Stellaris: Leviathans (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 15.11.2016

Review for Stellaris: Leviathans on PC

Paradox Interactive's big budget Stellaris is odd for space strategy games, in many ways. It has light RPG elements, and is designed to be a huge multiplayer game. As a nascent star-faring civilisation, players are guided from simple exploration all the way to huge empire-wide wars across the stars. This DLC, Leviathans, serves as a pack of mini upgrades, providing more content and story sections.

Stellaris has a lot going on at the beginning for new players. There are endless "ethics" that they must pick that change things for their empire, such as if they are xenophobic or xenophile. The former gives military bonuses, whereas the later gives diplomacy bonuses. The setting up of the empire at the beginning is one of the best parts of the game. Picking various ways the ships can go FTL or what type of weapon technology to use is all really great flavouring for the overall game.

Early on, most of Stellaris is focused on exploring, but the stars are hard to colonise and it is difficult to really go anywhere. This is in direct contrast with a lot of 4X type games, where combat/invasion can happen within minutes. A single game takes a long time—really long. It is not abnormal to have more than an hour before any interaction of ships with an alien occurs, and a medium map will easily take 20 or more hours to beat (this is a low estimate).

Screenshot for Stellaris: Leviathans on PC

One thing to be clear about is a single playthrough or two of Stellaris is great. There is a lot to see, a lot of things to do, and the subtle change of gameplay as the empire evolves is interesting enough. The initial review of Stellaris was based on this. More games played, though, actually become less fun, and while the Leviathans DLC goes after some of the reasons why, it doesn't change enough to make it as good as it could be.

The issue mainly is that one or two runs of the campaign is enough to see most of the game. Despite all the really cool ideas of different governments, different ethics, different FTL, weapons, and so on, it doesn't really make much difference. Even having a completely different alien next time is not going to change the fundamental gameplay at all. Colonies are still going to grow slowly, fleets are going to be assembled, wars are going to be oddly bureaucratic, and so on.

Screenshot for Stellaris: Leviathans on PC

Stellaris is pretty front-loaded in terms of its content. There are a lot of emergent discovery stories about finding random aliens, or artefacts. It is cool flavouring, but around midgame there isn't really anything that happens much beyond the endless combat that often gets going. The DLC does a good job of addressing this by adding a lot more to the midgame. There are new things, like stronger aliens to fight, and the so-called 'war in heaven' of massive ancient powers.

There are increases, such as options that are only available due to specific ethics; for example, a spiritual race often will get happiness bonuses from "divine" signs of alien intelligence. These are really cool and need to be more frequent. There were a few times specific options could be chosen, but with no apparent bonus, so it is unsure if this is merely flavouring or something to be added later—and if it is nothing special, then it is a missed opportunity.

Screenshot for Stellaris: Leviathans on PC

A major issue that still remains, especially in huge multiplayer games, is that combat really bogs down— not in a lag sense, but that the way conquest happens is oddly bureaucratic. Alliances make "goals," and based on how many points people rack up, they may get a reward from an invading foe. What this means is an alliance comes in, invades a bunch of planets, they "achieve" their goal, then the loser gets all their planets back, but has to cede a player or two as part of war reparations. Arguably, this is the worst part of the game, perhaps being a bit true to life that paper pushing is more important than destroying the enemy. Even combat itself is a pure number game, where a fleet has a value, and if this value is bigger than the other fleet, then it grinds it down. Putting new tech in really only increases this number; no big new doom cannon or anything.

The Leviathans DLC adds some pretty cool and needed features; fundamentally, though, it does not help the issues that reduce playability. For a single romp or two, Stellaris is a pretty good scratch for 4X fans, but lacks the same magic of some of the classics. Missing things like commerce is a huge issue in a title like this, and when the only options are to attack, and attack some more, and combat is mediocre at best, a story-based DLC isn't going to fix it.

Screenshot for Stellaris: Leviathans on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Stellaris is great for a play or two, but the content simply lacks the replayability. The Leviathans DLC fixes some of the issues of content being light in the midgame, but does nothing to remove the bog that inevitably comes mid to late game. As fun as a single play is, even a grind through the later portion of the campaign shows enough that little changes the player can make, such as the empire customisation or content added in the DLC, do nothing. For fans of Stellaris, the DLC will be pretty interesting, but those who have side-lined it are not going to be lured back by this.

Developer

Paradox Development Studio

Publisher

Paradox Interactive

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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