Waiting for Destruction
The Lagmog people were devout. They praised the divine one, Almiraj, and followed her teachings of war and conquest. Once the Planet Burrow had been secured for the faithful, the unified Warren of Hope looked to the stars. Deep in their hearts, they knew they were not alone; there were weak, frightened masses out there in the void, desperate for truth yet unheard. Great weapons would be needed to spread the teachings of Almiraj. It wouldn’t be until the era of the Chosen One, Empress Kaless the Immortal, long after the dark times of the coming of the Void-Eater, that the Lagmog would forge the instruments that could convert entire planets.
No Simple Patch Job
With such a serious overhaul of the game, it only felt right to return to my first Stellaris race – The Lagmog. These giant, spiritual rabbit people with warlike tendencies were a blast to play in the early days of Stellaris, but I had only revisited them a few times. The knowledge that Spiritualist empires would have access to a divinely inspired Planet Killer appealed to me, and so here we are. Understand there is a great deal to unpack today, kids. In the days to come people are going to be talking about Stellaris, a whole bunch, and the lines between update and DLC are going to be more muddled than ever. (And they already get somewhat confused with Paradox games)
So let’s talk update. The latest update is full of a bunch of stuff that, as an avid Stellaris player, I didn’t even know I needed. The small quality of life changes join together to become some massive Voltron-like saviour. Small icons in the outliner allow for quick, at-a-glance maintenance of the planets, starbases, and fleets. Speaking of which, the fleet manager is simply fantastic. It takes a bit of getting used to, realizing you should always upgrade your fleets before reinforcing them; otherwise you’ll suddenly have more ships than you wanted. The one button clicking from the outliner to have shipyards send replacement ships is just as useful and time-saving as I expected. Gone are the days of carefully counting and guessing your fleets numbers, their naval capacity value, and how much it will cost to get them up to snuff – these are all easy to find.
The big two questions: How bad are jump drives, and how is hyperlanes only? Both are more than fine, and in fact, add more strategic depth to the game. I am a sucker for Hyperlanes, and eventually found myself switching off options for other FTL methods in my games leading up to the 2.0, but it was Jump Drives I was worried about. My advice? Forget the old jump drives. They are pretty much only the same in name now. Yes, you get a massive penalty to for 120 days after you jump, but this just means you need to plan a bit. During a war, you can take an enemy base and gain control over the system. This allows you to use the starbase for yourself now, including as a forward repair centre. Once your 120 days is over, you will be fully repaired and ready to tear up your enemy. Also, when you realize that Planet Killers get jump drives, you will never want to stop dropping in on enemy planets for a visit.
There is a bunch more to talk about with the update, but we are here to talk about the DLC blowy up stuff. So let’s bring ’em out.
The Big Guns
Gone now are the days where starbases are potholes in the galactic road, that make you roll your eyes rather than reconsider your life choices. Now, I can’t speak for the AI in this game, but I sometimes decide against some very well justified holy wars against an inferior foe simply because they had a massive Citadel class starbase sitting at the entrance to their little section of space. I would have likely been able to take it, but it would have involved some heavy losses, not to mention left my borders unguarded for a time. Helping with this is a new class of weapon for our new starbases – the Ion Cannon. With a DPS output that is in the triple digits, you can equip more than one per base to augment the other defensive capabilities. My bastions were able to hold off smaller fleets alone and tore apart the expensive bits of a large federation – which allowed my own ships to finish the job. The Ion Cannons were there, sniping out enemy ships with a single shot.
And speaking of my fleets, you get a limited number of Titan class ships. These new vessels are acquired without the need for ascendancy perk, but take a while to build. And boy howdy, are they worth it. I had three main fleets – and I outfitted the one named Typhoon with two Pious-class Titan ships. The damage and range of these titans are nearly double those of a battleship… When differently aligned titans hit the theatre of war, you know there are going to be massive casualties on both sides. These flagships are also equipped with buffing or debuffing devices that can help your allied ships or hinder your enemies’. In the end, the titans are well-designed and dangerous toys added to our galactic war chest.
So if a Titan class ship could look at an Ion Cannon and say “Okay, time to bring out the big guns,” they could only be talking about the Colossus. These are your planet killer. While I just had time to play with the Divine Enforcer type, it was very entertaining. My biggest concern when reading they were adding these planet killers was that they would be too costly and difficult to pull off. With hefty upkeep that can be in the triple digits, a cost per unit of nearly 20k in minerals, plus the amount of time, research and infrastructure you will need to build one, I didn’t think it was going to pay off. These fears were unfounded. With the new methods for waging war, the slower response time, and the rapid manoeuvrability given by the new jump drives, your Planet Killer is going to get lots of mileage. Even with the not inconsiderable weapon charging period and the following long time to actually fire the weapon, you will get your victories. The Warren of Hope converted many planets before we needed to decommission our first Colossus – to focus our resources against the Scourge infestation. (And they call rabbits pests….)
If you are looking for fun times with ‘don’t point that thing at my planet’ level of weapons – you are not going to be disappointed.
Khaaaaaaaan!!! (and Friends)
Pirates had a considerable rework with 2.0 and were the reason I learned to not leave unguarded unclaimed territory with a hyperlane directly into my empire. The little pirates can become a huge problem, however well-maintained border Starbase can keep them at bay. They will buzz your systems, disable your starbases and blow up your mining stations. This is the game’s way of showing that you are being robbed. So I highly recommend the old man approach: Grab a big stick and keep an eye on your front yard. That stick should take the form of a Bastion class starbase with as many defence platforms you can afford.
But some pirates are a different breed. I’m not talking about those big bad ass pirates you find lurking around a system with a bunch of do-nothings in their pockets. I mean the marauders. These are full blown, bordered, communication-worthy factions. They have personalities and as time goes on, different options to interact. Maybe it was just the fact the galaxy was a hectic place, but any time I offered to pay them to raid someone, they would always tell me they had other plans. Aside from their remarkably full books for raiding, you can hire captains and recruit mercenaries from their ranks. Very helpful when you are in a pinch and need that extra muscle for a war.
Eventually, these loud young people will grow up a bit, and there is a chance a leader will rise – the Great Khan. This can boil into a mid-game galactic crisis, sadly when the Khan arrived in my game, the Warren of Hope was a bit preoccupied with a Wraith. We nicknamed the creature ‘The Great Demon Destroyer of Worlds’ and had been pouring all our money into a defensive base and military at Ghost Watch station to keep the monster at bay. (Seriously, it tore through my hyper lanes and crippled my empire for about a century)
Fortunately for us, some other empire dealt with the Great Khan. However, the Marauders didn’t just disappear. The former Khanate became its own nation and eventually entered into more civil galactic society. I felt like the cranky old man who had to admit the young punks who used to knock over his mailbox had finally grown up. And I didn’t like it. I kept insulting them. Even when the Scourge arrived and ate the good half of my empire, I still took time to send those former pirates a nasty jab.
Music for the End of the World
I could not allow this review to go by without mentioning the new music tracks. Roughly fifteen more minutes of music grace the game and they’re wonderful. Honestly, talking about the music in Stellaris now feels like praising a movie series that we all know is going to be good no matter what. Doomsday is likely my new favourite song from the entire Stellaris soundtrack, and I think there is something significant to say about the music. I may be repeating myself, but it bears repeating.
Andreas Waldetoft, the senior music composer at Paradox, has accomplished something with the Stellaris soundtrack. Stellaris is a game that leans hard on its inspiration. The updates are named after sci-fi icons whose work inspired the tropes of the genre. References, easter eggs, and none-too-subtle nods lace the gameplay. However, since the first time I heard the music for Stellaris, I felt it was something entirely unique. When I hear any track from this game, I can recognize it as distinctively Stellaris. The soundtrack for the game is close to forty songs (or maybe more if my old ‘bloodshot 30 hours almost straight of Stellaris’ eyes are playing tricks on me), and each of them is distinct and original. It’s a great game – one of my favourites – but it would lack part of what makes it great if not for this lovingly crafted soundtrack. There is a reason I bristle when I find people not listening to the OST in game.
End of Days
Some game companies would have taken the massive changes in the 2.0 update and just called it Stellaris II. Seriously, it’s that different. Other companies could have done it and would have gotten away with it to. And you can bet your last two bits that we would be looking at buying all that DLC again. But not Paradox. They have given a massive, free update to the game, one that fixes and improves on so much. Last time I saw a document the size of the 2.0 patch notes I was buying a house. (My lawyer was not impressed that I insisted on reading the entire document.)
It would also have been easy for a company to charge more than 20 bucks USD for this DLC. But that is the price, and it is worth it. In addition to all the goodies mentioned above, there are new civics, new ascension perks, and I almost teared up seeing unity ambitions. That’s right, unity builds now have something to spend all that unity on when the ascension is completed.
The focus of the DLC was to change the scope of war. It’s tough to gauge considering the game is entirely operating on a new war mechanic. However – the planet killers are fun, titans make me giddy, and seeing three Ion Cannons buffing my bastion up over 50k makes me a very happy camper.
While it still won’t top Utopia for my recommendations for the ‘must have DLC’ for Stellaris, this adds more than a couple of new toys to your space sandbox. There really are few more satisfying moments as eradicating all robotic presence off a Cyber-Fallen Empires homeworld.
Score: 9.5 – Good price, good content and, my heart of hearts, lays the groundwork for more themes of Planet Killers down the line
Review by Joshua Smith (aka Old Man Mordaith)
Edited by Jesse Roberts
This game was given to us for free for the purpose of review