I was looking for something while EWOM gets sorted out ... Space 4x RTS is my fav genre and I've played them all including Beta on recently Star Rulers. I agree that DW is a fantastic game. It's currently sucking up my primary gaming time and will continue to do for some time methinks. You really can't compare it to combat focused games like SOTS or AI Wars, both awsome games in their niche. DW is more about building a viable empire that feels real and alive. Here it does a better a job than anything I've played in the genre. Here are my thoughts after a couple weeks in game ....
Overview - Your Empire has 2 entities. The State which you control and the Private Sector which is AI controlled. Your job as the 'State' is to explore and expand by discovering desirable planets, moons, gas fields, asteroids, etc...With that in mind you build mining outposts, colonies, and starports/bases. You can automate any aspect of this, do it yourself, and have advisors suggest what you should be doing. Your expansion and building program allows the 'Private Sector' to start working and making money. The Private Sector is fully automated. They buy a variety of ship types from your starports to haul freight and trade goods, ferry passengers and tourists, and also to do some of their own mining at places you may not have provided a mining outpost. It really feels alive! Your spaceports build the ships the Private Sector orders and soon you have all kinds of vessels moving about plying the trade lanes. As the State, you build the space navy that will ensure the Private Sector can operate smoothly and efficiently by dealing with pirates, space creatures, and of course other empire that will try and disrupt things. The automation capability is some of the best. You could run fully automated and watch, or you can automate various things at a macro level like Colony Taxes, Troop Building, Ship Design, Agent Recruitment, Colinization, Ship Building, etc.. or you can automate at a micro level, letting the AI control some State ships, but not others. You can have a map with up to 1400 systems and hundreds and hundreds of ships, however, though the game is hugely detailed, its not a click fest. The automation coupled with the option to slow things down to a crawl or pause while you reveiw and order
Economy - Awsome! There are something like 20 Strategic goods you need to build, maintain, and fuel ships, bases, etc... Then there are 20 Luxury Goods which the Private Sector wants to stay happy and to use as trade goods. Some are rare, and some not so rare. The idea is to have access to as many of these goods as you can ... though your empire will trade from them (not as efficient) if you don't have enough supply to meet the demand. As you expand, you want to build mining bases or colonize worlds that provide the goods that are in highest demands...once you find those locations. There is an expansion planner tool that shows you all the info you need.... what goods are current priorities for your empire, what worlds are potentials for colonization, and what the galaxy demands for goods are. You can assess the priority of the locations and simply click to send an available Constructor Ship or Cololnizer there, or if you don't have one, the AI will build one and send that ship there. I really like the concept of the mining outposts as opposed to the typical colony spamming everywhere.
Tech - Tech is somewhat simplified. There are 4 Tech areas. Research points are provided by bases that have research facilaties. The amount of research points you can actually use is capped by current population. Though the AI spends points in every area, you can 'push' and area by building more of that type of research facility than the other types. There are about 25 different component type and each research area relates to a handful of the types. You can run a crash program on one component type if you spend some money. As you gain enough research points in a given component type, you get access to the next level of that component to use in your ship designs. You can also gain access to specific component techs by 'finding it'....maybe a long lost alien ship you stumble across. The system has a couple holes, but it works pretty well. It takes a lot of time to get that next component which makes it feel real and seem worthwhile. Further, your ship designs stay current for quite some time so you are not constantly upgrading.
Ship Design - Nicely done. You can create your own designs using about 25 different base design types. The size of the design is limited by your current tech. So you put together designs using the 25 different component types...weapons, cargo, reactors, engines, etc.... By doing your own designs, you are able to optimize and also control what designs are available for the AI Controlled Private Sector to buy. Or, like everything else in this game, you can have the AI automatically take care of creating new designs as new components become available. Be warned, there is not a lot of detail info on creating efficient designs and the details on how each component really effects the ships energy and fuel budget leaves something to be desired. But there was plenty of help in the Matrix forums. Retrofitting your ships requires them to be retrofitted at an available space dock...a base or a contructor. If you want to the retrofit a ship you can just click retrofit and the design you want to retrofit it to and the ship automatically will set off to the nearest dock to be upgraded. I really liked this....so much more believable and realistic than 'poof' you spent the money and though you are lightyears from anywhere you are now upgraded.
Diplomacy - Also nicely done. Yes it could perhaps be a bit deeper, but it seems to get the job done. One of things that some folks have reported that they don't like is that protracted WAR really takes a toll on your colonies happiness and efficiency. You end up having to lower taxes which of course means less income. So you really need to plan your wars well. You do not want to be at war with a number of empires at once for a long period of time. Also, if you plan to be the galaxy dictator and be at war all the time, you better select a race that has a war weariness bonus. Anyway, I found it all to be pretty believable. If you want to take an empire out, you need to setup to take them out quick or force them to sue for peace by going after their key homeworlds all at once. You also want to do things like maybe build a mining base in their territory so you can give it up as an inducement for peace if things are not going your way. Basically you want to setup to keep your wars localized on an enemy empire at a time and take them out fast whilst maintaining relations with everyone else is what I get from it. Again, it seems realistic. If you are at war with everyone in the galaxy at the same time, you people are not necessarily going to be thrilled. They just want to live their lives and make alot of money. Though I have admitedly not played enough end game to understand all the ramifications.
Combat - Combat is more like SOTS as opposed to Gal CiV.....though not as detailed as SOTS by any stretch. The action is real time and you do have control of ship movement if you want to micro. Else, they will fight it out as best they can using their design and the tactics you can set for their design. Once shields are down, the ships will start taking component damage....mitigated by the how much armor the design has. If you have the tech, you might have a on an on board repair component. Or, you can manually send in a constructor to repair a ship that can't limp home to a starport for repair. Or, if you have a couple contructors set to automated, they will eventually show up to repair the ship. It's good, but again, the game is not as combat focused as SOTS or AI. As such, I tend to just make sure I have good designs and group ships into fleets that I know will get the job done and just send them to where they should be sent. You can also set any ship to AI Control and if you have Fleet Automation turned on, the AI will form automated ships into fleets. Or if you don't have Fleet Auto on, automated individual combat ships will take up patrol duties or escort duties wherever they feel its needed.
Agents - There is a whole agent and spying subsystem....but I have not had the time to really mess with it... So much other stuff to do.
I agree with the poster that suggested you don't let AI manage WARS. In terms of control I manage my STATE ship building, my main military fleets (though I do have some AI escorts and frigates running around), my ship design, and the vast majority of my constuctors. Sometimes I will jump in an take control of an exploration ship if i want something specific explored. I automate troop building, and taxes, and have everything else set to suggest. Again, the capability to pause and go back to review messages and give orders is awsome. I don't see how this is different than turn based and definetly works for me.
Anyway, I could write a lot more but I need to get back to work . All you really need to know is that if you like Space RTS Strategy games with a focus on Empire building, you will like this game. It's been getting pretty solid 80% reviews from the media as well.