So it has come to down to this. The other day, Francisco managed to convince me to try out the upcoming grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive, Stellaris. Whilst I haven’t been a big fan of grand strategy games in the past, I decided to throw my inhibitions about the game out the window and give it a good old try. My fear of getting perplexed by the daunting scale of the task at hand were soon put to ease by the brilliant tutorial system and gradual learning curve.
OK, so I think a full disclaimer is in order: I am a total noob when it comes to grand strategy games. No, you really don’t understand: I couldn’t even get the hang of Crusader Kings II and that was after several arduous hours of trying to get to grips with the game’s tutorial. So let me tell you that right off the bat I was enticed by the ergonomic interface of the game’s menu, it was a lot more sleek and easy to digest when compared to the bland menu in Crusader Kings II. The race creation screen was also quite easy to read and I was able to take in some of the important details about the different races – heck, even the creation process was a blast to run through! Everything was coming up Millhouse! But what happens when you actually start the game?
Once I got past my initial fears I was greeted by VIR, a “prototype synthetic intelligence” that was to serve as my adviser in my space journey. This was immediately a huge step up from CKII’s on-screen prompts. Not only is VIR fully voiced, but he also doesn’t drown your screen with so many popups to the point where I wished there was an ad block in CKII. This felt good, the information provided was not overwhelming and was quite easy to digest as a newbie.
Moreover, the game’s use of the Situation Log to slowly advance the tutorial and make you do ‘missions’ was brilliant. It felt like I could play the game at my own pace while still giving me a steady sense of progression. What is neat is that the situation log often led to some really cool side missions that were optional but helped out my new space empire. Praise must also be given to the game’s hotkeys and controls, which by default are quite convenient, such as being able to move the map using WASD. These are little things, but they definitely helped with my experience.
Overall, I think that the steps taken by Paradox to ensure that Stellaris remains accessible to new players should be commended. I believe that the gradual learning curve that is offered by the in-game tutorial system is quite brilliant for new players to get to grips with the game’s deep mechanics and strategic elements. I definitely enjoyed my time with this game and it is one I see myself playing for many weeks to come. So far my empire is coming along nicely and (most) of my planets are still intact.