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Terror From The Deep: Stellaris' Leviathans Expansion

Paradox have announced the first meaty expansion for their sci-fi strategy epic Stellaris [official site]. It goes by the name Leviathans and they’re calling it a ‘Story Pack’, which makes me think this might be where former Failbetter scribe Alexis Kennedy has been sticking his nib. It seems like a smart place to put him if so. Kennedy was the lead writer on Sunless Sea and the trailer for Leviathans looks an awful lot like it’s channeling Terror From the Deep. Take a look.

I cannot wait to scrabble around looking for a Cthulhu’s snooze button when I accidentally trip his alarm.

There’ll be new music, portrait packs, events and other bits and pieces, but the main attractions are right here in this feature list:

In Stellaris: Leviathans, the galaxy will be filled anew with adventure and challenge as your new and naïve space-faring empire comes face-to-face and ship-to-ship with a host of dangers and rewards.

Guardians: Powerful space entities with mysterious origins and motives. Fight or investigate them to unlock technologies and gain access to great treasures.

Enclaves: Independent outposts of traders and artists who are willing to make a deal. Exchange resources, purchase information about the galaxy, or commission a great work of art for your empire.

War In Heaven: Where will your fledgling empire lie if two ancient Fallen Empires decide to renew old grievances in a War in Heaven? Will you err on the side of caution and take a side with the stronger power, or will you strike at both whilst they are occupied with their own titanic struggle?

Look how tiny your little space empire is! That’s what Leviathans seems to be saying, with its ancient Guardians, ominous cosmic scale threats, and wars between deity-level Fallen Empires. I think that’s precisely what Stellaris should be saying. Like so many games in its genre, it’s strongest when the map is still home to mysteries and at its least interesting when you switch your attention toward controlling rather than discovering.

That Paradox are calling this a story pack may be an acknowledgement that Stellaris is built around a marriage of writing and mechanics in a different way to the studio’s grand strategy titles. In Europa Universalis and the rest, the stories generally emerge from the systems as you play, and while it’s true that there are event chains to discover, they’re not on the same level as the ones found in Stellaris.

In the grand strategy games, you’re writing the history of the world as you play. In Stellaris, you’re discovering the history of a galaxy, and writing one small chapter. That’s why it’s good that Leviathans seems to be highlighting how tiny and naive your empire is – in the grand scheme of things, your adventures in space are the blink of an eye. And whatever’s waiting out there probably has a billion eyes.

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