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Stellaris – PC

Stellaris – PC

Platform: PC

Developer: Paradox Development Studio

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Release Date: (WW) May 9, 2016

Genre: Real Time Strategy

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed by bushtika

The year is 2200. Humanity has progressed by leaps and bounds in only a few hundred years and now stands at the edge of greatness. As the warp drives hum with energy, your people stand by, prepared to seize their destiny.

Stellaris is a 4X style, real-time strategy (RTS) game in which a species who has only just discovered faster-than-light space travel has set out to conquer other empires or unite the galaxy.  Players will encounter a plethora of alien life, from familiar humanoids, to sentient fungi. Primitive species roam their home worlds, progressing through various stages of civilization, and can be uplifted or exterminated. Machine empires come into play with the Downloadable Content (DLC), which allows for assimilation of organic species and removes the need for food and happiness for the robotic masses.

Diplomacy is crucial as sending space fruit baskets in the present can mean the difference between a massive fleet showing up on your doorstep years down the road, or a nifty research agreement in the short term. Contrarily, have you ever had that one idiot friend, always starting fights with people and causing a scene for no reason? In Stellaris, that idiot could be the one to piss off a massive federation or antagonizing an overpowered Fallen Empire into deciding your species can do without that pesky “living” habit you’ve got going on. Galactic diplomacy is conducted with much spite and vengeance, as hurt feelings can potentially take centuries to mend. Although, I can say little is more satisfying than annihilating an enemy empire’s fleet who has been insulting, harassing, and mocking you for decades on end. Let’s see who’s a ludicrous bare-ape now!

Nobody can oppose the might of God-Emperor bushtika!

Gameplay is simple and easy for new players to jump right in, however, the real difficulty comes from empire management. All too often I’ve started a game, focused too hard on resources, and found myself being invaded by vastly superior forces intent on probing my population. On the opposite hand, I boosted my military spending – like America just discovered oil in space – which left me with a starving populace while holding my fleets together with quantum duct tape.

Enemy empires are not forgiving either. Even with modified difficulty settings, you must always be prepared for that shifty neighbor ready to jump across your borders. Non-player empires have a tendency to advance much faster in technology, so keeping a well-maintained fleet is imperative. After a few centuries, most of the galaxy will have been claimed, and one of several endgame crisises will begin, forcing the galaxy to unite to defeat their new foes.

Another day, another orbital strike…

The visuals are fantastic. With a proper processor and zoom level, you can observe individual missiles and kinetic rounds impact on shields and hulls. However, the design of the ships is basic, with designs falling into one of eight species’ specific design plans with four main offensive ships and several civilian types as well. I will give kudos to the actual component templates of the ships, which have multiple slots for weapons and upgrades, and can be customized as necessary, or for lazy people like myself, allows for an auto-best upgrade option as you research more technology.

I am disappointed by the role of ground armies in Stellaris, as invasions are less War of the Worlds and more junior-high math class with how formulaic they can be. Ground assaults are conducted with the repetitiveness of parking your giant spaceship gang over a planet, bombing the motivation out of their bodies, and staging a ground assault where you watch a bunch of green circles turn into red circles. Considering how much effort they put into ship to ship combat visuals, combined with the lack of need to apply strategy to your armies, this is one area of the game which certainly feels overlooked.

Worlds are diverse and sorted by habitability and climate, with some having the potential to be terraformed into suitable planets with enough research. Opposed to Sins of a Solar Empire and many other 4X type games, there are hundreds of potential solar systems, anomalies, black holes, and planets to visit and claim. Jokes are not in short supply with Paradox, as more than once have I stumbled upon an Alderaan, an Arrakis, or a Covfefe floating out in space.

Stellaris has great replayability, myself never playing the same game twice, despite my tendency to rule with my human brethren. Bits of story come through with research projects, empire achievements, and random events which helps give a feel to the galaxy. The modding community, at least on steam, is very active and the developers have been striving to regularly bring updates and new DLC which actually improve the game.

Home, sweet home

The game length is my largest complaint, as I have lost several weekends to individual games that begin to stagnate after a few hundred years. Research is painfully slow, and even with upgrades and bonuses, I can watch entire episodes of a show on Netflix in the time it takes to complete a much needed research project. Yet somehow, I always seem to find myself looking at Earth again and beginning my quest to conquer and integrate all alien scum as I have done dozens of times before.

Compared to other 4X games, Stellaris stands out for sure. Sins of a Solar Empire and Stellaris are two of the easiest games to get into. Despite the long game length, time doesn’t slow to a crawl as it would with a turn-based 4X game like the Galactic Civilizations series, nor does it feel like I’m going to get stomped ten minutes into my game like Endless Space. Aside from all the factual reasons, Stellaris is just more FUN. I love all the fictional technology and thought put into the game universe and the consumer really gets everything they’ve paid for and more.

To the supermassive black hole consuming my free time, I denote a well-deserved 8 out of 10.

Written by bushtika

Thousands of years ago in the future, one man rose up to spread the true word of science fiction and 90’s video games and his name was bushtika.

Originally from Denver, Colorado, bushtika currently lives in NC with a bunch of marines. He manages his own business back home and writes books and draws while listening to electronic music and pop punk.


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