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From Paradox Development Studios that brought us the well-known grand strategy games such as the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis series comes the game Stellaris, an evolution of the grand strategy genre with space exploration as its core. As with all grand strategy games from Paradox Development Studio, Stellaris contains a steep and complex learning curve that players must learn in order play the game well. This can be especially troubling for those just starting to play. In conjunction with the in-game tutorial, this beginner’s guide serves to help these players on the basic mechanics of the game and provide these players with some tips.
- 1 Choosing an Empire
- 2 User Interface
- 3 Basic Gameplay Concepts
- 4 Strengthening the Empire
- 5 Interactions with Other Empires
- 6 Late Game
- 7 Tips
- 8 References
Choosing an Empire
The creation or selection of the player's chosen empire is the first task of the game. By default a small list of preset empires are available, who represent a number of common (real life and science fiction) stereotypes that players can also encounter in-game. Presets such as the United Nations of Earth who travel by warp are solid choices for learning games, since players need not be concerned with the logistics of building and maintaining Wormhole Generators, or additional route planning specific to hyperspace empires. The other characteristics of the preset empires indicate their preferred strategies such as peaceful expansion, technology superiority, endless conquest, etc.
As said above, first-time players wishing to take a preset empire are advised to choose those with warp travel for their simplicity, or alternatively restrict all empires to either warp or hyperdrives when creating the game. The most important restriction new players should note is that Pacifist empires cannot outright annex planets without changing their ethics, and should not be chosen lightly. Similarly, the Random button will generate an empire in the same manner as most AI empires in-game, and players will not be able to see the results until a game is created. The relative inflexibility of certain combinations can lead to particularly difficult games.
The creation of a new empire involves selecting all of the component characteristics in turn, resulting in a fully fledged civilisation that can be saved and played alongside the existing preset empires. All players are recommended to eventually familiarize themselves with the main characteristics and their effects on gameplay - for example, xenophilic empires will always be more inclined towards constructive diplomacy and trade relative to other ethos, while combinations of Militarist, Spiritualist, and Xenophobe generally implies some degree of inevitable confrontation with a side of murder.
The following section will skim through each section of the empire creation process, noting that the Species Traits, Government & Ethics and the Ships pages are the three that impact gameplay the most. In all sections below, the kind of species mentioned in the setting are named purely for categorization. Players are not limited in this sense -- e.g., players can create reptilian races who adopt avian architecture and pilot fungoid ships.
- Appearance: Portraits from the base game, DLC, and mods are available here to be chosen as the visual depiction of the empire species.
- Species Name: The name, plural, and adjective form for the empire species to be referred to by the in-game text. A space for custom biography is also available for flair.
- Name List: The default prefix and name list for ships, leaders, etc. Note that players can freely rename many of these instances in the game.
- Traits: This page contains all gameplay-impacting choices relevant to the empire species except habitability. All created empire species are given space to allocate multiple positive and negative traits soch that the total value sums to 2. From the mid-game onwards, further genetic modification will be possible via research of relevant technologies, and via Utopia DLC's Ascension Perks.
- Ruler - Enter the name and choose the appearance of your empire's first ruler. You may also enter the titles which will apply to all your rulers (you may enter these separately for the sexes; if you have already chosen a government (below) some will be suggested for you.
As there are multiple viable paths to healthy empire developement as well as room for mistakes, new players are free to experiment somewhat with the available traits. Here are some specific suggestions: Traits that benefit all populations such as Communal are easier to fully leverage than specific traits such as Natural Physicists, which only benefit populations working on physics research. Although players generally begin the game with one species alone, this subtlety will become important if players choose to builds robots and/or permit alien species to live in their empire. Resilience and stats related to army damage remain relatively underwhelming due to the mechanics of planetary sieges and ground invasions. Difference can be overcome with superior numbers. Fleeting is potentially dangerous due to its increased drain on political Influence as players continually replace leaders who have died. This trait should be countered either with cheaper leader recruitment and other early-games choice such as Mind & Body in Tradition's Harmony tree.
- Name & Class: This page covers the characteristics of the player civilisation and home system. Two preset star systems are available for a more controlled starting resource distribution: Sol (the human home system) or Deneb. The nine planet types are split into three categories, which are mostly cosmetic due to the equally random distribution throughout the galaxy. The player's home planet determines the base habitability of populations on other planets.
- City Appearance: This page affects the style of architecture, and is purely cosmetic.
- Government & Ethics: This page covers the most important gameplay choices regarding the starting political structure and philosophy of the empire. The three selections are structured in layers -- Ethics determine basic attitudes of the governing power, which determines the available types of government/authority. Authority determines the duration which a ruler (NPC leader) is permitted to lead the empire. Civics are the personalizing touches that differentiate otherwise similar empires (e.g. the British versus the French, as opposed to Communist China,) and its available choices are the product of Ethics and Authority combined.
- Ethics is split into four axes of thought, and provide base bonuses to the player empire as well as influencing base attitudes with AI empires. Empires with matching ethics are far more likely to succeed in mutual co-operation from initial contact (vis-a-vis Humans and Vulcans in Star Trek). The four axes are as follows:
- The Militarist-Pacifist axis governs attitudes towards how the civilisation views the ideals of strengh and maturity, attaining growth either via outward conquest or via self enlightenment.
- The Xenophobe-Xenophile axis governs attitudes towards alien species, spanning between isolationism and proactive coexistence.
- The Egalitarian-Authoritarian axis governs attitudes towards how power is distributed and its effect on average citizens, e.g. freedom versus control.
- Finally, the Materialist-Spiritualist axis governs attitudes towards epistemology[], translating in-game as values concerning consciousness, unity of belief, and scientific knowledge.
- The center honey-comb Hive Mind ethos leads to a completely different style of gameplay and will not be covered here, although it is arguably somewhat novice-friendly.
- Authority is the archetype of government that is permitted by the empire ethics. It's primary purpose is to determine how flexible the leadership is to change, i.e. how often a player can take advantage of a powerful ruler or cope with a weak ruler.
- Civics contain bonuses that permit players to tailor their empires to an ideal strategy, with possibilities ranging from general bonuses such as Idealistic Foundation (additional happiness) to specific bonuses such as Syncretic Evolution (optimizing tile yields and colonization with an immediate second species).
- Ethics is split into four axes of thought, and provide base bonuses to the player empire as well as influencing base attitudes with AI empires. Empires with matching ethics are far more likely to succeed in mutual co-operation from initial contact (vis-a-vis Humans and Vulcans in Star Trek). The four axes are as follows:
- Empire Name: Similar to the species name creation, a name and an adjective is required.
- Flag: Empire flags consists of a combination of primary color, secondary color, and a sigil. While all are purely cosmetic, the primary color also determines the color of the player's empire in Galaxy view, as well as model decorations such as engine trails.
All government ethos, authority and civics can be altered by the player over the course of the game, noting that the form of the goverment can be changed faster than the underlying ethos. With this in mind, new players are encouraged to experiment somewhat with what they like and reshape their empire as they desire. Here are some specific advice related to individual choices: Spiritualist has a hidden advantage in Psionic Theory, which permits specific technologies from the mid-game onward that compensate against the Materialist general tech-advantage. Democracies with its 10-year elections generate more complications by frequently shifting leaders between unemployment, current-posts and rulership. For those who find popular will unwelcome but wish to experience some leader flexibility, Oligarchy are Dictatorial suitable middle grounds. With respect to Civics, new players are advised to begin with one or two generalist bonuses that do not have restrictions, particularly resources and unrest bonuses. This allows experimentation with different forms of ethics and government in-game without voiding potentially valuable Civic bonuses. As with many 4X-games, the initial expansion is bounded by minerals income, and to a lesser degree population growth/ energy/ influence. Adopting their relevant civics will help players push forward in the early-game and compensate for inevitable losses.
- Starting Weapons: The three base weapon types offer different advantages to the starting player. Ballistic weapons grant Mass Drivers that provides higher overall DPS with limited range, Energy weapons provide Lasers with improved armor penetration but poorer shield performance, and Missile weapons possess superior range but are both slow and vulnerable to point defense.
- FTL Method: This option determines the method of travel for all of the player ships until the very late game when Jump drives become available. Warp is relatively slow and suffers from cooldown recovery during which ships are vulnerable. However, this is the suggested method for new players because it permits ships to travel freely to any star within warp range, which makes both initial exploration and fleet mobility an easy task. Hyperdrives provide very fast travel along fixed networks that are visible to hyperdrive empires and others who have researched how to map them. However, these empires are vulnerable to being blocked by various hostile entities depending on the galaxy layout. Wormholes provide constant-time travel over vast ranges, but require stations to be built and maintained -- this additional building requirement adds an additional logistics layer for relevant empires.
- Ship Appearance: The appearance of ships are again cosmetic and serves to finish the look of the player's empire.
New players are suggested to begin with ballistic or energy weapons unless they are addicted to possessing superior numbers over their foes, where (MOAR) missiles start to become viable. In all cases, over-specialisation is not particularly recommended and additional weapons should be unlocked by the mid-game against other large empires. Note that the FTL setting can be overwritten by game modes restricting the empire's starting FTL type. An alternative novice player suggestion would be to restrict all empires to either warp or hyperspace travel, which equalises all empires until (again) Jump-drive availability.
- Main article: User interface
Stellaris' Interface, also called graphical user interface (GUI or simply UI), has a number of specific screens and visual elements. This article will focus on the pragmatic purpose and utility of the interface (as opposed to the stylistic elements).
The UI of Stellaris is similar to previous PDS games - menus and sub-menus, putting a wealth of important information a click or two away. Navigating such an interface can contribute to a large portion of a grand strategy game's learning curve, but all the information is organized logically and you'll know where everything is in no time. While this article covers some of the UI basics, it is recommended to use the in-game tutorials to fully familiarize oneself with the UI. Like other PDS games, Stellaris is full of tooltips - if an action isn't clear, hovering over the button (or icon, statistic etc) will most likely reveal information further explaining the situation.
The first portion focuses on the game setup interface prior to any actual gaming while later portions deal with the in-game interface itself.
Basic Gameplay Concepts
Being a hybrid of the 4X and grand strategy genres, Stellaris has gameplay corresponding to the classic concepts of eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate, while also adding deeper diplomacy and governance options.
- Main article: Exploration
Exploration in Stellaris will be familiar to anyone who has played a 4X game. The exploration-specialist unit in Stellaris is the science ship, and all players begin with one staffed by a scientist skilled in exploration. Whereas all ships can identify the contents of a star system and potentially habitable planets, it is the job of a science ship to survey celestial bodies, expose resources and enable colonization, as well as to analyse any anomalies found during surveying.
The player's home system begins unsurveyed, and so the very first action of many players is to task the starting science vessel with "Survey System" on the nearest body. It is critical to prioritize the home system, followed by all system within the borders of the player empire (ones in the galaxy view, whose hexagonal projection onto the galactic plane fall within the player-colored bubble). For the first couple of years, players can also split their three-corvette fleet into individual fleets on evasive mode and use them to identify colonizable systems and locations of hostile entities. The loss of a corvette is far more palatable than the loss of a valuable scientist and its ship. To expedite the exploration process and generally insure against total loss, players should generally maintain 2-3 science ships in the early game as required, one of which can optionally be left on the home planet when Assist Research is unlocked as a backup whose normal job is to boost the capital's research output.
While anomalies can contain interesting events, there is also a chance of failure indicated by the anomaly window that can result in disaster for either/both the scientist and its ship. This chance is determined by the relative level of the scientist plus other modifiers and traits, and so it may be advisable to leave difficult anomalies until later (they will not disappear once discovered). Note that anomalies are not studied automatically, and some anomalies lead to further special projects that also require a scientist to be present. Players should note to intervene when necessary before the ship leaves the system, or assign another science ship to follow up.
The traditions within Discovery will help to boost scientific research as well as the effectiveness of exploration.
The colonization of new planets is the primary method to expand the player empire and push forward its borders. This border expansion is necessary to claim the vast resources lying outside inhabitable systems, and is determined by distance from a player's colonized planets and frontier outposts plus rare modifiers to Border Range. Planets with more population will also project a larger zone of control, making larger worlds (18+) more desirable candidates at the start of the game aside form their other advantages.
Each planet has a climate determining the habitability of your species, and a size corresponding to the number of tiles on that planet (thus the number of populations it can ultimately support). It can also possess planet-wide modifiers that boost or hinders the lives of colonists and their resource outputs. Tiles on each planet can contain resource deposits, rare local resources, and also terrain-blockers that hinder expansion. The orbit around colonized planets can also support space-sports serving as additional resupply and starting points for further expansion.
In order to colonize a planet, empires must construct colony ships on existing space ports, send them over to the candidate, then begin a long process of establishing the initial colony capital. This process is expensive in the early-game, costing by default 350 minerals to build but no impact on the current population or its growth. While the colony ship either exists or is establishing itself on a new planet, it costs 8 energy per month to maintain life-support for future colonists. The selection of a candidate planet also requires at least 30 influence, with final price depending on its distance from the player's existing planets and frontier outposts. The decision as to where the new colony capital will be situated is decided when the colony ship elects a candidate - like the homeworld capital, this colony capital will eventually provide adjacency bonuses to food, minerals and energy.
The cost of colonization on multiple resources is the main reason players should plan ahead on when and where to expand their empire, and also the main reason that minerals are the primary bottle-neck of the early-game. Thus, a good candidate with size 18-25 will likely become the first colony, with more following other strategic considerations. In a more military-inclined game, players may instead search out a nearby fledging empire as a candidate to subjugate and seek to claim a planet near their sphere of influence before hostilities are declared, since (1) no empire may colonize within the orders of another empire and (2) space ports have strong early-game defenses so one at this new planet serves as a forward rallying point.
Although on average only a third of the available planets will be suitable for colonization (possessing by default climates with 60% and 80% habitability for the player species), to maintain game-balance all empires in the galaxy begin with several planets of their type within or nearby their sphere of influence. This can potentially mean a colonization race between the player empire and a neighboring AI empire in a compatible climate. Thus exploration and selective colonization will be key to an early advantage in an empire-rich game, should the player decide against early aggression. Note that the default game setting will also generate a galaxy that is not particularly rich in colonizable planets - this will make for stiffer competition should competing species live nearby each other.
Be aware that the galaxy map in Stellaris is semi-3D: stars may be above or below the plane of your empire's border and since the camera is at an angle they may actually fall on the other side of your border than the one they appear to occupy. To be certain, consult the hexagon connected to each star by a line. If the hexagon is within your borders (the hexagon will also be appropriately tinted) then so is the star and all the objects in that system. But be wary of constructing stations on the very edge of your empire: if your borders ever contract or are displaced by those of another empire then those stations will become neutral or be taken over by the other empire, respectively. Frontier outposts, though costly, can be very useful in the early game for securing resources and colonizable worlds within your borders until such time you are able to make full use of them.
In all games, the majority of naturally exploitable resources exists around other celestial bodies and on star systems without habitable planets. To exploit these, empires must use construction ships to build mining stations, research stations, and where necessary build frontier outposts to lay claim to the nearby star systems. Frontier outposts in particular, which are built next to the star, are used as an alternative to colonization as a means to expand empire borders: it costs 200 minerals and 30+ influence to build, with the cost of the latter decided by distance similar to colonization. Once built, the outpost require 3 energy and 1 influence per month to maintain, severely limiting the total number of outposts empires can keep without jeopardizing their domestic political outcomes.
The starting influence income for default empires normally allows for the placement of 1~2 frontier outpost without major problems. Further increases in influence can come from technologies, civics, and happy factions (once they arise). The initial range of frontier outposts are somewhat larger than the yellow-dashed scanning range ships, thus making the center of a cluster of star systems an optimal place to claim all of them upon completion. Suggested locations in the early game should include multiple mineral and research sites - for example, most players should be able to uncover rich star systems with 7+ minerals outside their current borders that are designed to be captured by outposts when colonization is not feasible.
Aggressive uses of frontier outposts may be necessary when facing a rival empire. Establishing claim over their desired planets even if it is currently unsuitable for the player will prevent them from gaining a strong foothold in the player direction. This must be done early, however, as an opposing colony ship may begin colonization before the outpost is completed.
The traditions within the Expansion branch helps expanding players by increasing the speed at which new colonies become productive members of the empire, and mitigating various social costs involved in managing numerous colonies. The expansion tree also contains traditions to reduce both the initial and ongoing influence costs of Frontier Outposts, which allow for multiple aggressive expansion moves. Alternatively, the Prosperity branch contains an easily accessible perk that allows private colony ships to be built using cheaply available energy, which eases much of the mineral burden.
- Main article: Economy
There are 4 resource categories in Stellaris:
The Basic resources are global assets shared throughout the empire:
- Energy credits is the major currency used in trades and transactions. They are also used to maintain power to ships, buildings, robots, and all similar facilities.
- Minerals are necessary to construct most units like armies and ships, as well as structures both planetside and in space. They are also used to maintain the player's military assets and civilian ships, and consumed by populations to maintain their standard of living.
- Food is the base resource to feed populations and maintain population growth. Additional food income over the stockpile maximum (in yellow) will contribute towards faster growth rates, while shortages at zero stockpiles cause starvation and many other undesirable effects.
- The three branches of research Physics, Society, and Engineering have respective resources representing progress towards projects of the player's choice. Research projects are completed when its required amount of resources is filled, and progress towards individual projects are stored whenever the player switches projects, embarks on special projects, etc.
- Influence is the political currency necessary in some scenarios to enact the player's will, representing the effort rulers must expend to convince, cajole, or otherwise exhort the rest of the empire into doing their bidding. This ranges from appointing particular Leaders to posts, deciding on particular planets to colonize, committing to frontier outposts, reform governments and calling elections, controlling internal factions, and other similar undertakings.
- Unity represents the cultural progress of the empire as a whole as it adopts particular philosophies and opinions. This resource is normally accumulated by staffing populations in a small subset of Buildings, and spent to acquire Traditions in one of seven distinct areas. With the Utopia DLC, this eventually leads to the acquisition of Ascension Perks that can redefine the trajectory of the player empire.
The first four basic resources other than Influence and Unity can be found either on uncolonizable celestial bodies (visible from the galaxy or system views) or on the surface of colonizable ones (visible only on the Surface tab on that planet's window). Food can only be found on the surface of colonizable planets. Resources on uncolonizable objects can be harvested through either mining stations (Energy credits and minerals) or research station (the 3 research resources). Resources on the surface of planets can only be accessed if you've colonized that world, and then only if you have a Pop on the tile where the resource is found.
The intangible resources Influence and Unity must be generated by buildings, technologies, completed events, or diplomatic actions such as declaring rivalries or winning wars. In particular, it is advised to keep an amount of Influence necessary to guard against surprises such as a sudden death of a key Leader, or perhaps win a territory race against a rival empire by claiming a desired system ahead of them.
Strategic resources are also present in the game as both global resources in space (e.g. Teldar crystals) and local resources on the planet (e.g. Betharian stone). These rare resources are initially invisible and are not essential to the daily operations of the player empire. With the completion of their specific research technologies, they are revealed and can start to provide bonuses to their respective controllers. Local resources benefit the planet on which it is exploited, while strategic resources provide empire-wide effects. In this latter case, only a single copy of a strategic resource is needed, so players can trade extra copies with other empires for other gains.
At the beginning, it is important for players to maintain a healthy minerals income while maintaining a small energy surplus. This mineral income has an exponential-growth effect, determining how fast players can exploit resources, colonize (unless private colony ships are available), and build large enough fleets to counter hostile aggression. Thus mining stations and planetary mines are priorities at the very beginning until a high enough income can be achieved to keep pace with further expansion. Taller empire opening can afford sometimes to construct Unity/research buildings early, so as to rush the traditions/technologies they need before empire expansion takes its toll.
In terms of space-bound resources, prioritize 3+ mineral and 3+ energy deposits at the beginning before moving onto other deposits. This is because mining and research stations both cost 90 minerals as opposed to the 60-minerals required for planetary buildings. If the nearby systems have numerous deposits of the relevant type, players may consider opening Prosperity or Discovery traditions to reduce the mineral cost of mining/research stations by 33% to 60, which will translate into significant savings in the early-game.
Once the basic needs of the empire has met, the relative ease at which resources can be further increased is accordingly (from easy to difficult): Food > energy > sciences > Minerals > Unity > Influence. All of these can be increased by adopting relevant Civics. The first four can be maximized by dedicating entire planets to one category, supplemented by planet modifiers, governers with relevant talents, happy populations with relevant traits, and particular buildings such as power hubs and mineral processing plants. With the global food system a single Food-planet can potentially feed an entire empire.
The last two cannot be easily augmented, so new players should take care to have some generation without excessive prioritization - Unity progress can only be maximised by constructing specific buildings on each planet, as well as colonizing only the largest planets that players can find (this optimises the cost of unlocking further traditions since every new colony itself contributes to the unity cost as well as its citizens). Some traditions and ethos grant additional unique buildings to increase unity generation. On the other hand, influence is no-longer found on planets at all, but can be increased via specific research and pleasing factions. While factions need to be at least 60% happy with the ruler in order to grant any additional influence, unhappy factions don't deduct the players influence income - they instead generate Unrest and unhappy populations. A well-managed democracy can also yield additional influence by consistently fulfilling election promises. Along with the additional flexibility of switching rulers more often to suit the needs of the empire, this is the reward for the additional micromanagement involved.
A note on the three research areas in the opening stages of the macro game: Engineering can unlock further improvements to minerals income and increases to building speed, Society can unlock important influence-increasing advances and tile-blocker clearing technologies, and Physics can unlock further improvements to energy income, surveying speeds, cheaper & faster colonization.
While there are many ways besides combat to interact with other empires in Stellaris, it is still essential to know how to defend yourself. Even before encountering another empire you may come across hostile vacuum-based lifeforms or pirates.
There are four types of ships in the game (in order of size from smallest to largest: Corvettes, Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships). The first unlocked ship type, Corvettes, are small, quick ships that will eventually excel at taking on the larger ship types once they start appearing, but in the meantime you'll be using them against your enemies' Corvettes.
Use the Ship Designer window to upgrade your ships with new weapons, armor, and utilities as you unlock them through research. These technologies will provide some way to either protect the hull of your ships or damage the hull of enemy ships--the hull value is a ship's hit points and once it hits zero the ship is destroyed. To decide which techs to research and which unlocked ones to use on a particular ship, you will have to be aware of the various defensive and offensive capabilities in Stellaris.
There are 3 types of ship defense in the game:
- Armor - Absorbs a certain amount of damage that would normally affect the hull
- Shields - Must be entirely depleted before any damage can be done to the hull/armor
- Evasive - Increases the chances of a ship avoiding incoming hits entirely
Each type of defense has a corresponding offensive capability:
- Energy weapons (lasers, etc.) - Strong against armor
- Kinetic weapons (mass drivers, etc.) - Strong against shields
- Tracking weapons (missiles, etc.) - Strong against ships with high evasive
Most defensive and offensive techs are available in several sizes: [S]mall, [M]edium, [L]arge, and e[X]tra large (the last one being found only on battleships). Each hull section of a ship will have various numbers and sizes of slots. For weapon slots, the larger ones do more damage but are less accurate--basically, big weapon slots should be used against big ships, small slots against small ships. There are also some specialized slots for weapon types that are hybrids between the categories listed above (for example, [T]orpedoes are high-damage weapons that fly like missiles but have minimal tracking and so are useful only against large targets; [P]oint defense weapons are kinetics that have high tracking and are useful against very small targets like fighters and incoming missiles). Knowing which techs to equip in which slots will depend on the techs your enemy is using--if your ships are only equipped with lasers then they will have little effect on enemy ships that favor shields instead of armor. Consult the after-battle reports for a breakdown of how much damage was done by your weapons and be ready to adapt your strategy to your enemy's.
Fleets of ships are quantified in two ways: power and composition. Power is the top number and is only a rough guideline--it does not take into account the interactions of offensive and defensive capabilities between fleets as detailed above. The bottom numbers offer a breakdown of the fleet's composition by ship type: 1 through 4 diamonds for Corvettes through Battleships, with the numeral being how many of that type are in the fleet. Clicking on one of your own fleets will bring up a detailed view of all ships within it, as well as several useful commands. You should familiarize yourself with all of these commands, but a couple very important ones are: Set Rally Point - Makes the fleet a rally point that newly constructed ships will automatically join up with; Repair Fleet - The fleet goes to the nearest spaceport to repair its ships' hull damage; and Upgrade Fleet - The fleet goes to the nearest spaceport and any ships whose class (same name) has been changed since they were built/last upgraded will convert to the new design.
- Main article: Technology
Technologies in Stellaris are divided into three discrete lines of research: Physics Research, Society Research and Engineering Research. Each operates independently of the other two, with its own leading Scientist, modifiers, and research resource. You can research one technology or project in each category at the same time. The progress and estimated time remaining for each research project is shown below the respective projects.
Rather than a conventional tech tree, Stellaris uses a system inspired by a deck of cards. When choosing a new technology to research you will be presented with three options and may pick one. The draw is not completely random, however: some techs have prerequisites and will not appear in the draw until the preceding tech is researched. Additionally, some technologies are especially rare and will be marked with a purple outline. When deciding which tech to research you should try to find a balance between what is useful at the moment and what has a reasonable time for completion based on your current research capabilities. Researching one powerful tech in the same time you could have researched several more modest techs may not prove to be worth it in the long run.
At the top of the technology screen there is also a button that lets you examine the techs you have already completed research on.
- Main article: Traditions
While not strictly necessary, players should also maintain steady accumulation and growth of Unity so as to unlock bonuses tailored towards their overall strategy. The seven branches in the Tradition screen are directed towards particular play styles, with many containing particular bonuses that are otherwise difficult or slow to obtain. For example:
- Although Supremacy is generally oriented towards military superiority and conquest, even diehard pacifists will be tempted to spend one round to obtain its increased border range starting bonus.
- Expansion traditions further augments the initial land grab that many players like to carry out, regardless of the eventual strategy.
- The right branch of Diplomacy contains +15% Habitability-boosts that will help players colonize and stabilize otherwise ill-suited planets for their species in the early game, before alternatives such as gene-modding and terraforming become available.
- Main article: Leaders
There are 5 type of leaders in Stellaris:
The Leader screen lists all the leaders in your empire besides your ruler, who can be viewed on the Government screen. Your empire will have a limited number of slots non-ruler leaders depending on your government type. Some leader types are mandatory (for example, you cannot conduct Physics research without a Scientist assigned to that slot on the Research screen) while others are optional (fleets may exist and fight without an Admiral, but those with an Admiral will be at an advantage).
Leaders are recruited by expending some influence. The cost of the recruitment can be reduced by researching the required technologies, the enactment of certain edicts or by chance the leader has certain traits which reduce the recruitment cost. Be aware that recruiting a new leader and assigning them to a position are two separate actions: after you have chosen a leader to recruit from the choices provided (default is 3) they will be marked as "Available"; you will still need to assign them to the appropriate slot.
All leaders besides your ruler have a skill level (maximum of 5) which determines their overall performance. Performing tasks in their field will grant them experience points which will eventually cause them to level up. Leaders can also have traits (both positive and negative) which will affect their efficiency at certain tasks in their field; new traits can be gained as a result of certain tasks performed or leveling.
Strengthening the Empire
- Main article: Governance
Players start the game with an inhabited planet which acts as the empire’s capital, a level 1 spaceport with a weapon module installed, a combat fleet comprising of 3 corvettes, a construction ship and a science ship. The three scientific branches, the empire’s capital and the initial science ship have all been assigned a leader.
Gathering resources on celestial bodies
- Main article: Construction
During the start of the game, players are advised to send their science ships to survey their home system. Once this is completed, the science ships are to be sent to survey the nearby systems. As mentioned earlier in the guide, some celestial bodies contain deposits of resources such as minerals or energy credits and these deposits can only be harvested if it has been uncovered by science ships doing surveying missions and such deposits are within the empire’s border. Harvesting these resources would provide players a better start and allows players to be able to construct ships and stations without much waiting.
- Main article: Surveying
When the science ships are doing their survey on celestial bodies, there is a chance for an anomaly to be encountered. The anomaly may be investigated by science ships and the outcome of the investigation can be a success or a failure. The chance of failure diminishes for scientist with a high skill level. A special project may appear once the investigation of the anomaly is a success. Upon completion of such project, players may be granted a relatively large amount of research points, minerals or energy credits which provide a boost to players.
- Main article: Colonization
Eventually, players would need to colonize other habitable planets to acquire resources for the means to expand their empire geographically and technologically. Colonization is done by sending colony ships to habitable planets that are surveyed. The colonization process requires a colony ship and the expense of some influence. The amount of influence needed is based on the distance from the target planet and friendly territory. As of update 1.3, players are not required to research certain technologies to colonize planets with a different world type. Players may now colonize planets that have a habitability of at least 40%.
Planets project borders around them which allows for empires to occupy more systems. The size of these planets' borders are less than the size of the border projected by the empire’s capital world. Be advised that the size of a planet's border may increase as the number of population on said planet increases. Therefore, players should keep an eye out on the systems that are on the edge of the border as these systems maybe acquired through such border expansion.
A newly colonized planet will have a weak production as the planet’s surface is still covered in tile blockers (if the planet has not been terraformed) and the lack of population on the planet. As stated previously, a planet’s population will work on the resource tiles present on the planet’s surface. Therefore, it is recommended to focus on food production to allow the planet’s population to grow before redeveloping the planet for other purposes.
Keeping military strong
- Main article: Ship designer
As with most space 4X games, keeping a strong military presence is vital as it will deter any potential attacks. In Stellaris, this statement is true as players may encounter other space-faring empires that have hostile intent or space monsters which are hostile. Therefore, keeping a strong military presence allows for players to defend against attacks should they get themselves into war.
There are 4 types of military ships in Stellaris:
Players may use the in-game ship designer to customize these ships to create unique ships and construct them at the spaceports.
Furthermore, the game consists of military stations which players can construct by using construction ships. These military stations can carry offensive or defensive aura which can be important in a battle. There are currently 3 types of military stations that players can construct:
- Defence Platform
- Defence Station
Players are advised to construct these military stations at vital systems to defend against enemy attacks.
Buildings may be constructed on the planet’s resource tiles which can increase the production capabilities of the planet. Due to the stacking effect on resources of the buildings on the resource tiles, it is recommended to plan the construction of buildings as to increases the production capabilities of the planet.
Interactions with Other Empires
As science ships are out into the void exploring the stars, they will inevitably encounter alien life forms. The alien life forms that players can encounter are divided into 4 types:
During their first encounter with these life forms, a special project will appear which players can research it. Doing so will order the required scientific branch of the empire to put their current research projects on hold and focus on the special project. Once the project is completed, another special project may appear if the alien life forms in question are space monsters or the diplomacy screen for first contact will pop up if the alien life forms in question are space-faring empires.
There are some exceptions to this. Fallen empires will contact players automatically if their ships venture into their territory. Pre-sentient species and Pre-FTL species are encountered by science ships which are surveying celestial bodies.
- Main article: Diplomacy
After successfully establishing communications with other space-faring empires, the player may access the diplomacy screen. Players are then able to conduct diplomacy actions with these empires. Some of these diplomacy actions are listed below:
- Declaring war
- Offering trade deals
- Declaring rivalries
- Forming Federations
Majority of these diplomacy actions have a 10 year cooldown once chosen with the exception of trade deals which players can determine how long a deal lasts. The chance for a trade deal to be accepted is influenced by the trade partner's attitude towards the trader's empire and the favourability of the deal proposed.
Forming of Federations
- Main article: Alliances and federations
Besides the construction and employment of a strong military, empires can also improve their military power through the forming of federations. When an empire declares war upon a member of a federation, other members in the federation enters the war as well. However, if a member of a federation were to declare war, other members will be required to vote for whether the member can make the declaration of war (see declarations of war for more details).
Furthermore, there is a victory goal in which members of a federation occupies 60% of all the habitable planets in galaxy to win the game.
Once players reach the late stages of the game, they should have built an empire with a considerably strong fleet and a strong production on resources. By this stage players should be pursuing one of the many victory goals present in the game by default. However, the late stage of the game usually involves events that will affect the entire galaxy.
To win Stellaris you must meet the conditions for victory. See here for victory conditions.
As the name implies, an endgame crisis brings about catastrophic results which can affect the entire galaxy. There are several criteria that needed to be fulfilled to trigger such events. Besides that, there can only be one endgame crisis in a single game. Some examples of such endgame crisis are listed below:
- AI Rebellion
- Extra-dimensional Invaders
- Prethoryn Swarm
War in Heaven
This event is considered special as it is not considered an endgame crisis. This event involves 2 Fallen Empires which have awoken due to reasons unknown and these 2 superpowers launch a great war against one another, dragging the normal empires into the war as well. However, this event is not guaranteed to occur and the host of the game must have the Leviathans DLC.
The Utopia DLC comes with several long-term goals starting in by the middle-game for players to work their empire towards. There are three (mutually-exclusive) species ascension paths as well as the ability to construct mega-structures, representing different destinies of the empire and what kind of mark they leave upon the galaxy's history.
- Keeping up with research. Remember that each additional planet increases technology cost by 10% and each population above 10 by 1%, so investments on research buildings on colonized planets is needed. Players should not expand aimlessly to small or poorly habitable planets as they will increase the technology cost. The colonizing of these small or poorly habitable planets should be a last resort if players need extra naval capacity for their empire.
- Players should keep their military strength at its peak at all times. These should allow them to be able to tackle external threats and control over internal threats which are arising from factions or unhappiness.
- Remain curious and having fun. Players should keep their science ships busy at all times. As these ships continue to explore the unknown void, the story of the game should unfold for players to enjoy.