Welcome to our CHEATfactor Game Review of Stellaris. We review the game and then factor in how the available cheats affect the overall game experience. For better or worse, our reviews will help you decide whether or not to use cheats when playing the game.
I'm navigating the cosmos, doing my best to seek out new technology to better my race and hopefully expand. Then, suddenly we're attacked by a race of space...fish...things that highly overpower us. What do we do? This is Stellaris. It's the possibility of infinite possibilities, the search for something new. It's the infinite abyss. With games like Crusader Kings under their belt, developer Paradox Interactive has a pedigree for the 4x4 strategy genre and this definitely has all of the developers trademarks but somewhere along the way Stellaris gets lost. It's too concerned with the bigger picture to let you fully enjoy the minute details of running your own space empire but it also fails to realize the potential of what it's premise could do. Fans of Paradox, the 4x4 strategy genre and space exploration will find a lot to love with Stellaris but they'll likely find even more when it's patched over time.
I fell in love with Stellaris from the beginning. The idea of taking my small group from one corner of space and exploring all over was a truly alluring one, and Paradox does a great job at making you truly feel like your just one small part of a bigger adventure. This is a galaxy that feels like it exists not just because you're there but like it would keep going even if you weren't around and that's truly something special and it helps the game become that more immersive. You're free to choose one of the ready made races to start your game off quicker but then you're missing out on a major part of what the game offers; truly being responsible for everything about your faction. There's a certain sense of ownership to the game then you've really focused on the smaller details of your entire race that's missing when you choose the prepackaged version of the game.
Exploring the cosmos is a blast and by far the best part of Stellaris. There's not really anything you haven't seen in any of your favorite science fiction stories like Firefly, Star Wars, Star Trek etc but that's ok because it does such a great job at evoking memories from those properties. It's a whole lot of fun to venture throughout the galaxy, investigating new solar systems and searching for signs of life, then seeing how to deal with those signs of life. Your main goal of course is to expand your own empire in any way possible but the true fun comes in seeing just what there is to be found in the galaxy. A major part of that is just how accessible Stellaris is. Now, I should qualify that by saying that Stellaris is accessible when compared to Pardox's other titles but it still takes a good amount of effort to truly understand what's happening. This is thanks to in game access to the official Stellaris wiki, which goes a long way in answering most of the questions I had, even if I did have to check other sources to answer a few.
Somewhere along the way though Stellaris gets lost and somehow loses sight of what makes it great. Once you expand to a certain level you'll hand off control of your smaller territories to governors, who will manage the minute by minute, day to day control of their assigned sections so you can focus on they bigger picture of Stellaris; only by this point, there's really not much bigger picture to explore, at least that's the way the game makes it seem. I began to see the same races, the same situations propping up again and again. What's worse, the game seemed to lose the feeling that it's key element was exploration and it became focused more on victory conditions, which equates to a lot of busy work. This is a ll well and fine, it's a practice that's pretty common in the genre but I couldn't help but feel like Stellaris was made for something more. It's kind of like when your parents would tell you "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed," which we all know was way worse.
It also doesn't help that the grind to get to the end game is filled with so much war and surprisingly it's so incredibly tedious. As you progress through the galaxy and unlock more rewards, buffs and advances in technology you'll unlock more weapons but it's hard to get excited about any of them since battles are such a passive experience. There's very little player involvement in most battles and you're pretty much just sitting back, watching and hoping for the best. I also couldn't help but notice that the galaxy seemed to mostly be on its best behavior, with smaller factions rarely taking a chance and taking on larger more powerful factions while at the same time I was only ever attacked by more powerful factions, which made victories frustrating and hard to come by.
Stellaris works; despite it's flaws, Stellaris works. It's a lot of fun to explore the galaxy and interact with new races...until the game gets too far ahead of itself and it stops being fun. Paradox interactive has a history of updating their games post release, and hopefully the lesser parts of the game will be fixed in due time.
Joe started off writing about video games for small fan sites when he realized he should probably do something with his communications degree and didn't want to get into the grind of daily reporting. Joining the team in late 2008, Joe is the featured game reviewer for Cheat Happens, producing up to 10 CHEATfactor Game Reviews per month.
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