From the creators of Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis comes the newest real time grand strategy game Stellaris. Set in the distant year 2200 players are able to lead a species to the edges of the universe and universal domination. Stellaris is an invitation to experience the universe in a way that suits you. Reach out to the ends of the universe and unearth the mysteries of space in a way never before seen.
The basics of the game are inherently similar to Sid Meier’s Civilization, simple and easy to manage instantly. One major difference is the change from turn based actions to a free flowing passing of time, this is consistent with Paradox’s previous grand strategies such as Europa Universalis IV or Crusader Kings II. With the option of pausing, slowing or even fast forwarding the game can move at your own pace.
As you explore beyond your home planet you’ll find resources to help fund your expansion, which can be harvested by building mining stations. Along the way finding anomalies, which can be researched to uncover new technologies. Eventually if you go far enough you will meet other species, often friendly but occasionally hostile in nature. As interesting as venturing through the unknown is it is important to look after the needs of your home planet, constructing buildings for your citizens to work and contribute to the expansion in space.
Coexistence is key. With a myriad of species to chose from it is no surprise that this universe is full of intelligent life with the same goal as you. At first there seems to be endless room in our galaxy but soon enough it becomes a little too roomy in the milky way, so send your scientists out into the dark abyss in hope of finding habitable homes. Avoid those with bad intent and try to out live and outreach everyone else.
What guides you through this game more than resources is research. With the opportunity to research and use alien technology your planet grows in potential. This also adds to the role-playing element that is a solid base for Stellaris. Between scientific and political choices players can shape their species how you want. Have an undying wish to establish an immortal race which enslaves and infiltrates alien governments? With Stellaris your wish and many that you didn’t even know you wanted are granted.
In a game about space it’s easy to get lost, but Stellaris is very good at keeping you grounded, drawing you back to your home bases to manage the populace as well as exploring. Balancing the two can be difficult with a free flowing time mechanic, as micromanaging too many things at once you can lose track of some ships. After a few hundred years the game does become monotonous, the urge to leave the save behind and start again is very tempting. The beginning of the game is far more fun and satisfying before the game slows down.
Stellaris’ emphasis on exploration is the main selling point. The uniqueness and replayability of the game is derived from the exploration and role-playing elements. Those are the key to how enjoyable a run through is. When your play-through is beginning to stagnate in the eighth or ninth hour then the game lets itself down. It is unfortunate that you must fall to Stellaris’ mercy, that it falls flat in the end when the beginning is so good.
Developer: Paradox Development Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.