Flieger, grüß' mir die Sonne, grüß' mir die Sterne und grüß' mir den Mond. Dein Leben, das ist ein Schweben, durch die Ferne, die keiner bewohnt! - Hans Albers, F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Adaptation in the 80s: Extrabreit)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Stellaris, what a 4x game!

So there I was, had bought and player Master of Orion (4). After about four weeks, it somehow became boring. Starlanes, in combination with only few planets per system, and ship combat which usually is decided pretty quickly in one or the other direction. Add to that the late-game grind (no autobuild queues), and game sessions started to look very similar.

There is competition, though. I have stalked around Stellaris from Paradox Games for quite a while. And watched those funny game streams on youtube, where those two guys from the company simply did a let´s play with their fun race, the all mighty and friendly Blorg race. Then there was the culminating stream of a 32 person multiplayer session, recorded over four days. The throurough nerdy participants (in particular the two moderators and that guy leading the Loreswarm) just warmed my heart. Why do I not have cool nerdy friends like this in my social environment? Once that session entered the big finale, with mighty fleets clashing with amazing fireworks, I was finally sold and bought Stellaris, one day before it came out on 9 May. Well done advertisement, in the form of fun entertainment, thanks to cKnoor and Wiz!!!

IMO Stellaris is, compared to Master of Orion, what Stars! used to be back in the 90s. Highly complex, a well above average replayability, with a lot of innovations you don´t see in your average mainstream 4x game, and some mechanics to avoid micromanagement. And long, exciting space battles to watch. Those two games almost cannot be compared to each other, they are maybe more like primary school compared to university. And this is not due to Master of Orion being still in "Early Access" mode, but due to entirely different approaches to the respective game mechanics. Master of Orion has a more beautiful presentation, a more personal feeling because of all those NPC portraits and voices in the mix, and the gameflow feels rather easy going. Stellaris, on the other hand, represents possibilities unchained. I quickly realize this when I find myself daydreaming on how and what I would plan to do next, in my next game session. This is the feeling you get when you have a really good game at your hands.

I don´t want to do a review here. Contrary to Master of Orion, Stellaris is way too complex to really give a short comprehensive impression about it. One of the great attractions for me is that you have to choose between different modes of space travel: free from warp travel, starlane-based hyperdrive, or wormhole jumpgates. Each of those have considerable impact on your game strategy. Also, the combination of text-based events, complex resource mechanics (six resources, plus food, morale and military management) give me the feeling of good old day roleplaying myself as the leader of a throrough distinctly characterized species. And even though I am still locked in my first game, I have the very clear impression that there are many games to start which will play out totally different, both in tech, events and the strategies required. This is what I call a very good game design.

A fun moment was already in early game when pirates spawned and threatened all my mining operations in various systems. In my routine gathered from playing Master of Orion, I sent my three-ship military, fully expecting to blow those pesky pirates apart. Man, was I wrong! Those pirates just took my ships apart in no time. This sort of let me "wake up" and approach the game much more cautiously than I ever needed to do with Master of Orion. It took me a severe effort to finally remove the pirate thread and my fledgling empire economy had taken a severe hit by then.

All this considered, I am very happy to see that Paradox Games gets very good reviews and sells pretty well.

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