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.