Cylons And Warp-Horrors: Stellaris’ Late Game Crises

Stellaris [official site] is so close that I’m constantly furious that I’m not actually playing it right now. Stephen Hawking appeared on my telly a few days ago talking about blackholes and I was so angry, so thoroughly convinced that he was taunting my inability to boot up Stellaris and send a research vessel into a blackhole, that I threw the telly out of a window. In what may be the final developer diary before release, Paradox discuss the ways in which they’ll keep interest levels high right through the late game. Coincidentally, they’ve also increased the chances the chances that Manchester-based space-fancier Brian Cox will get his pint spilled if I run into him between now and May 9th.

You know that moment in strategy games when you realise you’re probably going to win and you just need to keep pressing ‘end turn’ and occasionally steadying the ship? Even mid-way through a 4X game, I often find myself just ever so slightly straightening the prow every ten turns or so as forward momentum carries my glorious empire over the finish line.

As the sci-fi sibling of Paradoxian Grand Strategy, it’s no surprise that Stellaris will be taking a different approach. As well as the possibility of political factions causing large empires to splinter, as covered in last week’s diary, Stellaris will have some tech-related late-game catastrophes. The diary gives one example:

“Some technologies are clearly marked as being “risky”, for example Robot Workers. Now, you might not always risk having your victory snatched out of your grasp, but in this case at least, you really are gambling with the fate of the galaxy. Just researching such a technology is safe; it’s the actual use of it that carries the danger. For example, the more sentient Robot Pops there are in the galaxy, the higher the risk is that they will come to deem organic life unfit to exist and rise up in a well-planned revolt. Unless crushed quickly and with overwhelming force, such a Machine Empire will quickly get out of hand and threaten all the remaining empires in the galaxy. Sentient robots will out-research and outproduce everyone. If the revolt is centered in a powerful rival empire, you’ll need to think carefully about when you want to intervene; a savvy player might time it just right and be able to mop up both the robots and the remnants of the rival empire. Leave it too long, however, and the robots will overwhelm you.”

There will be various crises to deal with, although there’s no guarantee that one will trigger in every campaign – it all depends who researches what and when, and how the RNG gods decide to treat your galaxy. You might even have two crises in one campaign if you’re particularly unlucky.

And just as I’ve related the AI uprising to Galactica in the headline, the other crises are likely to remind you of sci-fi stories you’ve encountered elsewhere. I look forward to discovering new horrors in the depths of space and, perhaps, in the depths of that one tombworld that it seemed smart to build a mining colony on.


  1. Matt_W says:

    How does Stellaris compare to Distant Worlds?

    I keep waiting for someone to release a 4x game that takes place in our own solar system, in the near future, using realistic tech and taking orbital dynamics and the realities of space (heat and radiators, speed-as-weapon, radiation, etc) into account.

    • Darloth says:

      You mean, Solar War?

      I can tell you that Distant Worlds usually got boring in the lategame, had ship design that was basically best left to the AI to do for you, and even when you did it manually often didn’t seem to produce any useful differences – I mean sure, you could say “Use missiles” or “Use fighters”, but that was about the extent of it.

      Distant Worlds also ended up mostly playing itself in large chunks of your empire – it was by no means as bad for this as MoO3, but the same sort of feeling did emerge. However, Distant Worlds does massive scale really well, and has probably the best or at least second best implementation of the civilian sector in 4x space games, with the other contender being Aurora 4x. Both Sword of the Stars 1, Star Ruler 2 and Starships Unlimited provided civilians as income boosters that can be targetted by others (the traditional implementation), and they’re all worth investigating if you haven’t already.

      It remains to be seen if Stellaris can manage the scope of Distant Worlds, but the actual planet interactions, the ship design, and by FAR the diplomacy look a lot better going by the 10-15 hours of streamed content available to watch online. I also like that it has a semi-random tech tree, features that make big empires not immediately guaranteed to win a fight with a smaller one (at least locally), and lots of things to stop you getting bored when you already own half the galaxy.

      • carewolf says:

        Ship design made a huge difference in Distant Worlds. I always redesigned almost ships because the AI did such a poor job of it. Basic things like adding weapons and shields to civilian crafts mean they can handle minor enemies on their own or survive long enough to get help, but also meant they were more costly for the civilian sector. On your own ship I would usually design more for speed so I could have fewer larger fleets that could move fast to where they were needed.

        And then there was mucking with mining ships and colonies to increase efficiency, adjusting ship building and rearch capacity on bases to be more optimal, etc. etc.

    • slerbal says:

      Given Stellaris hasn’t been released yet, hard to say though if you’ve played CK2 or EU4 then it is definitely an evolution of those. Have a read of the dev diaries and decide for yourself: link to

      Personally it is the game I’m most looking forward to this year.

    • kulik says:

      For me, DW was almost a perfect 4x game. I say almost because the one caveat was fleet combat. The fleet will warp in the midst of another fleet ensuing in a clusterf*ck with little to no tactic decisions to make. Your glasscannons, carriers, cruisers everything is warped on top of each other, I even tried to warp far away from planet and organize my ships into formation then approach, butt it somehow fell apart, clearly the game was not designed for fleet tactics. The stallaris devlog about combat was a letdown because it hasn’t covered this topic, but from snippets of said devlog, it seems that fleet formations will be included which, I hope, will make for more tactical combat.

  2. derbefrier says:

    I finally took a few hours over the weekend to really give this game a seriois look.

    Yeah its gonna be awesome
    Probably my most anticipated game this spring now that I know what it’s all about.

  3. Haldurson says:

    SotS did that Robot Rebellion event first, and it sounds like they did it in a similar way (the chances of it happening increase with each type of AI tech that you research). In fact, it was possible for any player to trigger the event and have it spread to other players who also had AI technologies. It only happened in one game of mine, and it was pretty devastating.

  4. Ur-Quan says:

    Mugani? HAK HAK HAK indeed XD
    Serously what the hell is that thing and why does it look so awesome? Can’t wait to play the game.

    • RedViv says:

      I would guess some Reapery Antarany monstrous threat from The Outside. Very welcome. Entirely benevolent of course. Only want the best for us, I am sure of it.

      • Sassenach says:

        Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn, don’t you know.

      • Apologised says:

        Didn’t that actually happen in Star Control 2? The one race that wasn’t a race but actually a single entity who we could only perceive in the parts of his appendages that were able to extrude into realspace?
        Also came with one of the best ships as well.

        • mouton says:

          The Orz? Never used their ships because I was afraid of the ominous extradimensional thing, haha

          Then again, the game had plenty of unsettling species. Even the hippie Pnuk were messed up.

  5. teije says:

    I love the idea of late game crises, will really shake up that boring late game cruise to victory. From reviewing the dev diaries, having watched a couple streams, and reading dev responses on the Pdx forums – it sounds like it is shaping up to be a grand mixture of Paradox grand strategy and space 4x. I haven’t been this excited about a game for years…

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Late game crises shaking up the coast to victory sounds good in theory but I think it’ll need to be carefully handled least it turn into repeated “RNG says you loose” endings.

  6. Nice Save says:

    One thing I took from that diary was the talk of “winning” – it sounds like Stellaris will have more traditional victory conditions, where their previous games just ended at a specific date and it was up to your judgement whether you did well or not (except the score system I guess, but I never paid any attention to that).

    I don’t know whether I’ll like or dislike that idea in practice, but it’ll definitely be interesting to find out.

  7. Veles says:

    What I love about CK2 (not really played enough EU4) is how no matter how powerful you are, you’re always on the knife edge of something happening to ruin your ruler’s day. In fact, the more powerful you are, the less stable your domain and the more likely it will fall to pieces.

    I hope there’s something similar in Stellaris

  8. Crispy01 says:

    Wonder if it would be a viable strategy to attempt to trigger more than one crisis in order to counter another. Letting in hellspawn from the warp in order to combat Cylons, for example.

    • brucethemoose says:

      I bet someone will mod in ways to intentionally trigger them, if it isn’t already in-game.

      But you could still (rarely) do it situationally. If an unspeakable alien abomination shows up pretty close to an AI revolt you’re in the middle of dealing with, you could just withdraw and make it the robot’s problem instead.

      The RNG Gods will rarely be that kind though.

      • Replikant says:

        True. Most likely, in the midst of a prolonged campaign against your arch-enemy next door, the other flank of you empire will come under attack from extra-dimensional entities, then your population will decide that it’s a great day for a revolt or two and just when you think that maybe somehow you can still pull it off, France will declare war on you.

      • Crispy01 says:

        I hope so. I’d hate it if every crisis or neutral party was on the same team, like they’re all mechanically set to team 0. I like the RNG gods. They’re not humane, but at least they’re not boring. Wonder if you can play as a cybernetic race, or have a choice to Borg yourself up. I’m really excited to see how all these randomly generated systems will interact with each other more than how they interact with me/how I react to them.

  9. Chiron says:

    I haven’t been paying much attention to this but it caught my eye the other day and it sounds fairly amazing.

    It seems like its taking a lot of queues from SMAC which can only be a good thing, I hope its as good as it looks.

  10. Calamity says:

    For those interested RPS is running a weekly Stellaris multiplayer campaign shortly after it comes out.

    You can find it here link to

  11. Universal Quitter says:

    Why is it that I can watch Adam Smith playing Stellaris, right now, on YouTube, but I can’t read about it?