Distant World's AI can handle nearly all of your empire's tasks, or none, as you see fit. (Private trade is always AI controlled.) It can design ships, form fleets, conduct exploration, and so on. At the highest levels of automation, you can mostly watch the game play itself; with everything off, you can micromanage hundreds of ships and dozens of colonies. Galaxies in Distant Worlds can be immense, with 1400 stars and thousands of worlds and moons.
While playing Distant Worlds, you will stumble upon abandoned ships, alien ruins, pirate bases, space monsters, and strange mysteries. You can send espionage agents to steal secrets or perform sabotage. You can construct wonders of the galaxy, conquer worlds, and forge alliances.
You will also deal with an occasionally obtuse interface, lose track of exactly here you wanted that fleet to move to, and confront bugs. To their credit, Code Force/Matrix Games is quick about fixing issues, but there have also been a lot to fix, most trivial, some major.
The lack of a demo/trial is problematic for a game like Distant Worlds, because of the niche nature of the product. While the core game costs only $20, the feature set has changed a great deal through the expansions. However, the essential gameplay has not. If 4X/Strategy games are of any interest to you, try the core game, and if you like the general feel of it, get the next three expansions and play in the Age Of Shadows.
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