Stellaris is the brand new space strategy game from Paradox that will launch today with day 1 Linux support. I was able to play it and livestream it before release, so here are some thoughts.
Disclosure: Review key provided by Paradox.
These are my thoughts while playing as the Human race, I have yet to even try the other races as it has been so engrossing.
I haven’t been this excited about a strategy game in a long, long time. I have a lot of history with such games since I played Master of Orion 2 for endless hours in my youth. I am also a massive space sci-fi fan (Star Trek, Star Wars etc.) so space strategy games really appeal to me. It is, however, a vastly different breed of game to both the old and new Master of Orion. It's also wildly different to previous Paradox titles.
It’s a real-time with pause game, so you can play it as quick or as slowly as you fancy. I didn't get my first Colony Ship until I was about two hours into the game—that’s how much there was to check out when I first got into a game.
There's a lot of different options available to you right away, including different races with unique statistics. Races even have different styles of space travel like Wormholes, Warp Travel and Hyperspace. Each will change how you play the game and they have their own advantages and disadvantages of course.
I suggest a race with Warp Travel to begin with.
The game is utterly massive, seriously. I have been playing in a galaxy of 600 stars and I am finding it insane. After two hours of play I had barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer, and this isn't even the biggest galaxy you can do.
What I am especially loving about Stellaris is not just how big and deep it is, but just how accessible I have found it to be. The first time I tried it was in an impromptu livestream Thursday last week and even though I was knackered and it was getting late I played through two hours without getting confused. I am easily confused by games, especially Paradox strategy games, but this is completely different. They really have done some great work on making it fun to play for people like me.
I would say it's more complex than the Civilization titles, but no way near as hard to get into as Crusader Kings. It seems they have hit a sweet spot between complexity and fun with Stellaris!
The research system is awesome, as there’s a vast amount of fun things to discover. It gives you a randomized set of research in each field based on what you have discovered and researched previously. Instead of a single research path, you have three different fields of research. On top of the main research, you will also come across anomalies on planets that will require time, a research ship and a scientist of a high enough level to go and check it out. The only issue I have with the research system is that using a science ship to research the remains of something will stall your current main research in that field.
There are a lot of aliens to discover wandering around the galaxy, and I made it my mission to obliterate and study them all. The design of the wandering alien species is constantly surprising and exciting me, especially seeing their different weapons in action. What’s really great is once you destroy them, you get to research their remains with a science vessel which will help towards specific research going on, or even unlock new research possibilities. One such research item I came across when I annihilated some green crystal entities was Regenerative Hull Tissue, which sounded pretty useful.
Usually when you pick a research option in a specific field, you might not get to research the other options you didn’t pick, but gaining special research options from obliterated alien remains, or other discoveries will keep the gained research available for whenever you decide to do it.
The combat is the part that surprised me the most. Instead of switching to a new scene or moving to some sort of turn based affair, the combat takes place in real-time directly in the game. It doesn’t interrupt the actual flow of the gameplay like it does in other games that are similar, so you can continue doing other things while space battles are going on.
Lots of little things keep surprising me, like my fleet doing so many battles that Earth decided the captain of one of my ships deserved a promotion to Admiral and command the whole fleet. She was a great commander, and gave me fire rate and hull regeneration bonuses. I had no idea a promotion system existed until I discovered it, how awesome!
There’s many things to go to war over, research and resources in different star systems being pretty important. A museum on Earth requested that I research different alien animals across the galaxy, but one particular planet I needed access to was inside the space of the Ymacera Star Sovereignty. The problem here was that I previously declared them as my Rival as it gave me certain advantages, but at the cost of making them really not like me too much and so—to WAR! Luckily the last one I needed to complete this task was inside the space of an alien race I had an alliance with, so at least that one went smoothly.
The planetary building system mixes things up a bit from other titles I have played. You have the ability to place down buildings in specific tiles, but you need a fully grown “pop” (population) to man the building before it can be used. Not only that, but you will need to clear certain tiles of wreckage, slums and anything else you come across on a planet.
You’re not just dealing with alien flotillas chasing off your ships, you will also come across hostile aliens on a planet's surface. You could chose to deal with them removing any negative effects they have, or keep them for certain benefits. I discovered a little planet I named bob, which had hostile alien wildlife on it. It made my citizens more productive, but it also reduced happiness. Tough choice, but I decided to keep them for a while for the production bonus considering planet bob was just getting on its feet.
You also have to deal with cultist groups splitting off from your population, pirates, other empires and probably far more I have yet to discover. I have a feeling that even after a couple of weeks I will still be discovering what the game has to offer.
I like the presidency system that the game has too. You will have elections every so often, and each new president has a mandate you can try to fulfill for extra rewards. Things like colonizing more planets, building more research stations and so on. It adds extra challenges, without forcing you to do it. When it comes to election time, you might even get a chance to put your support behind a particular candidate you like the statistics of to help them get elected. Like everything in Stellaris, it adds depth to the game, but doesn’t really add complexity and that’s great.
The first night after playing Stellaris I ended up dreaming about it, and all I wanted to do when I awoke was play it. That’s really something as it’s very rare for any game to engross me in such a way!
The game is utterly gorgeous too, just look at my lovely home system:
Due to how long games go on for (literally hundreds of hours can be put into a single game), I am not covering the end-game due to how long I had to cover it before release. Once I reach that point, you can bet I will have many more thoughts.
The download is quite small too weighing in at around the 4GB mark, so it won't take too long to download and it won't take up a ton of hard drive space. That is something to also be cheery about for all of you downloading today. I am excited to hear your thoughts on this pretty epic space strategy game.
There is so much to the game, that trying to condense my feelings about it down into words on the internet is proving difficult. If you’re a strategy fan, or a general sci-fi fan you need to own this. To sound cheesy, this really is the space game I've been looking for. Overall, if you want a score, I will give it 9/10. Loses a single point due to the issues below.
Honestly, I can't imagine playing another game for a while.
I haven’t had a single issue with the performance across my entire playtime. Paradox seem to have really tweaked their engine to make it load quickly and play smoothly. On my 980ti I’ve seen a constant and solid 60FPS without a single dip down.
The game isn’t perfect though, it does have one super annoying issue with the normal fullscreen mode. On my 4K monitor using 1080p resolution will not revert my resolution back to 4K when I quit the game. The developers confirmed they have my bug report on this, so hopefully they will get around to fixing it.
There are also no scaling options that I have found, so I found it impossible to play at a higher resolution than 1080p due to the text and icons being far too small. I think all games that deal with a lot of text need scaling options. I am always surprised when games don’t have them.
Key giveaway and livestream
I will be livestreaming it on our official GOL Twitch channel, so be sure to follow us for notifications of when I go live tonight. I will also be giving away a Stellaris key to a viewer I personally pick at random! This giveaway key was not given to us by Paradox, but purchased using our Games Republic credit, so I want to give back to the community with it.
About the game
Explore a vast galaxy full of wonder! Paradox Development Studio, makers of the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis series presents Stellaris, an evolution of the grand strategy genre with space exploration at its core.
Featuring deep strategic gameplay, a rich and enormously diverse selection of alien races and emergent storytelling, Stellaris has engaging challenging gameplay that rewards interstellar exploration as you traverse, discover, interact and learn more about the multitude of species you will encounter during your travels.
You can grab it from our Games Republic store, which nets us a few pennies. Alternatively you can grab it from Steam, Humble Store or the official Paradox store.
The game will release in a few hours.
Some you may have missed, popular articles from the last month: