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Have You Played... Distant Worlds: Universe?

Starry eyes

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

At present, despite the dawn of Stellaris, Distant Worlds: Universe [official site] is still my favourite space strategy game. I wouldn't be surprised if that changes in a couple of years when Paradox work their usual post-release magic. It took Distant Worlds a good while to reach the lofty heights it now occupies - the Universe version of the game contains four expansions - but what lofty heights they are.

I've met several people who dislike Distant Worlds and after expressing my astonishment by making a noise something like 'pshwa?' I interrogate them thoroughly. Is it the distancing effect of the game itself, which is quite content to play itself while you make your dinner, eat your dinner, have a nap, bake a cake for dessert, eat the cake, and then go to work for the day?

Distant Worlds' masterstroke is a system of automation that can handle different aspects of your empire, whether that's the basics of a private sector that handles resource gathering and tourism, or you can hand over control of fleets, planetary government and diplomacy to the AI. Essentially, it's an enormously complicated strategy game that allows you to play with just the bits that are of immediate interest, or to ease yourself in and take control of more elements as you become comfortable with the interface and the particulars of a campaign.

As a fan of strategic simulations, I find Distant Worlds utterly absorbing. It has the same attraction as a model railway system, specifically this beautiful monstrosity, and it allows me to lay down new tracks or tip the carriages off the rails whenever I like.

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