App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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It's referred to in most circles as "4X," which stands for "eXplore, eXpand, eXterminate and eXploit." A lot of people may simply think of them as another part of the strategy genre, but 4X games are really more of a sub-genre. One full of inter-stellar shenanigans and lots and lots of trial-and-error. Distant Star attempts to shrink down the experience for iOS, taking out some of the intense micromanagement and streamlining the process for on-the-go commanders. And for the most part, it does a good job of it.
As with similar 4X titles, Distant Star puts players in charge of an alien race (okay, Humans, actually) as they attempt to conquer the stars. They can adjust the size of the map, as well as the number of opponents, then it's game-on. Each match starts with a single home planets. Where things go from there is entirely up to the player. They can focus on researching and constructing warships for some serious offense and defense. They can also spend more time with economics in order to boost their cash flow. Heck, they can even spend all their time researching in order to research faster. Or some combination of all the various options.
As with most other 4X games, Distant Star can be very rewarding. Successfully taking over the galaxy is no easy task, and finally managing to do it can feel like winning some sort of prestigious award. It can also be a lot of fun to mess around with various strategies. Some may work well when it's one-on-one, but the same tactics might be totally useless in a 5-way free-for-all. Of course, with all these options to tweak as well as the very nature of 4X games, there's absolutely no shortage of replay value to be had.
The problem I have with it is mostly the interface. Sure it's kind of irritating that no matter how large I make the map and how few the enemies, I always have to focus on military research first. Because they always find me. With a fleet of at least two dozen ships. But no, it's really the interface that's problematic. Specifically the pop-up alerts that take up over half the screen. When it's just one or two it's simply annoying because I have to readjust the view in order to select things on a planet's radial menu. When there are a bunch (i.e. during a major battle), I practically have to waste a turn so that they'll go away before I can actually do anything. It'd be nice if they disappeared on their own after a few seconds or so...
Even so, I can't really fault Distant Star too much. It does what it does well, and it simplifies the experience just enough to make it more accessible to less intense strategists. Assuming they're patient with the UI.