Stellaris Apocalypse enslaves and/or destroys the world today

Paradox strategy games tend to be restrained, but seems the publisher-developer has tired of being a wallflower and now fully intends to do big, noisy explosions with the best of ’em.

Apocalypse, out today, is a new expansion for their sci-fi 4X Stellaris, and is all about changing the physical rather than merely socio-political landscape of the galaxy. Which is to say, killing planets, enslaving their entire populations or otherwise removing whole worlds from the field of play.

Not every one of Apocalypse’s new ‘world devastator’ weapons is designed to eradicate all known life on a targeted planet, but they are all about advancing your agenda on a more dramatic scale than before. Adding to the sense that Apocalypse is very much about making the stars war is the introduction of a slightly (pre-Worf) Klingon-sounding new race called The Maraurders, whose name very strongly implies they will come in peace.

Here’s a dev walkthrough of Apocalypse’s main features to whet your appetite for destruction:

Apocalypse costs £15.49/$19.99 and is out right now on Steam. If your bank account has lately suffered its own extinction event, the good news is that the DLC is accompanied by a Paradox-customary patch for the base game too. This one bears the fancy ‘version 2.0’ designation, and you can find details of it here.


  1. Ur-Quan says:

    So aside from roleplaying is there even any point to destroy planets? Sounds a bit pointless to me.

    • doodler says:

      I haven’t played yet so I can’t fully say but I know a big part of the 2.0 update regards planetary invasions and making them more difficult. Destroying the planet may be a viable alternative in these cases now.
      Game is going to basically new as of today so I’m excited

    • DarkFenix says:

      To prevent an enemy going and recolonising it after the war is over?

      And from what I read, a destroyed planet becomes a large resource node, so blowing up planets in your own territory that you have no intention of colonising seems quite viable. Literally planet mining.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        There’s a chance you can mine it for minerals, it doesn’t always happen. I’m not sure what increases or decreases said chance from happening though.

        • DatonKallandor says:

          It’s guaranteed if it’s a habitable planet – it’s random if it’s just a garbage planet with no value anyway.

    • thetruegentleman says:

      The most obvious use is against the end game enemies: blowing up Swarm planets comes especially to mind. It also makes sense for xenophobe empires, who lack the ability to use all the planets they have to deal with.

      For everyone else, there are alternative devices.

  2. Admiral666 says:

    It’s worth noting that the accompanying 2.0 update is completely revamping the game.

    • brucethemoose says:

      I’d bet money that RPS is planning a Stellaris revisit article for 2.0 right now.

      It really is a totally different game than it was in the WIT.

    • dare says:

      Imagine my shock when I launched my ongoing corporate militarist empire game, and found out my empire had been completely splintered by the 2.0 update. So had all the other empires around me. I’m torn between trying to take advantage of, um, some really cosmic phenomena that wiped out all everybody’s holdings in unpopulated systems, or just starting a new game.

      (I was more amused than annoyed, since I was playing a get-to-know-you game anyway, but I imagine that if I’d been gaming a serious multiplayer Diplomacy-like, there would have been screaming.)

      • modzero says:

        The ever-so-helpfully-named “betas” tab in Steam lets you pick any past version, so you can switch back to 1.9 to finish your game. If you want to, that is.

        • dare says:

          So _that’s_ where the option is – thanks! (Probably not going to finish my corporate mollusk game, as I was going to end up very much destroyed soon, and the new battle mechanics sound more interesting anyway. Shame about the FTL options tho.)

  3. Universal Quitter says:

    Minor typo: “or otherwise removing while worlds from the field of play.”

  4. DeadCanDance says:

    Is the travel between stars systems changed?

    • Sakkura says:

      Yes. Everyone now starts with hyperlane travel. Jump drives can still be discovered in the late game. Wormholes can be found in a few systems, allowing quick long-distance travel to the other end.

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        I can see the developers had to pick one of several options for improvement, but it does make me a little bit sad. Building an empire on wormholes was one of the (admittedly few) things I really liked about Stellaris. Hyperlanes is just really uninteresting to me.

        • brucethemoose says:

          You can build stargates between systems too.

          • Jeroen D Stout says:

            Sure, but starting the game by building wormhole stations was magical.

  5. morganjah says:

    I looked over the patch notes skeptically…but this does seem like the huge improvement I have been waiting for.

    What DLC’s are essential/recommended for Stellaris these days?

    • beleester says:

      Utopia was considered essential, but one of its main features (Ascension Perks) got rolled into the base game, so you might be able to do without it now. Megastructures are cool (especially if you play “tall”), but optional. The new civics are cool and give you a different way to play the game.

      Leviathans gives a much-needed boost to interstellar life, I think. Instead of just being a fun early-game diversion while you wait for wars to break out, these monsters can give a developed empire a serious challenge. Enclaves are a nice addition on the non-combat side of things. If you really liked exploring the galaxy, this is the one to get.

      Synthetic Dawn isn’t essential, but it lets you play as Skynet or The Borg, which is cool and rounds out the suite of sci-fi tropes you can find in Stellaris. Haven’t tried it myself.

      I wouldn’t say any of them are essential, really. All the DLCs are released alongside updates to the base game, so the core gameplay changes often wind up in the base game and the DLC gets the cool but optional stuff. E.g., Synthetic Dawn added robo-modding in the base game, and Machine Empires in the DLC.

      • BewareTheJabberwock says:

        I’ve been assured by sources that I tend to trust (you know, randos on the internet) that this release/update was the one to wait for before taking the Stellaris plunge. So maybe it’s about time to do so. Depending on price I may add Leviathans. But I’ve been itching for a 4x game since Civ V turned out to be hot garbage.

        Curious if there are any essential mods out there that I should just start with before taking on the completely vanilla version.

        • muro says:

          Endless Legend is a better civilization. Or did you mean the garbage of Beyond Earth? That was indeed terrible.

          • BewareTheJabberwock says:

            I have Endless Legend, but I could never quite get into it, despite many many tries. It was deffinitely pretty to look at, but it just seemed like something was missing… Never got Beyond Earth after hearing so many bad things about it.
            And to be fair, I never got any of the expansions for Civ V. But vanilla was a snoozefest.

  6. causticnl says:

    people still playing this? ESII is king now of the 4x spacegames.

    • Antongranis says:

      Havent played endless space, but i did hear they are quite diffrent games. Besides, stellaris is a fine game, and its not like you can play only one.

      • doodler says:

        They are wildly different games, ES2 is very focused on the storylines(which the first time around are really cool until you realize the choices don’t have any lasting effect beyond the bonus they give you for completing that quest) for the races esp if playing single player.

        Stellaris is about emergent story telling for a race you create and having a huge sandbox to play with that in.

        I have and enjoyed them both. If you were to compare the release Stellaris to ES2 then yeah ES2 is far superior but thats not how Paradox games should be judged :)

        Looking forward to RPS doing a story about Stellaris After the Updates soon

    • doodler says:

      Lol,you’re joking right? Quick glance at steamcharts shows a 30 day average of 10k players for Stellaris and 2.5k for ES2.

      And that is incredible considering a lot of people probably have taken a break from stellaris in the past month while waiting for this expansion to drop. The peak counts are also not even close.

      • causticnl says:

        hey einstein, it was an question.

        • Vilos Cohaagen says:

          and doodler gave you an answer.

        • LexW1 says:

          No, you asked a question, then made a statement. The statement was bollocks. ESII isn’t and at the current rate, never will be “the kind of space games” (it’s decent but it’s lacking in an awful lot of areas), but you flatly asserted that it was.

    • tifaucz says:

      ES2 is having a lot of technical problems also. It simply did not run on my PC, and from what I could see I was not the only one with problems, by far. Refunded it and got some Stellaris DLCs.

    • SaintAn says:

      ES2 may be King, but Stellaris is the undisputed God-Emperor of 4x space games. You should try playing Stellaris, it really is superior in ever way.

    • Evan_ says:

      I’d say Distant Worlds: Universe is the king of 4x games. Lucky for me, it’s a very subjective thing, and since nobody played DW:U, I won’t hear sound arguments opposing my opinion. :]

      • uniCurse says:

        I’ve played Distant Worlds: Universe a fair bit and it’s a very different experience to any of the other 4X games.

        I play Stellaris, GalCiv3 and Distant Worlds and enjoy all of them for different reasons. Galciv3 is probably the best “game”, but Stellaris tells better stories and Distant Worlds is just massive and involving.

        I bought Endless Legend and Endless Space 1 and couldn’t get into either of them, so passed on Endless Space 2, looked like form over function to me.

        • Evan_ says:

          Nothing to disagree with here. I played or at least tried those titles – besides GalCiv3 (looked too similar to 1-2, didn’t feel like scratching that itch at that time). I liked Endless Space 2 though – that was the first one of that series that got me to play trough multiple sessions.

          Wasn’t going to skip this Stellaris expansion either.

    • Montegomery says:

      Honestly, ES1 is a better game than ES2. Every time there’s been a major patch I try ES2 again, only to end up disappointed again.

      ES2 tried a lot of new things, but it didn’t really execute on any of them. Politics, minor races, and the new mechanics for the major races are still being fixed, but not in bold enough strides to get them to where they need to be. Some of that is balance, but a lot of it is how few tools players have to interact with them, or how much a given major race is at the mercy of starting conditions/galaxy seed.

      I mean, I love the ideas behind the Vodyani and I like munching minor factions as Horatio, but it’s just less fun than playing ES1 (or Stellaris).

      • kuertee says:

        “…how few tools players have to interact with [the mechanics], or how much a given major race is at the mercy of starting conditions/galaxy seed…”

        Just wrong in both counts.
        1. Although the focus to FIDSI is high in Endless games, there are many options on the player controls their empire to output and use FIDSI. Players can control and use FIDSI with the game’s most top-level UI: need food? add food production building. But there’ are deeper (2 or 3) other layers of controls and usage that is not readily apparent to a new player. These are not hidden UI, mind you. They are just not obvious until the player actually gets more invested with the game and truly look for more ways to efficiently control and use FIDSI. Amplitude is a master at both UI design – and I’m not talking about how the UI looks visually but in regards to how the player interacts with the UI.
        2. Many times I’ve been both surrounded by or locked in a corner and I managed to find a way out of losses. With the combat design (shields disperse energy weapons, plating blocks kinetic weapons, choose formation and range approach), I can get find ways to even the odds against stronger opponents. The combat is brilliant in ES 2. It’s not just whoever has the largest and strongest fleet wins.

        And 3rdly, the AI empires in ES 2 has a lot more character and reactions to your actions. They will notice your war against their enemy. And say so. They will complain about your encroachment/resource feeding/etc. and ask you to stop. And there are diplomatic effects on whether you do or not. I got more invested in ES2 alliances than in the Stellaris. A Stellaris ally never once asked me for a resource it may have needed because the game didn’t have a facility for it. I’m not talking about conversation options here but of actual foreign policy mechanic – like ES 2 does.

        4thly, ES2’s diplomatic pressures is what other 4x games lack. This feature drives the game’s more life-like AI. Your actions and score and other events exert “diplomatic pressure” on others – even allies. With this, you or the AI can request resources or other trade for free – simply due to “pressure”. There are consequences (sanctions, faster army mobility, etc.) if you don’t comply. This is ES2’s version of a subjugated empire. It’s more realistic than an always-compliant thrall.

        (I’ve played both Stellaris and ES2 exclusive this last 3 months.)

    • ogopogo says:

      If SteamSpy is anything to go by, Stellaris has moved more copies than Endless Space 2 by a very large amount. Unless I’m reading this wrong (totally possible) like four times as many copies.

      TBF Stellaris is a bit more of a sandbox or “software toy” so there probably isn’t as much competition between the two as appearances might suggest — it’s probably more like a good portion of Stellaris fans also enjoy ES2 rather than a situation where a bunch of people are making an either/or choice.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Stellaris also probably gets a large portion of sales from the legacy player base of all the other Paradox strategy games. That’s a built-in audience that’s probably larger than Amplitude fans from the earlier ES and EL games.

        Anyway, I have both Stellaris and ES2, and they can’t be directly compared. It’s like asking whether Total War Warhammer is a better strategy/tactical game than XCOM 2. I like both ES2 and Stellaris, and am equally frustrated by things in both that aren’t quite there yet.

        My main problem with Stellaris has been the war goals system and combat (doomstacks). This is being updated with the current patch, but I’m not sure yet how well it fixes anything. For one thing, I’m not crazy about casus belli. If I’m a Saberhagen Berserker, then I don’t need a *reason* to attack an organic neighbor. But I’ll try it and see how it works.

  7. clocknova says:

    I know the update is just out, but does anyone know if there are any mods in the works that will restore warp travel to the game? I don’t care if it gives it to the AI players, so long as human players can use it. I’m not interested in a hyperlane-only 4X game, but I really want all of the other inmprovements the 2.0 update brings.

    • brucethemoose says:

      If anything, watch the Star Trek: New Horizons changelog and their Discord.

      If modding warp back in is possible, they will be the first to know.

  8. Hoot says:

    £16 for literally 4 features. One big one and 3 small ones, at that. Nah. Pass.

    Stellaris is a decent game but the price point for “expansions” is silly. Coupled with an intrinsically flawed combat system that won’t get better no matter now much you tweak it this kinda puts me off investing any more into it than I have already, which is to say the base game and Leviathans (got Utopia free).

    • LexW1 says:

      Are you aware that the 2.0 patch features huge changes to the combat system and everything that relates to the combat system? (i.e. tech, fleets, travel, etc. etc.).

      Unless your problem is “It’s not turn-based” or “you can’t directly control each ship” or something, in which case it’s a bit weird to hide behind vague “intrinsically flawed” language, it’s quite possible they fixed whatever complaints you have, or improved on them. And you don’t even need Apocalypse to find out.

      • Hoot says:

        Yes, I am aware. I read the patch notes and didn’t see anything that makes the eventual “Every War Ends In A Doomstack V Doomstack Battle” scenario less likely.

        Its true I won’t know for sure until I give it a try so I guess I’l reinstall and see how it goes.

        • doodler says:

          So you missed large portions of the patch notes then. Doomstacks are on their way out with the fleet caps per admiral along with a host of other changes they made. Combat has been changed dramatically

        • brucethemoose says:

          What doodler said, and other things. For example:
          -The weaker side of a battle gets a bonus, scaling with how lopsided the battle is.
          -With Starbases, building a fleet as needed instead of keeping an active one is now a viable strategy. Reinforcing is also easier, it’s not all over after the first battle.
          -Between the slower travel and hyperlane system, multiple fronts are now possible.
          -Defensive structures are buffed, and more common. Wars are more like wars of attrition, as every system is going to grind down your fleet a little.

          I think I missed some other things too.

          If that’s not enough… Well, what exactly DO you want out of a 4X space game?

          • biggergun says:

            >weaker side of a battle gets a bonus, scaling with how lopsided the battle is

            That bad, huh?

            >wars are more like wars of attrition, as every system is going to grind down your fleet a little

            Because large-scale conflicts clearly needed more tedium and whack-a-mole.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            As if the warfare wasn’t tedious enough already. Reading that makes it look like they’re trying to drag everything out further. I stopped playing because the ridiculous application of 16th C. European legal norms to interstellar conflict and this doesn’t look like it’ll get me to reinstall. They should concentrate on what Stellaris did well – the exploration and stories.

  9. BaaBaa says:

    The title for the article should have been “Boom boom shakalakalaka doom doom”.

    • Pogs says:

      All titles should be given the Alice once over.

      • MiniMatt says:

        Alice titles (and alt-text) best titles (and alt-text)

        • oyog says:

          Alice may be Queen of Title Puns but I still consider Marsh Davies as All Time Champion of the Alt-Text.

  10. morganjah says:

    What is the difference between warp, or is it jump, hyper-lane and wormhole travel?

    I see there is a limit on fleet size per admiral. Does that ameliorate the doomstack? Or is it just a question of having 2+ fleets in each doom-stack now instead of one big one?

    • doodler says:

      It is supposed to alleviate the doomstack. I think there may be penalties for multiple fleets in a system and they also upgraded defensive structures. There are a lot of changes to the game so I’ve only scratched the surface today.

      They also made the game hyperlane only to begin with wormholes and warp gates scattered randomly to use as discovered but not buildable anymore. You can get jump drives late game as a tech though still.

      • morganjah says:

        I guess I don’t understand the difference between hyperlane and wormhole. I haven’t played in a long time. And I’m old.

        • beleester says:

          Hyperlane: Only travel along the hyperlane network.

          Wormhole: Naturally occuring, connects two random stars. Kinda like a hyperlane, but the stars can be much farther apart, and it requires a tech to use. It’s sort of an extra layer of connections to make the hyperlane network less flat.

          Naturally-occuring wormholes in 2.0 are completely different from the pre-2.0 Wormhole Stations. That form of travel doesn’t exist any more.

      • brucethemoose says:

        I thought the stargates were buildable later in the game… Maybe I’m just remembering that wrong.

        • beleester says:

          Gateways can be discovered, but you can also build new gateways of your own once you have the tech.

    • Sakkura says:

      Warp can go to any system within a certain range.

      With hyperlanes, you can only follow a predetermined grid. In return, it’s somewhat faster.

      Wormhole can go to anywhere within range of your wormhole stations, or back to a system with a wormhole station.

      With the 2.0 patch, everyone starts with hyperlanes and warp is completely removed. Wormholes are now rare direct connections between random systems that you can discover and use.

  11. biggergun says:

    Between this and Jade Dragon I’m not sure I want to support Paradox any more (I did since the first EU). It seems like “release half-finished games, sell missing pieces as gimmicky DLCs, not bother with core gameplay” is a conscious business ethos on their part. De-facto monopoly on global strategies made them lazy. I mean, Stellaris is what, almost two years old? And they are only now moving to fix warfare? And there’s still not much of a game there, especially if you compare it to, say, Distant Worlds? And at some point this became normal and even expected? Sorry for the rant, it’s just that I really used to like this company.

    • Calculon says:

      I think in part it depends on what your expenses are like as a game maker and how many products you’re attempting to support in a genre which isnt known as highly lucrative.

      Strategy is still pretty niche (and no I dont count Civilizations as strategy anymore – Civ IV was the last version that was a strategy game) – so at some level it makes sense that we’re going to pay more for the product than say for instance an FPS, or a GTA which has a wider appeal.

      That being said – I also share the same feeling that Im being milked steadily like a cow by Paradox lately (last 2-3 years)

      • melancholicthug says:

        Wait, what? What would you call them, then? I mean, I agree that later civs are garbage, but even then “garbage strategy games”.

      • biggergun says:

        Personally I’d be happy with less content but better core systems, especially the AI.

    • BaaBaa says:

      I actually quite appreciate the Paradox approach where they continue to work on and improve games well after launch, and they do release critical updates and gameplay changes for free alomg with paid expansions, unlike Civ6 where questionable attempts at fixing core gameplay still come with a hefty price tag.

      I recorded over 120 hours on Stellaris before 2.0 update and will likely spend bunch more time with all the new changes. I love the fact that they openly admit when they get things wrong, and they work to fix/improve stuff continuously. I feel like I get a lot of value for the amount of money I put into their games.

  12. GunnerMcCaffrey says:

    I’ve been watching this game with something between interest and fear since it came out… I love 4X but have never been able to get on with CKII, and now whenever I consider Stellaris I’m afraid it will be CKII in space.

    Is… is it CKII in space?

    • biggergun says:

      It’s real-time GC2 without the challenging AI or variation.

      • Calculon says:

        I thought the AI was pretty terrible in GC2? Overall I read some bad reviews of that game and didnt play it.

        • biggergun says:

          GC2 AI was so good it had to be severely handicapped on normal difficulty. Best AI in a 4X game, in my opinion (which is, admittedly, based on 10+ year old memories, but still).

    • Vinraith says:

      It’s more like EU in space – it’s not family and character focused to anywhere near the extent CK is (which IMO is just as well).

      • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

        That moves it up the list a bit, then. Is it worth trying without DLC? Or maybe I’ll wait a couple of years in the hopes of it getting the Humble treatment.

        • Vinraith says:

          As with most Paradox games I play, I’ve honestly lost track of what’s in the DLC and what’s in the base game. My general sense is that the DLC stuff is cool but firmly optional – if you can find a good deal on the base game it’s well worth a whirl.

  13. fearandloathing says:

    It’s kinda weird to see Paradox getting this big and becoming a household name and so on, but of course I’m happy for them. I was hyped for Stellaris, while I mostly agree with the changes, the game in general took a route I can’t really approve. It mostly comes down to AI, and not just its competency, but also its interaction with the overall design. The latest changes on warfare, especially those regarding weapons&defenses&counters, make this obvious. Use of the fleet designer will hugely influence the battles, and the AI will never be able to utilize that properly, especially against multiple foes. Fleet designer itself was a totally unnecessary, immersion-breaking feature, catering to the needs of “ooh customization” reflexes of people.

    Paradox used to have a principle, which I appreciated a lot, voiced by its lead developer (now the creative head) Johan many times on the forums, which was applying the same ruleset for both the player and AI, hence always designing systems around AI. Games like Civ and TW were bashed, quite rightly, for having features that the AI didn’t understand, therefore forcing them to compensate by giving AI stupendous buffs just to make the game competitive. Stellaris is heading towards that, and I wish it didn’t.

    *oh, this is not for Stellaris (yet) byt that continuous development thing is getting too far.

    • mariandavid says:

      The claim is that the major changes are precisely those that allow for a more effective, adaptive and challenging AI. I have no idea as yet if their hope is realised but it is clear that ‘lane travel’ is easier to program for the AI – maybe the other features will also be as useful.