Stellaris — Grand 4X Space Strategy

Back in the day I played a number of strategy games: Civilization 2, MOO2, Imperium Galactica, Caesar 3, Pharoah, and Settlers, to name a few. I’ve always enjoyed a bit of strategy. But despite a few games like the Galactic Civilization series, the 4X type game seemed to fall out favor for a little while.

Recently though, it appears there’s been a comeback, especially in the space 4X area.

Rock Paper Shotgun posted a preview of Stellaris which has been presented at Gamescon. You can read the full article here, but I did have some thoughts on it.

First up, it’s being developed by Paradox who are also responsible for games like Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, and Hearts of Iron. So, the emperors of grand strategy then. Incidentally, if I needed to pick a single player game to retire on (that desert island perhaps) then I’ve thought for a while a game like EU IV would be the go. Not only is it complex enough to take a lifetime to learn to play, it’s a big enough learning experience to stave off Alzheimer’s of something like that.

So grand strategy in space. Cool.

The Reveal Teaser above doesn’t show a lot of detail, but man, does it give me the tingles.

What the RPS article reveals though is even cooler.

It looks like the game universe is highly dynamic. Where most 4X games get easier towards the end game, there is the possibility of random events and not so random events that could could change the balance of power. For instance, researching AI could lead to a Rise of the Machines situation which could threaten your empire. Every new game generates a new catalogue of alien species from a number of traits which means that each game will be fundamentally different. No more war like Bumblatts, or brainy research oriented Splognards, that you learn the strengths and weaknesses of. Each game is a new roster of allies and enemies.

It also looks like planetary management will be more interesting. I remember planetary management in some of the older games being kind of rote. There wasn’t much too it, just build structures and manage populations. Stellaris looks to turn this on its head by introducing blocker tiles that represent dangerous lifeforms and environmental disasters. This is not shaping up to be a game where you click each turn away because everything is on automation and there’s nothing to do.

Research isn’t conducted in a tech tree. It’s more of a deck of cards which you draw from when a research is completed giving you a semi-random selection of discovery. I like this. I’ve always thought that tech trees such as those in Civilization don’t really represent the progress of science and technology. Sure scientists have always stood on the shoulders of those who came before, but so much discovery especially by the ancients was accidental. This system represents that a bit better.

The other day I posted a list of games that I am looking forward to. The next day, this tidbit comes out. Looks like I have another one to add to the list.