To Boldly Go – Again!
Greed is a powerful motivator. After periods of great bloodshed, the Uldan people began to solve their problems with money. The more money you had, the more worth you had. Everyone was afforded the same chances, and they were a people who respected ideas. They didn’t believe in climbing to the top of the pile and stifling those below them. If anything, the elders of the ruling council would make way for innovators of the next generation so they could propel the Compact of Shor ul Khal forward. And forward they went. The distant stars awaited.
Distant Stars is the latest content pack for Stellaris, hot on the heels of the massive overhaul that was Apocalypse. While I don’t pretend to be a high-level moneymancer, I do know when any content pack is saddled with an $11.49 CND price tag I get suspicious. Well, maybe not with the track record of Paradox, but still, sometimes this stuff feels too good to be true.
How much content is the question. We’ll only find answers by digging in and taking the leap into hyperspace. So join me as I recount some situations thus far that the bold and brave and very fiscally sound members of the Compact of Shor ul Khal found themselves in a while exploring the new story pack. Anyone interested in checking out my shenanigans is more than welcome to wander over to my Twitch channel and say hello.
Hail Them, Scan Them, Do Something!
I’ll confess that between my streaming and reviewing other games like Battletech and Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, I’ve had a full plate lately. I wasn’t even able to take the time to absorb all the developer diaries for Stellaris that I usually enjoyed. So it took my mothballed brain a little while to get the copper gears grinding and realize what was paid content and what was coming free with the Niven update.
The following are free updates to the core gameplay that everyone gets: Reworks of hyperlanes, strategic resources and anomalies. A fog of war for the hyperlanes and brand new star systems and classes of stars. And most interesting the addition of experimental subspace navigation for science ships. That covers the free stuff.
Let’s imagine you have a stick. A stick from space. You’d be hard-pressed to take that stick and shake it at all the new anomalies that are added with distant stars. With the reworks of the Niven update in hunting and interacting with anomalies, I found that the cusp of the endgame was knocking on our door before we knew it. Among those exciting things lurking around to explore an analyze there is the L-Gate. A mysterious network of gates that apparently lead to a cluster of stars outside the known galaxy, sealed away for whatever reason. Ominous or profitable? While the Chairperson of the Compact of Shor ul Khal was absolutely confident that they would be rewarded for their curiosity, Old Man Mordaith was a bit skeptical and figured his first Distant Stars game was going to crash and burn in a flurry of space tears and megabucks.
Fortunately, the Chairperson was correct. The Shor ul Khal unlocked the secrets of the L-Cluster, claimed the riches for their own, and sold them off to the highest bidder. Yeah, yeah, sure it looked like it was mostly the remains of some civilization that was torn apart by nanotech. But they wouldn’t make the same mistakes… Something so valuable and worth so much couldn’t possibly be bad, right? With the score of new resources in hand, and defended by a lovingly crafted citadel that was larger than any fleet that could be brought before it, they had the commercial security and supremacy of the Compact fixed early on.
There’s an added treat that should be wholly celebrated: Three brand new music tracks added to the already iconic Stellaris audio library. While I was streaming a very common request was to play the new tracks, and it is clear that they are a hit with fans of the music that comes from between the spheres. Honestly, for the price tag, it is almost worth it for the music alone.
New Friends – Big and Small
Space doesn’t feel as empty now as it did before. I’ll reflect now on the early days of Stellaris, and despite however I may have loved it then, I could never go back to the way the game was at launch. Sure there was the thrill of excitement, slowly roaming space in the early days, every once in a while finding something new to tinker with, in retrospect space felt mostly a bit dull.
The change is most notable when encountering other creatures. Not just empires, in fact, meeting new empires is likely the least interesting (but often most stressful) part of the game. Distant Stars has introduced three new leviathans to encounter and fear. The one the Shor ul Khal met in my game was the Scavenger, a giant orb that milled about an ancient battlefield gathering parts and building onto itself. I have no idea if it would get stronger in time if I left it alone. Also, I couldn’t help but feel the urgency of the Compact wanting to get to all those sweet ship graveyards. So, I did what any good money minded corporation would when encountering a one of a kind creature between them and possible money.
I killed it. I killed it dead. The shareholders were pleased.
There was plenty of things to see and do. Our people found an adorable scrappy mascot in Bubbles the Space Ameboa. Bubbles is kept far away from any conflicts out of fear of having her hurt. (Her death would likely damage plushie sales.) Outside of this, they found the Bakturians, a powerful race that had created a particle accelerator which may have been poised to destroy the known galaxy. Having some semblance of common sense, the Bakturians not only stepped away from their technological achievements but from technology altogether. They found the Bakturians dwelling in a simple, peaceful, content stone aged way of life, never to endanger anyone again. Sitting on that rather small Gaia world with two rare betharian stone deposits. So I did what any good money-minded corporation would when encountering a peaceful species in an idyllic way of life living in a utopian world would do.
I invaded them. I invaded them, and I took their stuff. The shareholders were pleased.
(Don’t worry, after 15,000 days of culture shock – they got over it and became very productive members of society.)
No Simple Constellation Prize
The Compact of Shor ul Khal were not content. Their xenophobic neighbours that hated them (but loved money) were becoming a pain to maintain, even though the defensive agreement between the empires had warned off most would-be warlords for some time (Looking at you, Flurb Kingdoms, you disgusting banditing bags of gas). There were only so many pre-FTL species to uplift and absorb into our trade union. And after their brief brush with a psychic sentient ocean, they couldn’t shake the feeling that something was coming. The Compact needed to prepare. So they decided to take their distant allies to the galactic south and started bringing other empires under their protection. Protection that, if refused, became mandatory. And that is where our story currently is.
I feel this may come to be regarded as the best-valued Stellaris content pack to date. With a very affordable price tag and the number of fun things added, it for sure is worth the price. I can not stress enough how full and lively Distant Stars has made the game. If you were feeling you had seen everything in the galaxy, paying roughly 10 space bucks to add a flood of new content isn’t a bad idea.
9.5/10 – A fantastic addition to an already great game. Will bring new life to it for players who have logged hundreds of hours into it already and adds things that new players will want to see as well. New tunes are always a plus, and the work here is of the same high calibre we’ve come to expect and enjoy. My only issue is with L-gates, but I am greedy. I want more event chains tied to them.
Review by Joshua Smith (Old Man Mordaith)
Edited by Jesse Roberts
This game was given to Old Man Mordaith for free with the intent to review and stream.