Distant Worlds is a vast, pausable real-time 4X space strategy game. Experience the full depth and detail of turn-based strategy, but with the simplicity and ease of real-time, and on the scale of a massively-multiplayer online game.
User reviews: Very Positive (348 reviews)
Release Date: May 23, 2014

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Recommended By Curators

"The definitive version of the best space strategy game I’ve ever played"
Read the full review here.

Recent updates View all (6)

September 19

Patch is now available!

The most detailed 4X title gets another major update! As of today patch is available for download through all major channels. This update adds new customization features for ship designs and also further increases the modability of the AI, giving you more control than ever over your copy of Distant Worlds, allowing you to tailor the game to your liking. Other changes includes new AI tweaks, and weapon balances.

If you own the Steam version of Distant Worlds: Universe, you patch will be applied automatically when it is available. All other users can run the updater tool on their launcher or download the patch manually here.

Click here to find out more about Distant Worlds: Universe.


- fixed rare crash when detect pirate smuggler docking at base
- fixed rare crash when ships in combat

- fixed bug where race-specific diplomacy mood music was not working in a theme

- AI ship design process now automatically adds extra energy collector components to match static energy requirements of design (similar to the way reactors are added)
- AI ship design now increases size of Carrier designs (beyond default design template) when construction size allows (like Capital Ships already did)
- added medium and large freighter designs to AI ship design shrinking process (attempt to fit within current maximum construction size)
- fighter firepower now listed in ship design detail screen (Weapons panel), to allow better comparison of military designs (firepower and fighters listed separately)

- now optionally allow setting battle tactics, invasion tactics and fleeWhen settings for designs in design template files. To do this, for any design template file for any race, use the following entries (Entry name with possible values after the colon):
o TacticsWeaker: Evade, Standoff, AllWeapons, PointBlank
o TacticsStronger: Evade, Standoff, AllWeapons, PointBlank
o TacticsInvasion: DoNotInvade, InvadeWhenClear, InvadeImmediately
o FleeWhen: EnemyMilitarySighted, Attacked, Shields50, Shields20, Never

- increased hold-off range for tractor beams on spaceports against enemy troop transports (i.e. prevent colony invasions)
- increased the maximum per-resource cargo space at spaceports and other bases from 30000 to 120000
- ship decision whether to use tractor beams to pull or push a target now uses optimal attack ranges defined by battle tactics, e.g. when set to Point Blank then will pull within close range, when set to Evade will always push. Spaceports defending a colony will push when enemy troop transport gets too close in an attempt to prevent them from dropping invading troops at the colony
- idle automated AI fleets and troop transports will now unload troops at colonies that have pirate facilities but insufficient troops to clear them

9 comments Read more

August 13

New Official Update Available!

Distant Worlds: Universe is now updated to

The six major updates since release, including the newest released today, have included fixes for most of the issues reported since release (over 100 in total)! Additionally, more than 100 improvements to game balance, AI and user interface have been made, as well as some additional tutorial tweaks and the addition of an "Introductory Game" mode to get new players started more easily.

The user interface improvements include significant adjustments to support larger font sizes on larger monitors and allow more of the interface to scale. In addition, game performance optimizations have nearly doubled performance since release.

Also included are several new modding features, which lift the limitations on race-specific technologies as well as improving modding in a few other areas. If you wish, each faction can have a much more detailed and fully unique tech tree now. The AI's research path can also now be specifically set to optimize each faction exactly the way you want.

The AI in Universe has improved significantly with each update, both in fleet coordination, exploration, research strategy, ship design, construction and pre-warp strategy.

Finally, we've included a host of fixes for pirate gameplay as well, if you prefer to seek your own fortune among the stars.

This update will automatically install when you restart Steam, as long as you are on the non-beta branch.

This build has the following changes from

- fixed crash when evaluating designs
- fixed rare crash when drawing ships
- fixed crash when giving monetary gifts to other empires
- fixed crash when sorting ships in fleets
- fixed crash when ship attacks target
- fixed crash when reviewing pirate character traits
- fixed crash when fighter evaluates enemy threats
- fixed crash when empire declares war
- fixed crash when opening Construction Yards screen
- fixed rare crash when applying sun shadow graphics on planets in low-memory conditions

- character energy savings bonuses now properly reduce energy consumption instead of increasing it

- counterespionage strength adjusted - slightly less chance of intercepting enemy intelligence missions
- reduced chance of empires switching to Corporate Nationalism government type when available
- altered empire military strength measurement to better account for fighters (affects diplomacy and AI empire evaluations)
- independent colonies now recruit more defending militia troops
- AI now gives higher preference to mining station build locations that are closer to space ports, colonies, etc
- strategic resources used in construction (for components) now weighted slightly higher when considering stockpiles at spaceports and elsewhere

- AI ship design now properly adds damage control components when repair bots are unavailable
- further optimized AI ship design process to allow shrinking designs with maximum construction size while still ensuring critical components are present (e.g. weapons on military ships)
- Fighter Bay components now considered as weapons in military ship designs (i.e. can have military ship designs with no weapons except for Fighter Bays)

- pirate factions now pay maintenance for any non-pirate raider troops (once have proper colonies)
- pirate faction flags retain pirate symbol in top-left corner when edited in game editor
- pirate faction flags propery update in galaxy view when edited in game editor
- pirate factions can now build normal planetary facilities and wonders at fully owned colonies using right-click pop-up menu and action buttons

- now allow per-race modding for user interface in a theme (add subfolders named by race under images\ui\chrome folder to mod most chrome images, e.g. customization\THEMENAME\images\ui\chrome\human)
- custom characters with '?' appearance order now never appear at game start
- allow including GameText.txt from a custom mod (i.e. read from theme folder)
- altered images\units\creatures folder to be read from the mod (if present) instead of the root game folder
- allow modding MP3 files in sounds\EFFECTS (not just WAV files)
- fighters now properly use WeaponImageIndex value in fighters.txt to allow customization of fighter weapon effects
- allow customizing diplomacy mood music to be race-specific (music played when open Diplomatic Contact screen). Will play race-specific music when named race subfolder present under Customization\THEMENAME\sounds\effects (e.g. Customization\MyTheme\sounds\effects\human). Mood music filenames as follows: diplomacyMoodNeutral.mp3, diplomacyMoodAngry.mp3, diplomacyMoodHappy.mp3, diplomacyMoodMenacing.mp3
- increased maximum number of components from 170 to 300 (components.txt)
- added optional ship design template files for planet destroyers in themes. To use, place a custom ship design template named "PlanetDestroyer.txt" in the appropriate race folder
- added new super weapon types, allowing different types of planet destroyer weapons: in addition to the default super beam weapons can now also have super torpedos, super missiles, super rail guns, super phasers. Any of these can be set to be planet destroying weapons when damage is 10,000 or greater (weapon component Value1). Particularly useful in conjunction with new planet destroyer ship design templates mentioned above. To add these new super weapons to a custom theme, use the following values in the components.txt file (Type): 62=SuperTorpedo, 63=SuperMissile, 64=SuperRailGun, 65=SuperPhaser. You can also focus an empire's tech efforts to these new areas using the following new values in the race policy files (ResearchDesignTechFocus1-6): 30=SuperTorpedo, 31=SuperMissile, 32=SuperRailGun, 33=SuperPhaser

- slightly improved game performance
- can now build bases in disputed systems if your empire has a colony in the system
- decreased chance of counterintelligence intercepting enemy intelligence missions, especially when targeted enemy agent has high mission skill level (i.e. harder to catch)
- fixed display of game difficulty level in Achievements tab of Empire Comparisons screen (was previously sometimes mislabelling difficulty levels)
- AI ship design now better at shrinking mining ships when maximum construction size is low
- AI ship design now better at shrinking military ships with fighter bays when maximum construction size is low

12 comments Read more


“Distant Worlds: Universe is my favourite space strategy game. Not my favourite space strategy game released this week and not my favourite space strategy game released this year. It’s the definitive version of the best space strategy game I’ve ever played and I want to share the excitement with everyone”
Rock Paper Shotgun

“Distant Worlds: Universe is perhaps the finest 4x Space game in a generation, certainly since Galactic Civilizations 2. It's a challenging and complex game packed with features that allows you to choose just how you want to play it, while accommodating a wide variety of play-styles and strategies.”
9/10 – Strategy Informer

“Its enormous, complex and - above all - fun.”
4.5/5 – Digitally Downloaded

About This Game

The Universe is Yours!
Distant Worlds: Universe is the newest chapter of this critically acclaimed sci-fi series, adding incredible new features and an exciting new storyline.  Universe is also the ultimate collector’s edition, the first time all previous Distant Worlds releases have been included in one package, along with an updated manual and greatly expanded modding support.  

Distant Worlds is a vast, pausable real-time 4X space strategy game. Experience the full depth and detail of turn-based strategy, but with the simplicity and ease of real-time, and on the scale of a massively-multiplayer online game.  

Vast galaxies are made to order: up to 1400 star systems, with up to 50,000 planets, moons and asteroids. Galaxies are so deep, fun and immersive that you won’t want to finish the game.  Build, expand and improve your empire while playing through one of the storylines, with victory conditions or in an open-ended sandbox mode.

Each galaxy is packed with life and activity. Encounter other empires, independent alien colonies, traders, pirates and space monsters. Explore star systems, asteroid fields, gas clouds, supernovae, galactic storms and black holes. Discover evidence of civilizations long since past, uncovering secrets about the galaxy's troubled history...

Best of all, you can play the game your way: enjoy a quick, intense game in a crowded sector of space or take your time in an epic game spread across a vast galaxy! 

Distant Worlds: Universe contains all of the following:


  • Truly Epic-Scale Galaxies: play in galaxies with up to 1400 star systems and 50,000 planets, moons and asteroids. Vast nebula clouds spiral out from the galactic core, shaping the distribution of star clusters in the galaxy
  • Private Enterprise: the private citizens of your empire automatically take care of mundane tasks like mining resources, transporting cargo, migration between colonies, tourism and much more. This frees you from micro-management and instead allows you to focus on a macro-scale
  • Diplomacy: interact with other empires, discussing treaties, making trade offers or just giving them a piece of your mind. Talk to pirate factions, tapping into their underground information, or paying them to do your dirty work for you...
  • Choose your Playstyle: Start with a single planet and sub-light ships, or as an established space-faring civilization with warp drives.  Play as a Standard empire or as a Pirate faction, with many adjustable victory conditions and gameplay choices depending on your actions.
  • Intelligent Automation: automate the various tasks in your empire, so that you can focus on the areas that you enjoy most. Or have your advisors make suggestions in different areas like colonization, defence or diplomacy – helping you learn the best tactics and strategies
  • Explore: explore the vast galaxy, discovering valuable resources, potential colonies for your empire and making contact with other empires. Uncover secrets that lift the veil on the galaxy’s mysterious past...
  • Colonize: send out colony ships to found new worlds for your empire. Develop your new colonies by keeping them well-supplied with a steady stream of valuable resources
  • Defend: patrol the outlying areas of your empire to protect from raiding pirates or dangerous space monsters. Construct defensive bases at your colonies. Build up your fleets to defend against enemy empires. Recruit troops to invade enemy colonies and conquer the galaxy!
  • Espionage: covertly seek out information about other empires, or even disrupt their progress with acts of sabotage
  • Research: develop new technologies for use in building your own unique ships and star bases
  • Characters:  including Leaders, Admirals, Generals, Ambassadors, Governors, Agents and Scientists, all with defined skills and traits and the opportunity to advance and improve
  • Design and Build: A very flexible system allows you to design and build the ships and star bases in your empire. Construct mighty military ships ranging from escorts to carriers and dreadnoughts at your space ports, or build mining stations, research installations or secret monitoring facilities at remote locations throughout the galaxy
  • Built-in Game Editor: fine-tune your own galaxy, adding or removing star systems, planets, asteroid fields, ships, star bases, space monsters or anything else. Modify the attributes of any empire in your game
  • Extensive Help: exhaustive, built-in, context-sensitive help is always only a single key-press away. Press F1 at any time for a detailed explanation of the current game screen, your currently selected item, etc
  • Tutorials: in-game tutorials familiarize you with all of the game elements and tools

New to Universe!

  • The entire Distant Worlds series in one package! Universe includes the Original Distant Worlds, Return of the Shakturi, Legends, Shadows and the new Universe expansion!
  • Comprehensive Modding and Customization Support: Allows adding/removing/changing most items: resources (including new colony-manufactured resources), ship components, planetary facilities and wonders, fighter designs, alien races and race families, diplomatic dialog, empire policy, custom characters, ship and base design templates, governments, plagues, research tech trees and more
    • Can customize most of the images used in the game: ships and bases, fighters, alien races, planetary facilities and wonders, characters, troops, components, resources, ancient ruins, planets, stars, asteroids, animated in-game effects and more
    • Use a previously saved and editor-customized game as a map for a new game (instead of generating a new galaxy)
    • Powerful new event system accessible from a considerably-upgraded Game Editor. Set up your own storyline in a custom map with triggered events and custom victory conditions
    • Add story triggers on specific in-game objects or events, executing one or more actions on other in-game objects (either immediately or delayed)
    • Can replace most of the user interface icons and sound effects
    • Add your own custom help files to the in-game Galactopedia
    • Switch between different customization sets with a couple of mouse clicks from the main game menu
    • Comprehensive 99-page Modding Guide that outlines how to make Mods and explains all of the settings in detail
  • A new official storyline built using the new modding capabilities, covering the first war between the Freedom Alliance and the Shaktur Axis, in which you have access to the tech required to build your own planet destroyers, establish the Ancient Guardians and research and deploy the Xaraktor virus.


System Requirements

    • OS: Windows XP SP3, Vista, Windows 7 or 8
    • Processor: Pentium 4 @1.5 GHz
    • Memory: 1 GB RAM
    • Graphics: minimum 1024 x 768 resolution, 32 bit
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 1 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9 compatible
    • Additional Notes: Requires Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer
    • OS: Windows Vista, Windows 7 or 8 (64-bit)
    • Processor: Dual Core CPU @ 2.0 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: minimum 1024 x 768 resolution, 32 bit
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 1 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9 compatible
    • Additional Notes: Requires Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer
Helpful customer reviews
9 of 10 people (90%) found this review helpful
209.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 27
To any and all strategists, This is a quality single player grand strategy, A must buy for fans of the genre.

WARNING: The game can be very confusing and complex, not for the casual minded people.

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5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
14.0 hrs on record
Posted: November 4
The Distant Worlds franchise proved to be an unusual exception for me. When it comes to games these days, I am rarely an "early adopter." Rather, I usually wait for other, more adventurous gamers to gamble their time and money before I stick my toe into the water. But with Distant Worlds it was different. I was intrigued from the first moment I saw the low-fi 2010 announcement pitch from a then unknown New Zealand development team by the name of CodeForce. There was just something that suggested ambitious innovation from the get-go. As I was reviewing games at the time, I requested a review code for the original DW game to check it out - really more out of curiosity than an actual eagerness to play the game. Long short: I quickly became hooked, as you can read here:


Right off the bat it got a solid 8.0 from me!

Well, Code Force wasn't done yet! They proceeded to take the community feedback and wishlist and incorporate a lot of it into subsequent expansions. As you can see by my reviews for them, they did not disappoint:



With the release of Legends, the game had already earned a fantastic "9.0" from me! Impressive!

Of course, since then Code Force has released two more expansions, so the game has only improved (especially in light of the Universe compendium that FINALLY brought the game to Steam!). If I was to review this title today, it probably would top out around 9.5 or better!

Now, why do I say that? What is it that makes Distant Worlds so special? Simply, it is this:

Unlike most other space-based 4X strategy games, Distant Worlds isn't some sort of chess-like static experience where nothing happens unless a player makes it happen. Instead, DW is more like Sim City or Europa Universalis, or even Crusader Kings 2, where the player immediately gets the sense that he is but one small cog in a very large, very active galaxy where all sorts of things are happening that are outside of the player's control. Part of this is due to DW's real time environment (again, like EU or CK2) where there is constant activity on the map from the various other factions that share the galaxy with the player. But the biggest contributor to all this activity is the game's "Private Sector." Unlike every(?) other 4X game out there, DW deliberately limits the player's action to the "State" sector of his empire, which includes the military, diplomacy, tax rates, and so on. As with the real world, the private sector - the citizenry, merchants, miners, traders - are outside direct control of the player. While the player can influence their actions with policies, their day to day activities are completely autonomous. This is where DW so brilliantly succeeds! It is this private sector that brings so much life to the galaxy! In fact, this is why I often compare DW to Sim City because it can be so much fun to watch "the little people" go about their lives in a very dangerous galaxy as you do your best to protect and shepard them. For example, I recall one game some time ago where a passenger ship was attacked by a space monster (or was it pirates?) on route to a tourist destination. The ship was badly damaged and left adrift. As the supreme ruler, I had to send out a repair ship to save them, which was really cool. And, of course, I had to detail some military vessels to protect them while the repair ship did its work. THAT is the type of unique, micro focus that DW offers that so many space games just completely overlook.

I also find DW to be like Crusader Kings 2 because, with the arrival of the Legends expansion, DW now has its own cast of characters - diplomats, scientists, spies, and more - who are randomly generated, and acquire unique personality stats. As with CK2, this really adds a sense of personality to your empire (and yes, far in excess of the under cooked characters in Endless Space). And while these characters don't engage in the sort of interpersonal skulduggery that is common to CK2, they can be assassinated and killed by events. Just yesterday I had a talented energy researcher assassinated when his research base was destroyed by a sabotage-induced explosion!

Do you see what I mean by how DW is less like your typical chess-like 4X strategy game, and more like a science fiction Sim City / CK2/ EU4 hybrid? There is just nothing like this game on the market at the moment - something that fully justifies its somewhat pricey cost (trust me: it is worth every penny!).

In short, if you like turn-based, by-the-numbers, 4X strategy game where you have total god-like control over everything, this might not be for you. But if you are the type of gamer who loves real time grand strategy games that work with you to tell your own story in a sandbox environment - again, like a Crusader Kings 2 or a Europa Universalis 4 - this is DEFINITELY what you have been looking for! You don't so much play DW as you experience it. And, as with Crusader Kings, when the game is done, boy will you have some tales to tell!

Highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
70.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 14
In my opinion this IS the game I have wanted for a very long time.

Watch the videos if you are having a difficult time getting started.

Try your best to stay away from automating activities. You will will enjoy the game more the more you do yourself.

If you have a ship that you have a specific task for learn how to use the Editor to rename that ship appropriately. For instance I use a few Construction Ships to do nothing but build Defense Bases so i rename them "Defense Builder One,... Two, etc."

This helps me keep track of what I have intended them to do.

It will be years before this one will gets old for me.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
12.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 29
I really enjoy the fact that this game has incredible depth but doesn't make you perform repetitive, mind numbing micromanagement unless you are really interested in that.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
103.9 hrs on record
Posted: November 8
This game is absolutely fabulous. It takes some mastering and learning from from various sources such as youtube and online guides.

This is a 4X which even has a story line to it, a complex but yet simple interface structure. The best way to define this game would be to take 'Star Trek Birth of the Federation' and to expand on that principle to an entirely different level all in real time.

The whole experience can be customised to your preference along with the scale. I just cant stress how good it is. It does have a few bugs but it doesn't really stop the game play. I would say the graphics could look better but its that for a reason when you are immersed in the gameplay.

If you like Civilization, Alpha Centari, Age of Empires, Birth of the Federation and all such games in that league then I am sure you will enjoy this game as a stratagy game that builds on such games to a new level.

I have personally found me playing an empire and learning from trial and error to get better and better. Do put in the time and effort and you will love it.

This is a MUST BUY!
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2 of 6 people (33%) found this review helpful
33.2 hrs on record
Posted: November 11
Reviews heralded a new era of AI automation. Unfortunately, for me, none of the game systems we appealing. I wound up slowly automating more and more game systems, to try to find a way of playing that I liked. But, for me, DW:U turned into a matter of just watch the years tick by. I tried to win even when avoiding my racial victory conditions, which was an interesting diversion.

Ultimately, the experience was like watching an automated set of spreadsheet data click by as the turns continued. I felt no real connection to the events, my empire, my colonies, my characters. Nothing. I love a good tech tree. But none of the tech felt like it mattered.

But the biggest disappointment: It's priced as much as a major publisher's MSRP. So I read a review. It was glowing, so I foolishly assumed that "oh wow, if they're selling it for that price, it's bound to be something special. I guess since 4X is niche, I haven't heard more about it." Though I don't write reviews, I decided to write this just to warn others.

In short, all crunch. No flavor. And EXTREMELY overpriced.
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0 of 4 people (0%) found this review helpful
73.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 27
I caused Genocide...

Best game ever 10/10!
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0 of 4 people (0%) found this review helpful
0.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 27
Probably one of the most intricate, deep, and difficult game i've ever played. That makes it good.
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2 of 16 people (13%) found this review helpful
107.3 hrs on record
Posted: October 25
This would be a great game if hit wasn't such a crash-fest. It constantly runs out of memory, no matter how great your machine is, and kicks you out of the game. It's really too bad the game was not developed by competent programmers who could take advantage of 64bit architecture and prevent this kind of problem from happening. Damn shame. I would advise against spending $60 on a four year old game that was written using twenty-year old technology.

And no matter how much it crashes, the support forum developers will claim the problem is on your end and the people in the forums will tell you "oh, I run the game the same way on an old crappy machine and NEVER have a problem." A lot of good that does you.
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5 of 27 people (19%) found this review helpful
0.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 25
This game is a perfect example of why more games need a demo or a free trial option. At first glance, this game looks great. The reviews are generally good and the screenshots are deceptively positive. Under the surface however, things are very different. This game is needlessly complex, that is the short truth of it. Everything is pointlessly brought out and made complex.

It has so many extra functions that everything can be automated if needed. That means the best way to play this game is by not playing it. The text for everything is so small and hard to read and there are so many extra functions for pointless things. If you're into that... you might like this game, you might also be the same type of person who thinks your microwave needs another 30 buttons instead of one marked "popcorn" when you want to enjoy a movie. This game is not worth it's fifty dollar pricetag.
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137.7 hrs on record
Posted: October 28
This is one of the deepest and greatest 4x Space Games i know. I play it since the Original Distant Worlds a few Years ago, then with all expansions and now in this Version, it got everytime better and better. DWU added better Mod Compatibility, which you should use, there are some great Mods out there, which enhance the Gameplay.

But back to this Game:
You start with a small Empire, typically with only one World. There are many other Starsystems out there, most of them with one or more Planets and each of them can have a Moon or more. And some of them are colonizeable. So you will colonize them, but the big Problem is: You are not alone! There are other races which want to do the same thing. Well, you could let them and create a peacefully coexistence with them, or go to war. Or you dont declare War and send Pirates and your Spies. Or maybe, you could send your other Friend to go to war with them. Many possibilities, only the outcomes counts!

Every game is different, you could play small Maps with only 200 Starsystems up to big Maps with over 1000 Starsystems. Well, it sounds maybe not to big, but it is! You could automate everything in your Empire, but managing a few hundret Systems can be a big Deal. Whatever, it is a very good Game, get it if you like 4x Games, especially Space Games.

The only two big drawback is the somewhat old Graphics, and the step learning curve. The first isnt as bad as it sounds, the second will go away, when you play and learn how everything works! Get it, i promise you, you wont regret ;-)
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11.5 hrs on record
Posted: November 21
Best sci-fi\space 4X. The civilian economy system is designed very well and makes the universe much more alive. Very immersive.
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26.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 5
It is a 2D stradegy game with alot or little as granularity as you want. There are as many ways to play it as races and factions, each with there own objectives. I recommend being very particular with your race/faction as that will be how you need to play.. in order to win. The great thing about this game is the policy that enables you to either be as involved as you want or just sit back and watch only interferring when tottally needed.

If you just play the game to win, it works fine. If you play sandbox with victory conditions turned off, or continue to play after you win it eventually crashes. The code looks like a memory leak.. or perhaps it is restricting itself and crashing that way because it seems to be only 32 bit. Each time I crashed I hap about 40% of the galaxy under my control.

The built in cheats are great. They allow you to munipulate the basic variables without having god like powers.

Given the limitations of the memory leak, you will never see the entire story line. It will still give you hours of fun, and perhaps they will fix it one day.. So I do recommend it with those limitations in mind.
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19.5 hrs on record
Posted: November 6
A truly excellent game and a unique achievement in the 4x genre. Not only do you have the complete power to micromanage every aspect of your empire, from the tiniest ship to major policy decisions, you have the option to let the computer handle any aspect you don't want to control. This creates a lot of flexibility for the player in experiencing the parts of the game that are the most fun for them and reinforces the idea that the empire is a living system that you direct through influence rather than a series of chess moves.

It controls in real time, and the resource, economy, military, and political systems are all very complex and there is always something to do. Each expansion has added tons of content, and with all of them available now, it stands out among other 4x for trying to innovate a stagnant genre. My only real criticism of the game is that it's very hard to understand the consequences of certain things, and diplomacy is pretty derivitave. If you are a fanatic of 4x space strategy games, I can actually reccommend this at full price. For anyone casually interested in the genre, I'd reccomend it on sale.
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17 of 18 people (94%) found this review helpful
199.7 hrs on record
Posted: June 29
(( You can skip to the TLDR conclusion at the bottom if you're just in for a quick summary ))

I've played many of the space 4X games out there including Master of Orion 2, Imperium Galactica 1-2, Pax Imperia 2, Galciv 1-2, SotS 1, Endless Space, Space Empires 4-5, Star Ruler, Lost Empires, Armada 2526, etc. and to me what sets Distant Worlds apart from all of these (and makes it a more than worthy addition to any space 4X fan's collection) is the plethora of autonomous elements populating the gameworld, combined with an intricate economic and logistic simulation that runs in real-time, making DW's galaxies feel "alive" and real to a degree that I just haven't seen in any other space 4X game to date.

For once the people that you're taxing for income are finally actively present in the galaxy - they're running a private economy, buying freighters from your shipyards, hauling resources to wherever they're in demand, carrying tourists to your resort bases, migrating in passenger ships from colony to colony to avoid high taxes, etc and they do that completely without your input - in fact you can't even control them directly but merely influence them (e.g. by designing better freighters for them to buy) which gives DW a bit of a Majesty-like charm. All of this isn't just a small sideshow either - these civilians actually make up most of the interstellar traffic in the game.

The part of your empire that you directly control is also a lot smarter than in other games. It's not a completely helpless child that needs babysitting with even the most basic tasks such as resource flow or self-defense.

Resource flow is handled by the aforementioned private economy *if* they have enough money to buy and maintain ships/bases after paying your taxes.
As for self-defense, even on full manual control, your ships (can) have individual AI that assigns them to civilian escort, patrol, defense, etc duties across your territory according to your empire's needs (and yes they're smart enough to refuel/repair without you). You just build them and they'll handle the rest *if* that's what you want or you can take manual control and have them follow your orders only.
In either case, you can leave them completely unattended because it's possible to configure their ship design to e.g. kite enemies with long range weapons, close the distance for short range attacks, board and capture hightech enemies for disassembly, etc. so that they fight exactly how you want them to even when you aren't looking. And it's always a glorious moment when your automated defense fleet first defeats a pirate raid without any input from you.

In fact part of DW's appeal is that when building your empire you're basically creating and nurturing a complex self-sufficient system (and as city builder games have shown us, that can be a lot of fun) with the aim of making it more efficient than the rival empires.

An interesting quirk is that you can automate just about anything from research to foreign policy, military operations, espionage, etc. On full automation, the game essentially plays itself. That'd be like watching a pure AI vs AI match in other games. Only here you can influence your AI by taking control of certain decisions. One possible playstyle is to only control one aspect (or just one fleet, or ship) of your empire while leaving the rest to the AI which makes it feel like you're just a minister/general/fleet admiral/ship captain instead of a supreme ruler.

The ability to automate things also makes the late-game mop-up period a lot less tedious. In other games, I often just quit once I reach a point where nothing can stop me because the game is practically won and the only challenge left would be to endure the tedium of rinse-repeat steamrolling whatever is left out there. In DW, you can finish up by declaring your wars, putting your military on full auto and watching your good hard work come to fruition as carnage ensues without any of the usual tedium of having to manually control all of that.

Naturally you also have most of the standard/good bits from other 4X classics too such as custom ship design, diplomacy, research, espionage, pirate factions, assignable characters (scientist, governor, etc.) with developing abilities, random events, hidden tech, abandoned ships around the galaxy and so on.

There are also some extras like the logistics system - in DW your ships generate their energy from fuel that'll limit how long they can travel or fight before needing stop by a gas giant's mining station or a spaceport to refill their tanks. I also really like the pre-warp starting condition where you're confined to your first solar system until you develop some type of warp drive due to the simple fact that your impulse engines are too slow and would take forever to reach even the nearest star.

My primary complaint would be that the research aspect which is exactly like the research in the Civilization series (and most other 4X games) is too static in my opinion. Since technological progress essentially defines the structure of how these games play out, if the tech tree is always the same, then each game will also start feeling the samey after a few playthroughs. Fortunately in DW, 1 playthrough can be very long - I'm 137 hours in and only played 2 games so far (though I play on full manual and like to pause/ponder a lot).

In this regard, Sword of the Stars tried something very commendable by giving the option of a randomized tech tree where the list of researchable techs differs from game to game so you can't always just beeline for e.g. full laser weaponry if that's not available in the current game but will need to resort to some other weapons that will also neccessitate different tactics, different ship design, etc. I'm not saying this was the perfect approach, but it was certainly more interesting than a static, never changing tech tree that only acts as a drag on the replayability of otherwise excellent games.

Of course, this isn't a negative point in the sense that most other 4X games handle research the same simple way (remarkably, one of the few exceptions was good ole MoO2). But I hope game designers will someday inject some dynamism and randomness into this most overlooked and outdated aspect of the 4X concept.


All in all, the reason people keep saying that other space 4X games feel empty after having tried DW is in my opinion the abundance of intelligent, autonomous elements populating the gameworld, combined with an intricate economic and logistic simulation that runs in real-time, making DW's galaxies feel "alive" and real to a degree that I just haven't seen in any other space 4X game to date.

Some of these elements, such as the private economy's ships and bases, you can't even control, just influence. The parts of your empire that you can control are also smart and independent enough not to crumble without your constant intervention. You act as a supreme ruler here whose attention is only called upon for important tasks and not to micromanage every single ship, trade lane and fuel depot.

However while DW frees you of the unnecessary type of micromanagement, it gives you a million other things to manage on a more meaningful level. The depth is actually quite overwhelming at first and you should probably leave automation on until you learn the ropes. Initially it will likely intimidate you and feel chaotic to the point where you'll be imploring at your screen "Goodness Lord, there are people playing this thing completely manually?!". But over time you'll grow to appreciate the complexity and all the choices you can make when taking the reins from the AI. At the end of the day just how much you want to control is up to you (you can micromanage nearly everything *if* you want to), but regardless of your choice, playing DW is a refreshingly immersive, truly vibrant experience that's definitely unique in the space 4X genre.
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15 of 16 people (94%) found this review helpful
169.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 19
First I want to say this is the best 4x game I have played, and I have played, Civs 4, 5, Sins all of them and modded, Pandora, galtic civs 1 and 2, sword of the stars 1 and 2. It has better depth than civs 4, better 4x than Sins, the most realistic solar systems I have seen in a 4x game.
That said, dont expect to just jump in and be the master of the game. If all you have played is Civs 5 then you will have a huge learning curve. Since in Civs 5 can be won really no matter what you do. I see in alot of these reviews for this, people get overwhelmed with all the stuff. I will say this, dont try to understand everything at once. Most of the people writing bad reviews, seem to be trying to controll 1400 star map, and do everything. While you can control everything manually, it makes it rather time consuming. The computer ai, does a great job of controlling the stuff you dont want to.
I skipped this game for the longest time due to the price, and 2d graphics, but I def regret that. This game has been one of the few i have bought, that i didnt feel i needed to have a mod running to enjoy the game. I have added some mods since I started, and they just make the game alot better.
I just want to address one thing though. I am not really sure why people are having such a hard time with the UI. Everything in the UI is customizable to what you want, I mean everything. Also everything is there easy to access, you can make your own ships, see all the aliens, see all colonies, ect. There isnt anything different really from the other 4x games. I found this UI alot easier to use than Civs 4.
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46 of 72 people (64%) found this review helpful
12.7 hrs on record
Posted: May 28
I cannot recommend this game without significant reservations. For many people, this game may be ideal, but most people, even most 4X fans, will find it features too much micromanagement with a weak interface.

Distant Worlds is a 4X space game in the mold of Master of Orion and similar games. It simulates building a space empire including setting up trade, mining asteroids, designing and building your own ships, diplomacy, exploration, and such. That's a lot of tasks and all of them, to some degree, are interesting. The problem is they all come at once.

Take mining. You can mine nearly every planet, moon, and asteroid belt in the game. This is important because mining provides valuable resources. A large system may have over a dozen mining points in it. That's fine and all, but that's a lot of mining potential and you receive an alert every time your mining station is attacked. By what I would consider mid-game, once I've more or less completed my initial expansion and now press up against other empires, I have scores of mining stations. Mining as a whole is important, but any single mining station isn't particularly valuable. Thankfully, the AI automation is very good at setting up new mining systems so you don't need to manually send out your mining units.

However, the alert system is not so nuanced. I receive alerts for every attack on every mining station. Little information is provided on these reports and they come in fast and furious. I can't tell from an alert whether this is a single pirate destroyer skirmishing on the frontier or the initial attack of an alien armada aimed at my home system. If you click on an alert you should be sent to the area in question, but the game doesn't change the zoom level. Watching an attack on a single mining station isn't particularly useful at the galaxy zoom level. Consider that I am getting a ton of these alerts every minute of the game and the alert system becomes unworkable.

The same can be said about nearly every other system in the game: good AI for automation (probably the best I've ever seen in a 4X game), but poor human interface. Of course once you get used to the AI, which will intelligently colonize planets, choose tech goals, and automate other high-level tasks (and can be turned off or overridden if you want to perform those tasks yourself), you will become frustrated by what the AI doesn't do.

Why the AI can intelligently choose a planet for a colony but wouldn't build planet infrastructure or critical star ports is beyond me.

Probably some of my complaints could be salved through setting up AI priorities and adjusting other settings in the game, but I'll be damned if I can find the right screens to do that. The interface is just complex and obtuse.

If you are interested in an innovative space 4x with great AI automation then maybe you should give this game a try. I can't recommend it straight out because it can be really frustrating to work with. Maybe you will enjoy it, but be warned.

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62 of 102 people (61%) found this review helpful
20.2 hrs on record
Posted: May 27

Looks and sounds great
Very deep research system keeps things from getting stale
The galaxy feels alive
Watching events unfold naturally can be a lot of fun


Actually playing the game becomes a tedious mess
Horrible menu system
Hard to access necessary information
Pathetic AI makes automation a death sentence
Too difficult to keep track all necessary game elements with out help from the AI

Distant Worlds: Universe is a game I want to like so badly, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't over come the games horrible user interface, pacing issues, and horrible AI.

As far as 4x space strategy games go, Distant Worlds has a surprising amount of depth. All of the components of everything you create require a specific type of recourse witch would create a nice challenge as you try to supply distant bases in an ever expanding empire, except that it is unnecessarily difficult to tell what any given base needs. The game provides no warning if, for example, one of your bases has run out of gas to fuel your ships' reactors until you recieve a warning of an alien attack only to realize the defense fleet you had at the station has no fuel and cant move. While this information can be looked up manually, it requires navigating a confusing, poorly ordered menu system, and browsing static menus for long periods of time just is not fun. The bad menus and lack of warning aren't an issue in the early game when your empire is small, but when your empire takes up a large chunk of the galaxy it can be neigh but impossibl to manage.

Distant Worlds also takes place at a surprisingly fast pace, with three technology trees that are all recearched simultainiously. New technologies are researched fairly quickly, so you will often find your once mighty fleet quickly becoming obsolete. Between your Military Ships, Civilian Ships, and Stations, which can quickly add up to over thrity designs, can quickly become an overwhelming management crisis, which requires tedious menu browsing to solve. This would not be so bad if not for the games terrible AI. If left to its own devices, the AI that manages you ship upgrades, research, and fleet assignements will damn you with the first pirate base you discover. The AI will equip your ships with a single week beam weapon, or if you are lucky, a few missle pods, then hurl them en mass at an infinitely better equiped pirate base. All the while, it will be researching how to upgrade your ground troops while a human fleet is bombing you from space.

I really wanted to like Distant Worlds, but I just couldn't overcome its design flaws. It is a shame, because underneath it all is a the obvious potential for a really great game. The game looks good, sounds great, and has a level of depth and customization rarely seen in any game. The galaxy really comes alive once you have mad contact with a few neighboring empires, as civilian ships begin to establish trade routes and interact with your intersteallar neighbors, and it can be fun to just kick back and watch things unflod with out your intervention. Acually playing the game however, is a tedious slog down menu lane. If you are a hardcore 4x strategy fan, there may be something here you can salvage, but for anyone else the tedious menu system an terrible AI are just too much.

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12 of 12 people (100%) found this review helpful
71.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 7
I can’t believe I haven’t played this game earlier. DWU is an enormous 4x strategy game set in space. On first sight, it can look overwhelming… but thanks to the developers, you can set almost everything into “AI controlled”. This is great, because if you just want to see a living universe in front of your eyes, you basically set all to “automated” and just see everything fold in front of your eyes. Other people preffer to micromanage every aspect of their Empire… and the game allows them to do it too! Personally, I am in a middle ground, I like to micromanage, but I do not want to micromanage all the details of this game. One simple example, early in the game I manually send my explorers to the neighboring systems to see what is out there… but once I have a solid base around me, I just don’t care anymore and I set them to “Ai controlled”… the AI can manage very well the task of jumping from system to system all the time. There are dozens of features in the game that I like and I think that are very well implemented, but I think that one to mention is the simple “ship designer”: You can basically design whatever you want in there adding components to your ship (that you research on the tech tree obviously). You do not like the basic Frigate design? No problem, just edit it, add more torpedoes and lasers… and then retrofit it to your entire fleet!! Awesome!
I highly recommend this game to all the people that love strategy games in space, you will surely not regret it!
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11 of 12 people (92%) found this review helpful
38.2 hrs on record
Posted: May 27
I bought this on a whim and having been having a lot of fun learning the ins and outs. You can go for uber-micro where you manage every little aspect of the game... from ship designs, to colony tax rates, to research, to ground troop deployment, to ship maneuvering, to fleet operations, to... well, you name it. Alternatively, you can play the role of a lone ship captain, turn all management over to the AI, and just manage one... single... ship. This way, you can get a feel for the game and see what kinds of decisions and operations the AI takes out so you don't feel totally overwhelmed.

My first shot at controlling a minimal amount of ships went like this:
- Set things up in the Age of Shadows, kept pirates weak, went for smaller sectors, played pre-warp Empire
- Took command of the first exploration ship that got produced by the AI
- Bee-lined it for a planet that contained ruins on it (signified by three dots next to the name in the map)
- Uncovered the secrets of warp. Changed up the research tree to concentrate on warp capabilities
- By this time, the AI popped out a two-ship fleet containing a frigate and a destroyer. I decided to switch the exploration ship to auto and then assumed command of the fleet
- With this mini-fleet, I was able to fend off some pirate attacks. Unfortunately, one of my mining stations fell and was taken control by the blasted pirates.
- I destroyed the pirate controlled mining station which kicked out a data core that gave me coordinates to an abandoned ship in a nearby sector.
- I visited that sector and uncovered a Capital ship that was adrift. I could not believe my luck! It had a huge warp inhibitor field to prevent enemies from running away, a large squadron of on-board fighters, tractor beams, and massive firepower. I quickly added that to my fleet.
- The AI sent out several exploration ships which lead to the discovery of the base of operations for a pirate gang. I brought the Capital ship enabled fleet to the system and was able to wipe that base out.
- Their base in shambles, the pirates quickly thought better of the situation and handed the remnants of their fleet over to me.

Wow. Is that cool or what???

All of that occurred without much micro-managing. The AI did the heavy lifting and I was able to engage in the fun of simply being a Fleet Commander. Very cool stuff. There is definitely a learning curve, but having a neckbeard is not a hard and fast requirement to enjoy this deep game.

Highly recommended!
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