Stellaris (video game)

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Stellaris cover art.jpg
Developer(s)Paradox Development Studio
Publisher(s)Paradox Interactive
  • Henrik Fåhraeus
  • Martin Anward (Post Release)
  • Daniel Moregård (Post Release)
  • Rikard Åslund
  • Anna Norrevik
Artist(s)Fredrik Toll
  • Andreas Waldetoft
  • Bert Meyer
EngineClausewitz Engine
ReleaseWindows, OS X, Linux
May 9, 2016
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
February 26, 2019
Xbox Series X/S
March 25, 2021
Genre(s)RTS, 4X, Grand Strategy
Mode(s)Single-Player, Multiplayer

Stellaris is a 4X grand strategy video game developed 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,[1] on February 26, 2019 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and on March 25, 2021 for Xbox Series X and Series S.[2]


Stellaris is a real-time grand strategy game set in space, in the distant future. Players take control of a species, government, and ethics 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 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-made 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 and they can give various buffs, restrict certain features (a Spiritualist empire cannot use robots and dismantles them upon acquiring a planet that contains them, 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.[3] 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 2 ethics points instead of the normal 1 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. Then, the player customizes the flag, name, homeworld, appearance of cities and space constructs, and ruler of their empire.

In most cases, the player begins with a single habitable 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 include either warfare or diplomacy, depending on the chosen play-style, but can also be filled with a vast amount of micro-management.[4] The economy of a player's empire throughout the game is primarily based on 5 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.[5] 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.[6]

Development and release[edit]

Stellaris was developed by Paradox Development Studios and published by Paradox Interactive.[7] The game uses the same Clausewitz Engine that the studio has used since Europa Universalis III in 2007[3] albeit with some modifications, such as the usage of physically based rendering (PBR).[8] It was officially announced at Gamescom in August 2015.[9] 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".[10]

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.[11] 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, 2016, shortly after the game's release, featuring numerous improvements to the AI, as well as an additional playable race.[12] 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 2018, revamped the base game play loop and added more quality-of-life features. The 2.2 (Le Guin) update was released in December 2018, along with the "Megacorp" DLC, and revamped how planets are organized. The 3.0 (Dick) update is scheduled to release on 15 April 2021, and will coincide with the release of the "Nemesis" DLC.[13]

In August 2018, Paradox announced that they were porting the game to consoles.[14] The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Stellaris were released on February 26, 2019 as Stellaris: Console Edition.[15]


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 No Introduces new plant-based species for players and AI empires to choose from, including new artwork and animations for leaders, ships, and city scapes.[16]
Leviathans Story Pack 20 October 2016 No 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."[17]
Utopia 6 April 2017 Yes 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.[18]
Synthetic Dawn Story Pack 21 September 2017 No 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.[19]
Humanoids Species Pack 7 December 2017 No 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.[20]
Apocalypse 22 February 2018 Yes 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.[21]
Distant Stars Story Pack 22 May 2018 No 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.[22]
Megacorp 6 December 2018[23] Yes 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.[24]
Ancient Relics Story Pack 4 June 2019[25] No Allows players to uncover ruins of long-dead civilizations and use them to gain advantages.[26]
Lithoids Species Pack 24 October 2019 No Adds new rock-based species for players and AI, with unique mechanics, portraits and voices.[27]
Federations 17 March 2020 Yes 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.[28]
Necroids Species Pack 29 October 2020 No Adds Necroids, intelligent undead species, allows players to form empires with them as the primary species.[29]
Nemesis 15 April 2021 Yes Allows you to become the crisis. It will introduce a new UI tab, a crisis perk, and new ships like Menacing Corvette, Asteroid Cruiser, Star-Eater and more.[30]


In a preview of the game at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Adam Smith wrote that Stellaris "could be Paradox's finest hour, and a landmark in the development of both 4X and grand strategy design."[4]

At release, Stellaris received favorable reviews, with Metacritic giving it an overall score of 78/100.[31] 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.[31][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.[31][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.[34] On 21 June 2016, it was announced that the game had sold over 500,000 units.[35] On 12 May 2020, the publisher announced a new record for total players online, with sales having now exceeded 3 million units.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stellaris Confirmed Release Date: May 9th, 2016". Games Ring. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  2. ^ Stellaris: Console Edition | XBOX SERIES X TECH DEMO, retrieved 2021-03-25
  3. ^ a b Savage, Phil. "Stellaris: how Paradox plan to make an infinite grand strategy". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on April 4, 2016. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Smith, Adam (August 6, 2015). "Paradox's Space Strategy Game Stellaris Has Won Gamescom". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on April 11, 2016. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  5. ^ Savage, Phil (2016-05-09). "Stellaris review". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on 2019-10-07. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  6. ^ "The End Game and its Follies". Explorminate. January 15, 2015. Archived from the original on March 10, 2018. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  7. ^ "Paradox Development Studio". Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  8. ^ Toll, Fredrik. "Stellaris Dev Diary #2". Paradox Interactive Forums. Paradox Interactive. Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  9. ^ Potter, Matt (August 10, 2015). "Gamescom 2015: Paradox Interactive Announces Stellaris". IGN. Archived from the original on August 13, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  10. ^ Alex Hamilton (2016-06-11). "Stellaris Interview". GameGrin.
  11. ^ "Stellaris Dev Diary #33 - The Maiden Voyage". Archived from the original on 2017-12-02. Retrieved 2018-01-06.
  12. ^ "Stellaris Dev Diary #34 - Clarke Patch". Paradox Interactive Forums. Archived from the original on 2018-10-19. Retrieved 2016-06-07.
  13. ^ "Stellaris Dev Diary #205: Announcing the 3.0 'Dick' Update". Paradox Interactive Forums. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  14. ^ "Stellaris to be First Ever Grand Strategy Game to Land on Consoles". Paradox Interactive Forums. 20 August 2018. Archived from the original on 29 August 2018. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  15. ^ Hall, Charlie (January 22, 2019). "Stellaris: Console Edition arrives in February, the first grand strategy title on PS4, Xbox One". Polygon. Archived from the original on January 24, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  16. ^ O'Connor, Alice (4 August 2016). "Make Like A Tree And Warp: Stellaris Plantoids DLC Out". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  17. ^ Thrower, Matt (November 23, 2016). "Review: Stellaris: Leviathans". Strategy Gamer. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  18. ^ Hafer, T.J. (April 7, 2017). "Stellaris: Utopia Review". PC Gamer. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  19. ^ Chalk, Andy (September 6, 2017). "Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn expansion brings playable robot overlords in September". PC Gamer. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  20. ^ Meer, Alex (December 7, 2017). "New Stellaris expansion doubles down on humans". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  21. ^ Hall, Charlie (February 16, 2018). "Stellaris: Apocalypse adds death stars, stargates and intergalactic barbarians". Polygon. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  22. ^ Bailey, Dustib (May 19, 2018). "Stellaris Distant Stars DLC comes out this week". PCGamesN. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  23. ^ O'Connor, Alice (20 November 2018). "Stellaris turning space megacapitalist with Megacorp expansion in December". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  24. ^ Williams, Alexander (December 6, 2018). "Review: Stellaris: Megacorps". Strategy Gamer. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-07-16. Retrieved 2019-06-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ O'Connor, Alice (June 5, 2019). "Stellaris: Ancient Relics DLC adds colour, drops 32-bit support". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  27. ^ Tarason, Dominic (October 25, 2019). "Stellaris adds a stony-faced new faction in the Lithoids Species Pack". PC Gamer. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  28. ^ Hall, Chris (March 17, 2020). "Steam's top seller is an expansion for a 2016 strategy title, Stellaris". Polygon. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  29. ^ Clayton, Natalie (29 October 2020). "Stellaris's new Necroids are building a deathless stellar empire". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  30. ^ "Stellaris's next DLC adds starships which eat stars". Rock Paper Shotgun. 2021-02-04. Retrieved 2021-02-20.
  31. ^ a b c d "Stellaris for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on June 26, 2019. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  32. ^ "Stellaris: Console Edition for PlayStation 4 Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on May 16, 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  33. ^ "Stellaris: Console Edition for Xbox One Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 14, 2020. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  34. ^ Bratt, Chris (May 10, 2016). "Stellaris breaks Paradox's record for day one revenue". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on May 11, 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  35. ^ "Paradox Interactive Announces Grand Successes for Grand Strategy Titles" (Press release). Stockholm: Paradox Interactive. June 21, 2016. Archived from the original on September 30, 2017.
  36. ^ "Stellaris Celebrates Four-Year Anniversary with Highest-Ever Monthly Active Users" (Press release). Stockholm: Paradox Interactive. April 18, 2021.

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