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I'm really enjoying it. It is much easier to get into mechanicswise than their historical games. There is also less to it, which isn't all bad. Right now I'm playing some science mad giant bats with government type "science directorate" authoritarianism. The game does a solid job of making early exploration cool and the galaxies look fun. I think they could be more unique, there aren't any unique resources or anything like that that I have found yet. I like that there are old civs that are super powered but decripit and non-expanding in the game to reduce the empty race feeling almost every 4x has.
I can't speak to how good a competitive game it is. I know some people think all the Paradox games are too easy, AI is broken, easy to game, etc but I always play their games as a sort of RPG so I never get into that.
I like almost everything they're doing, but it *is* a little simple at this point. You can see the bones of everything that they can eventually follow to make as complicated or uncomplicated as they choose using the paradox small expansion pack module thing. I think what is most promising about the game is that while it is currently a little thin, they are going in exactly the direction that I want them to---living universe. And not just with enemy civilizations. The anomalies are cool, the random space aliens and encounters in systems are cool. But then you combine those with the mechanical bones that aren't being used to tremendous effect but give you a sense of future direction.
An example is that tons of things are keyed into your empire's traits. Even in really minor and unusual parts. So I run into some ancient, long forgotten, hostile mining drones in a system. I research their communications and learn about them, giving me some bonuses. But then there's a cool bit. If I am a pacifist ideology empire, I am given a different potential bonus from them as I seek to understand the group that built them rather than annihilating them. When you consider that there are like 8 different ideologies, each with two intensities, you can see that there is a strong chance to build empire specific mini-narratives that you would never be able to generate again when you interact random events with empire types.
But again, some of it is a little sparse right now. The game gives you a simplified version of Victoria's POP system, with your population characterized by individual units of population with different species, ideology, and preferences. So if you make the equivalent of the Star Trek Federation, you can set policy to allow full open borders and migration of all species. That means that Vulcans can move to Earth, and Humans can move to Andorra, etc etc. I doesn't feel especially consequential right now and the internal mechanisms that take advantage of the system are a little sparse, but you can see how incredibly compelling it could be to create challenges in maintaining large empires and inter-species domestic politics (or intra species, your POPs can be the same species with different ideas (e.g. xenophobes or militants).
Anyway, like I said, I've only played 3-4 hours but I am loving it. The designers are touching on exactly the parts of 4x that I like.
EDIT: I was pleased to read this RPS post today, which outlines exactly the stuff I think the game needs for me to go back to it. Happy to see these updates are planned within the next couple of months.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun put it best about Stellaris yesterday---it's more like an RPG than a victory condition 4x game. If you like your strategy games like that (e.g. Crusader Kings II), then you'll be delighted by Stellaris like I am.
My pacifist space turtles ultimately were attacked by bloodthirsty radical xenophobe fungus. We were overwhelmed, lost a spaceport, but their planetary assault was unsuccessful. In the meantime, behind the lines I bulked up my forces until a climatic space battle as the enemy entered my home system after giving up the land assault of the other planet.
I chased them back and won the war---humilitating them and, most satisfying, splitting their colonies off from them to create new empires. I treated them with some sugar (free minerals) and ultimately the new fungus empires (pacifist, naturally) begged for vassalization by my mighty pacifist empire. Divide and conquer. In the picture from before the war, I'm the green space turtles and the bloodthirsty assholes are the green/grey in the south (north is a precursor empire that we don't tangle with).
This game is everything I've ever wanted in a 4x. Bring on the expansion modules to bulk up the midgame.
One thing I am *really* looking forward to that they did with CKII, and I hope that they do here, is make expansions where you can play very different entities. e.g. play as a nomad fleet or something. They also need to add some systems (trade system is lacking) and some other stuff but I think the base is strong.
Really good news. They need compelling midgame event chains, they need to bulk up/make more variety in late and early game event chains too. Having a solid writer on board makes me more optimistic those chains and mechanics will be more interesting.
Austin at Waypoint has a really nice story about his Stellaris game with the patch here: waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/we-learn...is-on-waypoint-radio
Gary Sax wrote: New Stellaris patch out... hoping to try it out this weekend. It's 20 bucks, they add some shit (e.g. dyson spheres, megastructures) with the expansion... but also critically, if you own Stellaris, your game should be getting better. One thing I like about the Paradox model is that they release these expensive paid DLCs but then they *also* release a very generous patch that adds new, important features simultaneously.
I had a preview version of this expansion for review. The free patch is awesome: adds extra tools and political upheaval that give you new strategic options and more things to do during the mid-game, which is just what Stellaris needed. Good enough to suggest that anyone who tried it and shied away from the original game perhaps ought to give it another go now.
The paid expansion is much more late-game material and, while interesting, is far less compelling. Not worth the asking price IMO.
As Matt said, main thing they did was make the midgame much more interesting by adding internal political dynamics. The non-paid additions are amazing. It's now the game it should have been when released---internal politics finally exist in a meaningful way. Even little changes, like adding "consumer goods" as part of your mineral production, that you can increase or decrease depending on how much you want to mollify your people...
Fair to say Stellaris is now great, where before it was just promising. I bought the expansion just to support the game because I like it so much, I tend to agree that many of the additions are late enough where they aren't things you'll be engaging every time you fire up the game.
They also completely overhauled war to make the game not about as many units as possible by limiting fleets by admiral carrying capacity. It's a very similar to the one that works quite well in EU4, if you're familiar with that.