Distant Worlds: Universe
While Distant Worlds may be a paragon of its style, I can only recommend it to a select few: those with beefy computers and plenty of time to really dig into the meat of this stunningly elegant and impressively wide-ranging bit of software.
The title is evocative, don't you think, and even though the graphics are functional rather than fancy, the music and the sound of solitary engines in the vast loneliness capture something of the magnificence of travel and expansion. It's a game that really does impress with its scale and part of the cleverness of the automation is that it lets you sit back and enjoy the worlds you colonise or subdue.
Distant Worlds: Universe is an exceedingly complex, infinitely rewarding space strategy game. It's made me more excited about the genre than any other game of its kind since Galactic Civilizations II. All of those numbers and systems that hold the simulation together create these dramatic stories, ones about gallant captains constantly pushing back the frontier, races under the thumb of pirates rising up and taking back their independence and wars between empires that spread throughout the galaxy like wildfire.
A vast galaxy, a varied tech-tree, and a million and one decisions to make or automate. Distant Worlds: Universe is perhaps the finest 4x Space game in a generation, certainly since Galactic Civilizations 2. It's a challenging and complex game packed with features that allows you to choose just how you want to play it, while accommodating a wide variety of play-styles and strategies.
So, Distant Worlds: Universe is a corker. But make no mistake: while it's not as forbidding as some Grand Strategy games, patience and a degree of head-scratching will be required. But it's worth the effort. It's enormous, complex and – above all – fun. Despite a high price-tag and a few minor problems, it's a strong candidate for Strategy Game of the Year. Just don't tell Matt.