Things to do in Distant Worlds: Legends

, | Games

I fully expected that the Legends expansion for Distant Worlds would mainly be cool for adding characters who level up (pictured). I was wrong.

After the jump, what a difference a chart makes

Paradox’s Europa Universalis games started as open-ended kingdom simulators in which you just cruised through history and tried to keep your prestige high. You didn’t win so much as you scooted up and down a list that ranked everyone by prestige. It was all about where you sat on the prestige chart when the time limit ran out.

Eventually, the series added missions. At any given time, you could have an active mission. This was like a mini-objective. Building up a navy, cultivate trade, found colonies, form an alliances, pass a reform. Europa Universalis learned that a little guidance is always a good thing.

Distant Worlds, a game where the AI is capable of doing almost everything that needs to be done, feels a bit like early Europa Universalis for how you’re just swept along a giant wave of data until you wash up at the end of the game. Sure, you need to conquer territory, grow your population, and make money. But the AI is mostly capable of handling these broad objectives. Whereas the Europa Universalis games were like surfing on data, this is like being on an ancient galley rowing across waves of data, but you only man one of the 20 oars. But the new Legends expansion puts your hand on the tiller. And it does it by adding race-specific victory objectives and a cool new chart.

In my current game, the galaxy is still young after only seven years. But at the ten year mark, everyone is eligible for victory. So I’ve got three years before potential victories are in effect. Looking at the victory condition chart, I can tell at a glance that I have to do something about the Ikkuro Confederacy. They’ve managed to push their bar to the victory threshold.

In this game, victory conditions include the first race to generate 25% of the galaxy’s income, control 25% of the galaxy’s population, and occupy 25% of the galaxy’s territory. In addition, each race has a list of race-specific victory conditions.

The bars in the above chart measure how close each faction is to winning the game. The colored segments of each bar correspond to different elements of the victory conditions. Income is the blue segment, population is the green segment, territory is the yellow segment, and race-specific conditions are the red segment.

Mousing over a bar brings up a detailed breakdown for that race. So I can see by checking the Ikkuro Confederacy exactly what they’ve done to push this bar to the threshold, and therefore exactly what I need to do to bring it back down.

I can, of course, destroy their population, reduce their income, or seize their territory. Alternatively, I can see that they’ve nearly maxed out their race-specific victory conditions, which give me additional options for how to keep them from winning in three years. The Ikkuro’s race specific conditions are to control a third of all the colonies on Earth-like continental planets, to lose the fewest ships in battle, to have treaties with a third of all the races, and to have the most spaceports.

Prior to these bar graphs, Distant Worlds could feel like an aimless spreadsheet game. But with these race specific victory conditions, I have a whole new to-do list for how to play the game. Of course I was going to grow my income, population, and territory, while reducing my opponents. But now I also have very specific objectives. In this game, to keep the Ikkuro from winning, I can also colonize or conquer specific planets, inflict losses on them, break their treaties, and beat them in a spaceport race.

So I immediately break our treaty, which knocks down their bar a little. And since I have a superior military rating, I declare war with the express purpose of smashing some of their ships so they won’t qualify for the least losses condition. So now I’m fighting a war with the express purpose of destroying Ikkuro ships. Now Distant Worlds has a sort of simplicity and focus that it didn’t previously have.

After a few months, I string a “mission accomplished” banner over one of my frigates and give a speech. Here’s how the chart looks:

Here are the specific setbacks I’ve infliced on the Ikkuro:

And, of course, I’ve elevated my own position. I can now concentrate on a handful of very specific tasks to push my own bar to the victory threshold:

Unfortunately, as soon as the galaxy turns ten years old, I lose to an empire across the map that I’ve never even met. I’m treated to one of the ugliest bits of artwork in the game. And it’s not ugly just because it means I’ve lost. Here’s a screen that needs a little work:

That’s liable to happen in Distant Worlds if you put too few races on a large map. But at least Distant Worlds lets you set up a game however you want, even if it does end up costing you the game.