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:
Mostly Positive (710 reviews) - 79% of the 710 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: May 23, 2014

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May 28

Distant Worlds: Universe daily deal!

The critically acclaimed Distant Worlds: Universe gets a daily deal on Steam!

For 48 hours the game will get a -60% discount on Steam! Distant Worlds: Universe is a massive and epic 4x game, recently labelled by Rock, Paper, Shotgun as one the best space strategy game of all times. Few if any other games offer the same scale and level of detail of Distant Worlds: Universe. It's the ultimate space strategy experience. If you haven't played it yet, don't miss this opportunity!


44 comments Read more

May 4

Slitherine lands on Bundle Stars! Distant Worlds: Universe at 50% off!

Amazing news!

We are happy to announce that Slitherine lands on Bundle Stars!

Starting from today a number of our games will be sold on the Bundle Stars store at a very special discount price!

If you are of a mind to save don’t miss this amazing offer. A whole Slitherine bundle comprising of three different tiers with so many titles at an incredibly cheap price. Three games for 1.99$, seven for 3.99$ and eight for 7.99$!


The details of the bundle are as follow:

Tier 1: $1.99

- Battle of the Bulge
- Time of Fury
- Pride of Nations

Tier 2: $3.99 (including Tier 1!)

- Vietnam ‘65
- Ravenmark
- Legions of Steel
- Close Combat Panthers in the Fog

Tier 3: $7.99 (Including Tier 1 and Tier 2!)

- Pandora First Contact

The Bundle offer is valid until May 14th!

But it’s not all, folks. Be sure not to miss these amazing discounts on some of our other titles:

Battle Academy – 75% off!
Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front – 75% off!
Battle of the Bulge – 33% off!
Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager – 50% off!
Distant Worlds: Universe – 50% off!
Last Days of Old Earth – 15% off!
Order of Battle: Pacific – 40% off!
Vietnam ’65 – 50% off!
Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon – 35% off!

All the discounts will be valid for 72 hours.

By buying these titles on Bundle Stars you will receive Steam keys and you will need to activate the products on Steam.

What are you waiting for? Don’t miss this unique opportunity and visit the Bundle Stars store now!

1 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, 8, 10
    • Processor: Pentium 4 @1.5 GHz
    • Memory: 1 GB RAM
    • Graphics: minimum 1024 x 768 resolution, 32 bit
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 1 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9 compatible
    • Additional Notes: Requires Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer
    • OS: Windows Vista, Windows 7, 8 (64-bit), 10
    • Processor: Dual Core CPU @ 2.0 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: minimum 1024 x 768 resolution, 32 bit
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 1 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9 compatible
    • Additional Notes: Requires Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer
Customer reviews
Customer Review system updated Sept. 2016! Learn more
Mostly Positive (710 reviews)
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600 reviews match the filters above ( Mostly Positive)
Recently Posted
6.8 hrs
Posted: September 26
With all due respect to the time the developers spend on this game ... it is a waste of money, waste of time and colossal disappointment in the history of RTS Games …
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96.0 hrs
Posted: September 25
Best 4x game there is, and possibly ever will be. It's only fault is lack of multiplayer. Thanks for this game and please devs make a second one with multiplayer and all. This game puts all other 4x games to shame. The most complex and awesome economy system and lack of micromanaging with a engaging and evolving private economy makes this feel like a true empire simulation game.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
24.2 hrs
Posted: September 9
I haven't actually played the game yet, but here are my first impressions:
1. On Windows 10 64-bit the game does not install correctly. It just silently fails to run. The fix for this isn't even part of the developer's troubleshooting tips. A user submitted the fix for Windows 8.1 in 2014. I find it inconceivable that the developers didn't bother fixing this problem two years ago. To save some searching, run this for the fix:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\Distant Worlds Universe\_CommonRedist\DirectX\Jun2010\DXSETUP.exe"

2. There is no support for large monitors. I have a 29" monitor, and I think (but am not sure) DW:U runs in 1024 x 768. There's no option to change the resolution in the video settings. In my humble opinion, whatever resolution the developers are using looks ugly on a large monitor.

I'm actually so ♥♥♥♥♥♥ at the developers, that I'm not even going to try the game. I'm going to get my money back. I may be missing the ultimate best strategy game ever written, but there are always other games to play.
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82.8 hrs
Posted: August 23
Most in depth strategy game on the market i believe. Depth trumps graphics for me and this game does it so good its still a 10/10.
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22.0 hrs
Posted: August 22
Great game. You can select how much automation you want and only do things that you like. Don't want to do military or design ships automate it! Private sector creates a living world where your citizens trade and do tourism by themselves.

A little pricey but all DLC is included. Definitely recommended.
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Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
7 of 7 people (100%) found this review helpful
627.9 hrs on record
Posted: September 9
If you want a space empire sim that probably has one of the best economies and AI automation systems available then you should get this game. Read ahead for pros and cons.


1. Great AI for managing some of the more tedious aspects of your empire once you get very large, and with 1000+ star systems you will need this, especially with so many planets in each system.

2. A real dynamic economy! You can actuallly starve other empires of fuel if you claim most of the fuel spots, which is difficult. More easy is to own most rare luxuries through quick expansion and conquest. Also, keep taxes low. Your private economy will flourish, and you will get far more funds from their spending this way.

3. Some people dislike the UI, but I like it. It is simple, and clean, and gives you all the info you need to properly manage a vast empire.


1. In my opinion, the character system of the game should have been editted out... completely. I think Galactic Civilization (GalCiv) does Diplomacy and Espionage MUCH better. In this game, you have characters, which I hate. They can give significant bonuses, or sometimes penalties. The character system is by far the weakest point, imo, of this game!

1a. The worst part is espionage is done directly through character spies. They can die on missions, and they can have a HUGE impact on the game. It got to the point that I decided to just ingore that part of the game, and just automate it. It is broken, and if you use it you may find yourself save scumming to get the best results. Just automate it and make believe it isn't there. I like GalCiv's method of spending a part of your economy towords a specific empire in espionage. There is no managing of individual spies, no worries about them dying, and you don't have to worry about actually receiving them randomly. It is a much much better system.

1b. A short note, you do get diplomats, and they can either significantly help or even hurt your diplomatic stance towards an empire. Additionally, they can effect espionage between your two empires, either making it easier or more difficult for you to steal tech, and vice verse. Again, I think this is a terrible system, especially that it also can effect espionage. Again, GalCiv does this better by tying it into the economy spending.

2. Fleet Management: The only thing this game needs to complete its fleet managment system, which really isn't too bad, is a system to quickly replace destroyed ships in a fleet. If you have automated fleets, this isn't exactly a problem for a player, but I don't use that system. I like to micro my fleets as I focus more on the combat portion of the game. When a ship is destroyed, I have to either pick a shipyard/station or go into the general purchase screen and purchase more of those ships. THEN I have to find them in the military management screen and add those ships to the fleet that lost them. It would be far easier to just click on the fleet and press a button that says "Replace Destroyed Ships". MANY space sims have this feature now, and I REALLY wish the devs would update the game with a system like that. All the pieces are there, just add that little button... PLEASE!!!!

3. Fleet Movement: I like the warp system ingame, but it could use more flavor. Warp Gates and other systems of movement would be great.

3a. Also, when fleets warp then don't warp in formation. When they warp to a location the warp in a stupid circle around it. THIS GETS FLEETS KILLED!!! It is a terrible system that I hope in the next game or an update will be rectified.

4. I will say that the price is steep for some people. However, I think it is somewhat justified in the past, but now, with so much competition, they should probably lower the price to at least $40 USD.
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
135.9 hrs on record
Posted: August 28
As a hardcore strategy enthusiast, this game is the best space 4x game ever made. The size and scope and level of micromanagement possibilities are so refreshing in a genre and industry that tries to water everthing down and simplify things to ensure a larger playerbase (more profit). If you enjoy the complexity and scope of the Paradox grand strategy games and Civilization games, do yourself a favor and get this game.

For those that vehemently defend MOO2, yes it's one of the best games ever, but nostalgia bears no weight on my decision making and this game is objectively better, in that it is not limited by programming restricitons of the 90s. I love it too, but can we please stop defending "our childhoods" (I was in the military when MOO2 came out)?
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
37.2 hrs on record
Posted: August 31
Worth every single penny. Its one of if not the best 4x space sim out. The graphics might not be appealing but it makes up for that in just sheer gameplay value. Their are many race options, some of them have their own special tech that they can research wich is definatly worth it. The story line is ok I have gotten as far as the late game and its been a fun ride. I have not tired modding yet but I have my eyes on a few I might try.

P.S. Even though I reccomend this game a full price, try and snag it on sale it makes it feel like its worth it even more.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
253.7 hrs on record
Posted: September 12
amazing scope and immersion. almost everything changable. one of my favorite 4x games of all time.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
34.9 hrs on record
Posted: August 31
Lots of ways to manage your empire.
Expansive galaxy
You don't need to micromanage every single thing
Ai can be left on it's own, and atually manages to do the job, plus they add life to the galaxy!
You don't need to play as the empire, you could be a pirate or even a single ship captain!

Too complex at first
Steep learning curve
Graphics doesn't match up to current standards, and are very old

All in all, this is a game for you if you enjoy complex. 4x, strategy games, but it's not for you, if you are looking for a high-graphics fast-action type of game.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
838 of 891 people (94%) found this review helpful
50.1 hrs on record
Posted: May 23, 2014
Beware as you are just looking at the best 4X game that is.

Don't look at my played time here, this game was available for years already from a very unheard of distributor BUT now is available on Steam at last for the people to see it already.

Maybe you are wondering why it costs so much. Well it has 4 expansions build in it already so that's why. But believe me IT'S WORTH IT. If you like 4X games, this is just a must have.

The cons:

1. The game is not turn based. Everything is done in real time. You can pause the game and speed it up or slow down at your own liking. This may be a + for someone though...
2. It's not as shiny as some other 4X games so if pretty graphics are what you prefer you may be disappointed.
3. The game can be demanding even on high end PC's if you run really large galaxy.
4. Unfriendly UI. If you run huge resolution you will have problems to read the text.
5. The learning curve... you will spend hours getting into the game. But don't be afraid, huge automation can be set up to help you.
6. No multiplayer. I don't mind it but maybe you do?

The Pros:

Everything else. It's the most complex, never ending fun 4X game I have played. Just the way how the AI is done hooked me up. But to make it fair here are some picks for you.

1. Huge amount of races that actually play in character. It's not like in other games where every AI plays the same way but has different stats. Here the AI behaves in the ways how they are described. They play in character like in RPG game.
2. HUGE galaxies. Trust me you never saw something like this before in other 4x games. Each game can last for dozens of hours if you want.
3. Set up your game to the last possible thing you can imagine. The start up set up is just incredible.
4. Automation ... don't like research, or ship design, or diplomacy, or anything else you can imagine? You can automate it. You can focus only on the one thing you like the most!
5. Pirates ... you can even play as one.
6. Mods ... do you want 10 more races or to play Star trek 4x? ... You can have it.
7. Micromanagement ... it can be endless.
8. The complexity, you can spend hours in design tables that make sense in comparison to Moo3 for example.
9. Battles, there is very few games that can simulate such large scale engagements over the whole galaxy.
10. Play it your own way. You can win the game without any battle if you want. On the other side waging wars is FUN.

Do you need to know more? Watch some videos on YouTube from Das24680. He has also full tutorials for those who would need them.

*Update - I have added more Pros as this game deserves it and I have forgot to mention them.
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378 of 405 people (93%) found this review helpful
16 people found this review funny
496.0 hrs on record
Posted: March 9, 2015
I write this review shortly after it becoming my most-played game on Steam.

It's difficult to summarize what is- without question- the best space 4X that exists.

With all my hours, I've never even really played past the midgame. There's so much replayability just in restarting galaxies with different settings. I constantly got somewhere in the midgame and realized there was a setting I wanted to change.

You'd be surprised how much some of those galaxy generation settings make a difference. Things like pirate amount, pirate strength, colonization range, galaxy size, colony influence range, and even the generic difficulty setting.

I constantly toyed with all of them. Trying less but stronger pirates. More but weaker pirates. I finally found the balance I like.

Colonization range matters. Too large and empires jump over each other's borders. Too small and you run out of in-range planets you can colonize.

Galaxy size, in relation to star amount. You can do 15x15 with 1400 stars, or 10x10 with 1400 stars. The difference of course is the density of the entire galaxy.

Influence range. Colonies project "influence" and these influence circles are considered your territory. This is a setting typically not thought of- just set to the recommended setting- but this matters too. For example I'm experimenting with having it set to the minimum setting- 10%- and this is all kinds of interesting. The influence circles basically don't extend beyond their respective solar systems, leaving the vastness of space permanently unclaimed. Multiple empires can have mines within a single solar system, and not ♥♥♥♥♥ at each other for having mines in the other's territory.

The difficulty setting. I played on Normal for the longest time. But I began to notice that towards the midgame, I would have like 16 colonies and every other empire would have like 3 or 4. I was vastly ahead. Bumping the difficulty up to Hard allows the AI to keep up with me, and it's common for a few to stay ahead of me as well. An extremely welcome change, to not just breeze through the entire game.

Ship design is amazing. I love unlocking new components and building ships from scratch. Testing them out in battle. When they wreck face, I feel like it's because I designed them well.

Lots of people describe the game as a space opera and it really is. The stories it creates, the politics that unfold, are amazing.

This game swept me away. I've played it for countless hours on end. There is a feeling of vastness to it that no other 4X has given me, whether in playing them myself or watching others. The fact that the game is real time rather than turn-based is a big part of this.

Look up pictures of the galaxy map for this game, largest size. You actually feel like you're a pathetic little nothing, in just one of the 1400!!! solar systems in the galaxy. Many empires, you'll never actually meet, just because they're so far away.

The reason this is the best is because of immersion, because of its mechanics that effortlessly cause such immersion. Fine control over resources, ship design, and surprisingly good diplomacy.

You can design your mining stations to be weak and have fleets to protect them, at the cost of state funds. Or you can decide to make them extra freaking beefy so that they can hold pirates off on their own, at the cost of the private sector, which usually has a ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ of cash laying around anyway.

Need I go on?

I really hope you guys found this helpful. Comments are greatly welcomed!
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208 of 229 people (91%) found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
21.3 hrs on record
Posted: September 5, 2015
TL:DR? See Conclusion

Distant Worlds: Universe is a game that falls under the RT4X genre (e.g. Sins of a Solar Empire), which is developed by Code Force and published by Slitherine Ltd., most notably known for their catalog of strategy games ranging from 4X to Real Time Strategy (RTS).

PLOT (No Spoilers):
Distant Worlds: Universe has a VAST and EXTENSIVE micromanagement system that basically allows the player to form their own dream space-faring civilization. If you're the type of player who loves war, the game has an extensive tech tree that follows that path. If you're not really into conflict then you can automate most of the war process and focus more on trade and commerce which is also very extensive. To make a long story short, the game can accommodate every play style that different 4X and strategy players usually look for such as War, Trade, Diplomacy, Space Piracy, Benevolent / Tyrannical Empire style etc.

+ Extensive and deep empire management system that allows you to focus on certain aspects that interest the player. (War, Trade, Diplomacy, Space Piracy, Benevolent / Tyrannical Empire etc.)
+ Helpful in-game encyclopedia that details most of the game's mechanics.
+ Customizable civilizations and races, including personalized government types and policies.
+ Design and personalize your own ships, space stations and facilities. (Want to build a Death Star? Sure why not? The game is not going to stop you.)
+ Moddable
+ Unlimited replayability due to the game's extensive nature.
+ Large scale space battles and planet side (ground) combat, something that Sins of a Solar Empire should have had.
+ Good sound design and in-game music.

- Graphics is sub-par. I'll be honest: the 2D sprites in this game are not that pretty to look at.
- User Interface (UI) is barebone in design and sometimes utilizes Windows sound effects and prompts. Seriously, it could use some work.
- Very steep learning curve
- Some sprites overlap each other making them a bit hard to click. Good thing that the game allows you to select the units through a pop-up list of the stacked units.
- Performance may degrade when your empire gets way too large but it still ultimately depends on your PC's CPU power. This means that the System Requirements in the Store page may not truly reflect what you really need if you're planning on playing this on the largest galaxy possible.

EXCELLENT RT4X GAME but only if:

1. You’re a fan of 4X strategy games
2. You love micromanagement
3. Have a lot of free time
4. Have a lot of patience

This game makes all other 4X games look simple in comparison due to its vast scale.

One question that faced many people concerning this game was the hefty price tag of $60 (or your regional equivalent), a price normally seen with large Triple-A title games. In this case however, Distant Worlds: Universe contains the base game plus all past expansions including the final one, so treat this as a 'Complete Edition'.

Buy this game at full price if you fulfill the requirements I listed on the CONCLUSION part because otherwise, wait for a sale if you just want to try the game out.

Like my Reviews? Follow our Curator's Page:

If you liked this review or want to see more recommended games, be sure to follow our curator group: Original Curators Group
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271 of 310 people (87%) found this review helpful
35.4 hrs on record
Posted: May 23, 2014
Distant Worlds is the best 4x available today. It's combination of depth and accessibility is unmatched in this genre.

How, you might ask, does it accomplish this feat? Variable micromanagement. If you want to nurture your colonies from day one, to design every strut and gravatic beam weapon on your ships, and ensure that the right espionage agent ends up on a mission to steal operations maps from your dreaded enemy, you can. On the other hand, if you want the AI to deal with all the micromanagement and to instead cruise around the galaxy in your prototype hyperdrive rocket, look at the ruins of ancient civilizations and run from giant space lobsters, you can do that instead. You can even combine the two -- more or less -- and tool around in the rocket while occasionally changing tax rates, build orders, and spy/diplomatic targets.

Unlike most 4x games, DW is built on the back of a fairly intricate economic simulator. But wait - simulator - does that mean I can't control it??? Not directly. The civilian economy, all those little freightors, gas mining ships, and tourist vessels... that is almost entirely out of your hands. You can set up your military/industrial base to encourage good civilian use, but the civies decide for themselves whether they want to pick up a load of Cason gas and move it to where you need fuel for your next military campaign.

DW:U brings better pathing, improved AI, and expanded mod capabilities to an already great game.

Cons: The game resolution is set to your desktop resolution because it runs in a borderless window. Consequently, the font can be small and hard to read. If this is a problem for you, one solution is to lower your desktop resolution before launching the game.

*This review is based upon many hours of DW:Legends gameplay. Universe brings 2 additional expansions worth of gameplay to the table and I look forward to getting to know it well.
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121 of 126 people (96%) found this review helpful
200.0 hrs on record
Posted: June 29, 2014
Quick Summary:

Distant Worlds is the most complex space 4X strategy game I've played in my 15+ years of gaming. Where it lacks in flashy graphics, it makes up for in vibrant, uniquely immersive gameplay. While it's not without flaws, I definitely recommend it to any would-be galactic emperor looking for a thoughtful space 4X experience.


  • Its galaxies are bustling with life and activity. DW provides pretty much the most engaging simulation of a sentient life-filled universe I've seen to date.
  • A rich and unique economic system: Your civilian taxpayers are actually running their own private economy with ships and bases you can't control.
  • You can automate pretty much anything, letting you focus on controlling the parts you most enjoy.
  • Every little ship has a competent AI allowing your empire to fend for itself even without constant input from you.


  • Colony management is rather simplistic.
  • Research is done by advancing through a fixed tech tree just like in the Civilization series. I consider this a con because it makes large parts of each game play out rather samey, hurting the otherwise great replayability.
  • Due to the complexity, DW isn't an easy game to get into.
  • There's no multiplayer mode. This isn't a con for me but it might be for some.

Detailed Review:

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 is that its galaxies feel "alive" and real to a degree that I just haven't seen in any other space 4X game to date.

They are living, breathing worlds filled with hundreds to thousands of ships, each with their own agenda, going about their daily activities around the clock: civilians hauling cargo, tourists visiting resort bases, military ships patrolling trade lanes, pirates raiding, ancients scheming... all in real time. There's always something going on.

At the core of this bustling activity is the economic model that's one of the most richly conceived ones out there.
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 for instance is handled by the aforementioned private economy *if* they have enough money to buy and maintain their own ships and bases after paying your taxes.

As for self-defense, even on full manual control, your ships can be given individual AI that automatically 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 but you can also take manual control and have them follow your orders only.

In either case, you can leave your ships completely unattended because it's possible to configure their 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 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 the hassle of having to manually control all of that.

Naturally you also have most of the standard/good bits from other 4X classics 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 which will limit how long they can travel or fight before needing to 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. Since technological progress essentially defines 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.

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.

My other complaint would be that colony management is rather simplistic. Setting taxes and race policies is pretty much the only meaningful "management" you can do as there are very few buildings to build and most have no economic impact so there's not much you can do to customize colonies.

Last but not least, it deserves a mention that the first few hours of DW can feel quite intimidating in various ways: If you don't use automation, it can feel overwhelming while if you use too much automation, it can make you feel unneeded. Don't let that discourage you though because with practice it will all become second nature and you will eventually do much better than the automation so just experiment to see which learning style suits you best.

At the end of the day, if you persevered, Distant Worlds will reward you with an epic space 4X experience that you just won't find anywhere else.
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