Game review: Bewildering and boring, Stellaris sucks the fun out of exploring space
Stellaris is a space strategy game in which you build an intragalactic empire that begins with a single planet.
At first, you are a nascent spacefaring species, able to explore only the close corners of the galaxy. Then you start to build an empire. Towards the end of the game, significant universe-wide events occur, forcing you to take action.
Despite being Paradox Interactive’s most user-friendly strategy game, Stallaris is still too complicated, often quite boring, and far too slow, even when played at maximum speed.
Its many gameplay systems seem to have been included for lovers of unnecessary complexity (in other words, typical fans of previous Paradox games).
The tutorial is long, irritating and serves only to highlight the absurdity of many of the game’s design decisions.
From shipbuilding to customising your alien race, you are given a huge range of options. The problem is that few of them seem significant or consequential, and many of the decisions you make will feel arbitrary.
For instance, it is possible to customise warships with a significant degree of detail, but doing so is not particularly rewarding.
You will have to update your designs every time you research a new technology, and combat is automated anyway, meaning you derive little pleasure from your upgraded ships. There is a difference in design philosophy between Paradox Interactive and Firaxis Games, the developer of the thematically similar Sid Meier’s Starships, Civilization, Alpha Centurai and Beyond Earth.
Firaxis Games builds complex gameplay systems that are fun to master, and have a pleasing internal logic to them. Offworld Trading Company, for example, is very much in this vein.
Paradox Interactive fetishises complexity, and has created a game that features perhaps a dozen gameplay mechanics that are mostly unnecessary, and which are overwhelming rather than complementary.
Since your AI opponents don’t do very much, diplomacy is rather rudimentary. There are also a whole variety of weird logical restrictions on attacking enemies and expanding your empire, and everything unfolds at a glacial pace.
In short, Stellaris feels boring and pointless.