Things to know before you play Stellaris

There’s a new kid in the proverbial Grand Strategy town – Stellaris [Official Site]. I’ve had it in hands for over a couple of weeks and have played the flawed, yet unique and interesting space strategy game for nearly a hundred hours, throughout which I’ve meddled with peaceful empires that kept to their own and zealots that fanatically purged every alien they met. It’s a game of exploration and colonization, of genocide and eugenics, and most of all it’s a game where space cockroaches value democracy more than I do. I’ve also had great fun trouncing certain writers from our website (not Arvind). Here are a few tips I wish I’d known before playing.

Queue alien speech events and projects and do them at once

As you start the game and start meeting multiple aliens, be they neutral or other empires, you’ll notice that their communication entries go into the Situation Log along with other projects you might discover. Don’t do them immediately. Performing these projects and events will pause a certain type of research (the alien communication ones pause society research, for instance) while you perform them, halting your scientific progress, and this negative effect can be mitigated by concluding these researches all at once, not on a case-by-case basis. While you do stockpile the used research while carrying out these projects, stockpiled research isn’t used all at once – it will double your current research rate until the stockpiled research points are over.

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I couldn’t be arsed to actually begin a new game and take a screenshot of the Situation Log full of Alien Speech events, so here’s a generic one.

You can get civilian ships through areas with hostiles by changing their fleet stance to passive

Self-explanatory. Don’t forget to switch it back to evasive once you’ve done what’s needed, or pay close attention: leaving it on passive means that it won’t flee from hostiles in any situation, so you might end up losing that science ship you sent to survey a faraway system and never looked at again.

Research time increases with population size. Pace your expansion

While it’s tempting to start new colonies as soon as possible – and often getting a couple of early colonies is a good choice – keep in mind that the amount of research points required for each technology increases based on your population size. You might want to build a strong research infrastructure before any big leaps in population, such as when you conquer other planets or integrate a vassal.

Certain trade agreements require parity or specific terms

You just requested a non-aggression pact and in response that pacifist, xenophile empire gave you a -1000, right? That’s because, along with other particular treaties, requesting a non-aggression pact requires that you, at the very least, offer one in return.

Certain policies, technologies and edicts are ethos-specific

You chance upon a perfect, 25-tile world of your type, build a colony ship and then, when you’re about to send it you get told that your government’s policies prevent you from invading planets with natives. You’re a pacifist – you can’t directly harm pre-FTL societies – and thus, that perfect colony is, well, not. Similarly, a spiritualist people won’t like it if you use synthetic life-forms, such as robots, while if your people are xenophobes they won’t appreciate those aliens you’ve integrated into your empire. Ethos choice impacts multiple aspects of the game, so pay good attention when you choose them for your founding species.

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Your choice of ethos is the most impacting one you’ll make in empire-creation: government types, event choices, technologies, policies, buildings and other things depend on it.

Don’t anger Fallen Empires

Or do, and learn from your mistakes. Fallen Empires might seem placid, inward-turned governments: they’ll rarely, if ever, meddle with the regular empires’ affairs. The keyword there is rarely. If you anger a Fallen Empire by taking direct action against them, such as declaring them a rival, or by doing things they’re against, such as being a genocidal warmonger, they might declare war on you.

Split your fleets across your space ports before telling them to upgrade

There’s no reason to have your 450 naval capacity fleet stationed at a port, taking up its construction queue for a dozen years, when you could have just as easily split it in six and had the job accomplished in a sixth of the time. Don’t forget to actually send the separate fleets to the systems with the space ports before telling them to upgrade, or else they’ll just queue at the nearest.

You can set a focus for your sectors

Along with being able to tell them whether to build according to a planet’s tiles or not replace the buildings you’ve already placed, you can tell sectors what to focus their production on – minerals, energy, research or military. The sector AI is still a fickle beast, however, so take the effectiveness of such measures with a grain of salt.

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You can also assign a sector-governor, change their tax-rate and send minerals or credits.

Ethics is species-specific, government is empire-wide

The ethics of a species are specific to it – a population will react to your policies and actions according to their ethics, not the ethics you chose for your founding species – while the bonuses granted by your government are applied to all within your empire. If you want to build an empire based on the slavery of xeno scum, you’re better off gearing your government choice toward that and your population’s ethics’ toward accepting the slavery of aliens.

Use robots and other species of your empire to colonize planets that aren’t of your primary type

Bringing other species into your empire, by force, migration treaties or integration, has a use: it increases the amount of planets you can effectively colonize. When you build a colony ship it will allow you to choose from any of the species’ from the planet you’re building it on, including robots. Since habitability represents your happiness limit, and happiness leads to increases in production, you generally want to keep both on similar levels.

 

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