Stellaris: Apocalypse DLC
Surprisingly, there has been a recent trend towards revitalizing and reinventing the old space 4X strategy games of yore. Games that were similar (in theory at least) to the now classic Master of Orion titles back in the 1990s. A newer version of MOO debuted back in early 2016 but by all accounts it flopped horribly. Another older series, Galactic Civilization, likewise released its third iteration (GalCiv 3) which also has been less than stellar (pun intended).
Then you have the two space strategy games that have emerged from the ashes: Stellaris and Endless Space 2. For a while I played both titles but eventually grew rather tired of ES 2. I felt that it was much less customizable than Stellaris, and had lackluster auto-combat. Also, ES 2’s menu system, while stylish, reminded me of some sort of spreadsheet program instead of a game (much like MOO 3). As I only have enough time in my life to commit to one space 4X game, Stellaris has emerged the clear winner.
Although I loved the overall epic flow of Stellaris (a typical game can go on for weeks), as well as the ability to create and guide your own custom race, one thing always bothered me about it. The ability to choose different FTL capabilities. Like GalCiv 3, modes such as warp travel absolutely prevented you from setting up any sort of proper defense against far off enemies. The game’s new 2.0 patch (which comes along with the new Apocalypse DLC) finally addresses that issue.
Players are now limited to traveling along pre-set hyperlanes. This means that we can finally have viable defensive options which prevents the inevitable killstacks of enemy ships that used to come hurling out of space and annihilating our carefully constructed empires. With this new version of Stellaris, players can now build up bottlenecks with which to outfit with all kinds of defenses. This makes each game much more strategic and fun.
You can still research warp travel later on in the game (further down the technology tree), and there are wormholes that you’ll come across here and there, but overall everyone is on the same equal footing now. It simply made no sense to have someone who had warp or wormhole travel going up against someone restricted to hyperlanes, so I’m glad Paradox fixed this aspect of Stellaris.
As far as the Apocalypse DLC itself, I must say that this is probably my favorite next to Utopia. The opening cinematic of a pilot spearheading a fleet which is defending their homeworld against one of the new Colossus weapons got my blood pumping. Paradox really knows how to put together some awesome trailers.
Apocalypse (much like Utopia) seems to be geared towards the mid-to-late game, since it takes some time to notice any of the great new content this DLC offers. One of the first things that I noticed was the UI enhancements. I really like the style of the new boarders of each stellar civilization. The AI also seems to have been improved, and I didn’t notice as many bizarre missteps and contradictory behavior from my AI neighbors.
Speaking of AI threats, Apocalypse introduces a new group of spacefaring barbarians called Marauders. Although these new galactic hooligans could be considered pirates on steroids, they’re actually a little more nuanced (even if their mannerisms aren’t). Marauders can either develop into a ferociously powerful faction from mid-to-late game, and begin tearing everything apart, or if you’re friendly enough to them, become powerful allies. If you kowtow enough to them you may even be able to hire them as mercenaries and have them attack your enemy’s systems.
Also later in the game, you’ll be able to access and build the aforementioned Colossus platforms, which are absolutely gorgeous to see in action. Depending on what road you’ve taken your civilization you can choose from different types of Colossi. For instance, you can outfit one with a World Cracker weapon, which completely obliterates planets, or for more religious empires there’s always the Divine Enforcer, which destroys all machines and converts any pops into Spiritualists. Or for more Pacifistic factions, the Global Pacifier is a fun option, since it encases planets within impenetrable force fields and cuts them off from the rest of the galaxy forever (and gives the capturing empire a massive Society buff).
Giant capital ships called Titans have also made it into the game with Apocalypse. These humongous, more conventional warships can be accessed normally through Tier 5 technology. “Their front section has a single Titanic-size slot that can fit weapons even stronger than XL weapons, such as the immensely powerful Perdition Beam that can fire across a whole system and potentially destroy a battleship in a single shot” (as explained from a Stellaris development diary). Titans can also house powerful auras that can either buff friendly fleets or de-buff enemy ones.
And last but not least are the more defensive platforms called Ion Cannons. These are essentially gigantic superweapons that may be added on to space stations in order to improve their survivability against larger ships such as battleships and Titans. They are also extremely long-ranged and so can pick off incoming fleets from across entire sectors.
With Apocalypse and 2.0, construction has basically remained the same but there are a handful of new buildings that you have access to. Some of these buildings produce extra garrisons for your planet, while other better manage unrest levels. Some even allow you to expand dual-resource productions onto more tiles. Overall, they are all welcome additions.
Overall, I found Apocalypse to be the DLC that Stellaris needed in order to become the feature-complete space 4X strategy game that I always knew it had the potential to be. Although I could see Paradox making a DLC that expands its rather bare-bones diplomacy system, there is so much on offer now that I’m sure we’ll all be quite busy blowing up (or encasing) entire worlds until then.
Stellaris: Apocalypse features outstanding graphics that make its space strategy gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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