Stellaris Apocalypse Review
With the insane amount of free changes put into 2.0, Stellaris Apocalypse can almost look a little bland by comparison. A quick reminder of the features in this paid expansion:
- New “Colossus” ship class. These are Planet Destroyers, onto which can be mounted a planet-ending weapon.
- New tier 5 “Titan” ship class, onto which can be mounted Titanic weapons, potentially capable of firing across an entire system and obliterating Battleships in a single shot.
- Ion Cannons are static Starbase defences, which are themselves Titanic weapons.
- Marauders are non-playable, nomadic empires with large fleets that roam and raid the galaxy.
- A Marauder empire may unify under a Great Khan, transforming into a Horde, and will begin claiming empty systems and forcing regular empires to become their subjects in the Horde Mid-Game Crisis.
- A new type of Empire Edict called Unity Ambitions have a scaling Unity cost that give very powerful 10 year bonuses.
- New Nihilistic Acquisition and Enigmatic Engineering Ascension Perks.
- New Post-Apocalyptic, Life-Seeded, and Barbaric Despoilers Civics.
These changes affect all stages of the game, but the headline items – the Titans and Colossi – are restricted to the late game.
Out with a Puff…
To be totally honest, I’m a little disappointed with the Titans and Colossi, though more so with the Titans than the Colossi. They don’t change the game significantly enough, in my opinion, to warrant the excitement that surrounds them.
The Titans are, of course, buildable before the Colossi. Your empire can only field a small number of them at once; only two or three in the first instance. I found their window of usefulness to be quite narrow. There is maybe a decade or two when enemy empires don’t have static defences formidable enough to deter a Titan or their own Titan to counter it. After this point, it’s just another ship, but one with a significant disadvantage.
Admirals assigned to fleets actually reside in one of the ships in the fleet. This is most often (if not always) a ship of the largest class in the fleet, which will normally be a Battleship in the late game. With the introduction of Titans, the Admiral will move to the Titan. There’s very often only one Titan in the fleet, which means that when the Titan is eliminated, so, too, is the Admiral.
Previously, the Admiral may have gotten away with hunkering down in one of a dozen or so Battleships, reducing the risk of losing a potentially highly-skilled Admiral in battle. Now, though, he/she/it is for sure in a high-value target. I found that I lost more Admirals once I started fielding Titans than I’ve ever experienced in other iterations of Stellaris.
The Colossi come later in the game. It’s incredibly fun using them – and hearing the galaxy gasp when you’re the first to build one (other players get a notification in multiplayer games) – and they often have a use beyond just “conquering a planet”.
For example, the “Neutron Sweep” destroys most higher forms of life on the planet, but leaves the infrastructure intact for colonisation. This might be useful if you have highly gene-tailored Pops or robot templates ready for applying to the world. The “God Ray” converts all organic Pops to spiritualist and destroys all machine/synthetic pops; it’s only available to Spiritualist empires.
In this regard, the Colossi may reduce micromanagement in consolidating new conquests in the late game.
Unfortunately, I see that as being their most redeeming feature. I am excited to see more types of Planet Destroyer – there are currently only five, and all but one have Ethics/Civics requirements – which would likely change my opinion of them.
More Ship Classes
Introducing Titans and Colossi was ultimately a good idea, I believe. But I think that’s mostly because of the potential they represent; they’ve not reached it in this first iteration.
I always like to balance the unfettered ability of modders to implement whatever changes they please with a mention of the developers’ own needs to provide high quality, balanced, and desirable (in the broadest sense) changes. What we get with Titans and Colossi is the official Paradox treatment, and I fully expect to see their usefulness grow in future iterations of Stellaris.
I actually enjoy the other components of Apocalypse more than their headline features. The Marauders, the new Ascension Perks, and the new Civics make the first 50-75% of the game more varied and interesting. They provide more opportunities for role playing, which is a very important aspect of what Stellaris is to many players, myself included.
The Marauders are a genuine threat for most of the game and can’t be conclusively eliminated until you’re pushing for the late game, with large fleets and impressive Starbases defending their limited holdings. Their random raiding and the ability of rivals to turn them on you is an interesting extra dimension to consider as you expand through the galaxy.
I mentioned earlier that Energy is far more important in Stellaris 2.0 than it ever used to be. The Marauders help with this in that you can hire Mercenary fleets from them for five years for a flat Energy cost. This means that Energy-rich (but potentially Mineral-poor) empires can bolster their fleet strength with regular Energy downpayments. It makes the Megacorporation play style much more interesting and viable.
Marauders can, about 150 years into the game (on default settings), organise into a Horde under the Great Khan. The Horde acts as a Mid-Game Crisis and can seriously disrupt neighbouring empires for the rest of the game.
The Horde will attempt to subjugate nearby empires as Satrapies and conquer systems. It will grow stronger as it does so, but will falter if the Great Khan is killed in battle, falls victim to disease, or is assassinated. At this point, the Horde and its Satrapies may balkanise into a number of squabbling successor states, or form into a Federation. Either way, that corner of the galaxy is changed forever, and its effects will ripple across the rest of the galaxy.
The Horde is most interesting, in my opinion, for the “after-effects” mentioned. Some galaxies might have a tendency towards “locking in” diplomatic relationships, without much room for movement as all empires in the galaxy increase in strength roughly at the same pace. Defensive pacts discourage attempts at subjugating smaller neighbours, and Pacifist Federations may remain static for a long time, with no incentive to expand.
The Horde shakes all of this up, severing relationships, and dropping something completely different on the other side of the crisis. Other empires may act opportunistically during and after the crisis. This shake-up may have long-lasting effects, potentially turning a peaceful and stable galaxy into a warring mess for decades or centuries hence.
Stellaris Apocalypse introduces some interesting new concepts and, on the whole, does so to the benefit of the game. Despite my disappointment with Titans and Colossi, I’d prefer they were in the game than not, and I am well aware that this may just be the foundation for more to come. The other components of Apocalypse are where I think it actually shines, with more of an effect on the game that they might seem to on first pass. I love the Marauders and the Horde without hesitation.
The scale of the free changes in Stellaris 2.0 and the fact that they almost overshadow Apocalypse is a testament to the business practices of Paradox rather than a failing of Apocalypse.
If you don’t already own all Stellaris DLC and are on-the-fence about which you should purchase, I think Utopia or Synthetic Dawn will give you a greater return than Apocalypse.
Apocalypse does improve gameplay in Stellaris. It opens up new strategies and opportunities for roleplay. And it’s very fun.