Distant Worlds – Shadows: Playing a Polite Pirate can be Problematic…

Woohoo! Let the Good Times Roll!
Woohoo! Let the Good Times Roll!

Welcome to the first installment of my Distant Worlds – Shadows review! If you recall in my Distant Worlds – Legends review, I did something a little different, combining a character-based story with a review into something I hope was entertaining. I’ve decided to keep that theme going with my look at the latest expansion for what has become my favorite 4X game. Since this expansion focuses both on a new pre-warp era as well as a new piratical way to play, I thought this time I’d do a character study in the Age of Shadows, where pirates ruled and empires drooled (or something). Therefore, please join me was I chronicle the adventures of Paul, the Polite Pirate. :)

Balanced Pirate Play Style
Balanced Pirate Play Style

For this game, I chose the Kiadian race (I like intelligent races) and a balanced play style. This style doesn’t focus more on one type of piracy over the other (i.e. raiding, mercenary work or smuggling), but allows the player to dabble in all of them. I also began the game on everything set to “suggest” in the options, as you’ll see why in a moment. Now, onto the story. :) Oh, also, out of character stuff like this will be italics. ;)

It finally happened. The last word out of the Dread Pirate Dan’s mouth were to me, and he said, softly, “Don’t mess this up, idiot.” He then died.

My father never had much faith in me.

And who could blame him? He was one of the most ruthless, most cutthroat scourges this galaxy had ever laid eyes on, or so that’s how he always told it. Suffice it to say, my father indeed was a mean, unruly bastard, both at home and while out on one of his raids. When it was clear that I didn’t share the same temperament as he did at a young age, he never missed a moment to let his disappointment show. My younger siblings, brothers and sisters, were much more suited to the task of piracy than I, he felt, but as the eldest, that made me the heir.

So rather than try to fight him along with the rest of the galaxy, I stepped back. I watched. I studied. I made notes of what I felt he did right and did wrong. I insisted on getting a “real” education so that I could best be prepared to take over the family business once he passed, and that time had finally come. For years I watched, I studied, and I wanted, all for the moment that had finally arrived.

I had gone from Paul the pathetic to Paul the pirate in a mere moment. My dad might have been a bastard, but he was still my dad, and I loved him and the rest of my family, so I vowed I would do my best to keep the family business going, even though there would have to be some…changes.

First, I assembled the leader’s council. These were the men my father trusted the most with various portions of his empire, from construction to diplomacy. I explained to them that I wanted to do things a little differently that my father. Slower, more methodical, more long-term, and so I asked them each to help me as best they could to help retool this empire my father has built based on fear to one also based on cool, calculated business acumen.

All the leaders agreed, and in turn I began to hear ideas from each of them. The shipbuilder was eager to bring more ships into service, but I said no, saying we needed to get all of our ducks in a row. In discussing expansion ideas with the leaders, we all agreed to send what ships we had to explore new systems in order to find new sources of raw materials with which we could use, sell or smuggle. Thus began our great build.

Go, My Friends! Fly!
Go, My Friends! Fly!

Once our ships were on their way, I gave my leaders free reign to decide raiding targets, building manifests, research and so on, as long as I was involved in every final decision. This helped me learn the business even further and helped keep the leaders in line. Eventually, mining bases began construction, and in a short amount of time we had a slow, steady and positive cash flow, which is how I intended to keep it. Eventually, we decided to raid a local independent colony we had found, Dacshii 1. As this was to be my first raid, I wanted to be there personally.


Eventually we began to control the colony, but it was a tenuous control, and since we knew our time there would be limited, we decided to take what we could before we were driven out again. Such is the life of a pirate, I learned from my father and others. One can never hold onto planets for too long, eventually the inhabitants will want you gone. During this time, we also took control of the independent colonies of Ingiyie and Mytos 1. This brought in even more cash and materials, enough for us to finally build some new ships.

New Ships! Yay!
New Ships! Yay!

At this point in the game, I had begun to control several colonies, but as I said, our hold on them was tenuous. Independent populations never say controlled for too long, it seems, which is something I really like. It’d be boring if they just ACCEPTED our rule, you know? In an annoying note, whenever I would get a SLIVER of money, I was always asked to build new ships in an amount close to the total sum of what I had on me. I get it, as ships are essential in controlling the galaxy, but guys, I don’t wanna bankrupt my empire to build two destroyers, slow down. Anyway…

Slowly and steadily, our cashflow increased, hampered only by regular maintenance costs, paychecks and the like. You know, the usual expenses. During this time, we lost the frigate Decimator 007. This was my first ship loss, and I’ll admit, it got me pretty upset, as I sent in a fleet of four ships to deal with the one who killed ours. I figured a show of overwhelming force would send a message not to mess with us. Eventually it worked, for a time at least.

I'll Take That Mission!
I’ll Take That Mission!

We also found money in missions for specific colonies, mostly smuggling materials for wonderfully inflated prices. Things were going well, but I knew it couldn’t last, and the trouble started with our scientists. Apparently our scientists had been researching their technology incorrectly, and once they found out about it, they realized it put them further behind in research than they might’ve been otherwise. Having to set an example, I had one of the scientists gently maimed (the only lost a finger…or two…it was an accident, really) so it wouldn’t happen again.

What the Hell Man?
What the Hell Man?

It was around this time we began losing control of several of our taken colonies. The amount of colonies we controlled fluctuated from nine to four to seven and so on as we’d lose and then retake colonies. It was annoying, as it was a strain on our resources and time, but it as a necessary evil. Thankfully our smuggling operations were bringing in some steady income, and our clan had been gaining in reputation, as independent captains decided to join up with us in order to have a share of the increasingly large pie. The first was Mavoq Pruggu and his freighter, the Vanishing Way. Pruggu was a well-known smuggler around the space lanes, so his joining our ranks was something of a coup.

Welcome Smuggler!
Welcome Smuggler!

We were also offered truce treaties by two other pirate clans, the Slukis Mercenaries and Nibu Security. As I didn’t want us to waste resources fighting among other pirate clans, I told our diplomats to totally jump on these treaty deals so we could focus our time and energy to where it really mattered: colonial control, exploration and economic growth.  Our scientific services were finally doing a proper job, making a few breakthroughs along with some technologies we had acquired through raids. This led my advisers to suggest a refit of our ships. I accepted, but I hate refit time. It feels like we’re extra vulnerable while our ships wait to be worked on.

I Like Truces...
I Like Truces…

Once the ships were refitted, we began some more raids, so we raided Calipsa 5 for the first time, and conducted raids to retake some planets we had lost control over such as Mytos 1 and Ingiyie. During this time we not only brought on a new ship captain, but a new intelligence agent as well. It was around this time that I could feel something of a sea change in the air. Our fortunes were changes, and it might not have been for the best. The trouble began, looking back now, on Mytos 1. During a raid, our ships left orbit, relinquishing space control and leaving our troops at a severe disadvantage. Questioning their captains left us with few answers, as they left to pursue what ended up being a sensor ghost, in the hopes of getting some profit for themselves. Of course, these captains were removed from their posts and…dealt with.

Hey, Ships! Come Back! We Need You! WTF?1
Hey, Ships! Come Back! We Need You! WTF?1

I also accept an intelligence mission from our new agent, Mek Kuutsian, in which he wanted to steal technology from Dread Security, another pirate clan with which we had a truce. Seeing that he was indeed an expert, I agreed. A short while later, while Kuutsian was out on his mission, both Nibu Security and Slukis Mercenaries cancelled their peace treaties with us, on the same day. Had Kuutsian been discovered? Were they preparing for war? I had no idea, but in trying to contact them, it appears that they were mad at US for cancelling their agreements?

This Isn't Good...
This Isn’t Good…

It was around this time that news came over the galactic news net that one of the smaller empires in the area, the Ubrua Scae Technocracy, had just discovered hyperdrive. This was something of a crushing blow, as hyperdrive technology was one of our main advantages over these burgeoning empires. I then convened a meeting of all the leaders with one goal in mind: Preparing for war, whether our new enemies started it, or we did.

There Goes THAT Advantage...
There Goes THAT Advantage…

As you can see, being a pirate can be even more complicated than being an empire in this game, but that also makes it more fun, in all honesty. Money comes from different sources, and few of those sources are reliable, meaning you have to stay on your toes for new opportunities. In this game, I acquired, lost, reacquired and lost nearly a dozen colonies, meaning there was a constant juggling act of raids along with exploration, missions and so on. It makes for a very, very fun playstyle that I find myself enjoying very much. 

There were some niggles though, such as advisers telling me every other minute to save up for a new base. I GET IT GUYS. SHEESH. It was also weird when some ships just LEFT orbit during a raid, giving up a decisive spacebourne advantage. Regardless of these niggles, I had a wonderful time playing a passive pirate, but I think that passivitiy is going to be put to the test in the next installment. I hope you enjoyed THIS installment of my look into Distant Worlds – Shadows, and invite you to take a gander at my screenshot gallery below. Thanks for reading folks! :)

Author: Brian Rubin

2 thoughts on “Distant Worlds – Shadows: Playing a Polite Pirate can be Problematic…

  1. Harr! Harr! me matey!
    Super duper storyline and a great read, I really don’t know how you keep it all under control but you did and do.

    Not played as a pirate yet but its a comin…
    I’m still somewhere along the path as a human empire, started there and still playing weeks on.
    That’s the trouble when you start with a large map, can I win, the judge and jury are still out.

    A true masterpiece of a game, but it comes with the ‘It will eat your life away’ unwritten warning as standard.
    Worth every second.
    Brilliant review of a brilliant game.

    1. Welcome to the comments Necker, and thank you for the kind words on the review, it was fun to write (and even more fun to play through). Can’t wait to do more installments, got at least three more in me I think. ;)

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