[Stellaris] 4X Space Game Time!
I mentioned briefly in my last post that I’d bought Stellaris. I’ve played rather a lot of it this past month and finally feel like I’m getting a handle on it. It’s VERY overwhelming at 1st, even with all the Master of Orion, MoO2, and Civ series 4X games I’ve played.
Some things I’ve found that are different than any other game I’ve played:
It is a pause-able real-time game, not turn-based. You can pause any time, though, and things queue up when paused, so you can turn it kinda pseudo-turn-based. 1 second real time = 1 day in game. All months are 30 days, so it’s a 360 day year, meaning that 10 years is 3600 seconds — 1 hour. This is on normal speed. Fastest speed feels like it’s 1 second = 2 days. And quite frankly, so little happens at any given time that since you can pause (and there are auto-pause options for events that you can set too) I really don’t know why anyone ever turns it slower, with the possible exception of watching a space battle play out. Even on fastest speed with getting 20 years to an hour, I can’t really imagine a win in less than about 150 years (and I think that would be REALLY fast — you can see in my screenshots that these are all 250-276 years along…..), so that’s a minimum 7.5 hours for a game on fastest speed, assuming you never paused it. Which of course you paused it, so…. yeah. Games are really long. Be ready for that.
The technology tree is indeed a tree, but what you can research next isn’t only dictated by its position on the tree, but also a random system that will only show you a default of 3 available options, so you can’t necessarily determine an optimum research path and then blow through that in each game — you can only pick from what you’re given. You can take traits and get event rewards that let you see more than the default 3, but those are semi-rare and you can’t be sure you’ll get those in the course of a game either. The options shown are weighted — prerequisites seem to show almost all the time, so you can generally be sure you’ll see one of them, at least.
The race appearances are completely cosmetic. It’s the governing civics and traits that actually matter. And boy do they matter…. Interestingly enough, since you’re the player you aren’t necessarily as governed by the traits as the NPC players are — you can take the Xenophobe trait for the increased border range but then play as a Xenophile, while the NPC player would stay true to the ethic. But that said…. playing as a Fanatical Pacifist Xenophobe who expands quickly while closing his borders to all others and refusing all trade requests is an interesting RP experience.
Combat is generally “put it all in 1 fleet and whoever has the bigger number is gonna win.” If you keep your “doomstack” as big or bigger than the NPC nations they tend to not attack since they know they can’t win (the diplomacy screen tells you relative strengths of navies), so try to keep your ship count at or near the cap at all times. And here’s something a little surprising — your cap goes DOWN by 20% if you join a federation, since part of your fleet is considered to be contributed to the federal navy, so be careful when joining or creating one as it can mess with the upkeep costs and screw your economy.
The game saves the custom races you make and you can use them as NPC players in your games too, so it’s possible to make a bunch of pacifist races and then see who can build up the fastest. Or a bunch of militaristic xenophobes dedicated to conquering the galaxy and purging all other races….. or anything in between.
Megastructures — the Sentry Array’s ability to see all ships in the galaxy is a huge benefit. The Ringworld is simply amazing. The Dyson Sphere seems awesome, but ends up being a bit underwhelming, as does the Science Nexus. Habitats seem underwhelming at 1st, but since you can build so many of them, they actually easily are better in the aggregate than the Dyson or the Science station. And if you can find some of those rare systems with 9-10 planets in them, well … 9 habitats in a system is actually better than a Ringworld. Or a decent sized planet and 7-8 habitats too. Here’s the math on that: Habitat = 12 slots, so 8 planets = 96, 9 = 108. Ringworld is 4 sections x 25 slots per section = 100. Size 16 planet + 7 habitats = 100, so that’s pretty much the cutoff there.
For energy, using base numbers (not the bonused ones you get as you research more tech and have higher happiness) — 12 slots. Capital gives 5 energy and then the other 11 slots give 8 for a total of 93 energy per habitat. 4 habitats thus equals 372 energy. Cost to build: 400 influence and 20,000 minerals, plus some niggling amount of minerals for the 11 power stations. And of course the time cost of actually filling the 12 slots with pops. You can build 4 habitats simultaneously in 5 years (2.5 years if you have the Master Builders ascension perk). Serially, then it’s 20 years or 10 with the perk. If you have more than 4 planets in a system you can build that much more energy too. And when you add in happiness bonuses and whatnot…. well, in my current game I’m getting about 130 energy per focused habitat, so 3 = 390 energy, and 4 is 520.
Compare this to a Dyson Sphere which is the only structure you can build in a system and can’t be built in an inhabited system. Cost is 300 influence and 210,000 minerals, with a 55 year build time (27.5 with Master Builder perk). And you get 400 energy out of it. Period. This doesn’t change. Flat 400. Habitats are cheaper and build faster. But you can build a Dyson Sphere without it counting toward your inhabited system total and/or in a sector also, so there are cases where you’d still want to build them. But not before you can’t build any more habitats, IMO.
Science Nexus is similarly underpowered/overpriced. Habitats can do 33 science unbonused, so 3 habitats is 99 science, vs 90 for the Nexus. Same 300 influence cost. And 15K minerals for the habitats with a 2.5-15 year build time depending on your builder perk and 3 simultaneous vs serial builds vs the Nexus’s 25 year (12.5) build time and 70K mineral cost. And this represents an 80% buff to the nexus from initial implementation. It originally gave 50 science when complete, but is now buffed to the 90. And you can only build 1 Nexus per system, while habitats are 1 per planet, s you can get up to 10 (5-6 is much more normal, but even 6 is more than double a Nexus’s output. Or 3 power plants and 3 science to effectively have both a Nexus *and* a Dyson Sphere in the same system…). And to boot — I’m getting closer to 50 science per habitat in my current game, so 2 habs = better than a Nexus for me.
Sentry Array – Brings the entire galaxy into your sensor range. Nothing else is like it, so this rocks and you should definitely build one. 300 influence, 70K minerals, 25 (12.5) years.
TL;DR on megastructures:
- Ringworld – Usually the best thing you can build in a system.
- Habitats – Your workhorse megastructure. It does count as a planet against the penalty to your Research and Unity costs for next, so plan around that when dropping them.
- Dyson Sphere – Focused Habitats are generally better to build. Only build once you can’t build more habitats. Or maybe in an extremely crappy system that can’t have at least 3 habitats.
- Science Nexus – Focused Habitats are generally better to build. Only build once you can’t build more habitats. Or maybe in an extremely crappy system that can’t have at least 2 habitats.
- Scanning Array – Awesome! Nothing else like it!
So anyway… yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I’m very glad I picked it up in the pre-Stormblood lull from FFXIV.
Happy gaming out there!