As of writing this I have played ~70 hrs in about 10 days... to say its a time suck would be an understatement. All in all, do I like this game? Is there a stronger word for yes other than 70 hours of absolutely?
I am a big fan of 4x real time strategy games. I like games like Sins of a Solar Empire or the Civilization series (though Beyond Earth is not so great). I am one of those players that appreciates a really long, epic game, where it is impossible to finish it in one turn. I am that guy who plays a single game for 40 hours. So, now that I have established what I like, I will explain why this game does everything I have mentioned.
First of all, this is a truly epic game. In games like Sins, positioning is important. Relative position to star systems, natural enemy choke points, type of world, etc. In DW, this is a brought to a whole new level. Positioning is so much more important, and yet not at the same time. You must balance the quality of a planet and its location. Colony worlds take time, hours usually, to become true powerhouses. THe positioning of other empires may force you to investigate the positioning of less than desireable worlds to see a way to break out of your region of space to expand into newer, and hopefully more desireable, locations in space.
Combat makes sense. I will use Sins and Civ in this but the way Sins takes over a planet makes no sense. Lets nuke the surface and then send people down. YAY! Radiation! Civilization on the other hand, does things similarly to DW in that you must conquer an area by first subdoing the defenses and populace. And yes, conquered worlds, and your worlds, can rebel and raise armies to overthrown you. One gripe though is, logically, it makes no sense for a troop transport to land troops when there is a defending fleet or a defending station. Also, the defensive buildings while nice, are not complete. What about satelite grids? What about planet based - upgradable structures such as starports. While I appreciate the need to recruit troops the level of detail here is a bit lacking.
As far as troops are concerned they are annoyingly realistic. Invading a planet is always a risk as numerous factors come into play. A defending force of 300K can be reinforced by the populace. The loss of space superiority can see your forces dwindle, etc. This challenge is refreshing and done, overall, quite adequetly.
Automation. THANK YOU!!! When you first start, this will seem unneeded as it takes away from what is available at the start. In the truly epic games however, I had times where the scrolling events feed could not keep up with current events. Furthermore, with 20+ empires (on the largest map I had like 31 at one point, I kinda conquered three of them...), 10+ characters, 80+ star systems, 1 war, new colonization, 3 branches of research, expanding my mining capabilities, monitoring my allies, doing spy stuff, building bases and planitary facilities, handling internal problems (like a shortage of something), establishing forward bases, building new ships, etc, automation saved me. The game gives recomendations on targets to attack, will automatically colonize planets, reserach techs, recommend which bases I build and where, upgrades ships, improves designs of ships, recommends diplomatic actions, etc. The game gives me lots of depth to take over anything I want to at any time (while keep automation on, which I thought was a nice though) and also gives me the tools I need to not have to micromanage every aspect of my empire, unless I want to of course.
I like the games take on pirates. Very few games treat pirates (or bandits like in Civ) as a resource. While clearly annoying, DW allows pirates to become something you may not want to be completly rid of. They can smuggle needed resources to worlds, attack targets for you, provide interesting locations (which can then promptly turn into a trap), etc. They add a level of dynamism to the game that many others lack. You can even play as a pirate faction, how cool is that?
Now, some gripes.
First of all, I would like a recommended action when it comes to diplomatic decisions. LIke when buying a tech, it tells me what the tech is doing but adding an option to view it in the tech tree would be nice. When asking to trade mining stations, being able to view where they are (which you can do, but it is rather clunky to do so while the window is open, and you can't close it without answering it) and what resources you are trading, and if your empire is currently demaning those resources. The game has all these advisors, but they only seem to speak up in seperate events, not within events to give you more information or provide a recommended course of action.
When zooming to an event and if zooms out to galactic map level, it could do a better job highlighting which item on the map is being focused on. When you have empires next to empires, systems next to systems, ship symbols, base symbols, etc, that information seems to be lost.
Overall though, I truly enjoyed this game. I will stop blabbing on now so you can buy it and enjoy it!