This past week, Rock Paper Shotgun ran a piece on Distant World's new expansion, Legends. I trust the writers of RPS more than I trust pretty much any other group of gaming journalists, so when I read of Adam Smith's admiration for Distant Worlds, my first thought was: "how have I missed such an amazing 4X game?!" This was followed very closely by a second, less-elated fear: "It'll probably let me down, like Galactic Civilizations/Elemental/Sins of a Solar Empire all have."
So I cautiously bought the first game. Then the Return of the Shakturi expansion. Then the Legends expansion. Suffice to say, I'm quite pleased, and the only thing that's disappointed is my wallet.
One thing that I particularly like, and that I feel sets Distant Worlds a head above the other 4X games of the past decade, is the emergent gameplay that I keep witnessing. One of the reasons I could never get behind, say, the Civilization games is because I've always felt as if I was playing the same history of the world, every single time, and you know what? That history it isn't even as good as the Earth's real history. This is definitely not true with DW; even if the game's central plot never changes (I encounter the same historical facts in roughly the same order every time), everything else is prone to radical change.
(When I said "4X games of the past decade", I had to double check that Alpha Centauri fell outside of that window; no reason to start committing sacrilege now.)
I've always been a fan of AARs, but I've never had the desire to write one. More accurately, I've always wanted to write one, but I realized that my obsessive eye for detail and my desire to narrate every single action would make completing any AAR nigh-impossible. Not that that's really a problem; many AARs go incomplete.
Regardless, Distant Worlds lends itself to emergent story-telling quite well, so I thought I'd do a mid-action report, detailing the slow rise of the Securan Ascendancy.
After some initial, unsuccessful outings with the Quameno (read: economic disasters), I decided to go with our favorite green-skinned space babes, the Secura. Their high population growth rate, coupled with their innate happiness and diplomatic bonuses, appealed to me. Plus: sexy green-skinned aliens, what could possibly go wrong?
The Securan Ascendancy, Ascendant
Above is the Securan Ascendancy, circa 2768. At this point, my space democracy is roughly 14 years old (one late night of playing), and encompasses around ten worlds. As you can see, I'm at the very edge of the galaxy -- I like starting on the outer rim, and I'm really glad that option is available in the new game set-up. I also started the game with "starting tech", which explains the slow rate of my, and the other empires', galactic expansion.
Beyond the Zitrus Arm, to the galactic north and west, lies our closest neighbor: the Zenox Ascendancy. The Zenox are an introverted race, but our high reputation and bottomless coffers have endeared the us to them. Sometimes this leads to humorously one-sided interactions: they will gift 500 credits, our diplomats will respond by gifting them 5000. But DW' back story makes it clear that the Zenox are the preservers of the galaxy's ancient knowledge, and -- I can only assume this is because they trust us completely -- the Zenox have chosen to point our fleets in the direction of several ancient ruins. To date, this is the only race in any of my playthroughs that has done this -- I'm elated by this overt implementation of the game's backstory.
To the north of the Zenox lies the Kiada Republic, who have proven to be as introverted and peaceful as the Zenox. Like the Zenox, they are awed by the Ascendancy's multi-system star democracy, and like the Zenox, they attempt to secure our goodwill with well-meaning, but paltry, gifts.
The leaders of the Securan Ascendancy possess an unwavering sense of our manifest destiny: the Ascendancy will occupy everything on "our" side of the Ziltrus Arm, from the Abunshii Nebula to the south, to beyond the Sivarkus Expanse in the north. To this end, the empire is social/geographically divided into three "zones": the Core Worlds, the South Reaches, and the northern Sivarkus Expanse.
The Core Worlds
If we're being completely honest, the "Core Worlds" is really a misnomer: most of the planets pictured above are all very recent additions to the empire, Marsh or Continental worlds opened up by (thoughtful, well-planned) colonization.
Murkdor is the Ascendancy's homeworld, and will almost certainly always be the galaxy's crown jewel of democracy. However, its strategic importance is rivaled by Kurestal, the first off-world colonization effort by the Ascendancy.
Were the leaders of the Ascendancy to point to proof that the Ascendancy's way of life is both successful and exportable, it would be the planet Dra. Dra has an extensive population of Mortalens, a bipedal lizard race that is more-often-than-not hostile to other races. However, the Mortalens of Dra peacefully welcomed integration into the Ascendancy, and are now afforded full voting rights, as befits all of-age sentients in the Securan Ascendancy. That no Mortalen leaders have emerged to the imperial stage is purely coincidental.
Icebu, like Dra, has a large population of Mortalens, and like Dra, is now part of the Securan Ascendancy. Unlike Dra, though, the history of Icebu is the Ascendancy's dark shame: in the Ascendency's 14 years as a space-faring democracy, Icebu is the only planet that has been brought into the fold by force. In part, this was in revenge for the peaceful colonists who first touched down on Icebu -- who met, not the welcoming aliens of Dra, but a fierce reptilian race that tore them limb from limb.
In hindsight, the success of Dra's colonization must be chalked up to one reason: the Securans go through a triennial "sexy times" year, during which they're really friendly and population rates go through the roof. The Securan's extra friendliness extends to other races, too -- Dra was colonized during just such a period. Not to victim blame, but in hindsight, apparently Icebu's hapless colonists were just not secreting enough pheromones.
The Southern Reaches
It is the Ascendany's destiny to control the entirety of our galactic arm, down to the Abunshii Nebala. Unfortunately for us, many minor, squabbling obstacles stand in our way: the piracy of the Southern Reaches.
The Southern Reaches are a hive of scum and villainy, devoid of any law except that which the Securans secure. Over the course of the past decade, no less than three pirate bases have been destroyed or captured by the heroic women of the 1st Explorator Fleet. ("Explorator Fleet" was more politically correct than "Pirate Suppression Fleet". To that end, my lone troop transport belongs to Fleet "Manual Colonizer".)
These preemptive strikes against the piratical foe have been spearheaded by one woman, alone:
Fleet Admiral Kasto Nesalio, who has publicly sworn to close the southern frontier once and for all. One of her first anti-piracy actions, in the Nemban Wastes, cowed a pirate faction into handing over the now-famous "Secluded Base," from which Nesalio has launched attack after attack against the pirates. Every successful campaign has added to the Admiral's growing fame, and were she ever to enter Securan politics, she would undoubtedly secure the presidency as easily as she secured the Secluded Base. But there are those who worry that Nesalio might chose to "manually" enter politics, taking her fleet with her when she finally returns to Murkador...
Like the outlying Core Worlds, the Southern Reaches also have a significant population of Mortalens. Two Mortalen planets, Aloreun and Mortalu, are already queued up as potential colonization targets. The Ascendancy's leaders have sworn off violence, choosing instead to patiently wait until the next mating cycle beings in two year's time. Of course, this choice has nothing to do with the fact that both planets have sizable Mortalen militias, nor with the fact that the barely-pacified Southern Reaches are beyond the logistics of our small troop transport fleet.
The Sivarkus Expanse
The Sivarus Expanse, to the north of our Core Worlds, has no Nesalio-like figure to lead the colonization efforts. This is just as well, as there have been almost no pirate incursions in the Expanse.
Which, in hindsight, is probably because the entire region is overrun by spaceship-eating monstrosities. The Securan Navy has adamantly refused to rename the "1st Ardilus Hunters," despite the above-pictured fleet being the third fleet to bear the designation. Newer destroyers, equipped with the Ascendancy's finest railguns, have been dispatched to the Expanse; only time will tell if they are successful, or if another fleet has been sent too hastily to its death.
The hub of the Sivarus Expanse is Sceyen, in the Munillea system. In a fortuitous accident, Sceyen is home of a large spacedock, one of only two in the Ascendancy. when that costly order was placed, and by whom, is completely unknown, but the accident has paid dividends beyond its original (exorbitant) investment of time and credits. Even now, the next two defense fleets are being prepped to escort incoming colonization ships.
The Zenox Ascendancy lies just beyond the Zitrus Arm from Sceyen, and in the highly unlikely chance of Zenox aggression, we worry that Sceyen might rebel and join its kindred species. Above all else, this must not come to pass; the fate of the Sivarus Expanse lies with whomever holds the Munillea system.
The future of the Ascendancy looks promising, but nothing looks more promising than the success of our newest exploratory fleet, codenamed "Outbound Flight".
The Zenox -- the humble, trusting, and completely without long-range spaceflight Zenox -- alerted our scientists to a possible windfall: according to the sparse historical documents that this feline race has dedicated itself to preserving, there is a long-abandoned weapons testing area, clear on the other side of the galaxy. From anyone but the Zenox, such a claim would be laughable -- but, true-to-form, the Zenox even supplied exact coordinates.
After careful consideration, the Securan Navy crafted a new breed of exploration vessel, more fuel tank than spaceship. After all, what was one ship, next to the possibility of powerful archaeotech? Even now, the Outbound Flight is hurtling toward its objective, and the future...
< Message edited by Nebel Streif -- 11/28/2011 3:16:04 PM >
Slightly stupid, quite dependable.