Strategy games have been making their way slowly but surely to the console market, but there’s still a gap between what is available on Xbox and what’s out for PC. Paradox Interactive is looking to fill that gap by launching their massive sci fi strategy title, Stellaris, on the Xbox One. Stellaris is not content to be just another one sided strategy game, however, as it seeks to give players control of nearly every aspect of their galactic empire. Your entire experience with Stellaris is dictated the goals you set for yourself and affected by the decisions you make.
Starting with your species, of which Stellaris allows players to choose one of their premade species to begin with (including Humanoids, for those that are less adventurous) or you can make your own with which to create your empire. The fine details are up to you, including your species’ governmental preferences, fanaticisms, and even their ethics. You can choose whether or not they’re okay with the enslavement of other species that they’ll encounter, how often they vote for new leadership, and whether your populations have their needs met with excess or with scarcity.
Your society can not exist on hopes and dreams alone, and it is up to you to locate the resources they need to conquer the stars. This can be done by sending scientists out to scout the various solar systems and determine which planets have things your empire needs like food, minerals, and energy. Once you discover these materials on other planets and asteroids you will need to put your constructive ships to good use by building mining and resource stations. Simultaneously, you’ll want to continue colonizing any habitable planets within your ever expanding reach.
Ultimately, this means you’re going to run into other like minded sentient beings. Some of who may not be willing to succumb to your colonizing ways peacefully, leading to the potential for all out space war. You’ll need to really get in there and micromanage your fleet if you want to be victorious. Stellaris spares no details with the micromanaging, and at first its incredibly overwhelming (even with the tutorial assistance) just to navigate the multitude of tabs.
The mapping of keyboard commands to controllers is often where most strategy titles struggle with the port to console. Stellaris does an impressive job with the controller mapping aspect, but there are some quirks, involved. The analog sticks, for example, are primarily for rotating the camera and moving the cursor. Any menu or tab navigation must be done exclusively with the D-pad, as the sticks do not respond when they are open. This is a surprisingly large chunk of the game, as most of your management occurs within those tabs. There’s a tab/menu for literally every type of interaction imaginable and that leads to the biggest downfall of Stellaris – the learning curve. This is a game that you’re going to have to commit to learning. It would be next to impossible for a newcomer to strategy games to even attempt jumping into this one. Even with strategy experience, Stellaris can be daunting.
Steep learning curve aside, Stellaris is a stunningly beautiful sci fi experience with procedurally generated solar systems and a plethora of potential events, anomalies, and species/government combinations to keep players coming back to fine tune their grand strategies and experience everything the game has to offer. While the console version of the game is a stable port, it does appear to be an older version of the game that is missing some of the quality of life improvements that PC players do currently enjoy.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher