Stellaris First Impressions

Eschalon: Book II

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

Of all those options, the one I found myself gravitating around more frequently were the trade deals, but rarely did I ever manage to come up with an advantageous offer. Most of the AI empires' offers towards me were very meager offerings of information, and I never managed to obtain anything like a non-aggression pledge or even a simple exchange of resources. Perhaps it was simply a sign that my empire was too weak, though the same seemed to happen even when I was dealing with empires' that the game considered "pathetic" compared to mine.

War and alliances are more exciting and involved affairs, but they only seem to come into play rarely. Strangely enough, my allies seemed to be more keen to declare war against far stronger empires than ours than our rivals ever were to declare war against us, which was both a blessing and a curse. When my alliance eventually grew into a federation, I was able to block a vote to go to war about four times in a row, after remembering the disastrous results of a previous war that saw the enemies invade Earth and then mercifully leave after devastating planet.

This overall passivity, however, meant that, since I lacked the influence to expand, I was essentially left with a stagnant game that was simply going nowhere. I aim to immerse myself more into the intricacies of the game so that I can actually understand how to successfully go through this phase of the game, but so far I've been disappointed. In the early game, Stellaris really shone, but when my attention was diverted to bureaucracy, it started to feel far less interesting.

While wars didn't occur often in my games so far, they certainly can't be accused of being mechanically shallow. Combat, like the rest of the game, occurs in real time, and each battle, whether between fleets or a planetary defense, ultimately concludes with a victory of defeat. Those victories or defeat determine the total warscore of each of the war's factions, but at any time there is also the possibility to negotiate. Those who were hoping for more tactical decisions might be disappointed, but the game put quite a lot on my plate already, so I appreciated the simplicity of the skirmishes and the focus on preparation and strategic thinking.

On Dynamic Storytelling and Ambience

I don't quite hold the "dynamic stories" that emerge from a Stellaris playthrough with the same reverence as many other players do. Because of that, perhaps my perspective is skewered, and I won't be able to successfully convey whether the game is an excellent storytelling generator or not. The crux of the matter, for me, is that I find it strange to praise a game for the passionate retellings and embellishments that come from the player base. There are clearly players out there who are extremely passionate and could pen short stories out of a Tetris session, but no one would ever call Tetris a masterpiece in the art of dynamic storytelling.

All that said, while Stellaris has next to no actual narrative (as most other games of its ilk), I never ceased to be impressed with the ability of Paradox's writers. The game combines an understated sense of humor with an unbridled sense of wonder and awe. I was presented with new vignettes and events regularly, and almost all of them included interesting new concepts or painted interesting mental images. Stellaris doesn't have a lot of art (though what's there is absolutely excellent) so the existence of these snippets of prose really helps make what is essentially a UI-driven game come alive.

The music of Stellaris is absolutely incredible too. If there is something that didn't make me mind the uneventful stretches of gameplay so far, it was the game's soundtrack. It's pleasantly retro and hearkens back to a more thoughtful and optimistic era of sci-fi, before our worries about privacy and technology took over. It feels like a cliché to mention Vangelis as one of the inspirations, but considering even the soundtrack composer did so, I feel less concerned about doing that. Either way, I suspect I will open the launcher of Stellaris just to listen to its theme in the future, and that's always the sign of a successful soundtrack in my book.