Saturday, June 21, 2014

Distant Worlds - Universe

Chasing down a pirate in Distant Worlds - Universe

Distant Worlds - Universe is the latest, and apparently the last, installment in the Distant Worlds computer game franchise, but it's almost identical to Distant Worlds - Shadows, which I blogged about here.

In fact, I wasn't going to buy it, because there didn't seem to be any reason to do so. There are supposed to be improved modding capabilities in the new game, but I don't have any particular interest in using a mod.

However, the game was on sale for $10 off, plus there's another $10 off for every previous Distant Worlds game you own (note that this promotion ends August 31st), which brought my cost down to just $10.

For that low price, Distant Worlds - Universe is a great buy even for people who own all the other games. I'll get to the reasons for that in a minute, but the big advantage of this game is for newcomers to the series.

In order to play Distant Worlds - Shadows, I also had to buy the original Distant Worlds game and the two previous expansions, even though it was only the Shadows storyline that interested me. I bought it because I got the whole thing at 40% off, but that was still $70.

But Distant Worlds - Universe is different. It contains all the previous material and all the previous storylines (plus a new one), but it's now a standalone game. You don't have to buy the previous games in order to play this one. (It's not a cheap game. It lists at $60, if you don't find it on sale. But that's a lot better than it was, and I'd say the game is worth it.)

As I said, this game is virtually identical to Distant Worlds - Shadows, so you can read my posts about that, if you've never heard of the Distant Worlds games. Even my tips about playing the game should work fine, although I'll mention a few minor differences below.

One difference - an advantage, I'd say - is that the game plays on Steam now. (I resisted Steam for years, but not anymore. It's just too handy to have my games in one location, plus patches and updates happen automatically. I've become a real fan.)

There are a few other differences - all for the better. For one thing, they've nerfed the effect of low taxes on population growth. It still works as I explained here, but not nearly so dramatically. That's a good thing, because this was more of a game exploit than a feature.

Low taxes still increase a colony's happiness, which increases both its development and population growth. Keeping taxes at zero as long as possible - especially for young colonies - is still advisable. But you can't max out the population on your home planet nearly as quickly as you could previously. (Note that there are other ways to keep populations happy, too, so it's not all about taxes now. Again, that's a good thing.)

My first game of Universe. Mine is the light blue empire (the darker blue circle, NE of my colonies, is an ally).

Resources are also more scarce and more scattered. Sometimes, it's a real effort to find a needed resource, and that's another good thing. It's funny, but resources were my downfall the first time I tried to play Distant Worlds. I ran short of steel, but I couldn't build more steel mines (yes, you "mine" steel in this game) without steel to build them.

I think there was a balance issue when it came to steel specifically, and that was later fixed in a patch. But this is such a complicated game that balance issues are always going to be a concern. Resource acquisition apparently got too easy, so they tweaked it. I agree, though it didn't seem so easy when I was just starting. :)

Finally - at least, of the changes I've noticed during gameplay - they increased font sizes a bit, and there are now two windows where you can enlarge things even more. That was very welcome, since the small fonts had been a problem for me when I'd first bought Shadows.

Anyway, I've been playing the game quite a bit in the last few weeks, and it's been lots of fun. It's a very complicated game, and you might feel overwhelmed at first, but you can automate... well, everything, if you want. (Literally. You can even set the game to play itself while you just watch.)

As time goes on, you'll get more comfortable with the game and probably start controlling more things manually. But how much micromanagement you want to do is entirely your own choice. I really like that.

The screenshots above are from my first game of Distant Worlds - Universe. It was fun, but everything went a bit too well. At normal difficulty, I got so far ahead in the game that I decided to start over. So I've just started a new game where the difficulty is set to "hard" and the aggression set at "restless" (instead of "normal" for both).

I think I'm familiar enough with the game that this will be more of a challenge, but not overly difficult. We'll see. :)

Anyway, I'm playing the humans (as usual), and I started with a demoralizing leader and a scientist who was a foreign spy. Nice start, huh? I fired the leader and got a new one after awhile who's not perfect (-10% colony happiness), but is much, much better than the first.

I kept the scientist, because he was pretty good at high tech research and the only scientist I had. Besides, I was paying off the pirates (so they'd have no reason to attack me), and I didn't have any secrets to steal, anyway. But I'll probably have to get rid of him eventually.

I started with two spys of my own, but lost one of them almost immediately, when he tried to steal research from the pirates. They weren't pleased about the attempt, but I'm still paying them protection money, so they're not too unhappy. (I'm paying off two pirate factions right now, but the cost isn't too bad - see my tips on keeping the cost low here - and I couldn't fight them, anyway.)

It's still very early in the game. I just researched Warp Bubble Generators, so I've got hyperdrive now, but I haven't been outside my own solar system yet. However, we've learned a little about our immediate neighborhood, and it turns out that Sol system is right next door. So I'm going to welcome Earth into our empire just as soon as I can.

I expect them to be happy about that. They'd better be happy about that. :)

Note: My other posts about Distant Worlds, and other computer games, can be found here.

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