Stellaris grand strategy space game by Paradox discussy thingy thready thingy

I actually think the combat graphics look fine for the genre. It’s a whole hell of a lot better than Distant Worlds. The explosions are the worst culprit, they look like 2d and as if they have about as much impact as a feather.

And ship design is pointless because it’s badly balanced and yea, it’s battleships all the way once you get AI combat computers. Throw in a Titan aura and you never miss except a bit on corvettes who blow up in one hit and will still get hit half the time, before they even get in range. God help the AI if you get the enigmatic targeting accessory. There’s maybe some argument to be made for a handful of picket destroyers just so you don’t lose random battleships to stray missiles but it isn’t impactful enough either way to matter. Strike craft still may as well not exist in game, even after patching them.

I kind of wish they’d get their act together on making the basic stuff actually good instead of constantly adding new features that essentially add up to +% modifier to X, but this is the oldest Paradox complaint in my long book of grudges against them. 😅

It would be nice if the combat graphics were more comparable to something like Battlefleet Gothic, though apparently metrics say that a large chunk of grand strategy and 4x gamers have potatoes for PCs or prefer to play them on a laptop, which is unfortunate. But I dunno, Total War Warhammer is a 4X that actually looks pretty good and sold a lot of copies, so with the precedent there maybe we’ll see some better looking efforts in the future.

Stellaris’ population management turns you into the empire’s employment manager, where your entire job is to wait for either a pop to grow or a building to complete, ad infinitum. Make sure there’s no jobless and no extra buildings forever. It’s most of what you do in the game and it’s why the mid-late game drags so heavily.

I’d be fine with the combat being awful if the empire building was interesting.

Sorry, another PDX tangent - this reminds me of one beef I have about HOI4: the division designer. I am Der Fuhrer, the leader of the reborn German Reich leading my trueblood to victory in Europe… aaaaand I have to decide how many artillery/AA/AT battalions each land division has. Unlike some games, you can’t delegate that task to the AI.

That one doesn’t strike me as too egregious, because it isn’t a task you need to perform dozens of times and the composition of your regiments does actually have relevance to your production needs which outside of maneuvering your troops is probably the screen you need to mess around in the most.

Try terraforming all 40 of your inhabited worlds into Hive Worlds in Stellaris if you want to see what going through actual UI hell feels like. All the information you need isn’t there, you need to go through two more clicks than necessary for each world, and there is no visual indicator on the planet screen about whether a planet is currently undergoing terraforming, you need to examine each world individually for that information. It’s an absolute clusterwhoops of the highest magnitude and the game developer has a UI background.

My confidence in Stellaris as a project is basically nil at this point.

Edited to add: Which is sad, because I think the game was actually fun back when they took out non-hyperlane travel. The tile system was bad but it didn’t feel so endlessly tedious like the new pop system does. The diplomacy expansion not actually making diplomacy any good is not great. In a game that runs on the same engine as EU4 which has very good diplomacy. Ugh.

Yikes. I’ll make a beeline back to Distant Worlds before this. I enjoyed any micro I had with DW.

Sounds like you guys are describing the Chick Parabola. Summoning my thread on this topic. One notable mention there is Pandora, which I have bought but not yet tried. Apparently post-release, they allowed a modder to rebuild their AI, and it’s awesome. Also, Deity Empires is supposed to have good AI – the programmer seems to know his AI programming stuff. And I think Alpha Centauri has fixes by modders that make it pretty decent.

The sad fact (restating the Chick Parabola) is that most strategy games simply don’t have sufficient AI to handle their mechanics, which makes investing time learning those mechanics in-depth seem wasteful (master the game only for it to disappoint you). This is doubly true for Paradox games, which keep evolving their mechanics over time. Actually it’s triply true for Paradox games – the realtime thing makes it impossible to come up with good AI, especially since the AI has to be light enough that it can work for a gazillion entities in 5x speed. It’s pretty much the very worst case you can have for a poor AI programmer to deal with.

(Also note that I don’t mind if an AI cheats, so long as it’s done behind the scenes. If the AI cheats but still can’t function decently in the portions that are visible to the player, then that’s not helpful.)

It’s not just the Chick Parabola, though that’s certainly some of it. It’s that when you achieve mastery of the empire mechanics, you’re left with just the tedium of executing them. You aren’t making many interesting decisions. Again, you wait for a pop to grow and move it to a free planet because you’re wasting pop growth otherwise, or you wait for a building to complete and pick what you want to build next. You aren’t allowed to be efficient and plan your buildings ahead of time because the game takes the resources ahead of time. They don’t give you a template manager that auto-builds a mining planet, for example. As mentioned, you certainly can’t trust the AI.

Contrast this with another game I’ve put a lot of time into, TW: WH2. I’ve mastered its empire management mechanics. They are simple and don’t take a lot of constant clicks or fiddling. You build up a province and eventually forget about it. The tension and interesting decisions in that game primarily come from combat: where do I put my armies and how can I protect my cities? WH2 AI cheats a ton but presses you hard; Stellaris’ AI often won’t even declare war.

Building on the AI problems you mentioned, Stellaris’ has a fourth problem. CK2 and EUIV probably have terrible AI, but it’s okay because the mechanics work in their favor. Some uppity vassal rises up in a war he has zero chance to win? It’s easy to roleplay that bad decision away: he was a dumbass. You can’t as easily explain away why the super-intelligent killbots don’t bother to protect their homeworld until its too late.

CK2 doesn’t have the sheer number province management decisions the AI will screw up compared with Stellaris. HOI is closer, but the AI there more visibly functions. Though the front AI is exploitable, it almost always at least functions.

I didn’t even mention end game crises and how they were completely buggy for I don’t know how long. To be fair, maybe they are fixed now, but for several releases the events fired and then the AI did nothing. But the fact that an “end game crisis” is even needed is a failure of their design. It feels like Paradox threw up their hands and said, “our AI can’t challenge even a halfway decent player, so let’s just spawn space mongols and call it a day.”

I’ve said all of this, but I will say Stellaris has the best race creation and early game exploration of any space 4X I’ve played. They allow you to live out pretty much any pop culture sci-fi fantasy you can dream of. The original question of, “is this game worth playing?” should hinge on why you play 4X’s. If you love a good space opera and exploring the universe, you’ll have a great time with Stellaris. If you like meaty builder or combat systems (exploit or exterminate), it’s a hard pass.

Through a number of marginal bonuses!

There’s very little marriage of theme with mechanics in Stellaris. It hinges hugely on the player’s imagination turning a description and a small gameplay effect into a narrative.

This. I approach Stellaris as an RPG. It’s an open-world story engine. It’s great at that! I never finish games, however, because they always reach a point where the tedium overwhelms the narrative.

okay i’ll bite.

I’ve played just about all space 4x’s I’ve gotten my hands on so far, and its been a rough ride, in the end, I find Stellaris to be the best of the bunch, cause mainly it keeps receiving stuff and adding onto an interesting universe.

Secondly, I’ve played Distant Worlds a lot…and even with ALL micro turned on, I found precious little to do in that game…planetary management …nothing…space…well you move some ships, but they mostly move themselves…combat is weird and not really good…

It does give some sense of a living universe, but its not really that good, a very barebones game compared to Stellaris…there is simple very little there to be honest, even though it looks like it.

Stellaris has gotten more complicated, and its no longer just pick up and play, management however can get hard work in a certain cases and when you do very large universes…but you shouldn’t really be too bogged down.
It REALLY matters how you build your planets, the AI however is so and so, but you can adjust it decently, they however do 72 man MP games online now…if you have the time…

Then you’ll really get to test your mettle.

Some thoughts here. Strategy games are interesting beasts… on the one hand, you have the actual strategy mechanics, and the strategy mechanics should provide for interesting decisions, which should have varying and non-obvious results in terms of your success in the game. If an optimal path is obvious through a strategy game, that’s a problem. Additionally, strategy mechanics imply variety – if the same choices are given to you every time, you’ll quickly learn which ones are optimal.

On the other hand, you have the immersion of the game subject. Board games generally provide minimal immersion – they’re mostly about the mechanics and about interacting with other people. The mechanics tend to be very abstractly related to the subject matter since you have a very low complexity budget (mortals are expected to run the game, after all). In order to be able to run the game within the limited complexity budget and still provide non-obvious choices, you have to have heavy abstraction, with the subject matter often serving only as inspiration.

Computer games can go much heavier on the complexity budget, since now the game is managed by a machine. This, together with improved presentation, can give a much better feeling of immersion than anything supplied by a board game. However, this leads to a different problem: because you can have so many mechanics interacting, it’s much harder to make sure that the experience generated for the player actually has meaningful choices (i.e. non-obviously optimal ones) to make, and that the experience is sufficiently varied. Additionally, the computerized game experience may include entire artificial enemies (AI), which can lead to serious problems, as a malfunctioning AI hurts both immersion and strategy, while a non-malfunctioning AI is extremely difficult to program.

Paradox games sit very heavily on the side of immersion. They are the ultimate computerized strategy games, running as they do in pausable realtime. They feel like simulations of entire virtual worlds, with their hundreds of AIs, and this is one of the reasons people love them so much. But they suffer from being so far down on the immersion scale: it’s very hard to make sure that real strategic decisions are provided to the player, rather than ‘busywork’ (obviously optimal actions) to make the game hum along. There are so many mechanics, in fact, and so many custom ones per race/nation, that they provide multiple unique immersive experiences, depending on which part of the gameplay you wish to sample. But those experiences are highly unlikely to be strategically challenging. In this way, they really do cross over to story generators - procedural RPGs where you’re just trying to play out a story - rather than fully functioning strategy games. All computerized strategy games possess this element of story generation, but the best ones have it balanced out by the strategy elements.

Well put Bluddy, I also agree that you really just make a funky race that you’d like to see how well would do, and play them, if you want to win, sure, a few races does that actually the best, but hey, this isn’t all about winning, its the journey.

Stellaris is as flawed as most 4x games are in endgame, too much war, too little something else…

That is pretty much where I am with Distant Worlds. I think it is amazing what he accomplished as I think a 1 man studio (with some art help), but outside the living universe I don’t think it is just an okay game. I am looking forward to seeing what he accomplishes with DW2. I would really like to see what he could do with a full team, and I hope perhaps Slitherine/Matrix put more resources into the sequel to make that a possibility.

Same and well put.

More generally it feels like the end game is where the next wave of innovation should come in 4x. I respect its a difficult design problem though. It feels to me like SpaceCorp (GMT boardgame) was interesting here with its discrete changes of scale ,gamespace and mechanics at different game epochs.

I think the main problem it suffers from for me, more than janky AI or some of the other bits I’m more willing to forgive, is that every species/government ends up playing (and hence, feeling) exactly the same by the endgame. All the exciting differences are felt up front in the early days of your empire but slowly dissolve into pushing the exact same doomstacks around with the exact same tech by the late game.

I wonder how much of that flavour could be maintained by shaking up the tech tree. At launch it felt a tad more interesting as you could end up with an imbalance in research rates between the 3 disciplines with the way labs worked. Now they give the same flat rate to all so this doesn’t seem to happen as often. I wonder if they could breathe some life into what happens here to make empires feel different; closing off certain avenues in the tech tree as you commit more towards a particular path for example.

Currently it feels like the spread of tech is spread so poorly that at the point where you’re endlessly researching +5% bumps you’re railroaded into the same choice every time: stack up energy weapons and shields. Engineering suffers a lot from having waaaay too much fall under it. Kinetic/explosive/strike craft/defense platforms/armour. So even if I wanted to focus on strike craft alone, the diceroll involved in picking out what techs will be in my available reasearch pool means the chances are slim in being able to do this consistently. Contrast that with Physics which I think guarantees at least one Energy weapons/shields upgrade will be there every time. Society’s got absolutely nothing interesting going on at that point.

I guess this is all pie in the sky dreaming though. Seems like paradox are doing their best to crush the enthusiasm of their staff which perhaps explains why they’re largely settling into a pattern of ‘safe bets’ with the new expansions.

I’m frustrated with the war weariness mechanic right now. I just lost an ideological war, and I don’t know why. The conflict started in 2305 and lasted 10 years. The aggressor, an advanced start empire (not one of the precursors), declared the ideological war and I used claims for my counter declaration. They’re also part of a coalition with vassals.

I occupied the territory I had claims on, plus four more to try and speed up the war score. They occupied two, which I reconquered. I won every space battle.

Looking at the stats, most of my space battles look like this: Our war exhaustion +11, 0 ships lost. Their war exhaustion +2, 8 ships lost.

So I eventually realized I wasn’t going to win this war and began retreating from territory. I never had less than -50 on the option to Settle Status Quo. Another empire guaranteed my independence, but I still was forced to change my government and ethics.

I don’t mind playing with this new twist, but the war seemed like a foregone conclusion. I was accumulating attrition faster than the AI, and getting more exhaustion from each battle, regardless of the outcome.

I assume tech and edicts play a role. Are there other factors that help with exhaustion? Because whatever they’re doing is more effective than all the military tech I’ve been investing in.

I like the war exhaustion mechanic in theory but the implementation has often left me scratching my head a lot as I’ve had similar issues to yours back in the day.

I’ll quote from the wiki since I fear some of my info may be out of date at this point:

There’s some techs, civics, and ethics that can provide some major reductions in war exhaustion if you click through the link.

I believe this is the case but you may want to verify, but one thing that I recall figuring out was that those ships that end up successfully disengaging before being destroyed also count towards war exhaustion. For that reason, the ships lost stat could oftentimes be misleading.

Has development on this game gone dormant, or is it just low interest on this board? Feels like a long time since any new features were teased.

Not dormant, but the communication from the Stellaris dev team fell off a cliff after Wiz left, I don’t think the current director cares to engage much with the community (I don’t blame any game developer who feels that way).

They released the 2.7 update in May and they usually go silent for a bit when working on a new expansion. There’s also the summer hiatus in Sweden where Paradox basically shuts down for the month of July, so none of their games will be getting much in the way of dev diaries until around August at the earliest.

It could be indicative of polish work, which isn’t sexy/too speculative to post about.
Yeah, I don’t believe it either.