Distant Worlds: Universe at heart is a 4x, pausable, Real Time Strategy game, but its massive scope allows for much more than typical RTS gameplay.
The game has a vast amount of macro-management, from choosing dozens of items and behaviors for a single ship, to managing thousands of star systems, each with thousands of individual points of management in research, technology, diplomacy, war, mining and much more.
What has enamored me, is due to the scope of the game, it could quickly become unruly, if not impossible to really play and manage it all. Although, I'm sure there will be players taking on these challenges. But Code Force has thought of this and supplied an equally vast amount of tools and functionality to ease and delegate commands.
There's a high amount of tickable options to customize your game before you even start playing. Start prewarp in a tiny sector or jump into a massive universe already well-established.
Almost everything is possible to automate to the point I could spend a night just watching an episode of Distant Worlds by Me.
What I noticed happens with so much control over customizing how my games will play is that it uniquely changes each game, and there's still a plethora of choices on how I wish to play each of those games once they're started.
It can easily become less of a linear game of empire building and more of just tinkering in a universe-sim. I could fire-up a massive game from scratch one night with everything except one ship automated, lock onto that ship and play Starship Captain for a night. A night could be spent concentrating solely on research management, deciding every aspect of growth into research, or automate it all and concentrate on growing a fleet and attacking neighboring Empires. I could play a pirate, roaming the galaxy mercenary style. I could spend nights solely watching individual or groups of freighters bouncing in and out of warp-speed as they deliver and pick-up cargo. I could take a general approach to overall empire management and concentrate on establishing unique diplomatic relations with other Empires.
The scale of Distant Worlds lends more specification to individual elements of Empire building. Those individual elements become more prominant and allow for more styles of how a player wishes to approach the game.
Suddenly the game stops being an RTS that I'm bouncing around to manage overall balance in and becomes an episode of a SciFi TV show, starring me as the Captain, or I become a mechanic designing each and every aspect of individual ships. I could automate all ships and concentrate on being a diplomat or do the reverse and automate everything except my fleet.
I feel as though it's almost too much to try and explain. The game becomes so vast that the tools to handle that scope suddenly allow a level of customization and management that puts it on par with a sandbox game where you start and stop worlds at any point you want and have a plethora of options as to what you want to concentrate on and do each time you play.