Stellaris (video game)
|Developer(s)||Paradox Development Studio|
|Platform(s)||Windows, OS X, Linux|
|Release||May 9, 2016|
|Genre(s)||4X, grand strategy|
Stellaris is a 4X grand strategy video game developed and published by Paradox Interactive. Stellaris's gameplay revolves around space exploration, managing an empire, diplomacy, and space warfare with other spacefaring civilizations. It was released worldwide for Windows, OS X, and Linux on May 9, 2016.
Stellaris is a real-time grand strategy game set in space, beginning in the year 2200. Players take control of a species in its early stages of interstellar space exploration, right after the invention of faster-than-light (FTL) spaceship 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 the peaceful coexistence or absolute destruction of all sentient 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, using a random one determined by the game and only revealed when the game starts or by creating a species, picking its traits. The traits can include, for example, originating from a world ravaged by nuclear warfare, or starting with robots already researched. Optionally, if the player chose to start with a stronger, but less intelligent secondary species, they create it in a similar process as previously mentioned, albeit they are unable to change the traits of the aforementioned secondary species. Next, the player customizes the empire of their species. In this phase the player chooses the ethics and civics of the empire (with Ethics and Civics points, respectively), which can give various buffs, restrict certain features (a Spiritualist empire cannot use robots) and governments from being picked (an Authoritarian empire is unable to be a democratic government), and change the way information is presented to the player. All ethics, other than the later added Gestalt Consciousness, have a 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 2 ethics points instead of the normal 1 point per ethic. A special previously mentioned ethic named Gestalt Consciousness makes the empire a hive mind empire, takes up all ethics points and gives new civics only available to hive mind empires. Both ethics and civics can be changed throughout the game. Then, the player customizes the flag, name, homeworld, engineering style and ruler of their empire.
The player begins with a single planet in their territory, 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 space, while mid-game activities focus on diplomacy and governing an empire. In the late 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 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 release
Stellaris was developed by Paradox Development Studios and published by their parent company, 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). It was officially announced at Gamescom in August 2015. 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 upgrades are named after famous science fiction writers, including Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Iain Banks, Douglas Adams, Karel Čapek, Pierre Boulle, C. J. Cherryh and Larry Niven. The first major patch was released on May 24, featuring numerous improvements to the AI, as well as an additional playable race. The first major DLC, "Utopia", was released on April 6, 2017, including features such as stellar megastructures. The second expansion pack, "Synthetic Dawn", was released on September 21, 2017, and allows playing as (and against) non-organic empires. "Apocalypse", an expansion focusing on warfare, and adding features such as planet killer weapons, was released on February 22, 2018. It coincides with the 2.0 (Cherryh) patch, which revamps a significant amount of game mechanics, even for players who have not purchased "Apocalypse".
|Name||Release date||Accompanying patch||Description|
|Leviathans||20 October 2016||1.3 (Heinlein)||Introduces 'Guardians,' powerful space creatures and entitites 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||1.5 (Banks)||Utopia 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||21 September 2017||1.7 (Čapek)||This expansion 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.|
|Apocalypse||22 February 2018||2.0 (Cherryh)||Apocalypse adds several superweapons 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||22 May 2018||2.1 (Niven)||In Distant Stars players will be able to discover and unlock access to new, hidden star clusters and encounter several new anomalies, events, space entities and unique systems.|
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. 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.
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, it was announced that the game had sold over 500,000 units. As of February 2018, Stellaris had sold over 1.4 million copies on Steam.
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