Stellaris (video game)
Stellaris is a 4X grand strategy video game developed by Paradox Development Studio and published by Paradox Interactive. Stellaris' gameplay revolves around space exploration, managing an empire, diplomacy, and space warfare with other space-faring civilizations. It was released worldwide for Windows, macOS, and Linux on May 9, 2016, on February 26, 2019 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and on March 25, 2021 for Xbox Series X and Series S.
|Developer(s)||Paradox Development Studio|
|Release||Windows, OS X, Linux|
May 9, 2016
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
February 26, 2019
Xbox Series X/S
March 25, 2021
|Genre(s)||4X, Grand Strategy|
Stellaris is a real-time grand strategy game set in space, in the distant future. Players play as a government of a species in early stages of interstellar space exploration, right after the invention of faster-than-light (FTL) space travel technology, ready to claim a place as one of "the species of the stars." Depending on several factors, such as the ethics of the civilization and the player's desires, the ultimate goal of the empire can range from galactic conquest, hoarding of resources and technological supremacy, to peaceful coexistence with or absolute destruction of all other sapient life. The player controls ships, including science, construction and military vessels. Combat includes space combat and ground combat and is more centered towards the bigger picture, preparation, and strategy. There are also diplomatic options such as alliances and trade agreements with other races.
The game begins either by picking one of the premade empires or using a player-customized empire/species. The process of creating involves several different choices. The first of these choices involves picking a mixture of positive and negative characteristics ("Traits") that make up their species. Next, the player customizes the empire of their species. In this phase, the player chooses the ethics and civics of their empire (with Ethics and Civics points, respectively) which are meant to represent the ideology the empire has adopted. Traits give various buffs, restrict certain features (a Spiritualist empire cannot use robots, a Materialistic empire cannot outlaw robots) and governments from being picked (an Authoritarian empire is unable to be a democratic government and vice versa), and change the way information is presented to the player. Players also choose an origin, a kind of backstory for their empire. Origins can include originating from a world ravaged by nuclear warfare or starting with a secondary playable race, such as robots or a strong but unintelligent worker race. These secondary species are created in a similar process as previously mentioned.
All ethics, other than the later added Gestalt Consciousness, have normal and fanatic versions which represent the alignment of the empire. Fanatic versions of ethics give greater bonuses than their normal variants, but usually have even higher restrictions and always take up two ethics points instead of the normal one point per ethic. The ethic named Gestalt Consciousness makes the empire a hive mind or robotic empire, takes up all ethics points and gives new civics only available to hive mind and robotic empires. Megacorporations, a government type added in the Megacorp DLC, aren't restricted ethics-wise like a hive mind is, but they can only choose civics unique to them. Both ethics (other than Gestalt Consciousness) and most civics can be changed throughout the game. The player can customize the flag, name, homeworld, appearance of cities and space constructs, and ruler of their empire.
In most cases, the player's empire begins with a single inhabited planet, several mining and/or research stations, a construction ship, a science ship, three small warships, and a starbase. Early gameplay consists of exploring and colonizing increasing swaths of space, while mid-game activities may include engaging with warfare and/or diplomacy with other empires, but can also be filled with a vast amount of micro-management. The economy of a player's empire throughout the game is primarily based on five main resources: energy credits, minerals, food, consumer goods, and alloys, each having a primary purpose to contribute to the player's economy. Advancement in Stellaris is achieved through technologies and traditions which progressively scale in cost for the player to achieve, but provide better features for the player as the game continues. Later in the game, crisis events can occur that have galaxy-wide implications—for example, an awakening of dormant sentient AI or an invasion by extra-dimensional or extra-galactic forces, the former two always being triggered by careless empires. Paradox hoped that this feature would address a common late-game problem in 4X style games; whereby one faction is so powerful that their eventual victory is inevitable, resulting in frustrating gameplay.
Development and releaseEdit
Stellaris was developed by Paradox Development Studios and published by Paradox Interactive. The game uses the same Clausewitz Engine that the studio has used since Europa Universalis III in 2007 albeit with some modifications, such as the usage of physically based rendering (PBR). The game was presented at Gamescom in August 2015. Director Henrik Fahraeus describes his influences as "one third Star Control 2, one third Master of Orion 2 and one third Europa Universalis IV", to "create a strategy game with particular focus on exploration and expand". The team also referenced Star Control II with several character concepts and personalities, including alien races who resemble birds, mushrooms, and gas clouds.
Stellaris was released to the public on May 9, 2016. After launch, the developers confirmed that there would be a number of expansion packs, as well as free updates to address bugs and introduce new gameplay features. The updates are named after famous science fiction writers, including Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Iain Banks, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, Karel Čapek, Pierre Boulle, C. J. Cherryh, Larry Niven, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Tanith Lee and Mary Shelley.
The game is also accompanied by free patches, which may adjust existing mechanics or add new ones in the same theme as the expansions. The first major patch arrived on May 24, shortly after the game's release, featuring numerous improvements to the AI, as well as an additional playable race. The 2.0 patch (Cherryh), released in February 2018, revamps a significant amount of game mechanics, even for players who have not purchased the corresponding "Apocalypse" DLC. The 2.1 (Niven) update, released alongside the "Distant Stars" DLC in May, revamped the base game play loop and added more quality-of-life features. The 2.2 (Le Guin) update was released in December, along with the "Megacorp" DLC, and revamped how planets are organized. The 3.0 (Dick) update was released in April 2021, coinciding with the release of the "Nemesis" DLC.
A number of DLCs have been released for the game. All are optional and may be applied to the base game in any combination. The largest DLCs come in the form of expansions, which significantly alter the mechanics and features of the game. There are also story packs (which add new events and minor mechanics) and species packs (which add new species, with accompanying audio, visuals and mechanics).
|Name||Release date||Full Expansion||Description|
|Plantoids Species Pack||4 August 2016||Introduces new plant-based species for players and AI empires to choose from, including new artwork and animations for leaders, ships, and city scapes.|
|Leviathans Story Pack||20 October 2016||Introduces 'Guardians', powerful space creatures and entities which can be fought or investigated; independent enclaves; and new mechanics for Fallen Empires to awaken and either reconquer the Galaxy or fight one another in the "War in Heaven".|
|Utopia||6 April 2017||Adds megastructures including Ringworlds and Dyson Spheres, space habitats, 'Ascension Perks' allowing biological, synthetic or psionic evolution, hive mind empires, new slavery and native indoctrination options and additional civics.|
|Synthetic Dawn Story Pack||21 September 2017||Allows playing as (and against) non-organic empires and features the ability to play as and encounter machine empires with unique event chains and mechanics while also adding synthetic uprisings and new synthetic portraits.|
|Humanoids Species Pack||7 December 2017||Adds new options for human-like player and AI empires, with new leader and ship appearance options, and additional music tracks and VIR voiceover sets.|
|Apocalypse||22 February 2018||Focused on warfare, it adds several super weapons providing for the ability to destroy planets and eradicate or assimilate planetary populations, in addition to new 'Titan' ship classes and defensive modules allowing for system-wide weapon attacks. The expansion also includes nomadic 'Marauder' civilisations, unity ambitions and new civics.|
|Distant Stars Story Pack||22 May 2018||Players are now able to discover and unlock access to new hidden star clusters and encounter several new anomalies, events, space entities, and unique systems. It also added a fictional 'L-Cluster', a section of stars that spawned with regular galaxies.|
|Megacorp||6 December 2018||Introduces new Corporate Authorities which can establish branch offices on foreign planets and dominate galactic trade, the ability to create an ecumenopolis, non-player nomadic 'Caravaneer' civilizations, more megastructures, new ascension perks and a galactic slave market.|
|Ancient Relics Story Pack||4 June 2019||Allows players to uncover ruins of long-dead civilizations and use them to gain advantages.|
|Lithoids Species Pack||24 October 2019||Adds new rock-based species for players and AI, with unique mechanics, portraits and voices.|
|Federations||17 March 2020||Adds in five new federation types, additional resolutions for the Galactic Community, new Origins for player empires, new mega-structures, and a new ship class, the Juggernaut.|
|Necroids Species Pack||29 October 2020||Adds Necroids, intelligent undead species, allows players to form empires with them as the primary species.|
|Nemesis||15 April 2021||Allows players to become the crisis. It introduces a new UI tab, a crisis perk, and new ships like Menacing Corvette, Asteroid Cruiser, Star-Eater and more.|
At release, Stellaris received favorable reviews, with Metacritic giving it an overall score of 78/100. A number of reviews emphasised the game's approachable interface and design, along with a highly immersive and almost RPG-like early game heavily influenced by the player's species design decisions, and also the novelty of the end-game crisis events.[who?][not specific enough to verify] The more mixed reviews also noted that the mid-game could be less satisfying, thanks to an overly simple diplomatic system and a somewhat passive AI.[who?][not specific enough to verify]
Less than 24 hours after release, Paradox Interactive announced that Stellaris had sold over 200,000 units, breaking the revenue record for any of Paradox Interactive's previous titles during the same time period. It almost matched the sales record currently held by Cities: Skylines. It became Paradox Development Studio's fastest selling game. On 21 June 2016, the game had sold over 500,000 units. In 12 May 2020, the publisher announced a new record for total players online, with sales having now exceeded 3 million units.
While Paradox Interactive planned to release the game in China, it failed to obtain the approval, presumably as the game allows players to choose the type of government of its spacefaring nation, and among others, allows them to be democratic.
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