Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Master of Stellaris

I've made three attempts to play through Stellaris and only once did I actually reach the end-game crisis.  I've yet to achieve any of the elusive victory conditions a single time, but my understanding it's rare to see someone make it to the finish so perhaps my experiences are not unique in that sense.  Now that version 2.0 of the game is out though I feel like I want to give things a fourth try.

Most of the changes made in the "Cherryh" update jive with my own preferences.  I've always found hyperspace lanes much more interesting than warp drives or wormhole generators to the point that I lock in that form of space travel exclusively for all empires.  Being able to fortify starsystems and create chokepoints makes the galactic "topography" considerably more important.  It also encourages strategic planning.  Attempts to reduce the viability of "deathstack" tactics are a welcome addition as well.  I found that in my previous playthroughs of Stellars it was boring when on the offence and easily countered when on the defense.  To clarify that second point a bit more, I found that while the enemy ships were busy with orbital bombardment duty I could easy raid their infrastructure.  Hence, the opposition would eventually have to yield for lack of resources need to maintain upkeep.

This brings me to one of my biggest gripes with the old system - warscores.  As far as I could tell the only thing that it really accounted for was planets conquered.  Loss of mines or research outposts counted for nothing and even major fleet engagements, in which one side achieved a decisive victory, would barely move the needle.  It was all a bit silly and tended to result in conflicts that dragged on for ages.  The new system promises to change things up considerably, not only in terms of how wars playout, but also ship design and even planetary sieges.  Overall, it looks to be a considerably better experience than before.

As the saying goes, Paradox games are like fine wine (they get better with age).  However in this case the flavor has changed considerably.  In fact, I'd say that the taste is much closer to the Master of Orion remake with regards to certain fundamental gameplay mechanics.  Still, much of the game remains very unique among the 4X genre in no small part due to an overall grand strategy feel.  That said, I like to have stand-ins for the Alkari Flock whenever I include custom empires in my galaxy.   

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