Monday, April 5, 2010

Distant Worlds Impressions

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was looking forward to the release of Distant Worlds.  Well, it did launch and I have been playing it a bit since.  It is unlike most other games and even its 4x cousins.  Continue on for my impressions.

I purchased the Digital + Physical copy version of the game.  As much as I love digital distributions, having the hard copy of a game is always a nice feeling.  Sadly, the game is only available through Matrix Games and not through Steam and other services.  

Let's start with the most important question: How does the game play?  In Master of Orion and its 4x decedents, you controlled every aspect of your empire.  Every ship, colony and decision was yours to make.  While this level of micro-management can be fun, it just doesn't scale well.

Distant Worlds is really really big.  1,400 solar systems and over 50,000 planets, moons, asteroids etc.  The traditional 4x micro-management is just not going to work in a game this big.  In Distant Worlds, you truly are the leader of your empire.  All of the mundane details are handled by the AI, many of which can be manually controlled if desired. 

It actually took me a few tries to enjoy the game.  This was mainly due to me trying to play it as if it was Master of Orion.  Here is an example: The AI is in charge of your warships for the most part.  Part of its duties is to escort ships, which it handles automatically.

When one of my mining outposts (also built by the private citizens AI) came under a pirate attack I tried to handle it myself.  Many of my ships were elsewhere in the empire, so it was a struggle to respond to the incident.  It turns out these incidents are common (until I find their home base and destroy it).  They can impact my economy but are not really a huge deal.

I learned if I provide my Navy enough ships, they will take care of these pirate attacks by themselves.  If they become particularly bothersome, I can create a fleet and assign the targeted system as its home.  Now they will stay in the area and be ready to respond.

The morale of the story is, Distant Worlds is not meant to be played like other 4x games.  Just like the leader of a country is not involved in mundane details, you are not either.  The player is responsible for guiding the empire to whichever victory path you so choose.

So far Distant Worlds is a refreshing new take on the 4x genre.  It is actually a lot of fun to see your empire grow without having to get down in the weeds and control everything.  It reminds me of Sim City a bit, as new freighters pop up to trade with your latest colony.

I hope to have a video review of the game posted next week.  For more information, head on over to the Distant Worlds forums.