Stellaris – Synthetic Dawn review (PC)

The Synthetic Dawn expansion for Stellaris adds the option to play the game as a race of robots. How does that change the game, and is it worth the money?

We loved Stellaris when we first saw a demo for it a little over two years ago, and loved it when it came out. It fits well with Paradox’ reputation for quality strategy games, but adds a sci-fi twist to the grand strategy genre with the kind of presentation that even looks good on a big screen. Synthetic Dawn now adds the ability to play through the game as a race of robots – and the prospect of playing as synthetic beings certainly seems to fit well with the game’s concept.

Billed as a story DLC, the expansion doesn’t drastically change the game’s core mechanics. It also doesn’t suddenly give you a story-driven Hollywood sci-fi epic, because that’s not the kind of game Stellaris is. Instead, it gives you a brand new race that allows you to craft your own story – in ways that are different from your previous Stellaris playthroughs.

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Your entire society will now be made up out of synthetics, which makes for some original new gameplay elements. For starters – robots do not need to eat, which gives you different requirements for your settlement. Instead of growing/generating food, you’ll need to have plenty of minerals to construct your robots and then you’ll also need a steady stream of energy to keep powering all of your babies – or the giant assembly line that is your settlement will stop.

Another big difference lies in the fact that your robot personalities (your leadership) will stay with you a lot longer because they don’t age like organic races do. This allows you to build and maintain your relationships with then throughout the course of an entire playthrough. Seeing the leadership of other races fall or be replaced while yours is still going strong grants a kind of continuity to your empire that makes you feel like you’re the oldest and wisest species in the galaxy during the later stages. Or maybe that’s just me being an egomaniac.

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Most of the game still plays out like you’re used to though, although the additions of hive-like and AI benefits are relatively unique to your race of synthetics. Interactions with other civilizations – whether peaceful or hostile – are still a big part of the game though. The community is responding nicely to Synthetic Dawn as well, though some mention the lack of new cities and ships as ‘issues’. I can see that for the ships, but it makes sense to me that robots wouldn’t have to live in cities due to their hive-like minds already connecting them.

If you didn’t buy Stellaris before then Synthetic Dawn won’t magically pull you in, but if you were looking a way to get back in or a different way to play, then this expansion delivers – and does so at a pleasant price point.

Score: 8.0/10

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