Stellaris – One year later


A year ago today (no really) I reviewed the adequate Stellaris. Time flies doesn’t it. 

It was a good game with some glaring issues and a terrible mid-game lull. You can read about it here.

I made the bold prediction that the game would be much improved in time. After all, these are the devs continually working on the evergreen Crusader Kings II…

So, we ask the question absolutely no-one’s asking. After many an update, is Stellaris the nerd space game from my fantasies?

Man, that Endless Space 2 looks good… Let’s keep this brief.

I’m hugely surprised to report that the game hasn’t progressed as far as I thought it would. The most pertinent improvements appear minor or relate to the interface. I’ll confess, whilst playing I didn’t give these tweaks the recognition they deserve. I’ll give an example or three.

  • Want to track down a primitive culture? It’s on the map sunshine!
  • Wanna terraform a world already populated with ya’ people? With the right research, that planet’s looking sweet.
  • Running out of food on a planet? No problem sucker; foods shared now!

Simple, effective and why the fuck wasn’t it this way in the first place? I’m not sure why, but I found myself using screens I’d seldom used before. Was the expansion screen this useful a year ago? Choose the planet to colonise, pick where you want your colony ship to hail from and click.

Yes, the interface is much, much improved.

Stellaris Space Fight

Quite right that I shouldn’t have any control over this mighty space battle.

So what about the rest? Well.. the rest is pretty much the same as before, with a few notable changes. You can now win in a Federation, if you hold 60% of the available planets. That seems viable. Last year I was stuck in a cosy game-ending armchair of a Federation. Empire borders are now open by default, so science ships can now adventure through neighbouring empires. Great. Naturally the swine can still close ’em off to you at any time, but this does help alleviate any potential mid-game misery. Especially if you’re not into continual wars. Unfortunately the anomalies your science ship stumble across haven’t changed. By the third time, I couldn’t care less about discovering the Cybrex homeworld. To combat this the universe feels a tad more reactive. I’m pleased to see my galactic neighbours engage in bastardy ways, forming alliances, gobbling up territories and doing things.

New features feel like fixes to pre-existing design tedium.

But…. but… but… Diplomacy still feels muh. You can put forward a reasonable proposal to a friendly empire and face rejection… Oh well, it happens… Only to have the bastards offer you a similar deal 5 minutes later. The numbers never add up in your favour! Brilliantly the latest update made it so rival empires cannot declare war. A hotfix landed to rectify this, but it’s indicative of a game that still feels incomplete.

As we’ve used the word incomplete, let’s go with it. I’m still finding huge bugs. A game ending event was rendered null and void as I couldn’t close the tear in the universe. Ultimately it didn’t matter as for all intents and purposes, the game had naturally come to a conclusion and everyone was sitting on their hands waiting for me to end things. Remember all, you don’t need a game over screen to turn it off.

Lastly story time… Don’t roll your eyes, it’s short and to the point.

stellaris boring map

Make way for the BLURG!

I created the Blurg race, a hive-mind of bastards planning to eat the galaxy. They’d created hyperdrive technology allowing them to travel the stars along pre-determined hyperlane routes. They genuinely feel no different to any other race. You built the same ol’ collecting stuff stations, with the same ol’ planetary buildings and the same ol’ game mechanics. The biggest difference is that the subjugated races disappear from their planets over time. Nom nom nom. The leaders of my civilisation are reduced to numbers, with the same ol’ bonus stats. Oh yeah, the same ol’ events. An event might crop up and instead of studying a race, you might decide to eradicate them, for a laugh. The bonuses (if any) are minor and ultimately change nothing. That kinda sums up the game.

A year later it is even easier to lose yourself in a space empire, but it’s still lacking that special something.  It doesn’t compare to the dry humour of a grand Crusader Kings II. It’s still a 7 outta 10 from me. Only a major overhaul could tempt me back next year.

Reminds me, must pick up Endless Space 2.