We’re nearing the two year mark for the initial release of Stellaris, but the game is still actively supported by Paradox. We’re looking at its most recent expansion today, called Apocalypse.
I must admit that I hadn’t played Stellaris in a few months before I booted up Apocalypse. I thoroughly enjoyed it when playing it though, so I was hopeful about Apocalypse reigniting my Stellaris spark – especially because the focus of the expansion is on combat and an increase in tactical options.
And… I loved playing Apocalypse, because it felt like a refreshed game again. Unfortunately, that’s not completely to the expansion’s credit – the base game itself also received a massive update that changes the flow of your gameplay sessions quite a bit. Stellaris 2.0 features a larger role for starbases when it comes to your grip on a galactic system, giving them more much military importance.
Balancing your fleet has also become more strategically complex, mainly because you’re more limited in how you can grow your fleet. Positioning your ships thus becomes crucial, which is something I really enjoyed tinkering with as a fan of turn-based RPG titles that work with a similar dynamic. My overall impression is that there’s more thought required of the player than there was back in 2016, which (in a strategy game) is a turn for the better.
But, as I mentioned, you don’t need to buy Apocalypse to enjoy these changes, as the update is free to everyone who owns Stellaris already. Considering the hefty price tag that Apocalypse has (it’s more expensive than Stellaris during a Steam sale), that should make players think twice before paying twice what they paid for Synthetic Dawn. After all, if you want to breathe some fresh air into Stellaris you don’t really need Apocalypse with such a good update to the base game in place.
So with everything that’s new since 2016, which parts come with the Apocalypse expansion? There’s a brand new race called the Marauders, which acts as mercenaries without much in the way of central leadership. You can even have them take out each other – anything for the right price, so to say. There’s a twist that can occur later on in the game though, when individual Marauder groups all join forces and start sweeping through enemies one by one. They are relatively easy to deal with (or buy) earlier on, but this changes the way you have to act dramatically.
Two big military draws in Apocalypse are the Titan ships you have available for your fleet now, and a set of superweapons that can lay waste to (or isolate) entire planets. Intended as Death Star-like game-changers (aside from the mega-weapon that spiritualists use to convert entire planets), they are great fun to work towards. They take a long time to charge, but their effects are great. I realize that Star Wars has ruined me here, but it’s a shame that these weapons aren’t used more within a story context.
Other changes are less obvious and feel more like ‘tweaks’ since they relate to Ascension Perks and Civics. For the warmongering player like myself these are less significant, but perhaps I’ll be using them more in the future. The real draws of Apocalypse are definitely more combat-inclined, but as a set of new content the package currently feels overpriced.