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  1. #1
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    So what's the 4X crowd playing these days?

    There's been some interesting looking releases in the 4X genre this last year or so. Has anyone found their new favorite 4X game or are we still playing old classics? Or still lost in Crusader Kings perhaps?

    I'm currently messing about with Civ IV (I bounced off of Civ V) I'm thinking of getting into something new as Civ has gotten stale. Thought maybe I'd get some ideas. I'm not big on fantasy themed games but as long as the difficulty is there and interesting tactical choices to be made then the theme is not important.

    I tried Warlock but found it too easy, I understand there is DLC to make it harder but I'm not sold. Fallen Enchantress looks lovely but I hear the AI is a useless pushover.

    I love sci-fi stuff so there is that Pandora-First Contact. Anyone try it? Last I heard it was in an state that badly needed patches but that was some time ago.
    Last edited by crazy horse; 12-03-2014 at 11:43 AM.

  2. #2
    Activated Node tedesco's Avatar
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    Distant Worlds

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    Quote Originally Posted by crazy horse View Post
    There's been some interesting looking releases in the 4X genre this last year or so. Has anyone found their new favorite 4X game or are we still playing old classics? Or still lost in Crusader Kings perhaps?

    I'm currently messing about with Civ IV (I bounced off of Civ V) I'm thinking of getting into something new as Civ has gotten stale. Thought maybe I'd get some ideas. I'm not big on fantasy themed games but as long as the difficulty is there and interesting tactical choices to be made then the theme is not important.
    If you're into Civ IV the Fall From Heaven mod reworks it hugely, though adds in that fantasy element.

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    Network Hub BTAxis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedesco View Post
    Distant Worlds
    Distant Worlds is pretty good, but you have to be willing to forgive a lot of inconvenience especially when it comes to the UI. The price point is also a problem as you need to buy every expansion if you want the latest version of the game. However, the next installment will be an all-inclusive standalone release, so it might be a good idea to wait for that.

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    Distant Worlds looks like it's worth a buy. Shame it's not on Steam. Would I want all three expansions? Are there major patch improvements in all three?

    I messed a bit around with Fall From Heaven, it was a bit hard to get into with the arcane rules and lack of documentation.

  6. #6
    Network Hub BTAxis's Avatar
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    Spacesector has done reviews of Distant Worlds, the latest being here:
    http://www.spacesector.com/blog/2013...hadows-review/

    Personally I would recommend the latest expansion because it allows you to start without any FTL flight, which I find quite fun. I haven't tried playing as a pirate.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    If you want a sci-fi 4x game with good AI, there is no answer other than Galactic Civilizations 2. The AI in that game (depending on the difficulty setting) will cheat just enough to be an immense challenge but not enough that you notice it is cheating, which is truly the perfect amount. And they are pretty good at playing roles, to the point that there is a WONDERFUL article on a match where the AI ended up helping the player win just to screw over its allies (it is a bit more complex, but emergent behavior). It is getting fairly old, but the artstyle ages well (and the genre hasn't really changed much...)

    If you want something newer: I gave Endless Space on the order of 12 hours of play time, and I really like it. It has a lot of advances with respect to automation and simplification by placing most of the burden on developing your governors/hero units, not your planets (the planets develop themselves). So you feel like you are actually ruling an empire, rather than acting as Mayor of Super Space Land. I also really like the combat system as it has the right mixture of user input and automation. After about 12 hours of playing (which Steam did not detect...) I was still enjoying the battles, which is a pretty stark contrast to any other 4x/grand strategy game where you can have more input beyond "get lots of units and smash them together", which is nice. I am very much looking forward to Endless Fantasy by the same devs.
    The AI isn't all that great and I think the pacing has some issues (it takes a while to get going and you can get screwed horribly by the world's seed), but once you get going it is quite fun.

    From what I have seen, Star Ruler takes that up a few notches by being all about automating your empire. From the videos I have seen, I would compare it to AI Wars in a lot of ways, just with more of an emphasis on development and what not. Can't comment personally though since I never played it (I keep going back to GalCiv 2...)
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    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    If you want a sci-fi 4x game with good AI, there is no answer other than Galactic Civilizations 2. The AI in that game (depending on the difficulty setting) will cheat just enough to be an immense challenge but not enough that you notice it is cheating, which is truly the perfect amount. And they are pretty good at playing roles, to the point that there is a WONDERFUL article on a match where the AI ended up helping the player win just to screw over its allies (it is a bit more complex, but emergent behavior). It is getting fairly old, but the artstyle ages well (and the genre hasn't really changed much...)

    If you want something newer: I gave Endless Space on the order of 12 hours of play time, and I really like it. It has a lot of advances with respect to automation and simplification by placing most of the burden on developing your governors/hero units, not your planets (the planets develop themselves). So you feel like you are actually ruling an empire, rather than acting as Mayor of Super Space Land. I also really like the combat system as it has the right mixture of user input and automation. After about 12 hours of playing (which Steam did not detect...) I was still enjoying the battles, which is a pretty stark contrast to any other 4x/grand strategy game where you can have more input beyond "get lots of units and smash them together", which is nice. I am very much looking forward to Endless Fantasy by the same devs.
    The AI isn't all that great and I think the pacing has some issues (it takes a while to get going and you can get screwed horribly by the world's seed), but once you get going it is quite fun.

    From what I have seen, Star Ruler takes that up a few notches by being all about automating your empire. From the videos I have seen, I would compare it to AI Wars in a lot of ways, just with more of an emphasis on development and what not. Can't comment personally though since I never played it (I keep going back to GalCiv 2...)

    It's been ages since I played GalCiv2, had forgotten about it. I really should return to it. Is there any specific mode you feel demonstrates the game at its best?

    Never heard of Endless Space but it looks very nice. It's a battle between Endless Space and Distant Worlds for being my next buy then. Must put on thinking cap and hunt for reviews. Looks like I'm making interesting tactical decisions already, hooray.

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    I still go back to Sword of the Stars 1 Complete and Master of Orion 2 time to time. Never took the time yet to learn the newer games.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    If you want a sci-fi 4x game with good AI, there is no answer other than Galactic Civilizations 2.
    Yes there is. It's called Distant Worlds and, unlike Gal Civ 2, it actually has a soul and is fun! When I want to play a spreadsheet and unlock great techs like "Laser 1, Laser 2, Laser 3", I'll play Gal Civ 2. Or just doodle in Excel.

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    Actually concerning Distant Worlds, didn't they plan a Universe Edition or something, that'd include the basegame and expansions for a more reasonable price? Or did I get that wrong?

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crazy horse View Post
    It's been ages since I played GalCiv2, had forgotten about it. I really should return to it. Is there any specific mode you feel demonstrates the game at its best?

    Never heard of Endless Space but it looks very nice. It's a battle between Endless Space and Distant Worlds for being my next buy then. Must put on thinking cap and hunt for reviews. Looks like I'm making interesting tactical decisions already, hooray.
    Honestly, I was not aware GalCiv 2 even HAD modes, which says something. I know there was a campaign I never played and I guess there are probably some scenarios, but I just boot in, new game, pick a galaxy design I like, set to lots of stars, lots of planets, and lots of people, then get started.

    Beyond that, you have your standard Military Victory, Tech/Research Victory, and Diplomatic/Cultural victory. But pretty much everything but research boils down to owning a significant portion of the galaxy, and it just varies as to how you do that. A Diplomatic Victory may essentially be the result of murdering the hell out of everyone who didn't side with you.


    Quote Originally Posted by Granath View Post
    Yes there is. It's called Distant Worlds and, unlike Gal Civ 2, it actually has a soul and is fun! When I want to play a spreadsheet and unlock great techs like "Laser 1, Laser 2, Laser 3", I'll play Gal Civ 2. Or just doodle in Excel.
    Whereas I would say that if you want to play something with 90's era graphics, ninety million expensive expansion packs, and a reliance on a digital distribution store built around fucking over customers (Matrix Games and their "extended download" service), you can give DIstant Worlds a shot :p

    The way I see it, GalCiv 2 simplifies things. Rather than have ninety million flavor texts, they keep the stuff where you need to understand the rock-paper-scissors mechanics simple. Instead of having twenty different flavor names for a depleted uranium cannon, they just add numbers. And you know the cannon is stopped by armor but good against shields (note: I may be mixing names up with Space Empires, which is fun but not consistent enough).
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    Network Hub BTAxis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    Whereas I would say that if you want to play something with 90's era graphics, ninety million expensive expansion packs, and a reliance on a digital distribution store built around fucking over customers (Matrix Games and their "extended download" service), you can give DIstant Worlds a shot :p
    All of this is true, and as I've mentioned earlier Distant Worlds suffers from typical Matrix interface snafu as well. But that only makes it all the more remarkable that Distant Worlds is fun, whereas GalCiv 2 is not. Despite Stardock's obviously superior production values, their game just fails to entertain.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BTAxis View Post
    All of this is true, and as I've mentioned earlier Distant Worlds suffers from typical Matrix interface snafu as well. But that only makes it all the more remarkable that Distant Worlds is fun, whereas GalCiv 2 is not. Despite Stardock's obviously superior production values, their game just fails to entertain.
    Well, so far all that has been posted here is "It has a shitty UI, it looks kind of poo-poo, the publishers are assholes" but not anything on WHY it is fun. Which is kind of important since "fun" is pretty subjective.
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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tikey's Avatar
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    I've had tons of fun with GalCiv 2.
    Like that one time rushing to destroy the Dread Lords just the last turn before ascending (and thus winning the game). Fun and exhilarating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    Well, so far all that has been posted here is "It has a shitty UI, it looks kind of poo-poo, the publishers are assholes" but not anything on WHY it is fun. Which is kind of important since "fun" is pretty subjective.
    I'll admit the UI is bad, but the game looks fine. You think the publishers are assholes. No one else has posted that.

    Why is it fun? Because you can do most anything you want and automate what you don't want. Want to just pilot one ship and explore the galaxy? Done. Want to run the political and research side of the government and leave the fleet maintenance to the AI? Done. Want to build ships and set up the fleets, but have the AI prompt you for building things? Done. And all of these are well executed, with enough flavor and variables that make each challenging. The research is more interesting and diverse than found in similar games, including Gal Civ. There are more than enough diplomatic options to keep anyone entertained. The eXpand and eXplore phases of the game last far longer than any other 4X game I've ever played, which is a good thing since virtually every other 4X game requires eXtermination as the only way to expand one the beginning land rush is over. Random events keep things interesting and some of these random events are game-changers if you eXploit them correctly, even if sometimes they take a hell of a long term investment.

    GalCiv 2 has it's moments, but the tech tree is deathly dull and the AI, while competent, has no personality. The random map generator has never worked to create fairly even starts. GalCiv 2 reminds me of MOO 3 since both are spreadsheet games. The only real thing I wish DW had that GalCiv 2 has is the pretty little ship designer. Otherwise, it's not even in the same class. Then again, it could all depend on your play style. For instance, I play random games and not the campaign. I tried the campaign but hated it and never even got past the 2nd scenario. Maybe that's where GalCiv 2 shines, but feeling that restricted isn't my cup of tea in a 4x game.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granath View Post
    I'll admit the UI is bad, but the game looks fine. You think the publishers are assholes. No one else has posted that.
    BTaxis agreed on the Matrix Games cocking things up

    Why is it fun? Because you can do most anything you want and automate what you don't want. Want to just pilot one ship and explore the galaxy? Done. Want to run the political and research side of the government and leave the fleet maintenance to the AI? Done. Want to build ships and set up the fleets, but have the AI prompt you for building things? Done. And all of these are well executed, with enough flavor and variables that make each challenging. The research is more interesting and diverse than found in similar games, including Gal Civ. There are more than enough diplomatic options to keep anyone entertained. The eXpand and eXplore phases of the game last far longer than any other 4X game I've ever played, which is a good thing since virtually every other 4X game requires eXtermination as the only way to expand one the beginning land rush is over. Random events keep things interesting and some of these random events are game-changers if you eXploit them correctly, even if sometimes they take a hell of a long term investment.
    So you are saying you like it because it can automate a lot of the traditional features of a 4x game. Which is great, but can also be a turnoff (one reason I probably won't play Star Ruler is that it just seems like I am not really needed). It is a trend that a lot of the modern 4x games have been experimenting with to various degrees.

    And you can have very long expansion and exploration stages, it is just a matter of setting up the parameters of the seed correctly. A freaky huge galax with 3 or 4 players tends to result in a very long phase of "competitive diplomacy" where you are constantly racing to colonize planets and you get the fun outpost scenarios where a frontier world is surrounded by your "ally". Which is where GalCiv2's culture system comes into play, heh.


    GalCiv 2 has it's moments, but the tech tree is deathly dull and the AI, while competent, has no personality. The random map generator has never worked to create fairly even starts. GalCiv 2 reminds me of MOO 3 since both are spreadsheet games. The only real thing I wish DW had that GalCiv 2 has is the pretty little ship designer. Otherwise, it's not even in the same class. Then again, it could all depend on your play style. For instance, I play random games and not the campaign. I tried the campaign but hated it and never even got past the 2nd scenario. Maybe that's where GalCiv 2 shines, but feeling that restricted isn't my cup of tea in a 4x game.
    I will strongly disagree on the "no personality" aspect of the AI, as GalCiv 2 has some of the best AI in 4x games in large part because they DO have personality.

    From everything I have seen, Distant Worlds is a pretty good "new 4x" game as it were in the sense that it involves a lot of automation. Whereas GalCiv 2 is probably the best of the "old 4x" games. But I, personally, have a hard time justifying paying 40+ dollars for something that looks comparable to MOO3 and has such a shitty service attached to it when I can get similar features from more modern releases like Endless Space, Star Ruler, and even the space bear samurais game that has a fundamentally broken endgame. But to each their own.

    As for the visuals: They aren't bad, just dated. But that is still kind of a turnoff when I can get comparable experiences from absolutely gorgeous games (GalCiv 2 not being one of those, since it is almost as old, but ages a bit better :p).
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  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Personally I enjoyed Gal Civ 2 in its day, but find it simply doesn't hold my attention anymore for some reason. There's something very dry about it, but that's purely a personal thing. The design is very solid and the AI is as well.

    I've not played Distant Worlds as much as I'd like, but have enjoyed what I've seen of it.

    All that said, for 4X my go to game is still Sword of the Stars 1. The AI is solid, the differences between races feel really substantial, and I adore the 3D map. That said, it's definitely lighter on the empire management and heavier on the combat and ship design than other similar games, so it fills a very specific niche.

    The other game that's sort of in this category that I really enjoy is AI War, but a game that's about conquering as little of the map as possible to be able to win is not exactly a typical 4X title.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    So you are saying you like it because it can automate a lot of the traditional features of a 4x game. Which is great, but can also be a turnoff (one reason I probably won't play Star Ruler is that it just seems like I am not really needed). It is a trend that a lot of the modern 4x games have been experimenting with to various degrees.
    The point being is that you can adopt the play style you prefer. Heck, that even applies to victory conditions, where each civ has different ways to win the game.

    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    And you can have very long expansion and exploration stages, it is just a matter of setting up the parameters of the seed correctly. A freaky huge galax with 3 or 4 players tends to result in a very long phase of "competitive diplomacy" where you are constantly racing to colonize planets and you get the fun outpost scenarios where a frontier world is surrounded by your "ally". Which is where GalCiv2's culture system comes into play, heh.
    Playing on a massive map with the expansion set to slow to make the game even more boring and drawn-out isn't a good solution.

    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    I will strongly disagree on the "no personality" aspect of the AI, as GalCiv 2 has some of the best AI in 4x games in large part because they DO have personality.
    That's fine, I don't think they have any personality and they game is pretty damn boring. I didn't say GalCiv 2 was bad. Just boring. I think it's a Stardock thing, but Legendary Heroes is the same way. It's competent, but ultimately pretty frigign' boring with a horrible endgame.

    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    From everything I have seen, Distant Worlds is a pretty good "new 4x" game as it were in the sense that it involves a lot of automation. Whereas GalCiv 2 is probably the best of the "old 4x" games. But I, personally, have a hard time justifying paying 40+ dollars for something that looks comparable to MOO3 and has such a shitty service attached to it when I can get similar features from more modern releases like Endless Space, Star Ruler, and even the space bear samurais game that has a fundamentally broken endgame. But to each their own.
    Except you can't get similar features from ES or Stardrive (didn't play Star Ruler). That you tried to compare DW with those is just wrong. They're all 4x space games, but none of the ones you mentioned have anywhere close to the depth and flexibility of GalCiv 2 or DW. Your post indicates that you've never even played Distant Worlds, so while you can comment on GalCiv, maybe you should refrain from making comparisons regarding games that you haven't experienced. So while you may like GalCiv 2, that just may be due to the fact that you've never played the best space 4X since MOO 2.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Ah well, I tried.

    Quote Originally Posted by vinraith View Post
    The other game that's sort of in this category that I really enjoy is AI War, but a game that's about conquering as little of the map as possible to be able to win is not exactly a typical 4X title.
    I tried to get into AI War but it was always just too frantic for me. And it is an Arcen game which means that most of the "fun" comes from reading the wiki and figuring out how things have changed drastically since the manual first existed.

    Well, that and it "suffers" from my issues with Supreme Commander. The scale is just too large so I don't feel like I matter (even though I am in charge of everything), if that makes sense. Which is weird since I loved Total Annihilation and most of my 4x games rapidly devolve into just sending giant fleets at the enemy anyway.

    Ah well, maybe next time I give AI War a shot I'll stick to it.
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