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The chaotic wonder of distant worlds 2

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There is something too captivating Distant worlds 2the sequel to the niche hit of 4X games developed by Code Force and published by publisher Slitherine, 12 years after the first release.

But what exactly is it? It probably isn’t this avalanche of notifications that, especially in wartime, will cause alerts to scroll too quickly, as well as order requests, galactic announcements, questions about your economy, etc.

Nor is that sometimes strange, abstruse and labyrinthine interface. Or this graphics engine (and probably statistical, mechanical, etc.) that often struggles to visualize thousands of ships, hundreds of space constructions, and some interstellar phenomena, all without making the game look as fast as an old inkjet printer.

What is the secret of this success then? What makes this journalist able to stay, for hours, glued to his screen, following the evolution of his empire, risking to strike a sleepless night to make his civilization dominate others, or at least end once and for all all uprooting this annoying neighbor who has been a thorn in the side since the beginning of the game?

It is perhaps this impression, fortunately renewed and even more effective than the first title in the series, of really being at the controls of a stellar empire. There are many other similar titles, including Stellarisbut the game of Paradox is almost like an amateur in the face of the gigantism of Distant worlds 2. After all, the “normal” size of a galaxy, in this game, represents 500 stars … Each of which can include several planets, asteroid belts … In fact, it’s probably nothing more than in normal mode, again , you must begin by developing your solar system (and researching hyperspace propulsion technology) before setting out to conquer the skies.

Another peculiarity, the commercial exchanges, both internal and external, are represented by a private economy, which has its own merchant ships, ships that will in fact travel between the various corners of your empire, as well as visit your neighbors more or less. far away. It will also be for them that the player will be called upon to build a series of mining stations, which will not only provide the materials necessary for the manufacture of space stations and “government” ships, but which will also fuel this private economy. The latter, in turn, will pay part of its profits to the public treasury, which can then finance its operation.

So close … and so far

Indeed, the lesson of Distant worlds 2 it is the impossibility of grasping everything, understanding everything, controlling everything. Of course it is absolutely possible to put all its war fleets in manual mode, to expressly decide where the construction ships will build their stations, to choose the stars to analyze using exploration machines. But only the obsessive (and again, the obsessive with a long, long time) will dare to undertake such a process.

For normal gamers, the idea is to let the computer decide for itself. Fortunately, this usually happens smoothly, but this AI is certainly not omniscient. The choice of technologies to be researched, for example, will often push the player to make their own decisions, precisely to unlock a progression deemed necessary, in particular as regards the functioning of the economy.

Ditto for the missions and other decisions proposed by this electronic consultant: we can easily understand why we are offered to build an administrative center on one of our planets, for example, but why offer us to declare war on one of our neighbors, without giving any further explanation? Why are we being prompted, within seconds, to send more fleets, to address the same problem? Why would one, in the midst of war, send much weaker ships to attack a much more powerful target? A semblance of an explanation would be particularly appreciated by this AI, which can end up controlling almost the entire functioning of an empire made up of dozens of planets and more than one hundred billion inhabitants.

Yet … and yet, Distant worlds 2 it is fascinating, intriguing, surprising. Corrections would certainly be appreciated, and perhaps a better grip, at least one that does not involve throwing oneself, somehow, into the interstellar void, hoping to understand enough of the basics to be able to get away with it.

But otherwise, this 4X is probably, despite all its imperfections, one of the best examples of its kind. To be discovered slowly, but surely.

Distant worlds 2

Developer: CodeForce

Publisher: Slitherine

Platform: Windows (tested on Steam)

Game not available in French

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