible bonuses, like flanking, rank and terrain. They all add up on top of the unit base strength. It has a lot to it but after a game or two you start to get the hang of it.

        The research randomization thing is indeed wonderful but has less flavor I agree, from say, a more rigid and thought out tech tree (like SMAC’s or Civ’s). However, this lack of flavor is not really a big deal after a while. In the end I think the random element wins, but, if you could have random but still meaningful tech paths, now that would be the holy grail.

        The victory conditions are not particularly interesting I agree. Science is 75% tech tree, Military/Domination is having 75% of population and Economy is having the ability to buy all other factions’ economies, meaning having zillions of cash to abstractly buy a factor of their economies (this one is a bit more obscure, but I’ll further detail it on the review).

        The AI is competent. I can’t tell exactly how good it is yet but it’s definitely decent. I may have been lucky in the beginning for my first impressions after all. It depends on your strategy, but I find that playing peacefully and ultra-aggressively on the techs is a much easier way to win. But it depends on how aggressive you set the aliens to be. But, yeah, playing with the peaceful faction seems to be much easier than picking other paths because of the -50% alien aggression thing. Then, there’s a -25% alien aggression modifier just around the corner, which allows you to relax while the other factions are having hell with the aliens.

        You seem to be having fun with your wars. I’m finding them satisfying too. Nukes wars can be quite common in late game and you can definitely feel the tension. There’s lots of complexity due to the different types of hulls, modifiers, counters, terrain factors and unit experience, so, wars are definitely not boring.

  7. Buxaroo says:

    Btw, Sword of the Stars II: Enhanced Edition is only $3.52 at bundlestars:

    Along with some other space games.

    • Jeff P says:

      Thanks, Buxaroo! I checked out the website and purchased the space bundle for the advertised $3.52 for several games I probably wouldn’t have tried if they had been sold separately. But at the low bundle price, why not? For those interested, Bundlestars is selling Steam keys, not the actual download (best option, in my opinion) and it worked flawlessly. I’m going to bookmark Bundlestars and check back later for other buys.

  8. Mark says:

    Starships unlimited – despite the cheesy name – is a terrific game. Not as epic as Distant Worlds, but in many ways a superior space 4x game.

    Distant Worlds suffers greatly IMO from its insistence on RT. When the number of star systems becomes too large, you get many messages per second, some of them very important and the game becomes almost unplayable simply because its impossible in a RT game to focus on more than one thing at a time.

    Starships Unlimited is also RT, but the unique game design effectively overcomes most if not all of the problems I outlined above.

    • Jeff P says:

      The last iteration of Starships Unlimited (STUN) was Starships Unlimited Divided Galaxies. Unfortunately, the developer, Apezone, quit making PC games several years ago, and the game looks crude by today’s standards. It is still available though, and I agree that the beauty of the game is the way it uses pauseable real time for both tactical combat and strategic movement, keeping each element separate to ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed. It is a shame another developer hasn’t run with the concept (yet.)

    • buncheesy says:

      “The insistence on RT” is just another element that has to be balanced when prioritizing where to focus efforts. Something that to me is a plus for DW. That and the economic system helps create a feeling of a living universe independent of the player.

      Having said that and although you can turn of a lot of the messages you do tend to feel besieged by potentially important info on the larger maps.

      I checked out Starships Unlimited. It looks interesting – I an not against a separate pausable battlescreen at all (just not for DW)

      • Mark says:

        Dont get me wrong, I like DW a lot but I think that its particular implementation of RT is its greatest weakness.

        The fact that the game mechanics essentially break with 1400 stars is not good. Basically I *want* to play with 1400 stars but I CANT because the game becomes all but unplayable at that level.

        If I miss important things because the game is throwing 3 important events per second at me then that is a fundamental design fault with the game.

        They should have thought of that and figured something out. Something like the Starships Unlimited method of handling RT events *would* have fixed the problem, the devs just didn’t think of it.

        Otherwise the game is awesome, definitely one of the better 4x’s released in recent times.

  9. Alien JD says:

    I got DW + expansions at the last sale. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked the game but now I love it.

    It doesn’t play like a turn based 4X at all. It has more in common with Europa Universalis than Master of Orion 2. But if you like grand strategy and enjoy role playing and love space opera, then DW is great. But, I will stress that all of the negative things that have been pointed out about the game are true. I just think that what the game gets right overshadows what it gets wrong.

    I just picked up Master of Orion 3 and installed the fan made patches and mods. It was $2.99. I hated it first time around but I’ve heard that if you get the fan patches and mods and think of it as its own game (rather than a sequel) it is very in depth and very good. I didn’t enjoy the new xcom at all until I stopped comparing it to the original so I’ll try the same with this game. Any thoughts on MOO3?

  10. Boris says:

    There are also some good deals on classics like Gary Grigsby’s War in the East (WitE) and the Decisive Campaigns series (although not sci-fi).

    I will say though, WitE is still $55 in the sale (insane price) but you can actually get a full legit version from Amazon Germany for 5 euros, then simply remove the translation file from the ‘Dat’ folder and you have the full English version. Worked for me.

    The shipping from Germany actually cost me more than the game itself… which begs the question, if people are actually insane enough to pay full price ($90) for WitE, how much profit are they making?

    If it can be sold for 5 euros in Germany there is something wrong here.

  11. Robske says:

    I saw Distant Worlds + ROTS for €30,- in a Saturn store in Aachen (Germany) past monday 2 december. So it is available in some stores for the ones who want to go on a quest to seek holy space games!

  12. Robert says:

    I picked up the whole Distant Worlds series for $65 or so. It seemed a little expensive but, I decided to splurge. I have to admit I am not disappointed. Very nice play experience with no performance issues in large universes (which so many 4X space games seem to suffer from).

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