Paradox is packing everyone onto the space-highway, and reworking how FTL travel works in their galactic 4X game, Stellaris. While you can currently choose either Warp, Hyperdrive or Wormholes as your space empire’s means of travel, Paradox have decided that having asymmetrical movement methods – while “an interesting idea on paper” – creates too many problems for features they’d like to implement. Once the Cherryh update hits, every player will start with Hyperdrive technology only. That means every player will (with a few exceptions) be limited to travelling via pre-determined space lanes, which constitutes a major change to the game’s core systems. One of those X’s does stand for (shudder) Xploration, after all.
Paradox sound like they have solid reasons behind making the changes. In their weekly dev diary post, they highlight how Warp and Wormhole travel allow players to easily circumvent static defences. Once everyone is limited to hyperdrive lanes, empires should have the ability to ‘lock down’ their borders by placing defensive systems at the natural choke points that those lanes create.
The new system also allows Paradox to introduce ‘Galactic Terrain’: “systems with environmental effects and hazards that have profound tactical and strategic effects on ships and empires.” While they’re keen to stress that they’re only on the first iteration of the idea, some of the examples they give include black holes that increase emergency FTL drive spin-up time, pulsars that nullify shields and nebulas that block sensors from other systems. That last one will be a tasty way of setting up ambushes, or hiding the extent of your military power.
For people who still prefer the less limiting form of movement that Warp offers, Paradox are increasing the customisability of how those lanes are generated – so you can make a hyper-interconnected galaxy should you choose. The other forms of travel haven’t vanished from the game entirely, however. The mid-game technology ‘Psi Jump Drives’ will remain in a tweaked form, which will let you make occasional Warp style jumps – but those might leave you stranded and vulnerable. You’ll also come across natural wormholes, which might connect one side of the galaxy to another. In addition to those, I’m most excited by the introduction of Mass Effect style relays – each galaxy will start with an existing network of ‘Gateways’ built by ancient aliens, which can be used once you’ve researched the right mid-game technology.
On their next blog post, Paradox say, they’ll talk about the planned rework of the “wargoal” system that’s made possible by the FTL changes. There’s no release date for the Cherryh update yet, so there’s still time to get a few games in with the existing mechanics if you want to.