Stellaris is a 2016 grand-strategy video game by acclaimed developer Paradox Interactive.
Paradox, already famous for complex historically-based games like the Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings franchises, designed Stellaris as a brand-new IP, which took what they had learned from the development of their other grand-strategy games, and applied it to a sci-fi setting with a much more user-friendly interface and gameplay loop.
Why It Rocks
- The game uses a procedural generation system to create the galaxy, along with many AI empires to populate the game with. Users have a wide range of options in customising their experience, and no two games are the same. The base game comes with a variety of present empires which can spawn in or be played by players, ranging from a future version of our own society to a multitude of alien races and cultures. In addition, the game features a versatile empire creation system that allows players to make their own empires.
- In reference to point 1, the game's Empire creator not only allows you to customize the appearance and name of your empires, but uses a RPG-esque system of "ethics" (the guiding principles of your empire) and civics (the political or social traditions of your empire's government) to allow players to create a vast range of unique empires. There are thousands of different combinations, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
- The game is constantly updated, despite being primarily a singleplayer game (although there is also a multiplayer component). Each update is provided free of charge, with the exception of DLC. However, most of the features of DLC are released simultaneously as part of a free major update, as not to upset the balance of the game. Since 2016, there have been a large number of major updates, and the game as of now is very different to the original 1.0 release, with major gameplay loops and features having been changed or altered significantly.
- DLC is completely optional, and isn't "pay to win" content. As of November 2019, there have been two major DLC packs, Apocalypse (which is centered around enhancing warfare), and Utopia (which introduces a variety of midgame/endgame content including the ability to construct massive "Megastructures", or to make changes to your species using Ascension Paths), a large number of story packs (which introduce more minor gameplay elements such as new events, new space-creatures, or other less impressive content), and four cosmetic packs adding new species portraits and shipsets to the game. In Multiplayer, players get access to the DLC of other players on the server as to balance things out. If one player has Utopia, and another player does not, then every player will have access to the content in Utopia for the purpose of that game.
- There is a very-well supported modding community for the game, and the developers even provide a versatile API list for content creators to use for their addons. Mods range from simple graphical improvements to additional research projects, or even entire custom galaxies or campaigns. There is also a large number of total conversion mods that completely overhaul the entire game, turning it into a vastly different game.
- The graphics in the map mode (which you'll be using most of the time) are 2D, but the system maps where real-time space combat and other activities take place is a 3D environment, with superb graphics. Space combat also takes place in real time, and looks amazing.
- The community is very diverse and friendly, with a emphasis on creating content. Many players write After Action Reports (AARs) of their games, and post them to the Paradox Forums, where the community is centred. Other content is posted to more general sites like Reddit, with one project of particular note being the Xenonion News Network, a parodic fake-news site with it's own subreddit. Xenonion is based around Stellaris, and presents "news articles" chronicling events within the game.
- The game is much more user-friendly than Paradox's other games, with the interface designed to be as simple as possible, while also providing as much fidelity as Paradox's other games. Overall, Stellaris is a lot simpler than the Crusader Kings games, but is still much more complex and in-depth than more general strategy games like the Civilization series, and features an easier learning curve.
- While it is less challenging to master than Paradox's other grand strategy titles, Stellaris still has quite a steep learning curve. The game is still very complex and in-depth despite being Paradox's easiest game to get into, and this can turn away a lot of people. However, many online tutorials and guides exist to help new players, and the majority of these are updated or rewritten to account for new updates. In addition, Paradox operates a wiki which can be extremely helpful for figuring out what things do.
- The developers have often overhyped aspects of DLC, which has caused grumblings from the wider community. However, unlike many other dev teams, the Stellaris devs do listen to their audience, and improve the game based on popular demand; which at least shows that they do care about making quality content.
- While Stellaris has surprisingly low system requirements, many computers, including very powerful rigs, can struggle to keep a consistent framerate as the game's history gets larger. Once the game hits the endgame period, it isn't surprising for even dedicated gaming rigs with powerful processors to experience extreme stuttering or delayed reactions from the game interface due to the amount of events occurring in-game.
Stellaris has been critically and commercially successful, with a massive cult following. As of June 2016, Stellaris had sold over 500,000 units, with 200,000 of those units being sold within the first 24 hours. The game continues to be well-acclaimed by audiences and critics alike.