Having previously launched a few DLCdribs and DLCdrabs into Stellaris [official site], Paradox today announced Utopia, the first "major expansion" for their space strategy game. It will introduce Dyson spheres and ring worlds, let starlords shape their empire's future form such as going cybernetic or reaching a higher plane of existence, and more.
As is customary with Paradox strategy expansions, Utopia will be accompanied by a free update with important new features of its own. Changes in update 1.5, nicknamed 'Banks', will include expanding species rights, reworking ethics, and adding refugees.
Right! First, let's look at Utopia. It's breaking out some big spacetoys. Players will get to build Dyson spheres, vast structures that (in other fiction, at least) surround a sun to capture its energy. Also coming are orbital habitats, huge space stations which will function basically as extra planets. Ring worlds, which are currently only structures one can find, will be buildable too. This dev diary post explains orbital habitats more.
I'd thought habitats and ring worlds might be part of the Banks update, given the connections to Iain M. Banks's Culture novels, but nah.
Utopia's Ascension Perks are sort of perks aiding different play styles and goals, from helping create shiny space technologies to helping kick out Fallen Empires. Related to these are the three Species Endgame paths, which determine your empire's future shape. Will you control your genetic evolution, cast off the flesh and go metal, or develop psionic powers and reach a new level of existence? Each of these mutually-exclusive paths brings big bonuses to kickstart your future, as detailed in this post.
Or, if you want to be terrible, it'll add extra Slavery and Purge policies. Spacemen will be able to use other species as different types of slave labour or livestock, and Purging, uh, will get new ways to outright eradicate subjugated species. Read about that here. Some real pricks in space, huh?
Moving onto the Banks update! Seven new Tradition trees will offer perks for different playstyles - whether you want to explore and discover things, boost your economy, quickly colonise the galaxy, smash everyone, and so on.
Starlords will be able to set per-species rights across their empire, rather than simply having one set for your founding species then another for everyone else. These cover citizenship, various caste systems, slavery, millitary service, living standards, migration controls, and more. It's introducing refugee systems too, with mistreated people fleeing from rulers crushing them underfoot. People will flee your empire if you're dreadful, and you'll have options to allow or restrict refugees fleeing to you.
Factions are becoming more complex, introducing groups like political parties and movements. They'll each have different goals which will affect the happiness of populations belonging to them. That post details more ethics changes too.
That... is most of the Banks and Utopia stuff. Not all of it, and I believe some is still under wraps, but for now follow all those dev blog links if you'd to learn more.
Paradox haven't yet announced a release date for Utopia and Banks, nor a price for Utopia. Paradox's Crusader Kings II expansions, to throw out some numbers, cost between £8 and £11.