The bone-dry sci-fi of Stellaris, a game that doesn't even work


MODS. You gotta be kidding. Like, hey, we made this crap game, but guess what, THE COMMUNITY CAN FIX IT. Now give us a high score for that incredible feature!!!1111

You obviously have not played Star Ruler 2. Enough said.


TLDR: Stellaris is garbage. Contentwise, UIwise, Combatwise.


Game is not a "crap game for the community to fix". Game is a decent game, made even better by being extremely easy to modify by design.

If the game has been developed with the idea that it will be as openly moddable as possible, and the developers strived for a large modding community from conception and ensured modding was a large feature of the game, then to completely ignore that fact when reviewing the game is completely asenine.

Even moreso when such mods that do exist (some even made by the developers themselves) correct every single one of these "issues" with the game listed in this slander-piece. They aren't even issues at all. Just personal gripes.

And yes, I have played star ruler 2 FYI. Unlike you, I've played pretty much every other RTS title to date and those that allow for mods tend to still be played, even after 10-20 years. They're a big deal, stick with console/mobile games if you like your games unmoddable, you casual pleb.


So, what you're saying is, that these aliens are just like humans but with different textures?


Really funny… one of the main complaints you had- the sectors being completely out of your hands and generally being poorly managed by the AI -has for the most part been changed with patches since release. In fact, the whole sector/governor system got changed about- there’s now only one governor for the ‘core sector’ instead of one per planet, and sectors seem to have a lot better management in general… and if you don’t like that management, you can still get in there and muck with things personally without having to remove the planet from the sector.

Not sure about the UI stuff- I never really recall having that much of a problem with the game’s UI, and I’m not sure of any specifics that have changed since I first played the game.

Not sure what exactly to say about the complaints with the interstellar empires and what to expect from them. Your hypothetical ‘Ooki-Naka Federation’, for instance… my first question is: what personality archetype is it? Are they Hegemonic Imperialists? Are they Democratic Crusaders? Are they Evangelizing Zealots? These are the parts worth paying attention to with the alien empires- this is who they are, not the name they’re given. Sometimes there are multiples, and they will collaborate to the detriment of everyone else around them, generally, unless they’re a personality that just doesn’t get along with anyone, like Fanatic Purifiers (had one of those near me recently- they actually pissed off one of our mutual neighbors but couldn’t back up their vitriol, so they crumpled like a wad of foil. Eventually absorbed the whole lot and showed them the true path of the Greater Good). Multiple Hegemonic Imperialists will tend to hate each other if they’re neighbors, but if there’s another on the other side of their neighbors they’ll befriend them and probably work together to crush their mutual neighbors, given the opportunity.

These are just a few examples of the interactions that can happen. What are those crazy Evangelizing Zealots going to do next, for instance? I think the problem was you were looking at the wrong set of words tied to the alien empires. Sure the names help you tell them apart, but the real meat is determined by their personalities, which are admittedly based on ethics/ethos, government type, civics… But once they’re defined, the AI has a certain behavior based on that. Also, the ethics/ethos and government elements of the game have gotten some reworks since you wrote this, so there’s that, too. Plenty of changes to the game, and they don’t even require DLC to experience.


Welcome, @Stormhawk!

We do have another Stellaris thread that has more recent discussion, just fyi:


​So is there a true inheritor to Moo2 out there today? ​


Yep. It holds up.


I really like Stars in Shadow partly for how it mimics the light-hearted tone of MOO2, but mostly for how it’s all about setting up cool tactical battles. The colony management stuff is mainly a support system for combat in which your cool ships, weapons, and gimmicks fight the other guy’s cool ships, weapons, and gimmicks. It reminds me a lot of MOO2.



Will take a look. Thanks.


Can’t say I agree, Stars in a shadow is at best a simple version of moo 2, to get the original moo 2 feeling, you should probably just get moo 2, its a more complex and rewarding game.


You can’t say you agree that I really like Stars in Shadow, or that it reminds me of MOO2. :)

MOO2 does hold up, but I’m assuming @solomani has already got it. The question was about which games are “inheritors”. There are plenty of great space 4Xs, but what strikes me about MOO2 and Stars in Shadow is that they both emphasize tactical combat. I can’t think of any other sci-fi 4Xs that do that. Sins of a Solar Empire, but it’s really an RTS. Are there any sci-fi 4Xs I’m overlooking?



Polaris Sector does this too, and in real time both in the tactical battles and on the 4X map.


Moo1 is the true father, moo2 just a wayward son, and maybe moo1 will finally get some imitators.


I agree 100% with this. Of all the space 4X games I’ve played since MOO2, Stars in Shadow is the one that reminds me of it the most.



This is a remake though not finished yet.


Oui Oui!

And it has less micromanagement than MOO2 which is an improvement IMHO.


I believe Stars in Shadow is closer to the original MOO than to MOO2 and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.


Stardrive 1 & 2 was to me as well a “tactical space battle generator” - the “campaign” bits were at best quite flimsy. Older designs like Sword of the Stars I, Reach for the Stars or even Star Control I are very much on the same vein, exploring how simple could the “strategic” elements be and get away with just generating a string of interesting tactical battles. Gratuitous Space Battles is the most extreme - and pure - of this kind of games.

You’ve got a very good point regarding focus Tom. For whatever the reason, many self-appointed successors to MOO2, and this includes MOO3, have tried to trascend the original design by “adding depth” to the strategic layer. And they’ve all inevitably bogged down, as the tactical and the strategic don’t mix easily.

What I mean by “don’t mix easily” is that for players whose ‘reward signal’ emanates from seeing spaceships fighting it out going off in chunky explosions and getting that 300 feeling of defeating a dumbass AI led horde will find diplomacy, espionage, planet development etc. a hurdle they have to jump over in order to get to what they crave. This very much applies to versions of the same formula where instead of spaceships, what fights it out are Roman Legionaires, Hobbits, Orcs and what not.

On the other hand, those fellas whose ‘reward signal’ emanates from choreographing logistical networks, “growing” cities and colonies like bonsais, will be disinclined in spending sometimes a lot of time micro-managing a vast fleet of ships. Grand Strategy and the Civ-like games (for instance, Stellaris and GalCiv) abstract their “tactical level” to a great degree and that’s I think it is the reason: “pacing”.

Can be these two kinds of games reconciled into a “hybrid”? Probably yes, but I don’t think anybody has truly succeeded. The way to go is to have good “AI”, i.e. AI that can be “trusted” and that is “self-explanatory”, that fights out the tactical battles / develops economies etc. That would allow players of each kind, and those who get reward from both types of gameplay, to switch the General and the Mandarin hats at their leisure over the course of a game session.

Distant Worlds and before it, Imperium Galactica, got to this sweet spot more successfully than any of the new wave of space 4x games we’ve got in the last 3 years. And that without having access to the kind of computing power that enables Deep Mind well publicised successes.

To be honest, I am not sure that developing “perfect” hybrid game like the one above would be worth the effort. With the same skillset you would be making cartloads of money working for a different industry, with sensible hours and sensible customers.

Going back to the topic of the thread.

Stellaris could have been that “perfect” game.

But Paradox seems to be more interested in milking the Crusader Kings / Europa Universalis / Hearts of Iron cow than go and gamble on a genre/setting they’re unfamiliar with. I think that Stellaris, compared with other projects, isn’t that well resourced. I must also say that I think Martin Anward has made heroic efforts to stay true to the very ambitious scope of Stellaris 1.0, make it more consistent internally and exploring uncharted territory.

Yet it seems that they have decided to call it a day, and go for a “Victoria in Space” design, making Stellaris to play more like Europa Universalis and Victoria than to… Stellaris. I find a bit curious. that they have decided to name their 2.0 version after C. J. Cherryh, who yes, created a very compelling and credible universe with starlanes. But she also explored, and more memorably at least to me, how relationships between different sentient species could work out.

We’ll see if they’re going to be doing something in that department at all.


I don’t think that is true. It has sold quite well and still has quite a lot of people playing it according to SteamSpy. They are putting out DLC for it regularly and they dedicate a lot of social media/marketing to it. It seems to get a lot of resources if you pay attention to Paradox (at least more than HOI gets at the very least).

It’s worth repeating, because if you only read Qt3 you would think everyone hates the game and it was a failure, but its the opposite really. The game has done quite well and a lot of people like it a lot. It definitely could be better though, and they obviously know this because they are making big changes to it.