Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Distant Worlds

Go To

Distant Worlds is a vast, pausable real-time, 4X space Grand Strategy game that allows the player to experience the full depth and detail of large turn-based strategy games, but with the simplicity and ease of real-time, and on the scale of a massively-multiplayer online game.

Vast galaxies are made to order: up to 1400 star systems, with up to 50,000 planets, moons and asteroids. Galaxies are so deep, fun and immersive that you won’t want to finish the game... Build, expand and improve your empire endlessly. The galaxy is packed with life and activity. Encounter other empires, independent alien colonies, traders, pirates and space monsters. Explore star systems, asteroid fields, gas clouds, supernovae, galactic storms and black holes. Discover evidence of civilizations long since past, uncovering secrets about the galaxy's troubled history...


Enough of the sales pitch, Distant Worlds is a 4X game that innovates by using an automated macromanagement system that allows the AI to take control of as much of the game as the player wishes: one can delegate large swathes of gameplay to the AI which will automatically manage it, or so that the AI will make suggestions of the player, asking for only a thumbs-up. The game has three expansions (Return of the Shakturi, Legends and Shadows), each of which improve the game so much that playing without them is like night and day.

An Updated Re-release titled Distant Worlds: Universe was released on Steam on May 24th, 2014. This release includes the base game and all of its expansions in a single package, as well as modding support and a historical scenario of sorts that covers the first war of the Freedom Alliance with the Shaktur Axis, made as an example of what can be created with the game's modding tools.


A sequel, Distant Worlds 2, released in March 2022.

Distant Worlds provides examples of:

  • After the End: The game's set 500 years after a cataclysmic war that nearly destroyed all life in the galaxy. The nations of the galaxy that united as the Freedom Alliance (Led by humanity, the Kiadians and the Ackdarians) were fighting a losing war against the Shaktur Axis (an alliance of insectoid races led by the Shakturi) and only a genetically-engineered disease known as the Xaraktor Virus was able to stop them from destroying everything. Unfortunately, the virus went out of control and nearly exterminated all the sentient races, except for a few isolated enclaves and cryogenic vaults.
  • A.I.-Generated Economy: Distant Worlds contains a vast private economy that the player cannot directly control. This economy directly simulates a major detail that many games abstract out: the actual physical transportation of resources and people from one point to another (be this within your own economy, or between civilizations) through trade, tourism, emigration, and so on. These are then taxed by the player's government. It is always financially beneficial to arrange things so that a private economy can develop with minimal disruption, even if you can't micromanage the details. This means ensuring that your people's privately owned ships are well protected, and that trade with other empires is as open as possible.
    • A major source of income comes from private entities using your idle spacedocks to build and retrofit their non-military spacecraft. When things go poorly and enemy factions start ripping into your empire, the constant need for private fleets to replace their losses can be a boon to your treasury... at least, until resource shortages kick in and the private sector's funding starts to suffer.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Averted. Most planets can't ever be inhabited by any means, and most of the inhabitable planets in the game are quite different from Earth.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Though there's no hard rule that says they must be this way, the insectoid races (especially the Boskara and Shakturi) are all described as cruel, untrustworthy and prone to violence at the drop of a hat, and they all have a natural dislike of any non-insectoid species they encounter.
  • Appeal to Force: Pirates operate this way by default: you give them cash on a regular schedule, and they have less reason to seriously cripple your shipping and invade your planets. The player's empire and all other empires can do this too, either by enforcing blockades, threatening war, or just having a larger military than the other guy.
  • Anti-Armor: Compared to Pulse Blaster weapons, Phasers are twice as effective at destroying armor, making it easier to damage the components underneath with each shot. The tradeoff is that phasers consume more power to fire.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: With the extreme amount of of ancient, advanced, and still useful precursor technology lying about, this is bound to happen. These artifacts will have a huge effect on the balance of power, and unearthing these artifacts before other civilizations get them can be the difference between victory and defeat.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Distance Worlds is rather unique in the fact that you can automate whatever specific parts of your government you want to, and the AI tends to do a pretty good job of running things. This can be anything from the use of your Intelligence Agents, the construction of ships, declarations of war, battle strategy, economic strategy... you can have AI take over the entire game if you wish. However, if you do that, keep in mind that when it comes to high level strategy, the AI tends to make very dumb choices.
  • Asteroid Miners: Both specially designed ships and space stations can mine asteroids. Lots of mining stations will be built during the game, and they can easily become a source of conflict when built inside a territory that someone claims later.
  • Barbarian Tribe: Space Pirates are effectively treated as these. They have their own populations, and sometimes even have entire planets of billions of citizens to themselves, all of whom are treated as pirates.
  • The Battlestar: The in-game ship designer puts no limits on how you design your ships beyond maximum size and your own ability to afford it. Thanks to that, it's entirely possible to add fighter bays to any of your ships, though fighter bays are a very large component in themselves.
  • Beam Spam: While it's technically possible to do this with any beam weapon in the game, the Pulse Blaster variants (Shatterforce Laser, Titan Beam, etc.) are the easiest beams to achieve this trope with - they are cheap, use little energy when fired, and fire quite quickly. Towards the end game, most warships will have enough power to spray energetic death in a continuous barrage, and as such, both the Ancient Guardians and Shakturi apply this trope liberally.
  • The Berserker: The dhayut are said to enter animalistic frenzies when sufficiently angered. In the game proper, their change cycle increases their already-high aggression, making war declarations from the AI more likely, and dhayut populations have a whopping -70% reduction to war weariness. In diplomacy interactions, particularly when hostile to you, the dhayut make frequent references to their anger and rage.
  • Big Bad: The Shakturi, introduced in the 1st expansion.
  • Big Good: The Mechanoids, introduced in the 1st expansion.
  • Blind Jump: Downplayed. Ships that retreat from combat engagements will enter a short warp jump to leave the star system if possible, stopping somewhere out in empty space. This can make enemies with fast-charging hyperdrives (like the Space Pirates) difficult to pin down until you invest in Teleport Interdiction.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Each individual piece of armor will be destroyed in turn as it takes damage. Due to their low durability, early armor techs tend to obliterate instantly when hit, effectively making them extra hit points.
  • Civil Warcraft: The citizens of any empire can revolt if they become unhappy enough, which often results in this trope. If a sufficiently advanced planet revolts, they can even become their own empire. It's also not unheard of for empires to start the game sharing their native system with a second empire of their own species, leading to a rivalry as they compete for surrounding resources.
  • Comically Small Bribe: This can happen, either as a result of an empire simply not having the funds to sufficiently pay a superior enemy, or as a result of an empire not taking another empire seriously. Additionally, the amount of money an AI empire can give anyone in a bribe is capped.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Averted. The presence of a realistic economy that exists almost entirely outside of direct player control is this game's biggest selling point. It's also the single most important element of any society: maintaining that economy's ability to grow essentially dominates gameplay.
  • Conflict Ball: The tensions that inevitably form between races that naturally hate each other (for example, bugs vs everyone else) can certainly feel like this. Depending on how the world generates, you can easily end up with one or more alliances fighting genocidal war against the species that they hate.
  • Collateral Damage: Most misses in the game are treated as not hitting anything. However, "area" weapons and World Destroyers cause Splash Damage that affects everything within a certain radius. As a result, it's not uncommon to see these weapons destroying friendly ships and enemy ships alike.
  • Colonized Solar System: You start the game as one of these: a civilization with a single capital planet and perhaps a colony or two, trying to expand beyond that system into the larger galaxy.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: It's very easy to create a ship or station with severely limited functions if you don't know what you're doing in the ship designer. That said, this trope is generally averted: nearly all ships and stations in the game have multiple functions by design.
  • Death Ray: A weapon with this name can be obtained from ruins. It is a devastatingly powerful beam weapon that often destroys ships in only one shot. Access to it can greatly shift the balance of power among races.
  • Deflector Shields: Most every ship in the game will have shields unless it is designed before shields are invented. However, it's entirely possible to deliberately avoid using shield defenses, and in some rare cases it's encouraged to avoid them in order to free up space for other, more immediately important equipment.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Thanks to the existence of a ship designer system, every single vehicle and starbase in the game can be thoroughly customized, with the only limitation being the maximum amount of components you can stick on a single design (improved through research). This quickly leads to situations where warring factions build ships specifically to counter the enemy.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The "Super Laser" is Lost Technology that can be found installed in some desolated space hulks, and the knowledge needed to build them can be recovered from the computers of some ancient military fortresses. Just one shot from a Super Laser is all it takes to completely obliterate a planet.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. Every single ship and space station in the entire game requires a sufficient supply of various (more than 40) differing materials for each individual component involved in its construction and maintenance. This includes different types of fuel, active and inert gases (argon, hydrogen, helium, caslon, krypton, etc.), different metals and building materials (steel, lead, chromium, gold, iridium, carbon fiber, polymer, aculon, etc.), various rare stones (osalia, emeros, nekros, dilithium, etc.) all of which need to be mined and then shipped across the empire to your construction yards, or stored in cargo holds until needed. There is no hard or soft unit limit to the number of ships, stations, or planets that you can support... except your ability to pay for them, fuel them, resupply them, and pay for any repairs in both time, money, and materials. Especially in the early game, this can be a real hassle.
  • Emergent Narrative: Each empire in the game will have a succession of rulers with different personality traits and skills, as well as constantly shifting internal and external politics. As a result, the game evolves into a grand narrative of intrigue, diplomacy, technology, alliances, rivalry, and war.
  • Emperor Scientist: The "Technocracy" government is essentially a kind of Elective Monarchy where the only eligible leaders are the scientists in the empire. Generally, the smartest one rules.
  • Enemy Civil War: Internal war can occur for a number of reasons related to population unrest. It can also be directly caused by espionage.
  • Exclusive Enemy Equipment: Certain races have access to unique, superior variants of starship components. While you can still acquire ships and bases with the components installed, you will not be able to research the tech normally — The only way to unlock these components for manufacturing is to very slowly fill the progress meter by cannibalizing captured ships and sending intelligence agents to steal research (which is more difficult than normal).
  • Experience Points: Every character in your civilization can and will earn experience through their actions that gradually makes them more effective at their jobs.
  • Explosive Breeder: The Atuukans, Gizureans, and Securans all breed very quickly compared to everyone else. It's not uncommon for a Gizurean colony to grow as many as 11 billion citizens in the time it takes humans to get to a population of a few millions.
  • Fantastic Racism: Insectoid species tend to hate absolutely everyone except other insects for no real reason. Everyone else hates them right back, since the insectoids threw their lot in with the Shakturi during the ancient war.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: This game explicitly uses the Alcubierre Drive variant: all ships going faster-than-light generate a bubble of warped space around themselves to do so, which propels them forward at great speed. If they need to change course, they have to stop and then turn themselves around to the desired direction.
  • 4X: But of course.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The true nature of the Mechanoids: The dying original Freedom Alliance created them after the end of the war with the Shakturi, to preserve their strongest and most advanced technologies and weapons in Utopia AND to keep them away from their descendants until the Shakturi returned to the galaxy.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Naturally, this is how you win a military victory: by conquering the galaxy. The Boskarans and Mortalens match this trope by nature, with victory conditions that nigh-exclusively revolve around warfare and subjugation.
  • Giant Spider: The Dhayut are a species of sapient spiders who, if their infantry artwork is any indication, are about the size of ponies. They're notable for being one of the game's only races to subvert Humanoid Aliens.
  • Glass Cannon: Thanks to the in-game ship designer, it's very easy to make a ship that fits this trope: just load up on weapons and leave no room for shields or armor. Thanks to the cost in material, this typically isn't a good idea, but ships like this can be used to great effect under the right circumstances.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: The Securans.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: If your military power is great enough, other races will send you tribute even if they hate you. It's also possible to force a civilization to submit to trade demands with military force.
  • Humans Are Average: Humans get moderate boosts to espionage, diplomacy, and research, and have no special technologies.
  • Humans Are Diplomats: Humans are more likely to generate new ambassador characters, and have the personality traits of "quite friendly" and "very dependable". One of their unique victory point conditions is to have mutual defence pacts with 15% of all empires in the galaxy.
  • Humans Are Warriors: ZigZagged. On one hand, human empires are slightly less likely to generate new fleet admirals and troop general characters, and their stats lean more towards being diplomats, spies and scientists. On the other hand, humans are "quite aggressive", and one of humanity's unique victory point conditions is to maintain a favorable kill/death ratio, destroying more ships and starbases than they lose throughout the game.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Lots of abandoned ships and other goodies can be found while exploring.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: The Naxxilians, who resemble furry T-rexes complete with stubby forearms, and the Dhayut, who are simply Giant Spiders.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: With enough money or resources, it is possible to pull this trick on another Empire by conceding a war, only to resume it almost immediately. Be wary of doing so, though, as they will certainly use that money against you.
  • Just Before the End: As a demonstration of the game's modding tools, the Universe Updated Re Release adds a pre-determined scenario called "The Ancient Galaxy," which is set during the war between the Freedom Alliance and the Shaktur Axis. Since the empires involved are at their height and the Lost Technology isn't, everybody begins play with established late-game empires and unrestricted access to relic technologies.
  • Karma Meter: Your empire's overall reputation affects diplomacy an awful lot. The reputation of an empire can range from "diabolical" to "heroic" depending on it's international behavior, such as honoring or breaking defense pacts, bombarding planets, dealing with or dealing with pirates, and how many spies got caught recently. Empires that have a good reputation will see a diplomatic bonus, thanks to the perception that they are trustworthy and honorable. Empires that lean towards the more evil side of this scale are generally hated, and their wartime enemies are progressively allowed to use more extreme methods in dealing with them without incurring any reputation penalties from anyone else. Also, it's entirely possible (but very difficult) to do countless horrible things and yet still have the reputation of a saint.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Like all weapons in the game, railguns have their ups and downs: they have a chance to penetrate shields, and later versions can be used as bombardment weapons, however, they severely suffer in range. As a result, they aren't very useful on slow moving ships.
  • It Only Works Once: This is the case with the Xaraktor virus. The returning Shakturi were able to develop a vaccine to protect themselves from the very plague that destroyed their first invasion force.
  • La Résistance: Planets revolt against their government if and when the populace becomes unhappy enough. Citizens don't like ongoing war, resource shortages, or living near species they deeply dislike (example: Gizureans hate everyone except other Gizureans). Revolt becomes more likely to happen if your government is opposed to the values of the dominant species living in it (example: Humans don't like autocratic governments, such as Military Dictatorships and Despotisms). This is also likely to occur if you enslave or exterminate other races on your planets: be prepared for them to fight back.
  • Lensman Arms Race: Any war that goes on long enough will see both sides inventing technology to shift the tide of battle in their favor.
  • Lost Superweapon: You can discover multiple game-changing weapons from ruins and have them reverse-engineered to fit into your ships in order to prove your technological superiority.
  • Lightning Bruiser: A sufficiently advanced warship will generally be this compared to it's lower tech opponents. This makes salvaging the various ancient warships lying around the galaxy a valid method to tip the scales in your favor in the event of a war: in the early game, some of them can even win an entire war for you.
  • Lost Technology: There are countless precursor artifacts and temples scattered across all of space: ancient cities, space stations, starship graveyards, et cetera. Most of them have remnants of advanced technology that can be used by whatever civilization possess them. Some have extremely powerful weapon technologies that are only available to the first civilization that encounters them (presumably, the original technology is destroyed or deleted to prevent any others from stumbling upon it).
  • Low Culture, High Tech: Exactly how the Atuukian race managed to develop space travel with their primitive, tree-dwelling culture is never explained. In fact, one of their victory conditions is to research the fewest technologies of any empire in the galaxy.
  • Mating Season Mayhem: The Securans, Gizureans and Dhayut all enter periodical "change cycles" where their reproductive rate is boosted for a few years. Securan empires also become a lot more friendly during this period, while Dhayut empires instead become significantly more aggressive.
  • Military Coup: The military dictatorship government often forms as a result of one of these. Any kind of military uprising may have this as it's ultimate goal.
  • A Million is a Statistic: Fleet combat, planetary invasions, orbital bombardment... most military actions in the game will result in many, many deaths. You won't even notice how many unless you make a point to keep count of the fatalities, and you'll likely lose count after 547 million or so (a relatively moderate planetary invasion).
  • Mook Commander: Captains and Admirals are non-playable characters who add bonuses (or deficits) to entire ships and fleets, respectively.
  • More Dakka: Railguns and Pulse Blasters fire very quickly for little energy, but do little damage per shot. As such, they do best when there's a humongous amount of them being fired downrange.
  • Naming Your Colony World / Settling the Frontier: Once you have a colony ship settle an actual habitable world, you can name it to your personal liking.
  • Neglectful Precursors: Not "neglectful" so much as terribly unfortunate. The civilized peoples of the ancient galaxy were amazingly advanced and had mostly learned to coexist in (mostly) harmonious equality. Through no fault of their own, they were suddenly attacked by the Shakturi, a militant race from outside the galaxy who did their best to fracture the old alliances as the first step to exterminating everyone. Their manipulations were discovered, and quickly led to a a galaxy spanning war that ended abruptly when the Kiadians released the incredibly deadly Xaraktor virus to end the Shakturi as a species. It ended up working TOO well, wiping out nearly all sapient life in the galaxy so incredibly quickly that many of their cities and most of their technology was left intact, from fleets of dead ships to half-constructed planet destroying battlestations.
  • Non-Entity General: The player is an ageless thing that sees everything there is to see about their nation and presides over every decision made. The expansion Distant Worlds: Legends includes an aversion in the form of civilization leaders who can be interacted with much like other characters, though the player themselves still fits this trope.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: The "Corporate Nationalism" government nationalizes all private revenue. This fosters an extreme boost to the state economy at a significant cost to everything else, including trade bonuses. As such, it is best used as a temporary solution to a severe money problem rather than a long-term strategy.
  • Outside-Context Problem: There are several things a civilization can encounter in this game that can create unexpected problems, such as making a new enemy before finding out that they have a working World Destroyer or other doomsday weapon, accidentally activating ancient nanomachine weapons that eat everything, or being unprepared when the Shakturi decide to make a return to the galaxy.
  • Pacifist Run: This can be done, depending on the specific victory goals of that race. In fact, some races' victory goals nearly require pacifism to complete (requiring you to at least avoid starting wars).
  • Planet Destroyer: The World Destroyers are Death Star-inspired starships the size of moons that can literally blast an entire planet instantly into very tiny fragments. With the right technology, any normal species can build them.
  • Possession Implies Mastery: Completely averted - just because you found a super-powerful battleship full of extremely advanced technology, in no way means that you can reproduce it or any part of it. While you can repair it, you'll have to research the technologies in it before you can build it on your own.
  • Proud Merchant Race Guy: The Teekan. They have bonuses to mining and trade, have access to the Mercantile Guild government, and half of their victory conditions are to amass the highest private-sector revenue and highest trade income in the galaxy. In-universe, the Teekan are thrifty merchants always collecting and selling odd technological knick-knacks, and are said to be Honest Corporate Executives that make for extremely loyal friends.
  • Proud Scholar Race Guy:
    • The Kiadians are peaceful humanoids with enlarged craniums and intellect to match, along with a culture that favors careful diplomacy and honesty. Their victory conditions include performing the most research in the galaxy, maintaining the longest-lasting free trade agreement and defensive pact in the galaxy, and breaking the fewest treaties.
    • The Quameno are a Frog Men race with abnormally high intelligence, described as enjoying difficult mental challenges for recreation's sake. They enjoy a +40% bonus to all research and a 60% higher chance to spawn new scientists, and their native victory conditions include not only completing the most research trees in the galaxy, but simply performing the most active research, period. However, they're also isolationist, as their other victory conditions include starting the fewest wars, and being involved in the fewest diplomatic treaties.
    • The Zenox are a race of Cat Folk obsessed with the study of galactic history. Their racial victory conditions include controlling the most ancient ruins, exploring every star and planet in the galaxy, and building the Galactic Archives wonder. They also start the game knowing the locations of two major historical sites, giving them an early leg up in the Archaeological Arms Race. Their other victory conditions are to lose the fewest ships, bases and troops in the galaxy, encouraging a defensive playstyle.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Mortalen are a belligerent warrior culture recognized as the best fighters in the galaxy. Their very name comes from a rite of passage where young Mortalen must slay a monstrous creature called a mortak, as Mortalen means "slayer of the mortak". In-game, Mortalen have bonuses to troop and ship upkeep, and a 35% reduction to war weariness. Their victory conditions are exclusively military related, and include having the highest level admiral and general in the galaxy, slaying the most enemy troops, conquering the most enemy planets, and subjugating the most rival empires.
  • Purposely Overpowered: Among all of the the salvageable ancient relics in this game, there are many things that are deliberately designed to give the middle finger to Competitive Balance in the most horrible ways imaginable. You will spend much of the game fighting over them. These can range from amazingly advanced cities that grant insane bonuses, note  to exceptionally rare trade goods that grant extreme bonuses to whomever has them, to super-technologies that, once obtained, are immediately made unavailable to anyone else. The absolute kings of this trope, though, are the World Destroyers, which come with a self-recharging laser cannon that is powerful enough to blow up ANY planet and everything else in the area around it once every 30 seconds... luckily, they take a very long time to build.
  • Random Event: The game is filled with these. Many random events come from exploring or just from normal play.
  • Regenerating Shield, Static Health: Any ship's shields will regenerate as long as it has enough power. Armor and components must be repaired manually, either by a construction ship or at starbases or spacedocks.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: The "Way of Darkness" government is every bit as repressive and powerful as a typical Military Dictatorship, but with none of the usual drawbacks.
  • Robot Soldier: The "Robotic Troop Foundry" allows your empire to make battalions of robot soldiers. They are essentially cheap cannon fodder compared to most any other military unit.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Kiadians resemble humans with enlarged craniums, and the Securans are Green Skinned Space Babes. They're grouped together with Humans as a "family" of related species that enjoy a natural diplomatic bonus with each-other.
  • Scavenger World: Thanks to the many dead precursor civilizations surrounding your fledgling empire, a good portion of the game will involve scavenging wrecks and occupying old, decaying cities ravaged by time. Many of them are full of advanced technology to plunder.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Securans can come across this way compared to other species, as if they were used to deflecting blame for criminal actions through their looks.
    "Covert missions? What missions? If there were any missions, we certainly wouldn't talk to you about them. But there are no missions anyway... So stop being so paranoid!"
  • Shout-Out: There are countless references to Star Trek, Star Wars, and other sci-fi properties.
    • Star Trek:
      • The first faster-than-light drive in the game is called a "Warp Bubble Generator", directly referencing Star Trek's Warp Drive, which generates a "warp bubble" to propel the ship.
      • Phasers are available in-game as an alternative weapon to pulse blaster technologies. They fire instant-hitting beams, while Pulse Blasters fire more stereotypical laser-bullets ala Star Wars.
      • Plasma Torpedoes do very high damage - higher than any other standard weapon in the game - but lose energy and fade over time, as does the iconic Romulan weapon of the same name.
      • Dilithium crystals are a mineable resource.
      • The Securans are directly modeled after Star Trek's Orions - skin color, promiscuity and all.
      • The Kiadians are based on the Talosians from The Cage. Like the Talosians, they are a very intelligent humanoid race with huge brains and a penchant for holographic illusions.
    • Star Wars:
      • Each evolution of Pulse Blaster technology looks like Star Wars' blasters/turbolasers, with the Shatterforce Laser in particular closely resembling Imperial Turbolasers.
      • It's entirely possible to build Giant Ion Cannons on your planets that disable orbiting ships, just like the Rebels did in The Empire Strikes Back.
      • Planetary Shields deflect all orbital bombardment, but troops can be dropped on the planet through the shield, just like the shield on Echo Base in The Empire Strikes Back.
      • The Atuukian race seems to be based on the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi.
      • The World Destroyers are very obviously based on the iconic Death Star battlestations.
      • In the late game, it becomes possible to clone the strongest soldiers in your Empire, as the Galactic Republic did to make their Clone Army in Attack of the Clones.
  • Shows Damage: Everything in the game that can take damage, from Space Stations to Giant Kaltors will become progressively disfigured as it takes damage until it finally explodes or dies.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Besides the uninhabitable worlds such as the Gas Giants and Barren Rock worlds, the game has six habitable planet/moon types: Continental, Marshy Swamp, Desert, Ice, Ocean, and Volcanic. They generally follow the Star Wars example.
  • Space Pirates: Pirates are a major part of this game. They conduct the usual actions that pirates are known for: raiding, boarding, smuggling, fighting each other, etc. However, they can be bribed for information, and can also be hired as mercenaries to provide protection for your empire, attack your enemies, or various other jobs. However, be wary: they can and will betray you if given a reason, and if they aren't destroyed in a timely fashion they can easily become troublesome factions that can contend with powerful empires well into the late game. They can even grow into a proper empire of their own. It's also an option to play as a pirate faction yourself.
  • Space Station: "Bases" are stationary structures that fulfill various roles, and can be customized just like ships. On top of having a larger maximum construction size than ships, bases built above inhabited worlds can waive the component cap entirely. The most straightforward examples are multipurpose shipyards equipped with construction bays, cargo holds for storing resources, weapons to protect their home, and (optionally) amenities like medical hubs and recreation centres to boost the happiness of their host colony. Other, smaller examples include resort bases placed near scenic locations to serve your empire's tourism industry, research bases that contribute to the sciences, defence bases that exist simply to protect territory with a mountain of weapons, listening posts equipped with long-range sensors, and compact mining bases that harvest resources from planets and asteroids. There's also star bases, which despite the name can be placed anywhere, even in deep space, and can be customized freely without having to adhere to a particular specialization.
  • Splash Damage: Despite their name, the "area" weapons in the game do this: they do incredible damage that falls off with distance from the point of impact.
  • The Spymaster: Intelligence agents are these. They can insert themselves deep into another government to monitor military and economic movements, assassinate political enemies, steal technology, incite rebellions, blow up space stations, and generally make life a complete mess for anyone who doesn't prepare for them.
  • Subsystem Damage: Every time a weapon impacts an unprotected target, it randomly destroys internal components equal to the damage being dealt. As a result, any ship or station that takes damage slowly loses its functionality as the battle wears on. The ship is only destroyed once all components are gone: this includes sensors, shield generators, thrusters, hyper-drives, countermeasure systems, cargo bays, life support... this can make it a bit of a chore to recover and repair damaged ships after a battle, especially if the hyper-drive is broken, in which case it's most effective to send another ship to repair it. A typical defence against subsystem damage is to pad out a ship's schematics with armor plating components (which are small, cheap and reduce incoming damage) to minimize the chance of anything valuable being lost, or to install redundant systems like multiple hyperdrives.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: In this game, this trope is generally averted. However, a weaker power can still initiate a hopeless fight if they decide that have no other choice, or they just hate you that much.
  • Technologically Advanced Foe: The Shakturi. In addition, any war in the game can involve this trope if the tech gap between the combatants is wide enough.
  • Tech Tree: There are three technology trees, all of which are researched separately at the same time: Weapons, Energy and Construction, and High Tech/Industrial. The placement, aptitude, and specific expertise of your scientists determines which sectors advance faster, and certain races have access to unique side-paths.
  • Teleport Interdiction: "HyperDeny" components project a short area of effect around the host craft, preventing any ship within its radius from activating their hyperdrives.
  • Terraform: Any livable planet will have a "quality" rating that determines how hard life is on that world. The terraformer building slowly increases quality to 100%.
  • They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: Especially in the early game, the galaxy is full of artifacts that prove this trope definitely true.
  • 2-D Space: The entire game exists on a two-dimensional plane.
  • Universal Translator: Played straight in the first game, where nobody has any difficulty chatting with aliens, even moments after First Contact. May be justified, since even pre-warp worlds are shown to receive plenty of off-world visitors through traders and pirates, and all the races have a shared history anyways.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: An empire with more accumulated resources and better infrastructure can build more infrastructure and accumulate more resources even faster. Therefore, the better an empire does in the early game, the better it will do in the late game.
  • Utopia: The "Utopian Paradise" is a unique government available to only two races in the game, the Securans and the Shandar. The government provides for every single one of its people's needs and wants at all times, no matter what they are. This creates an extremely content society that is highly unlikely to rebel against the state... at the notable disadvantage of everyone being so amazingly lazy that upkeep costs drastically increase and the military basically doesn't exist.
  • Vestigial Empire: It's entirely possible for a vast empire that rules a good chunk of the galaxy to collapse in on itself and break into pieces as a result of invasion, lack of resources, internal struggles for power tearing the empire apart, or even successful citizen's rebellions.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The amount of horrific things you can do to other empires and even your own citizens is pretty incredible. You can enslave anyone that happens to be living on any of your planets, even deporting undesirables to a designated penal colony if you wish. You can, as an official policy, kill all members of a certain species, or even their entire racial family (such as, killing every humanoid being in the galaxy). You can bomb any planet until it becomes a virtually uninhabitable waste - or, if you have the right tech, blast it, and all it's billions of inhabitants into an asteroid field.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: As it turns out, people tend to gang up on megalomaniacal tyrants, becoming more likely to declare wars and form alliances against empires with a rock-bottom reputation.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: It's not uncommon to find empires fighting for a single cause to also kill each other. One particularly common example is two empires at war with each other, who happen to encounter some pirates in a system where they are skirmishing - they will kill the pirates, but they won't stop killing each other in the meantime. This can extend to factions that broke off from a bigger empire mutually hating each other despite both coming technically from the same rebellion.
  • War for Fun and Profit: It's entirely possible to fight a war merely because you want someone else's stuff, particularly the various flavors of Unobtanium (which the game will helpfully alert you towards if somebody has it and is unwilling to share).
  • War Is Hell: War is absolutely not a pleasant thing in this game. Invading even a single planet will typically mean the deaths of literally billions of soldiers on both sides. Using Orbital Bombardment beforehand to kill the defenders and save your own troops will kill many noncombatant civilians, which can not only cause your allies to reconsider their opinion of you, but can also turn formerly lush planets into uninhabitable graveyards. Civilian transport convoys will often be raided at opportunity, killing traders, immigrants, and refugees alongside the soldiers. Privately owned resort stations will often be just as much a target as a military shipyard. Finally, massive amounts of resources will be expended on both sides to train soldiers, repair and resupply the warships, and replace the constantly captured/destroyed civilian freighters and transports, leaving massive gaps in your economy that could potentially last for decades. Finally, depending on how a war goes, your admirals, ship captains, and generals can become addicts.
  • We Have Reserves: There's nothing stopping you from blowing up a planet while your fleets are still orbiting well within the blast radius. Additionally, Teekan and Gizurean militaries tend to have incredibly large numbers of very mediocre warships: military victory for them often comes at a massive cost in both destroyed ships and dead crews.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Of a sort: you can choose to play the game with all victory conditions disabled to maximize the immersion factor.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Just because peace was declared doesn't necessarily mean the hostilities are over. It's not uncommon to end a war, only to have one of your science stations suddenly and mysteriously explode, or a group of mercenaries show up out of nowhere to harass your shipping. That, and depending on the economic situation, they may manage to recover from the war faster than you do...
  • Worker Unit: The workhorse of your empire is the Construction Ship class created at your colonies, which is responsible for building the majority of space structures and repairing derelict ships. The autonomous private sector oversees many other types of worker unit, including freighters, mining ships and passenger liners.