Not Giving a 4X (Demo): Distant Worlds

By Kieron Gillen on March 31st, 2010 at 12:14 pm.

It's not that distant. It's over there.

The forums have been all over this. While I’ve yet to play it – it doesn’t have a demo – Distant Worlds seems definitely worth a plug. It’s from Code Force and is a real-time 4X game, basically. Bar all the scope of the genre, its defining feature is how much can be automated beneath you. As in, the empire’s civilians will go about and create their living little empire while you control the high-scale strategy. Reading around threads and AARs – try this ship design one – make me suspect this could be well worth digging into. Footage follows. Anyone played it?

Okay, I’m going to intro this video with a little note. Yes, it’s clearly been done with a mike even worse than the RPS podcast one. Let’s take that as a given and not judge it from that, eh?

More mini-picture-footage introducing various aspects of the game can be found on Code Force’s youtube channel.

Now to talk Matrix into giving me a review copy or – gasp – buying one. Perish the thought.

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66 Comments »

  1. Thermal Ions says:

    CodeForce / Matrix, please save Kieron from the trauma of purchasing a game. He’s been a journalist for so long he’s forgotten how and the thought obviously terrifies him. ;-)

    Oh, and it’d be a good way to let us all know how awesome your game is. It is isn’t it?

  2. Michael Struwig says:

    Reminds me a lot of Sins of a Solar Empire, just much larger in scope.

    Thinks Sins of a Solar Empire where the universe is the size of Spore’s. That’s pretty much what it is. I’ll give it a look… I’m a HUGE fan of Sins.

    • sox3502 says:

      It’s actually not as much like sins as you might think. think of it more like a massive scale 4x game (like MOO) but without the levels of abstraction. (i.e. materials actually have to be shipped and picked up and moved to where they are needed to build stuff, populations of migrants move from one planet to another and can be blown up, etc.)

    • Vinraith says:

      I weep for a generation of gamers whose understanding of what a 4X game is comes from Sins of a Solar Empire.

    • Adam Bloom says:

      You would rather it come from MOO3?

  3. Daniel Rivas says:

    Video lost me at “giant space monsters”.

    I have no soul?

    • kikito says:

      How is that possible? They are ready devear any passing spaceships!

    • Grunt says:

      Correct, Daniel.

      Now stay still while I stake you for the good of all.

    • kikito says:

      I meant to devear. Stupid uneditable comments.

    • Wulf says:

      “Devear”? Perhaps I’m just used to NZ accents (I have a couple of friends there) but I could clearly hear the o and the u. It sounded like devour to me.

      Also, hooray for a living Universe! I always disliked the dead Universe concept, where there simply can’t be anything living out there. Space monsters sounds like lots of fun! Perhaps not very realistic, but fun!

  4. Grunt says:

    This looks like HUGE fun. With this, Armada 252690210 and Star Ruler due out soonish the 4X genre is a really busy one of late!

  5. Flaringo says:

    Galactic space lobsters control the universe.

  6. Trope says:

    This seems very. very similar to AI war. That’s no bad thing, but when are we getting that diary RPS ?

  7. malkav11 says:

    Sort of sounds like what Master of Orion 3 was attempting to do…and failed miserably at.

  8. DaveyJones says:

    I was just going to say, isn’t this just a larger-scale version of AI War? It actually looks better, imo. I’ve always leaned towards space sims with a much smaller emphasis on combat and more on government.

  9. Rich says:

    Looks interesting. Still, A DEMO, I demand a demo!
    Very few games do I ever buy without having tried a demo, and when I do, past experience says I have a 50/50 chance of being grossly disappointed.

  10. Hippo says:

    Code Force… I like that name. Sounds like an Amiga-era demoscene group. Game looks fun too, wish they’d release a demo though. Or at least a review copy for you guys to write about.

  11. Wednesday says:

    I love Galciv 2 to death, if this is better than that, then it’s a must buy.

    • Huw says:

      It kinda feels like a (pausable) real-time GalCiv 2, actually – although there’s more to it than that and it’s more macro than micro. Put it this way, I like SoaSE, SotS, GalCiv, Space Empires etc, and I *love* Distant Worlds.

  12. bill says:

    A 4x game where citizens are actually smart and you don’t have to tell them to do everything???????

    Finally! After decades of waiting!!

  13. Scythe says:

    Seems to be a lot like Master of Orion, which is a very good thing.

    Oh, and that’s a Kiwi accent, a very thick one at that.

  14. Nessin says:

    I wish they had a demo, because its hard to define the game. But its very much a macro-control game. For example, you have no control over what you research, but you can read up on what is being researched, add money to support specific projects, and build stations which increase how many research points you generate.

    The basic idea seems ot actually emulate the idea of a true empire under which you control. You’re not assigning every little build/research/fleet task in the game, instead you “delegate” most of that to the AI (willingly or not depending on the specific task). You can still take full control of most aspects in the game, but it seems designed such that you make the big decisions, like telling an entire fleet (as opposed to individual ships) where to go, whether to build a massive space station or not, and authorizing the new ship design or not.

    Plus, the civiilian ships are a nice little touch that keep the universe alive, and actually give your some purpose later in life. Now you can actually raid (or be raided) by an opponent, rather than just outright conquer. And you can actually affect an opponents economy without having to take over colonies.

    Not saying its perfect, but it is a 4x game that is drastically different than anything I’ve seen attempted in over 15 years (except for maybe MOO3, which is Distant Worlds closest comparison). I’m not in the habit of encouraging anyone to buy a game without trying it first, which makes it hard to recommend Distant Worlds, I can say I honestly love it. I’d offer that if you liked AI War, GalCiv2, MOO2/3, you’ll probably enjoy Distant Worlds (although maybe be disappointed in some things like the lack of micro-managing colonies or off-hand management style).

    • sox3502 says:

      I agree with most of your comments. It plays out like I hoped MOO3 should have played. I’m still exploring the game as it is very complex, but it is very good from the 2 days I’ve played it so far. It is actually pretty difficult to describe as there is not much else out there like it. Imagine a game focused on the MACRO aspects of empire building, but still allowing you as much micro ability as you want or don’t want.

      also, the game has an incredible scale– I mean MASSIVE.

    • Rich says:

      “…you have no control over what you research, but you can read up on what is being researched, add money to support specific projects, and build stations which increase how many research points you generate.”

      Intriguingly realistic approach.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    I’m interested, i guess i’ll have to wait for a sale though i don’t spend that kind of money without a demo.

  16. Schmung says:

    I’m interested. The super low system requirements are also a bonus. Some sort of demo or trial would be nice though – I really need to click with sort of game and if I don’t then it’ll just sit there gathering dust.

  17. Gabanski83 says:

    I like the look of that, actually. But I’m a little short on cash, and I don’t really want to drop £27 on something like this without a little demo or trial just to see if I’d actually like the game.

  18. sox3502 says:

    I’ve played it. I like it alot so far. ask me questions if you have them :)

  19. Tycow says:

    Also played it. Had a few teething problems, but in generally experience so far has been nothing short of awesome. :)

  20. Son_of_Montfort says:

    Hey guys, I’m Son_of_Montfort, aka Baelthazar, aka Chris Beck, the author of the design AAR mentioned above (OMG, I got a send up on RPS!!!) and the Preview articles on Wargamer.com ( This one and this one. I am also a beta tester, and I have let Erik Rutkins (Matrix front-man) about Kieron’s desire for a review copy. Although, with the pound stronger than the dollar, he could help out the US economy a little! ;-)

    I really love the game, and you all should feel free to come to the Wargamer.com forums and join in on the DW topic – which has some 9000+ views and is in 6 or so pages now! Lots of people are having a great time with the game and are posting questions and tips.

    If you see me (as Son_of_Montfort there, or as Baelthazar on the Qt3, Octopus Overlords, and Gaming Trend forums) give me a shout out and feel free to ask any questions!

    MODERATOR: Edited to make it work better.

  21. Son_of_Montfort says:

    And apparently I left off the ending bracket to my ending link… so the entire second half of my post is a hyper link.

    Brilliant.

  22. Wulf says:

    I’m really excited about this, but sadly it seems like another game which doesn’t have modifiable UI scales and font sizes, and I tire of using windows magnifier for everything. If that isn’t the case, let me know, as I’d really want to give this a try.

    • Son_of_Montfort says:

      Wulf, the font size is a common complaint and I expect will be something that is going to be patched relatively soon.

      Other than the UI and the font size, however, nearly every other aspect is moddable. People have already been experimenting with making really really cool Star Trek ships to add to the game!

      Thanks to the mod for making my links work!

    • Wulf says:

      If that gets patched, then I’m in because I really do like the look and sound of this. Very much so. I admit that I was hooked at the mention of giant space monsters, but that’s because I love things that dare to at least be a little bit different.

      If font/UI scales does get patched in, I’d like to know. So if any stoic fans want to keep me updated, give me a shout at: shaman.wulf AT googlemail PERIOD com when it happens, but I’ll try and keep an eye on this myself, too.

  23. Vinraith says:

    I’ve been following this one for awhile now, as it seems to have enormous potential. When Sins was first announced as a “4XRTS” I was hoping for a sort of Europa Universalis in space, unlike Sins this looks like the real deal in that regard. I do wish it had a demo, though.

  24. James Allen says:

    Here is the closing to my review (as of a couple of days ago), which serves as a good summary. In short, if you like 4X games, DW is a must have.

  25. On Da Fence says:

    I don’t suppose we might see this on Steam or another DD site soon (with a weekend sale)?

    $40 is a bit stiff to jump in blindly without a demo or anything (not going to “demo” it via the other nefarious route either).

    I’m just a bit wary of the RTS route since I’m more of a TBS guy.

    • Vinraith says:

      @On Da Fence

      Matrix’s president has made it pretty clear he doesn’t intend to put their games out on services like Steam and Impulse, unfortunately, so I wouldn’t anticipate it in this case.

      As to being “more of a TBS guy,” my sense is that this is real time in the sense of a game like Europa Universalis rather than Starcraft. That is, it’s slow enough that it plays like a turn based game, and supports pausing and issuing orders so that you can functionally make it a turn based game if that’s what you like.

    • Nessin says:

      @On Da Fence
      It actually kind of plays out like a TBS if you stick to the default settings or apply more automation. You spend a lot of time overviewing the sitation and planning big decisions down the road rather than constantly tinkering with everything real-time. Yeah, there are moments of exceptions, but by and large it feels a lot like a TBS game to me because of that. You can also pause the game and issue orders if needed, although I’ve yet to do it as the game is definitely not twitched-based unless you turn off all automation.

      Also, its unlikely to be available via another download service. Matrix Games has their own system and they usually only sell their games through it or in stores. I think Time of Wrath is the only game of theirs I’ve seen sold on another service (Impulse).

  26. On Da Fence says:

    Thanks for the info!

    Gonna read up on some more opinions, but it’s sounding more and more like a must-buy.

    • Son_of_Montfort says:

      I think you will find Matrix’s online store to be superior to the rest. They use Digital River to get the file to you, not my favorite, but there is 100% no DRM and you can copy that install file to a zip drive, DVD, etc. All you have to do is enter a serial number to install the game, like in the old days – no online check, no phone home. You can even install that file on any computer you own, any number of times.

      If you loose the file and can’t re-download it, you can personally email Erik Rutkins and he will help you out the best he can. If you think you have seen good customer service, you wait till you see Matrix’s customer service. If it takes Gamersgate 48 hours, Steam 30 hours and Impulse 24 hours to respond – then it takes Matrix 12 hours or less to respond. No joke. Erik doesn’t sleep.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Son_of_Montfort

      They use Digital River to get the file to you, not my favorite, but there is 100% no DRM and you can copy that install file to a zip drive, DVD, etc.

      Thanks, I’d been trying to find out what their DRM policies were and was having absolutely no luck (perhaps because they basically don’t have any). There are several Matrix games I’ve given thought to purchasing on various occasions, DRM-free digital download is sufficient enticement to take the plunge.

  27. captain fitz says:

    Sounds a bit like Conquest: Frontier Wars. I loved that game.

    • Azhrarn says:

      from what I can see this is much more grand in scale than Conquest was though.
      Conquest was quite a tactical game, this appears to be grand strategy 4X. =)

  28. TimA says:

    The ship design stuff looks interesting, kindof like Aurora (http://aurorawiki.pentarch.org/) but with actual graphics and a UI. Doubt it matches the depth of Aurora, but it looks good.

    Not having a demo is a bit silly, to be honest.

  29. Dethgar says:

    My biggest problem with 4x has always been the monotonous micro. So if this does the micro and lets you focus on “macro”, then I’m all for it. Out of curiosity, is it mod-able? I mean in the way that say M+B is mod-able.

    • Vinraith says:

      @dethgar

      From what I can tell, not exactly. Well, not yet anyway. There’s a lot of “inbuilt customization” though, as their site states:

      Built-in Customization: modify all ship art, alien races, and much more. Switch between different customization sets with a couple of mouse clicks from the main game menu

      and

      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

      http://codeforce.co.nz/features.asp

      So a Star Trek or B5 “mod” would be easily accomplished with what’s currently in the game, but a major reworking of the rules or modification of the AI isn’t presently possible. There is some intimation that it might be in the future, but anything like that has to be taken with a grain of salt.

  30. Bonedwarf says:

    Problem with Matrix is their games are always overpriced. The latest War in the Pacific cost me over $100 (since I ordered the disk version). Only bought the disk version as I was sick of having bloody PDF manuals.

    They do put out good games though. (Maximum Football not withstanding.)

  31. dethgar says:

    Bonedwarf said:
    Problem with Matrix is their games are always overpriced. The latest War in the Pacific cost me over $100 (since I ordered the disk version). Only bought the disk version as I was sick of having bloody PDF manuals.

    They do put out good games though. (Maximum Football not withstanding.)

    Just had a look at their store, and while it nice that they make a lot of these titles that big time developers won’t touch, they are super expensive. Even the digital only option on most of their games is $30 USD. That’s just $10 USD cheaper than what I paid for BC2. With that said, I’ve been looking for a good strategy game for a while, will probably give this a shot. A Star Trek mod would be awesome.

  32. Tagert says:

    Well since I am a huge fan of 4X games and since I’m now on holidays for two weeks and needing something to entertain me, I’ve decided to purchase this game. I shall report back at the earliest convenience!

    • Tagert says:

      I’m already slightly annoyed by the need to purchase an extended download service if I want to download it after 30 days. I cannot guarantee that I wont delete it sometime in the future in a fit of insanity. Oh well…

    • Son_of_Montfort says:

      Weeeelll…. I suggest burning that file to a DVD or putting it in a safe place, but…. and this is no promise… Matrix customer support is pretty good about helping people with lost files.

  33. dethgar says:

    @Vinraith

    Ah, thats disappointing, but I’ll take a little modding rather than no modding. A B5 mod would be great too. I remember being disappointed by the B5 mod made for HW2 though. :(

  34. sox3502 says:

    My suggestion is that if you even remotely like the 4x genre, give this game a chance. I understand all of your concerns about no demo, etc. but at least do some reading up on their forums or looking into the game. I can’t really think of why you would not like this game (unless you got some nasty CTD bug or something which I have not had at all since their most recent patch).

    Also, for those of you who absolutely would not consider buying without demo, you might want to go do some googling on the torrents if you like to try before you buy.

    I would never do such a thing, mind you.

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