Stellaris Review

Nathaniel Simon, Staff Writer

Hello fellow believers, I have something special to show you. This is going to be quite a long winded review, so sit tight with me as I give you a tour of the universe. Stellaris is a grand strategy game, meaning that it can take a long time to win and is complicated by design. In Stellaris, you lead a species of aliens, or if you want to be boring, humans, into the space age and beyond by exploring, expanding, exploiting, and sometimes exterminating what ever you find out there. These are the four tenets of the 4X genre of strategy games of which this game belongs.

As you boot up the game you would be inclined to start a new game right? WRONG! You have to design your species’ traits and how they function as a civilization first. There are a few steps but the major ones are choosing your portrait, phenotypes vary from mammalian to reptilian, choose their traits, whether they are smart or strong, or live a long time, and their ethics which determine how their society is run. This is the only thing about creating your species that I will explain in detail, as everything else is relatively simple and this affects tons of things in the game. As you can see from the picture there are right core ethics to choose from. You have three points to spend so you can get three ethics or a fanatic version with bigger benefits and downsides.

They are as follows going clockwise, Militaristic, Xenophobe, Egalitarian, Materialist, Pacifist, Xenophile, Authoritarian, and Spiritualist. You might be telling yourself: “Wow, this sounds pretty boring already” Well you’d be right, but as I said before, just stick around for a bit.

This also brings us to a big problem for Paradox strategy games, their steep learning curve. You see, none of the following is explained to you except through tool tips so you will probably choose random things when creating your civ, which usually spells disaster. But back to what I was saying, ethics are important as they allow you to do different things and, or excel in different areas. For example, Pacifists and Xenophiles excel at diplomacy; By design Pacifists are not allowed to declare war on other empires, although that doesn’t stop them from fighting back, and Xenophiles get a bonus to relations due to their disposition towards aliens. On the other hand, Xenophobes and Militarists are good at warfare Xenophobes, while they have a negative bonus to relations with other alien empires, they have larger borders, meaning they get more resources and more “land.” Militarists also get a bonus to ship fire rate and army damage when invading another planet. These are but a few combinations and each cater to a different play style. Which brings us to the gameplay.

The early game consists mostly of one thing: Exploration. When the game begins you start out with a few measly corvettes, which is the least powerful ship in the game, you get a science ship, which you use to survey planets and stars to find out what materials you can get from them, also you get a construction ship which you use to build mining and or research stations above worlds with resources on them. While that sounds like a lot it really isn’t. Usually the first thing you find are hostile spaceborne aliens. There are several types which will not be went over in this review but usually finding them even with all 3 of the ships you start with combined in one fleet will get them destroyed.

The gameplay escalates when you find your first alien empire besides your own. This usually results in one of two things: They either immediately like you because they are or you are, a xenophile, or because you and them have similar ethics, for example spiritualists like other spiritualists. You will have a wonderful diplomatic relationship for the rest of the game. Or you are immediately hated by said empire because you or they are Xenophobes, or because you and them have opposing ethics, Materialist X Spiritualists. If you are lucky you now have an ally to potentially trade with. If not, you need to watch your alien behind, because he will want to declare war on you as soon as he has an advantage, which brings me to my next topic: War.

War in Stellaris is fairly simple. When you declare war on someone you make demands that are worth points, the maximum you can wager on a war is 100. The more points, the longer the war, and the more planets you need to take. How you take those planets is simple. You send a fleet with a higher fleet power than theirs, completely decimate their fleets and bombard their planets to submission. That is basically how combat and war works in Stellaris. It’s a number game. Which brings me to my next complaint about this game’s learning curve: The ship customization feature.

The problem with this feature is that, while it offers variety in terms of strategy, it also is hidden away in a separate menu in the “more” section on the top of the screen and is relegated to the F10 key. The problem then is that if you don’t use this mechanic, you won’t be winning any wars. Also when you get a new ship type it auto fills the slots on the ship where weapons are supposed to go with the weakest possible weapons you have. For example: I just researched Battleships the best possible type of ship in the game, and I am so excited to tr

y them out, only to get my fleet demolished because it has no armor or shields or good lasers on it. Another thing if you were to build the base corvette with the base lasers and everything and just spam them, you probably could win most fights even against people with those big bulky battleships as they are so cheap that it’s irrelevant how powerful they are.

This game is really fun but it also is hard to learn like most of Paradox’s games. If you like strategy games and or space games, then Stellaris is an awesome choice for you. Stellaris definitely is one of those games that you can spend days on so with that I give Stellaris a 8/10 due to its outstanding strategic game play. 

The only thing holding it back is its learning curve and sheer amount of ways to cheat the game’s progression.