Distant Worlds 2 Review

My human republic had just discovered FTL technology and my commercial and resource gathering industries were picking up steam—I had a decent mining fleet which was necessary for building many things.

The local pirate factions that were relatively close to my homeworld seemed content with me paying them off for “protection.” But one of them became more and more hostile as time went on. Soon, we could see the writing on the wall. We began to build up our measly navy in the anticipation of an attack.

But we weren’t prepared enough in time when the belligerent space bandit launched their attack on my poor defenseless mining vessels. The pirates swarmed them as my navy swooped in to try their best to defend my much-needed civilian fleet. We were humans, resourceful, and at times, martial when we needed to be—and we’d prove that in the upcoming battle.

Yes, you heard that right, the Distant World 2’s default technology for ship travel is indeed pre-FTL. That’s one of the coolest things I first noticed about this little space RTS gem developed by Code Force and published by Slitherine. This is a hardcore space-focused strategy title that gives players the freedom to engage with the mechanics that they want to embrace as they built their ideal galactic civilization.

No, there isn’t some grand core campaign, the game unfolds like a story that you create as you play one of the seven featured races, which are as diverse as they could be. Each features special victory conditions and event chains. There’s a lot of writing here, designed to convey information rather than entertain. Make sure to check the in-game encyclopedia anytime something seems unclear.

Gameplay-wise, Distant Worlds 2 is a complex 4X title and a fairly traditional one at that. The unique selling proposition is the layers of depth it offers. Its entire economic system is handled by private actors moving around in the background. Gamers will control everything from planet development to ship design, from scientific advances to fleet composition and duty.

One of the biggest new ideas that separate this game from others is its scope of what you control. A player who wants to look at every detail and make every decision can do so, spending time and energy to engage with the systems and build the most efficient civilization. Someone who wants to focus on exploration can lead his science ships, leaving taxation and planet development to the computer, with a relative efficiency drop.

Personally, I love to tinker around with my civilization’s economy and fantastic ship designer, but still, never feel like I am missing out on anything. It’s also fun to mess around with the game’s diplomacy and research fields, as well as the occasional foray into espionage. Exploration and keeping pirates at bay are the most important activities in the early game.

Vast nebulae create chokepoints (unlike Stellaris) and coupled with planet quality, will define prime expansion spaces. Once the player meets another civilization or two a race for prime space real estate starts, especially if the rivals are aggressive. This is the part of the experience I love best.

By the way, developing a strong economy is a big task and becomes a priority as soon as you have around 2 or 3 worlds to work with. There are too many resources in the game to keep full track of so I like to focus on what’s most urgent. Automate as much of this as you feel comfortable with while learning what you need to manually work on.

When you (or if you) make it to the late game, with its increased number of attention sinks, the game feels a little burdensome. But that’s where you can scale down what you want to focus on and let the AI handle the rest of the heavy lifting. You can also pause as often as you want to deal with the many incoming choices and messages. And at least one of the computer-controlled empires always seems to have a military edge I fail to deal with.

Many gamers wonder if Distant Worlds 2 has the potential that the first entry in the series had. I only played Distant Worlds for about 30 hours, but I understood how great it could be. This second installment updates and improves everything that seemed promising back then. I plan to give it time to learn how to master systems. But for a newcomer, the game can be challenging to get into. But it’s so worth it if you have the patience to learn its many systems.

Distant Worlds 2 offers a great-looking galaxy to play around in with its beautiful graphics while also striving to deliver a clean user interface. If you ignore the constant threats from opposing races and space itself, the galaxy can be beautiful to simply look at. Even better, players can quickly get to the info and the choices that they are focused on, although the interface gets some getting used to. Unfortunately, the presentation is not enhanced by the uninteresting sound design and the soundtrack that does not fit the theme.

Simply put, this is a rich space-based, real-time strategy experience that can provide hundreds of hours of fun to a dedicated fan. The narratives that unfold are interesting enough and are complemented by the game’s complex mechanics. The automation options are deep and make it easier to focus on certain aspects of the 4X concept, delegating the rest to a decent computer algorithm.

Remember, before jumping into Distant Worlds 2, be sure to set aside time and patience. Make extensive use of the in-game help, read forums if you need to, delegate a lot at first, and only engage with what you like. Code Force and Slitherine have delivered a solid 4X strategy title here, which means updates and DLC can only improve it and add accessibility and fun.

RATING: 9.2

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