Within the course of several days, Paradox has released brand new expansions for both Stellaris and Cities: Skylines. We’ve covered both titles and their previous expansions many times over the past few years, so let’s take a look at what’s new.
Stellaris: Distant Stars
Like the Leviathans and Synthetic Dawn expansions that came earlier, Distant Stars is a story expansion for Stellaris, which itself is now over two years old. As with the previous updates, the content in Distant Stars is interwoven with the core gameplay of Stellaris – a formula that Paradox follows in some of their other franchises as well.
In Distant Stars, the outer reaches of the known galaxy are your focus – exploring what’s beyond and even unlocking a gateway to a constellation (referred to as the L-Cluster) that was locked off eons ago. It’s a scenario of discovery and wonder, so it’s no surprise that the deep space anomalies are back for another round. Discovering, analyzing and studying them will grant you new insights that will aid you on your further travels, and the anomalies that were added for Distant Stars are definitely interesting enough to focus your attention on.
As you venture further into space, you’ll also run into new variations of another familiar aspect of Stellaris: the Leviathans. These enormous enemies pose a serious threat and demand the utmost of your tactical abilities – which sometimes means that you need to stay at a safe distance. While knowledge you pick up elsewhere allows you to encounter these Leviathans, they themselves provide relatively little intrigue as to their backgrounds and motivations.
Distant Stars doesn’t do much to radically change Stellaris’ core gameplay formula, with perhaps the L-Cluster as the one exception because it allows you access (via warpgates) to a section of universe to which you control the access games – making it impossible for other races to travel there using ordinary means.
Cities: Skylines Parklife
I hadn’t dived into the specifics of the Parklife expansion prior to its release, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the original game already had some basic park options in place, so I figured I’d be creating something a bit more like New York’s Central Park with this one. Turns out I was only partly right.
Parklife is essentially an expansion if you want to manage parks of a grander scale than you could in vanilla Skylines. The definition of “parks” is also quite a bit wider than I had anticipated – it can be a nature reserve area that’s located remotely or a zoo that’s built right in the middle of a few residential zones. Alternatively, you can still go for your own version of central park, or go for all the fun and tourism that a theme park can bring to an area.
While the new content in Parklife can be integrated into regular city project, it’s probably a smart idea to design your city around them instead of trying to incorporate them into something that wasn’t designed for it. Adding a theme park on the edge of your city is great fun, but if things take off then you’re looking at a massive influx and thus traffic issues – causing unhappy residents. You’ll face additional issues if you’ve designed your city to be an economic powerhouse as well, as these parks can affect the logistics of your operation as well.
Clearly, Parklife upsets the balance in Cities: Skylines quite a bit, which means the game has once again received an extension of life. If the tourism and recreation aspects in Skylines didn’t interest you too much before then this won’t pull you in either, but if you enjoyed After Dark then this should give you plenty of kicks on a much larger scale. While leisure time in After Dark was mostly happy to co-exist with your existing structures, Parklife provides a challenge that can make a huge different to how your city is run.