Another guest appearance on the blog! If my username seems familiar, it’s because I wrote the post on XCOM and difficulty in games. This post will be something a little different, and less analytical in nature, but I hope it will tide you over until I have something cleverer to say. So for now, I hope the tales of my exploits in the newly-released Stellaris will entertain you!
First things first: What is it? Stellaris is a 4X/grand strategy hybrid made by Paradox, who are perhaps most known for Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV – both of which are grand strategy games. This time they mixed in a little 4X (think Civilization), and the result is Stellaris. You start off by selecting which civilization/species you want to lead to greatness (or you can design your own) and then you are let loose upon the galaxy. I chose to make my own civilization, and the result of that decision was the Tarassi League; a cat-like species with a mix of militaristic and materialistic values. Galactic domination was the goal!
This is what the galaxy looks like in my game (I’m currently in the midgame). The Tarassi League is the large, light blue cluster in the upper half of the universe. It’s smack in the middle of five other empires.
My early game saw little interaction with most of these empires. The empire to my left, the red one, turned out to be an incredibly powerful empire named Republican Connisthian Stars. They also turned out to be pacifists, much to my relief. Immediately above me is the Hythean Mandate – the small orange cluster. They decided early on that they didn’t like me and declared me their rival. I rival’d them back and prepared myself for war. A war that never came, seeing as these guys also turned out to be pacifists. Peaceful little corner of the universe so far.
The Ragerian Coalition (the purple-ish cluster next to the orange), however, was different. These guys were militaristic, like my empire, and thus I expected them to attack instantly. In a strange turn of events, our empires became friends through our shared militaristic values, and the enemy I had expected instead became a trusted ally against the pacifist fools we were forced to endure. The Ragerian Coalition even had a beef with the Hythean Mandate, just like I did! Things couldn’t have been more perfect. As the years went on, I continued to explore the galaxy while preparing for my inevitable invasion of the Hythean Mandate, who had so foolishly declared me their rival. Fleets were built, admirals recruited and technology researched. I would soon visit destruction upon the pacifist infidels.
(I should mention, by the way, that the screenshots are all from after the war – I completely forgot to take any up until this point. The top-most five star systems in the Tarassi League actually used to belong to the Hythean Mandate. In addition, the reason that the Tarassi League is divided by lines is because I have created several sectors. To begin with, you can directly control a maximum of 5 worlds – your core worlds. Each colony you establish after this must be part of a sector, which then automates settler and building management. It’s a system designed to alleviate some of the micromanagement needed. I personally think it works well; I have colonized about 12 worlds, and having to manage them all would be a nightmare. Anyway, to continue with my story…
The war did come, though much later than expected. Suddenly, other alien civilizations were popping up everywhere, and I was forced to delay my plans as I pondered how these empires would react if I started a war. While pondering, I decided to mess around with a pre-sentient species. I showed them the true way of things, uplifting them and integrating them into my empire. This also involved some genetic modification – the species was physically weak, but very intelligent, and I decided to make them even more intelligent so they could boost my research. Now they inhabit an icy planet that my primary species wouldn’t survive two seconds on. I haven’t checked on them in some time, but I assume they’re doing well. Another race managed to get to the Atomic Age on their own, and I then decided to help them progress into the Space Age. They became the Tycan Galactic Empire. They’re not really much of an empire, to be honest; their primary system is under my control, and they only have a single system other than that. They are represented by the brown stripes in my otherwise light blue empire. They are my vassals, however, and thus they must assist me in wars and such.
I also had an encounter with a Fallen Empire, the Ymacera Guardians. Fallen Empires are insanely powerful and have technology superior to anything but the latest of late game technology, but they won’t seek to expand their territory. Instead, they are dedicated to a single goal. In this case, the Ymacera Guardians were dedicated to protecting holy sites around the galaxy. I had unknowingly approached one of these sites, which caused the Guardians to reveal themselves. They demanded to know just what the bloody hell I thought I was doing and then told me to bugger off, which I did as quickly as I could.
Meanwhile, the rest of the galaxy was up to all kinds of nonsense, and empires were declaring war on each other left and right. My time had come at last. 200 years after the Hythean Mandate had first declared me their rival, I was finally ready to teach them a much-needed lesson. My enemy was a pacifist empire whose fleet was inferior to my own. I decided to invade on two fronts simultaneously, using two fleets of roughly 1000 strength rating each. Once they had secured the target systems, I would send in ground armies to occupy the colonized worlds. Easy. Simple. Efficient. Or so I thought. The first fleet, dubbed Kochab’s Shield, met little resistance; only a space station, which had a strength of around 350. The second fleet, Porrima’s Justice, was not so lucky. Porrima’s Justice had entered a system that was fully prepared for its arrival. My fleet, with a strength of roughly 1000, was met by the entire enemy fleet with a strength of 3000. In total, my empire’s fleets would have around 6000 strength, but my two strongest fleets, Tumbatika’s Fist and Irjamma’s Guardians (around 2000 strength each), were protecting the other borders of my empire. I quickly recalled the two fleets so that I could send them to the frontlines, but it would take months for them to travel the length of my empire. Porrima’s Justice had to be sacrificed to buy time.
The enemy fleet quickly decimated Porrima’s Justice and, wasting no time, warped to the system where Kochab’s Shield was preparing to retreat to friendly space. The enemy managed to intercept my fleet and I quickly scrambled to divert my remaining forces to that system. Kochab’s Shield fought bravely and managed to keep the enemy busy until reinforcements arrived. With a strength rating of around 4500, my combined forces managed to defeat the enemy, but at great cost.
The enemy had combined all their forces to form a massive fleet, and this I had not anticipated from the pacifist fools. They had wanted to end the war in a single, decisive battle. But with all of the enemy forces wiped out, the rest of the war was essentially a mop up operation for my fleets. My goal for the war was to take three of their colonized worlds, which would extend my influence to a total of five new systems. The Hythean Mandate lives on, though. Their empire was still too large for me to destroy them in a single war. For now, I must stabilize my own empire and re-educate its new citizens – citizens who yearn to be freed from my “tyranny.” In addition to this, my instigating a war had exactly the effect I had feared: the other civilizations of the galaxy no longer trust me. All have become wary of my military might and, in a bid for increased security, alliances and confederations are being formed in order to deter me from declaring war on anyone else. The Tarassi League stands alone.
The galaxy may have another problem, though: A new empire called the Unbidden. The Unbidden literally tore open a rift in space and are now pouring through. The Tarassi scientists don’t know much about them. They only know that there is a signal being transmitted through this rift – and from what they have been able to decipher, it sounds like The Unbidden have come to this galaxy to hunt. The Tarassi League is located far from the Unbidden, and so I am not in any immediate danger. But other empires are not so lucky and, as a result of their scheming, my movement around the galaxy is limited – meaning that the considerable might of the Tarassi League cannot help stop this new foe. The other empires may have united against me, but doing so may also have been their undoing…
This story is just an example of what can happen in Stellaris. It’s not even one of the crazier stories I’ve seen come from this game. Because of its grand strategy elements, each playthrough will be different, and there is no way to predict how things will go. I have barely scratched the surface of this game. I don’t even know if the Unbidden will appear in every playthrough, or if it is a random event that somehow triggered in my current playthrough.
What I can say, though, is that the AI in this game seems to be very smart. The AI will almost never go to war unless it has an advantage. It won’t just go on a suicide mission like you sometimes see in Civilization games or what have you. Actually, it will often attempt to resolve things through diplomacy, sometimes by engaging directly with you, and sometimes by doing things that indirectly affect you. In my case, the AI empires decided to form alliances to deter me from attacking them. Most of them have no real interest in fighting me, but they felt my empire was a threat and sought to neutralize that threat without declaring war on me.
There is much more to talk about, though, and even more to experience if you play the game. I very briefly mentioned that there is a cap on worlds you directly control and that you can create sectors. But there are so many more systems at play in this game, and the reason I chose to tell the story of the Tarassi League, instead of doing an in-depth analysis of the game, is that I simply haven’t spent enough time with the game to do that yet. Maybe another time!