Paradox is something of the granddaddy of strategy games. With franchises like Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, and the extremely spectacular and uber-fantastic Crusader Kings franchise, they are no strangers to exploring, expanding, exploiting, or exterminating in the realm of grand strategy. For months now we have heard about Stellaris, Paradox's foray into the ever-popular space-based 4X strategy titles.
Well, that depends. I myself am a fan of all things space, so I may be a bit biased, but I loved Stellaris. It is a solid entry into the space 4X space, with an easing-in period that is a bit longer (and easier to understand) than some 4X games. Is it as deep and wild as say, Distant Worlds? No. Is it more approachable for new players? Absolutely. The first few times you play the massive game, you will come to realize that it seems big, but really isn't. Paradox does well at putting only what you need in front of you, which is great for new users, but for more advanced users, Stellaris gets stale after a few short hours.
With a strong introduction and tutorial and a meaty "midsection" in any given mission, games quickly devolve into "who has more units" or "who can out-economy" the other. The finishing is rather quite boring; the magic of the universe quickly dies out as you progress along the tech trees, and there is little challenge after the first few dozen turns. It becomes more of a slog really. But an enjoyable slog; I likened it to going out for a hike in a new stretch of wilderness. At first you are pumped and ready to go, you get to try out your new hiking gear! Then halfway through the hike you realize ... the woods look the same, your shoes still get sweaty, and the canteen of water is still warm. But there are a few sights, like the fluffy bunnies or the windswept fields, that still take your breath away, no matter where you are at, but all give way to the fact that it is all the same. As you near the end of the hike, you begin to feel that you just want it to be done, so you rush to the end. Once you are done though, you think back and you realize "Man, that was a good time."
Stellaris is exactly like that. Starts off great, starts to go stale with a few shining bits (like taking out your first enemy via the extermination path), then you rush to get it over with, only to reflect on the past 4.5 hours of your life to realize that, well, you actually ENJOYED it. While out-of-the-box things are decent, what I am really looking forward to is the modding scene. Paradox is parent to some of the best games out there, only to have modders take them to the next step. After all, the BEST Game of Thrones game is not actually a game, but rather a mod of Crusader Kings II.
With the proper cultivation and growth, Stellaris can stand with the greats like Galactic Civilizations III or the upcoming Master of Orion reboot, but as it stands, it needs a little more love, whether that is from Paradox themselves or a dedicated fan-base, I do not know. One thing is for sure though, and that is that Stellaris is the planting of a seed that could grow into something spectacular.
Paradox Development Studio
Article by Robert