Stellaris First Impressions

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Paradox Interactive
Developer:Paradox Interactive
Release Date:2016-05-09
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Strategy
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Finally, there's influence. That's a tricky one, because it feeds in many of the game's political systems and essentially governs the rate of your empire's expansion. You begin the game with around 150 points of influence, with a monthly gain of 3. Influence is used for things such as implementing edicts, recruiting a new leader (such as scientists for researches or science ships or governor for your empire's various planets), and setting up frontier stations. Frontier stations are needed to expand the borders of the empire, but they aren't cheap. Each of them costs 200 influence points and also permanently drains one influence point from your empire monthly. Assuming no other sources of influence, as little as three frontier stations will effectively kill any monthly influence gain.

There are, of course, ways to gain more influence. For example, some society technology will give a monthly boost to influence once researched. Similarly, declaring another empire a rival will offer a monthly boost to influence, though one that comes at the cost of their overall opinion. Declaring a vastly superior empire a rival might seem like a good move in the short term, but it might eventually push them over the edge and convince them to declare war.

I mentioned research earlier, which is another important element of the game throughout the entire duration of a playthrough. Research is divided into physics, engineering and social. Every category draws a number of new technologies to potentially research once the current research is completed, from which a player can choose. How much time it will take to complete a research is determined by a variety of factors, chiefly the technology resources acquired via research stations, and the scientist leaders' own abilities.

New technologies do about what you'd expect. They give you more options to build your ships (there is a ship designer in the game, although I didn't find it to be too interesting or necessary), and buildings, give you bonuses and, most importantly, allow for new actions. The sci-fi setting allows Stellaris the opportunity for some really interesting mechanics. It's possible, for example, to uplift a primitive species from the stone age to space travel and make them your vassals, or to find a civilization on the edge on the edge of nuclear apocalypse and offer them another chance in the stars. It's in that kind of moments that Stellaris really hooked me, during the times where the prose, the ambience and the mechanics intermingled to form something fantastic.

Unfortunately, so far I haven't encountered quite as many of those moments as I had wished.

Of Empires and SPACE DIPLOMACY!

I greatly enjoyed my initial experience with Stellaris. In spite of the overwhelming tutorials, I immediately found a simple but compelling gameplay loop in my empire's expansion throughout the stars, and I genuinely looked forward to the thought of unpacking some of the more subtle and unclear systems, like the ethics divergence on the various colonized planets, and the micro-factors that affect the production output of most resources.

I was even more excited when I got my first chance to communicate with other proper empires and looked forward to the interactions. Unfortunately, I found that side of Stellaris lacking so far. I suspect it might be different in multiplayer, and, as a newcomer to the genre, I completely accept that it might be my personal failing, but I simply don't find the diplomatic options available compelling.

As I mentioned earlier, it's possible to interact with other empires and, for example, declare them rivals for the sake of extra influence points. Other options include the ability to strike trade deals, declarations of war, insults (which, as you'd expect, negatively affect an empire's opinion of the player's own), the ability to set up an embassy on another empire's planetary capital, and the one to invite another empire to form an alliance.