Wot I Think: Stellaris – Apocalypse


I’ve made a lot of galaxies and star empires this last week, and I’ve thrown most of them in the bin. The Stellaris 2.0 update and the accompanying Apocalypse DLC have blown this 4X game to bits, along with my fleets as I’ve tried to wrap my head around the almost-new game built out of its chunks. Though I’ve racked up hundreds of hours of galactic conquest over the last couple of years, I’ve had to start fresh and figure out how to run a stellar empire all over again.

The xenophobic Imperium of Earth fell behind the rest of the galaxy and quickly found itself boxed in, the possessive but friendly Automata Matrix got squished in a war between Federations, and the slavers of the Saarlan Ravagers just weren’t fun to play because they’re dicks. I should be a bit frustrated, but instead I’m hooked again. The DLC isn’t essential, but the free update completely revitalises Stellaris, and it takes big risks to do it.


One of Stellaris’ original selling points was that it presented a world liberally sprinkled with just about every sci-fi trope and technology imaginable. It’s a multiverse of ideas, including everything from Xenomorphs to ringworlds, which is great from a roleplaying perspective, and that’s usually how I approach Stellaris. It’s a strategy game, sure, but I’m less interested in winning than I am in telling the story of whatever species I’ve created. On that level it works marvelously but it can be bewildering when you’re just trying to figure out how to make an effective fleet, or when you want to plan a war that won’t leave you with a single planet to sit on to contemplate your mistakes.

Stellaris 2.0 scales back one of the earliest and most important choices you’ll make all game: your FTL method. Old Stellaris featured a trinity of FTL types, each dramatically changing – at least until the mid-game – how ships moved and empires expanded. Warp was the simplest, letting your ships travel in any direction, but not quickly. Wormholes made point-to-point travel possible, but only by constructing gateways that could be blown up by enemy fleets. Rounding them off was hyperlane technology, which let fleets travel quickly from system to system, but only down predetermined routes. Now everyone starts by using hyperlanes.


It’s bold. It’s driven fans of warp and wormholes to leave seething condemnations on Steam, predictably, but I’ll confess that I also felt a slight twinge of discontentment when I discovered someone was taking something away from me. The gall! That’s not quite the case, however. Wormholes are still dotted around the map, they’re just static, and you can make a galaxy with such a dense web of hyperlanes that it will seem like you’re using warp. Between the game settings and the tech tree, none of the diversity has been lost.

Here’s the rub: hyperlanes make wars better. When you know where enemy fleets could come from, because you can see the hyperlanes that connect the galaxy, you can prepare defences, station ships and build gargantuan floating citadels in strategic locations and chokepoints, knowing they’ll actually do some good.


Hyperlanes also make expansion more methodical, more like a puzzle. You’re not just trying to gobble up the largest, most habitable planets or the systems with the most resources, you’ve got to pick defensible locations and exploit the web to cut off enemies from the worlds and resources they need. With the old border system, it could be really hard to tell how your border would expand as outposts were built and the empire grew. It was all very muddy and arbitrary and lead to empires swallowing up planets that they didn’t even want. The starbase system clears most of that up.

Starbases are sort of all-purpose floating space stations. They can be massive weapons platforms, commercial centres, shipyards – their modular design means that they can be tailored for each system they operate inside. They also denote system ownership. Plonk down a starbase and you’ve got yourself a system, ready to be mined or colonised. You can have limitless outposts like these, but there are restrictions on how many you can upgrade and start customising. This means you can expand all you want, but you might not be able to keep your new sector for long if an armada comes calling.


If you’ve seen any developer diaries or interviews with game director Martin Anward, you’ll have heard the term “galactic terrain” a lot. My ears perked up every time he mentioned it because it’s what I consider one of the biggest obstacles in creating proper tactical battles. Space 4X games are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to battlefields when compared to their land-bound cousins. Worlds have mountains and oceans and all these tactically rich and interesting places. Space is gassy. The abyss between stars remains a void in 2.0, but the star systems themselves now have an impact on fights. Duke it out in a system where there’s a pulsar, for instance, and every ship’s shields will be rendered useless.

So many of my first failed attempts were down to entirely forgetting about galactic terrain and sending my fleets into battles where they’d end up squashed in seconds, shields vanishing the moment they arrived near a pulsar. Shaking the monitor and yelling at the ceiling yielded no answers, but clicking on the star did. When I came across a pulsar again, I made a fleet of armoured ships that weren’t reliant on shields and turned it into a stronghold.


The hyperlanes and galactic terrain also make putting together multiple fleets with various specialisations a very good idea. There are fleet size limits now to encourage this too. They can be overcome through research, but the game tries to teach you not to put all your eggs in one basket early on.

With more fleets flitting about, wars feel larger even though the same number of ships might be involved, and they’re certainly more complex. The AI seems more capable of handling multiple fronts and enemies, and they have no problem picking the right time to split up or regroup. Despite my low success rate so far, however, I never felt like I wasn’t able to manage the wars I found myself embroiled in.

Babysitting all these extra fleets is made a little less daunting by the one-stop-shop fleet manager. From there, you can assign admirals, review orders, reinforce fleets, build new ships… I don’t even want to remember my life without it. I once lost an actual yacht, in the real world, so as you can imagine, it’s not a stretch for me to lose a few pretend ships.


The new claim mechanic – which should be pretty familiar to any of you Paradoxian grand strategy lot – means that players and AI have to spend influence targeting specific star systems before they go to war, so that does mean you can generally predict where the enemy is going to strike. And they can’t really strike out of the blue. Instead of ultra-flexible wargoals that let them go to war for whatever reason they feel like, empires now need an excuse to fight. Oh yeah baby, it’s casus belli time.

If you’re playing a Barbaric Despoiler – think Firefly’s uncouth Reavers – then you can use the despoilation casus belli to plunder other empires, while Fanatical Purifiers –galactic exterminators, essentially – get a purification casus belli on every neighbouring empire. A casus belli gives you one or more wargoals, and ultimately these determine the focus of the conflict. So you’re not just trying to gobble up territory; you might be trying to stop your enemy from making a Colossus, or you might just fancy some extra slaves in the palace.


All these improvements to war and expansion do highlight what a pain in the arse it is to work with the AI. While there are plenty of diplomatic ways to engage with other empires, like working together on research treaties that require no actual interaction beyond sending a message, and there are still alliances and Federations, the AI is a terrible friend. I wonder if they’re too obsessed with their wargoals, because they certainly don’t want to help their human buddy. There’s nothing worse than watching as a 100,000-strength stack of ships is bearing down on you, and your pal, let’s call them the Tranquil Kithri Commonwealth, just sits there with more fleets than you can count and does nothing at all. I have all these new strategic options, and not one of them involves cooperation.

That I’m so far into this WIT and I haven’t mentioned a single paid feature from the DLC itself is probably quite telling, though I wouldn’t read into it too much. Apocalypse is a good addition to Stellaris, it just isn’t game-changing in the way that the free, 2.0 improvements are. It’s where all the cool and flashy stuff is kept, but it’s nothing I couldn’t live without.


However! You can build a Death Star, and that is definitely a lot of fun. Colossus class ships are ‘planet-killers’, but they’ve got a bad rap. Sure, some of them obliterate entire worlds, leaving their shards to the miners, but others can indoctrinate everyone on a planet or transform them all into cyborgs against their will, so it’s not all bad. It’s a very egalitarian approach to horrific weapons – there’s one for every type of megalomaniac.

Like the Titans, huge capital ships capable of wielding the new weapons, the Colossus vessels are end-game toys, and unless you’re playing a space arsehole, you might not get much use out of them even then. They’re empowering and such a big part of sci-fi that they fit right in, and gosh is it great to finally be able to assimilate whole worlds as my wholly original race of cyborgs, the Schmorg. But these additions alone can’t support a £15 expansion.


That’s where the Marauders come in, or at least where they should, but out of all Apocalypse’s additions they’ve left me the most lukewarm. Marauders are nomadic pirates who split their time between raiding colonies and fighting for the highest bidder. They’re meant to be a persistent threat that can turn into an end-game crisis if they band together, but they’re more like dudes on Twitter who threaten to beat you up and then you never hear from them again. They’ve appeared in every game I’ve played, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you what they did.

It’s a problem that Stellaris seems to have had since launch but that I’ve only really encountered now. I remember when we chatted about it on Three Moves Ahead (sorry, shameless plug) and I kept regaling Rowan Kaiser with all these wonderful stories of synthetic revolutions and gene wars, and he’d just sigh and tell me he’d seen almost none of that. There’s an element of luck involved in how fun and unpredictable your game will be, but experience tells me that there’s usually something diverting or exciting about to kick off. In the case of the Marauders, though, they seem more content to let the rest of the galaxy serve up compelling stories and huge battles, without necessarily involving themselves at all.


Still, I’d take Apocalypse with or without the Marauders, but either way it’s overshadowed by the 2.0 update. I have no idea how much more time or investment it takes to make something like Apocalypse compared to one of the story packs like Synthetic Dawn, but their impact on the game is about the same, even though Apocalypse is double the price.

The disparity between the free update and the DLC is even more pronounced than it was in Utopia, what with 2.0 representing such a massive overhaul of Stellaris’ foundations, and it’s even taken the Ascendency Perks from Utopia and made them free too. Paradox’s logic is that core systems, stuff that will inevitably be expanded on and tweaked, need to be free or the studio would have to support multiple, very different versions of the game. It’s sensible, generous even, but it’s also perfectly reasonable to be more hesitant about investing in DLC when that happens.


Stellaris has always been a bit better at the roleplaying, fantasy overlord stuff than the raw strategy and tactics side of things – which is a bit odd for a Paradox game – but with 2.0 it’s presenting a more balanced vision, where you can still play chill pacifist starfish who just want to be everyone’s friends, but when you do need to start kicking butts, war simply makes more sense and there are more ways to control it. And even if you manage to avoid conflict altogether (well done), the hyperlanes and starbases are a much more considered and deliberate way to plan and grow your empire.

There are going to be cries of ‘streamlining’ but, even if it wasn’t being used as a pejorative, it’s not quite accurate. I prefer ‘tidying up’. When you’re streamlining something, you’re cutting stuff away, smoothing out wrinkles and generally simplifying everything, but 2.0 doesn’t do that. Every part of Stellaris is still here; the pieces have just been rearranged, neatly.


I am a messy man. I’m absent-minded and cluttered. I’m probably one really bad month away from being a hoarder. But I’ve been trying to do a better job of pretending to be an adult, and keeping a structured and neat home is one of the ways I’ve randomly decided to do that. I must sound mad to functional human beings, but it’s been a revelation. My head’s clearer, I’m less stressed, I’m working more efficiently. That’s Stellaris 2.0. And boy am I glad nobody’s asking me to translate “like my newly tidy flat” into a number score

Stellaris 2.0 is a free update and it’s out now. Stellaris: Apocalypse is also out now on Steam and the Humble Store for £15.49/$19.99/€19.99.


  1. Haplo says:

    Yeah, as you say, there is a bit of a luck element in how things like the Marauders play out.

    In my first 2.0 game, I had two groups of marauders, one lot of which sat at the galactic rim behind my ally. They unified into a single terrible Khanate and unleashed absurd armies in every direction, carving chunks out of my ally and my rival, the Cyclogene Foundation. I cowered and built up a massive battlestation on my border with my ally, because… Yeah, my entire navy combined would kill maybe a tenth of the Great Khan’s fleets.

    Then, just as the Great Khan was about to invade my ally’s capital- and only world- the Great Khan caught space flu and died.

    The Khanate picked a new Khan and stayed unified, but their conquests ended and they kept to themselves to develop their ill-gotten gains.

    Fast forward a hundred years. My rival- the Cyclogene Foundation- has gone from being slaving despots to ruthless but xenophilic democrats, and want into our Federation. The moment they become leader they decide we launch a war of ideology on the Khanate to make them more like us.

    Not only does the war succeed easily- the Khanate’s past its prime- the moment the war is over, the new Khanate immediately requests entry into the Federation and is accepted, creating a large bloc of power across a third of the galaxy- a third that the Khanate probably would’ve conquered if not for the space flu.

    In my second game, the marauders hurled insults at me, decided to raid me, had their raiding fleets intercepted by a third party and destroyed, at which point I sent my navies out to burn their homes to ash for their cheek. Not even a thing.

    • Flavour Beans says:

      I’d go a bit more into depth but I’m typing one-handed on my phone on the bus. First game, the Friendly Local Maurauder Store sat at a junction between 3 (4 if you step out a couple more systems) empire’s who were not too keen on each other, and the Marauders couldn’t send out raiders quickly enough to keep up with demand for their paid services.

      Second game, multiplayer, the Marauders I had entirely surrounded, habitually hiring just to keep them friendly to me, united under the Khan about 110 years in, just as borders we’re settled and alliances and pecking order became clear. I instantly and happily capitulated. The Khan went clockwise and seized a handful of neutral-zone systems next to me, and then ate up about 80 percent of my newest ally, who then surrendered. One of the friends I was playing with was next in line and conceded before anything was lost. The Khan doubled back anticlockwise and took about half of one of my rivals, and ninety percent of another, with me gleefully swooping in like a vulture and grabbing what I could. As the Khanate started to push into another Ally’s turf, who surrendered as well, the Khan was assassinated, and two rival generals formed crippled and scattered successor states. We last left the game with one successor getting devoured in three separate wars against former vassals, and the other barely holding on thanks to having the less desirable holdings and having forged a key alliance. Since surrendering to the Khanate means breaking all non-aggression pacts and defensive pacts, half the galaxy is in turmoil with new friendships and rivalries kicking off and borders being redrawn.

      Knowing Paradox, I’m sure the behavior of the Marauders will get ironed out some more, as it seems they’re not quite working as intended yet, but my second game quickly taught me just how welcome the Khanate mechanic can be to shake things up when needed the most.

  2. Archonsod says:

    The Marauders can be a bit of a pain at the minute – not only do they demand money with menaces, but if someone pays them to go duff up someone else they’ll happily raid and pillage everything on the way to their target too, which is bad news if your empire happens to be in the way.
    I suspect the reason you’ve not seen them do much is due to one of the other effects of the changes – expansion has been heavily slowed down. This means the AI tends not to spread quite so rapidly, nor does it glob up as much. On the plus side it means you’re still dealing with multiple empires going in to the end game rather than two or three giant globs; however it also means you’re unlikely to interact with anyone who isn’t an immediate neighbour for quite some time.

  3. Dewal says:

    I like the way they handle updates & DLC. It’s clean and fair.

    All the things to make the game better are in the free updates & the superfluous bits that are good but not game changing are in the DLCs.

    So you could think “15€ just for these little things, meh” but in the end their paid DLC fund the free updates for everyone. One could think of the DLCs as bonus features for the supporters of the game.

    I’m saying this because in the article it feels like you say “the DLC is overshadowed by the free upgrade” like it’s a bad thing. It’s actually pretty generous of them in the end and should be pointed out that way.

  4. Jaeja says:

    Started my first proper 2.0 game near the galactic rim with a group of marauders just to rimward of me. The first hundred years or so of my nascent space empire’s history was spent trying to fight off the asshole slavers just counterclockwise while struggling to keep my economy balanced in the face of transiting marauder fleets burning down vital mining stations on their way to and from raids on various other empires (I was paying them to leave me alone, of course). Like so many of Stellaris’ “special events”, it seems like its impactfulness varies wildly from game to game (which is not a bad thing IMO – variety is the spice of replayability).

    • Imperialist says:

      The thing i liked most about the Marauders is that i never felt like they were anything other than just that. No huge marauder doomstacks, just a harrying ,annoying force that would drop in at times. In addition, it was great to have something neutral to shoot outside of wartime.

  5. Eraysor says:

    I’ve played this game for over 100 hours already. My first 2 games of Stellaris 2.0 have both ended with early game losses to the AI. Maybe I’m just playing it wrong or I’ve been unlucky but it certainly seems a lot smarter!

    • theliel says:

      Testing indicates that the AI pays roughly -50% less maintenance on normal. AIs also don’t seem to be triggering the “Birth of Space Piracy” event so don’t have to deal with the constant stream of pirates.

      I basically found that it slowed down the already grindy early game, and 2.0 made it far worse – it now takes roughly 10 real time minutes at normal speed for a science ship to survey a single system.

      You’re better off building a dozen science vessels and then moving them manually & warping the scientists around when the ship actually arrives at a system.

      Overall I’ve found the game has become more like raiding as a fighter in EQ – justh it super fast forward and wait for something to happen.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    The amount of stuff that changed with 2.0 is completely batshit crazy. It’s like a whole new game!

    One I’m having a lot of fun with. Expansion is faster and more dynamic now, you can build up a fleet in no time with a shipyard-specced starbase, and you can decommission them, change them around, and fast-retool your economy too.

    I don’t care too much about Raiders, though I did have one rather cataclysmic mongol horde situation once. The colossus ships are more just for fun I think than practicality.

    But man, they sure did shake things up, and I’m having tons of fun with it.

  7. Phantom_Renegade says:

    It’s insane to me that Stellaris has changed and improved so much and yet RPS still has the shittiest log-in system this side of Dial-up modems.

    I dislike the new lack of flexibility when it comes to wargoals, but have they been fixed so that they now actually work? As in, is the AI now a bit more reasonable about them?

    • Flavour Beans says:

      The AI needs a wargoal to go to war with you. The most low-reward wargoal requires a rivalry (and you can only rival direct neighbors now). Beyond that, they either need claims on you (and the game alerts you to claims being made) or to demand you become their vassal or protectorate (your refusal gives them the war goal to force you). There are a couple edge cases, like the despoilers or purifiers mentioned in the article, but for the most part, you always know who can and can’t go to war with you in advance. It’s a lot more predictable.

  8. ReverendPhoenix says:

    Is it just me or does it seem like they are drawing a lot of inspiration from Sins of a Solar Empire with this update? The galactic terrain, Titans, and even the way marauders either free roam or go after the highest bounty. Not that I’m complaining, we could all use more Sins in our life.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Yeah, previously they were drawing a lot of inspiration from Distant Worlds, and I’d drawn the same conclusion about that case as you have about this.

      (Too bad they didn’t lift the “civilian spacecraft are represented in the system” bit, even though it didn’t really work too well in DW, it’s still cool)

    • Sakkura says:

      Galactic terrain is not new. Only a few related things like the new starbase building that harvests energy from nebulas.

  9. anHorse says:

    My review: “They named the update after Cherryh 10/10!”

    I am good at journalism

  10. Laurentius says:

    2.0 patch changes seem cool but what Stellaris really needs for me it is addition of plethroa of events like Horizon Signal. Events that would ultimately shake things up for you or other empires involved. Events that would split and shake up the stalemate Stellaris game too often sunk into. I know that added scripted events is no for a Paradox these days as they seem to balanc their game around mp but sp suffers as all these unscripted events like war in heaven ec, most of the time are big disappointments.

    • Darloth says:

      A scripted events DLC might be interesting.

      It’d be something you’d only really turn on if you were interested in that sort of thing, obviously, and the reason I suggest it as DLC is presumably they would need enough return on investment that they would not usually predict if not charging for it… Not sure whether it’s viable, but it would solve the some people want it, some people don’t problem.

  11. Greg Wild says:

    I’ve been enjoying the update, but I do feel like most of the apocalypse content (much like the Megastructures) take way too long before you hit it. I’ve spent the past couple of hundred years in game on 3x speed, and I’ve only just started getting anywhere near the tech & perks needed. Feels like it should be more like mid-game content than end-game.

    • Darloth says:

      Yeah, I am also finding this to be a problem.

      I’ve just installed some new mods that make the random species generation more, well, random basically (loads of new, not particularly balanced traits, the AI gets one or two per race, etc) and I’m just thinking… it’ll be hours and hours of realtime before I can get this empire up to where my current empire is – and they hadn’t even got to proper battleships yet, let alone titans or colossus or such.

      That said, it’s good these options are now there at all. You can’t claim to compete with MoO2 without some way of destroying a world.

  12. DEspresso says:

    I only play Star Trek New Horizons on Stellaris so the FTL changes are mostly invisible to me, yet..

    Am I the only one getting miffed about the taking away of features? One has to wonder what would happen in any other industry if producers did that unnecessarily. ( See also: Your Car is not allowed to drive in cities anymore)
    It is quite flabbergasting to me that neither consumer nor legislatorial protests have been raised. Especially since it’s not the first time Paradox has taken this measure, at least the didn’t hide the removed feature behind DLC this time..

    • Sakkura says:

      They didn’t take them away unnecessarily, they very clearly explained why removing the different FTL methods was necessary, and this very article explains why it improves the game.

      • Fishslap says:

        That’s subjective. I preferred the game before the “update”. The different FTL systems were really the one thing that made Stellaris somewhat unique, even if it had some drawbacks. Now it’s just a generic space strategy game. And it still has far worse aliens than GalCiv or Masters of Orion do. In fact they are all exactly the same, including the buildings. The only variation comes from ideology and traits, which you could have had even with only humans in the game. So the aliens in are pointless, not even visually interesting. And I still get just as bored once I reach the mid-game as before. It just feels blander getting there.

        Stellaris really needed the FTL variations. Literally nothing else made it stand out.

    • Flavour Beans says:

      Anyone who wants to keep the other FTL methods is free to disable auto-updates and stick with 1.9, just like anyone who doesn’t want to see their favorite character killed off can just stick to watching reruns of a TV show.

      It would be different if it were a forced update, or if they were doing it for no good reason, but they did what they did to make room for a ton of improvements, just like killing off that character adds a bunch of juicy plot points and advances things along.

      To put it in a different metaphor, they knocked down a wall to build an addition on the house.

    • mitrovarr says:

      I’m not entirely happy with the loss of the old Stellaris, but I imagine any consumer rights/legal challenge could be trivially deflected by the continued availability of the old version.

    • Skiddywinks says:

      They weren’t removed, they were rearranged.

    • morganjah says:

      No more driving in cities? Make them livable, walk-able, and pleasant to live in again? Yes please!

    • Asurmen says:

      Are you seriously trying to say they’re never allowed to change their games? Cos if so, wow.

      • DEspresso says:

        If you are selling a product advertising certain features (and the FTL Options are) and then remove them, then I think that is worth having a discussion about, yes.

        • Asurmen says:

          Devs are allowed to change their game.

          Discussion over.

          We’re not talking about wholesale scamming of customers here. We’re not talking advertising an RTS only to suddenly have bait and switch to an RPG. We’re talking one tiny mechanic (among a multitude in the game), that was hardly advertised as a major selling point.

          There is a reasonable expectation, from a customer, that a game will change over time due to patches etc. There’s been no protest over such actions, because such a protest would be utterly unreasonable.

          • DEspresso says:

            On the contrary this ‘unimportant’ mechanic was featured quite prominently in the release materials as it was something unique to the game not seen since SotS. The only ‘new’ mechanic brought into space was Victorias population management which certainly did not entice me.

            So it might not seem important to some, it was important to me and while you always had the option to play only hyper/warp whatever the same is not granted to me without a rollback excluding 19ers from fleetmanager et al.

            The whole ‘FTL is so broken we cannot fix it’ spiel is quite a strange reasoning because it either took them 2 years to realize or if they viewed it as problematic why didn’t they tinker with it? Number of patches which change FTL mechanics beside 2.0 ? Exactly one.

            That being said, if you are having fun good for you, I on the other hand had my first case of fleet Ping-Pong and that is a mechanic that I certainly did not miss from earlier games.

        • biffsticklemeyer says:

          LOL DEspresso is crybaby eurotrash. Why don’t you go talk with your MP about how a video game changed a feature you didn’t like and see how far you get.

    • Jason Lefkowitz says:

      Surely this is not a problem if removing the feature makes the game more fun, though?

      That’s how I read the rationale for this change: the game used to have a bunch of different FTL travel systems. But it turned out that having everyone use the same FTL travel system makes the game more fun to play, since wars would unfold in more comprehensible fashion and opportunities would be created for players to do things like fortify strategic points. So by cutting a feature, they improved the game.

      If cutting the feature makes the game better, why on earth wouldn’t we want them to cut it? The point is to produce a game that’s fun to play, not one with the longest possible checklist of features.

      • Darloth says:

        There are some who would claim they should keep it in as an option for everyone else.

        I am not one who would claim that – I agree with the line of reasoning that this adds massive overhead and would slow further development and balance and so forth – but I do often feel that way about many other changes and features that COULD have been optional, and I certainly agree you can make that argument.

      • theliel says:

        The problem is that Hyperlanes don’t actually do what they’re supposed to do – The AI always uses Doomstacks, and with war exhaustion they can force status quo peaces quickly enough to not pay a price for not having multiple fleets.
        Fixed defenses are utterly a joke once you have torpedos – a few destroyers with torpedos just wrecks them with no chance to retaliate and space travel speed is suitably slow that the speedbump they provide doesn’t help.

  13. Shadow says:

    Has 2.0 reinforced the mid-game in some way? So far Stellaris has lost me half-way through two otherwise dedicated playthroughs.

    Once the initial round of exploration and settlement is done, there’s not much to do other than slowly researching and developing your colonies, and getting into random wars. The game just loses its way for me past the early game, and they keep adding stuff to the late game, and mini stories and such that don’t seem to reasonably fill the gigantic crater Stellaris has in the middle.

    • Darloth says:

      Apocalypse uses the maurauders to add a little midgame.

      2.0 in general has a different feeling midgame due to the hyperlanes and different war strategies AND the fact that empires do not need to stop expanding (you get a steady flow of influence, and can spend it regularly on claiming a new system). This helps a bit, but… eh, I still think it’s a little sparse.

      • Shadow says:

        I suppose unlimited expansion means empires will clash more often now that they won’t commonly have stretches of empty space between them, and also puts more value on galactic real estate if anyone nearby can potentially grab a palatable planet.

        That’s alright, I guess. But it’s taking them a while to notice what the game really needs. It’s not simple things planetbusters, but rather more ways to meaningfully interact with other civilizations, and more fleshed out internal affairs to deal with when you’re not warring around the galaxy.

        They shyly explored the idea of named characters, but barely to any interesting extent, which is strange considering their work with Crusader Kings. The truth is the game could use more of that, more types of characters of every kind, whose interaction with each other would give empires more internal life. Perhaps it’s just not the game’s scope, but so far it feels like they’re trying to fill the bucket one drop at a time.

        • theliel says:

          It’s not quite unlimited expansion. Each Outpost you place is a 2% Unity/Tech penalty.

          Of course, if you leave an empty system you’re going to get Pirate fleets which are no joke.

        • Fishslap says:

          I think Stellaris was fundamentally flawed from the start. If it is a triple X it has a great first X, a nonexistent/coma-inducing second X and a third X that no one has ever seen because people restart the game over and over again rather than suffer needlessly.
          I got bored stiff by the mid-game in the beta, and again with the vanilla release. And now I am bored stiff by it in 2.0.

          Maybe the game just can’t be saved. And meanwhile Paradox removed one of the few things I really liked about the original game. It all seems a bit desperate to me.

  14. biggergun says:

    War exhaustion is completely broken atm making large-scale offensive wars all but impossible, upkeep for everything is prohibitively large, and the game is full of irreversible fail states you have no control over (autospawns, food crisis, etc). I agree that the game needed change and challenge, but challenge and micro busywork are two very different things.

    The outrage on Steam is NOT only about FTL methods like the review states.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, I’m okay with the FTL lanes because it solves some problems and adds the “terrain” element. But the war exhaustion mechanic is terrible in its current state. Just more forcing of 16th Century European history on what’s supposed to be a space game with aliens.

      It’s a major blow to player agency, when you’re forced to stop just short of crushing an adversary when an automatic forced peace kicks in. Space Cop says no more fighting. Really? The inability to declare war when your empire borders don’t touch is also ridiculous.

      I’m waiting to see how much of this is patched or modded before getting back into the game.

      • Darloth says:

        Both of those are modded already.

        Three ways over, in some cases.

        • Zenicetus says:

          That’s good to know, thanks. The next question would be whether the AI can adapt to the changes. Time to look up these mods and see how it’s going.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Just saw on the Paradox forums that they’re changing this forced peace nonsense, to a set of maluses when you reach 100% war exhaustion. So you can still finish a war without the game jumping in and forcing you to stop. That’s the part I really dislike (along with a bunch of other people, apparently), and it looks like they’re addressing it.

          It still feels like something that shouldn’t even be there at all, for certain alien types like robots or hive minds. Or a warrior civ that should get a boost to happiness when you’ve almost conquered someone, not a malus. But I guess it’s progress. I’ll have to wait for that patch and then see how the game settles down, because there are some other things I like in the new 2.0.

  15. MiniMatt says:

    First play in a bare-bones-no-DLC 2.0 galaxy, and it’s a lot better than I remember (stopped playing a few months after launch).

    Agree with the review, geography is what makes these games interesting and if you have to fudge it a bit to force space-geography then so be it.

    Toying with picking up Utopia on sale, Armageddon is a bit rich for my circumstances at present.

    • Skiddywinks says:

      £15 for an expansion like this, when Into The Breach is out tomorrow for the same/cheaper… Hmm…

      I’m gonna start a new Stellar is playthrough either way, but I’m agreed on the price of the new DLC

  16. Ariurotl says:

    Somewhat annoyingly, the three new flavourful civics are also a paid feature of the expansion so I’ll have to wait for the paycheck before delving into the game again.

  17. Scraphound says:

    I’m excited.

    I didn’t get into Stellaris because I need a strategically demanding game to keep my attention. When winning a war boils down to having the bigger and meaner blob of ships I lose interest fast.

    I need chokepoints, mixed fleets, and complexity in colonizing/conquering planets. I can see how this update could piss a lot of people off, though. I’m a Paradox fan. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into eventually. They didn’t.

    • theliel says:

      I mean..the game is still DoomStack wins the day. There isn’t really a reliable way to fend off a giant mob of ships and by early mid-game defensive platforms are incapable of providing much in the way of a chokepoint.

      Armor & shield ignoring weapons make sure of that, and travel is two slow to have boarder raids or advanced forces.

      By the late mid-game you have Jump Drives and can just bypass choke points.

      Currently Hyperlanes aren’t doing what they are supposed to do.

  18. Imperialist says:

    I personally find the changes rather refreshing. Hyperlanes make the most sense, as in most science fiction that is how warp drive is depicted…FTL between two points, using preset coordinates. It got really old, really fast, having unfathomably huge stacks of ships warp directly to your homeworld, and any logical placement of fortifications and weapons platforms were thwarted by this fact. Even Fortresses, with their ability to drag ships in FTL to their location just proved as doom-magnets, to be obliterated swiftly by a fleet it cant possibly defeat. Now we have an actual strategy behind defending our systems. Plus, less cheese is always good in an Empire building game in which the AI has the edge no matter what.

  19. modzero says:

    I’d mention that the patch is horribly buggy – some events are broken, but most importantly, the fancy fleet planner is both an usability nightmare and just plain buggy. Martin Anward acknowledged the issues, so arguably that will be fixed – but playing right now is frustrating.

    I mean, also great – the content of the patch and expansion is pretty cool, and I generally like the mechanics – but frustrating.

  20. Sly-Lupin says:

    Is there at least an option to use one of the other two FTL methods? Being stuck to only hyper lanes is a major let-down… FTL diversity was really the most interesting/innovative thing Stellaris did. Without it, it’s not very appreciably different than any other space 4x—almost all of which *also* use hyperlanes.

    • Darloth says:

      Sword of the Stars 1 is still the best space wargame / total war style game, aye.

      I’m sad they couldn’t make the choice of travel systems work, but I do agree that they’ve done a better job of making hyperlanes work for the game they have.

  21. morganjah says:

    What about time travel? Is that a still an option?

  22. Vasily R says:

    This seems like more of a review of the 2.0 patch than the Apocalypse expansion. I already have the patch for free, I need to know if the DLC is worth it. Fraser barely talked about Apocalypse, and he only talked about briefly mentioned the 3 major features. What about all the minor stuff included in the DLC? Sorry, this is a great review of 2.0, but terrible review of the expansion.

    Does anyone know of a good review of Apocalypse? Perhaps a YouTube video review that is good?

    • Fraser Brown says:

      It is a review of both, but there isn’t much to Apocalypse, while 2.0 is almost a sequel. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I answered your question in the review. It’s not worth it. Apocalypse is good fun but feels more in line with the story pack DLCs, not an expansion.

      • Vasily R says:

        I just wish you had discussed some of the minor features of the expansion, such as the raiding, new ascension perks, new civics, the unity ambitions, and the new music. You know, all the other things we’re getting if we buy the DLC other than the 3 major features. Just wanted to know if those minor things are any good. But it sounds like this is a DLC I should definitely wait for a sale on. Twenty dollars is far too much.

  23. Metafreak says:

    I just created an account because I simply had to ask this question…how does one lose a yacht?

  24. Someoldguy says:

    I’ve just had a go for a few hours and maybe it’s partly ennui arising from familiarity, but the start of Stellaris now feels unbearably tedious. There’s that entire galaxy of possibilities out there to be explored, but can you explore it? No sir. Nobody’s allowed to go into unexplored space except a science vessel for no useful reason. So you build a second science vessel but oh no, that can’t go into unexplored space either, because it has to have a science leader on board. All the other scientists in your nation of teeming millions do not qualify, just the ones that you have a very finite, arbitrary, costly supply of for game reasons count. They’re the only ones that can explore. The only ones that can survey. The only ones that can study scientific anomalies. The whole beginning phase is now firewalled behind a singular resource blockage. If you find a habitable planet you feel immense pressure to colonise it no matter how lacklustre it is, just to avoid more tedious waiting for your two or, if you really push it, three research ships to survey their way sluggishly onward towards – just maybe – finding a better one eventually.

    I’m sure it’s probably more balanced for the AI now because the player’s ability to expand has been completely hamstrung, but for me they’ve achieved it by endeavouring to make the beginning of the game – always the good part – less fun, rather than making the middle part of the game more fun.

  25. ahab says:

    They have somehow made a seriously shite game even more boring. I didn’t realise how much I loved doomtacks until this awful expansion. The war exhaustion system is bizarre. If there was an alternative to Paradox games I would use it. But they are currently the Microsoft of strategy games

  26. wildwiredweasel says:

    Jesus fuck dude, I came here looking for a review, not a commercial. I got about six paragraphs in before I couldn’t stomach reading any more. Give a review, and stop arguing.

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