Today's a big day for Stellaris [official site], as developers Paradox have launched its first proper expansion and a big game-changing patch. Headline features for the Utopia expansion include space habitats, dreadful new forms of enslaving and purging species, and 'ascension perks' to customise and shape species towards mechanical, biological, or psionic final forms. Update 1.5 (nicknamed Banks), meanwhile, reworks the government system, adds a civics system to make empires more unique, improves AI, fixes bugs, adds technologies, and changes plenty more. Exciting times in space.
As is often the case with Paradox expansions, Utopia bundles together a load of different parts under theme which kinda unifies them. Utopia does have some shiny utopian bits, like building Dyson spheres and habitat stations, and ascension paths that shape species beyond the puny forms our flesh is born in. It looks to be more about enabling unique empires, though, with very particular beliefs about who they should be and become and how they should treat other species.
Enslave species for livestock then decide to cast off your flesh and become shiny and chrome. Indoctrinate lower species then try to touch a higher plane of existence. Be a hive mind. You do you, maaan.
And as they often will with Paradox games, the update launching alongside the expansion brings important changes of its own. The Banks update sees the government system "completely reworked" and Civics added, which Paradox say allows for "far more customization when creating your empire's government". Factions have become movements with specific beliefs rather than simply rebels. Species rights can be set on a per-species basis. Bits of your ships, as well as their engine trails, now take on the colour of your flag. And... there's so much more.
These patch notes have full details on both the free features of Banks and the paid ones of Utopia. It sounds like Stellaris now has a lot more options and intricacies in the empire you'll become - and those you'll face. Which is good.