Sunday, May 15, 2016

Stellaris AAR: Introduction

Stellaris! Stellaris is a new game recently released by Paradox studios, following in the footsteps of their other grand strategy games like Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings, only this time in a fictional space setting. Their games follow a relatively similar format, but customized for the setting and allowing for a great amount of user modifications, if one is interested.

Standard play involves you commanding a government that interacts with other governments and the world (well, universe in Stellaris's case) over a long period of time. Unlike most other longer games, Paradox has a system that works in real-time, with pauses. What makes their system really special is the event system. Under certain conditions events pop up with effects, choices, and flavor text that helps fill out the setting. They can also do a lot for the replayability of the game. I'd heartily recommend any of their games.

Well, let's begin. First step? Building your race.

Here's the trait screen for the race. My race are the Savix'Qast, and on the right you can see the selected traits: repugnant, venerable, and sedentary. They on average live twice as long as humans, but like to settle down and live their lives in one location. They also freak other species out, given the lack of visible eyes and a mouth that wiggles in a disgusting fashion. Respectfully they're referred to as Starfish, given how their head looks. The more popular term for them is Suckers though, given their mouth and religious beliefs.

The other major decision for customizing your race is the government and ethos choices. Ethos define how your species sees the world, and is done on a pop (short for population) by pop basis. Some pops can have a different outlook on life, but your government ethos will stay the same. The Savix'Qast begin the game as highly spiritualist and eager to meet other aliens. Ethos choices give benefits and allow for unique choices and technologies during the game. Spiritualists gain a straight happiness bonus, while xenophiliacs gain a happiness bonus when around other aliens.

The dominant government that emerged on the Savix'Qast home plant of Shabtor is a Theocratic republic. Divinely inspired, every 5 years the Savix'Qast population elect a new Revered Elder to lead them, with an advisory council that is put together and lead by the church. In this way they have obtained harmony. Details of their religious beliefs will have to wait for another entry.

And so begins the Savix'Qast journey to the stars. As a quick introduction to mechanics: to the right is the outliner, useful for giving an overview of the empire and easy selection of objects. We start with a science ship, and construction ship for orbital satellites, a small fleet of corvettes, and of course our homeworld, the lovely tundra world Shabtor.

Up on time we have menus and our resources. From left to right we have energy, minerals, influence, physics research, society research, engineering research, strategic resources, directly controlled planets, and naval capacity. Energy in Stellaris is similar to money. Having some is nice, but most of the income goes towards paying for maintenance of other things. Minerals are used to make things; very useful if we want infrastructure and a spacefleet. Influence is used to bolster the empire in many ways, but unlike the other resources our gain is relatively static. Research is split into three categories, and is used to buy technology. Have a spacefleet that's too big for our empire and we receive extra costs. Have too many planets not managed by sectors and we're hit by inefficiences.

Visiting our home planet, we can see how planets are structured. Each tile can house 1 pop, each pop belongs to a species and has a certain ethos. All your starter pops are of your government's ethos, but this can change with time. Next to the pop can be buildings that improve the tile's production. Do note that any building that production values don't mix. Building a mine to improve mineral production on a tile that produces both energy and minerals normally will suppress the energy production entirely. Buildings cost minerals to build, and most have an energy maintenance.

The checkered zones are inhospitable and need to be removed before use. Homeworld versions are always doable and relatively inexpensive, while others will usually require technology to correct.

Hopefully that's enough introduction for you to get the basics. The first goals for the Savix'Qast? Explore their surroundings, and build up infrastructure. We'll start by having our science ship start surveying the objects in our home system, and begin construction of a fancy new science lab for the guy in the upper left, along with another science ship for additional survey speed. In addition our small little fleet will start visiting other systems, in order to check for hostiles. Don't particularly want our defenseless and expensive science ships getting mauled by space monsters.

Edit: I'll wait for more to possibly happen in this game before writing more on it. The current implementation they have is good for a game, especially given cost. But not really good enough to create a good story. Too many wonky bits especially.