From Paradox Development Studios, known for the Crusader Kings, Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis and Victoria series of grand strategy games, comes Stellaris, an evolution of the grand strategy genre with science fiction and space exploration as its core premises. As with all grand strategy games from Paradox, Stellaris features a large number of mechanics and systems, which can feel overwhelming for those new to Paradox games or grand strategy in general. In conjunction with the in-game tutorial, this beginner’s guide serves to help new players on the basic mechanics of the game and provide them with some tips as they venture out into the great unknown.
- 1 Using this guide
- 2 Choosing an empire
- 2.1 Empire creation
- 2.1.1 Species
- 2.1.2 Homeworld
- 2.1.3 Origins
- 2.1.4 Empire
- 126.96.36.199 Ethics
- 188.8.131.52 Authority
- 184.108.40.206 Civics
- 220.127.116.11 Cosmetics
- 2.1.5 Ships
- 2.1 Empire creation
- 3 User interface
- 4 Basic gameplay concepts
- 5 The early game
- 6 Interactions with other empires
- 7 Late game
- 8 Tips
- 9 References
Using this guide
Stellaris contains a lot of content for players to explore and as a result of that, this page contains a lot of information and is therefore rather lengthy, despite its intention of being a beginner's guide.
In order to avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of information found on this page, it is advised for new players to read through this guide step by step as they enter the game. The below schema contains a basic order for how to do so.
Basic plan for entry
When first starting out a game of Stellaris, the player has the option to either pick one of the preset empires to start with, make one of their own, or use the 'random' button to create a completely randomized empire. For beginners, it is recommended to avoid using the 'random' button as its unpredictability can make the game harder to play. That leaves us with two options: preset empires and a self-made one.
- If you decide to pick one of the preset empires, you may choose one and create a new game. Brand new players may want to avoid choosing overtly aggressive empires, as provoking an early game war can be overwhelming.
- If you decide to create a self-made empire or want to gain some general information into how the empire structure works, proceed to Section 2.1 (Empire creation) of this article and read through all of its subsections until you get to the header "User interface". Once you reach that, return here.
Once in-game, keep the game paused and invest some time into exploring the user interface; what the different buttons do and where they lead. Section 3 (User interface) of this article can provide some basic information about the UI but for an optimal experience, it is recommended that the player themselves figure out how the UI works and how to use it.
If one wants to create a safe environment for figuring out the most basic game functions before taking to the stars for real, it is possible to do so by creating a galaxy and removing all AI empires, Fallen Empires, Primitive Civilizations, Marauder Empires, Gateways and disabling Endgame Crises by setting all the appropriate sliders to zero in the game settings when starting a new game. This creates a reasonably safe play environment for a beginner player to use in figuring out the basics of how an empire works, how colonization and expansion works and how certain technologies work before moving on to actual gameplay. This is purely optional, but beginners can certainly benefit from having a safer learning environment. Sections 4 (Basic gameplay concepts) and 5 (The early game) contain useful information regarding an empire's internal functions and colonization/expansion in the early stages of the game.
Once the aspiring player has figured out how their empire functions internally and are ready to start taking on other empires, the aforementioned sliders can be slowly raised to allow AI Empires, Fallen Empires and other entities to spawn in controlled amounts. This can allow a new player to gradually begin to learn the basics of warfare (both offensive and defensive) and expanding and interacting with other empires through non-peaceful means. Sections 4.4 (Extermination) and 5.5 (Maintaining a strong military) contain helpful information regarding fleet construction, composition etc.
Given the amount of control the "safe environment" mentioned above provides over the map setup when starting a new game, is highly recommended for aspiring players. They can use these settings to tailor their starting setup to their liking, and to experiment their way forward when learning how to play: find out what works and what doesn't work, and try to have the most amount of fun while doing so as you learn how the game works, deepen your knowledge, and sharpen your skills.
Aside from the information provided by this guide article, it is highly recommended for beginners to also explore the rest of the Stellaris Wiki and all of its articles, according to their needs, as they explore Stellaris itself. The knowledge contained within the articles will be far more detailed and comprehensive than the basics provided here.
Choosing an empire
- Note: Nothing about an empire is permanent and everything can eventually be changed, except the following: empire flag, city and ship appearance, and origin.
Before the game begins, players are instructed to select or create an empire to play as. By default, a small list of preset empires is available, each of which represents a common (real-life or science fiction) stereotype that players can also encounter in-game. The characteristics of preset empires indicate their preferred strategies such as peaceful expansion, technological superiority, and endless conquest to name a few.
Finally, the random button will create a completely random empire for the player. The player will not be able to change any of the random empire's settings before the start of the game. This is not recommended for new players, as odd combinations of traits, civics, and ethics can often occur.
Creating a new empire involves selecting all of the component characteristics of an empire by hand, resulting in a fully-fledged custom civilization that can be saved and played alongside the existing preset empires. Players are recommended to create a few empires of their own to get familiar with how each major part of an empire – traits, ethics, homeworld, government, civics, and starting tech – affects their gameplay. For example, xenophilic empires will always be more inclined towards constructive diplomacy and trade relative to other ethics, while the combination of Militarist and Xenophobe generally implies some degree of inevitable confrontation with other empires.
The following section will skim through each section of the empire creation process. Species Traits, Government & Ethics, and Ships are the three sections that will impact gameplay the most and should be the sections the player puts the most time into consideration. In all sections below, players are free to mix and match categories of names, cities, and other cosmetic effects that do not match their species classification – in other words, players are free to create a humanoid race with humanoid names who utilize humanoid architecture and pilot humanoid/mammalian ships or they can just as freely mix things up and create a reptilian race with mammalian names who adopt avian architecture and pilot fungoid ships.
- Main article: Species
Species appearance is the visual depiction of the empire's main species and has little to no effect on gameplay, aside from some of the DLC. Species name, plural, and adjective form for the empire species to be referred to by the in-game text. The game can suggest adjectives for the species once the singular form of its name has been entered. Optionally, a space for custom biography is available for flavor.
The name list determines the default ship name prefix and random names for Ships, Leaders, Fleets and Colonies. Each of them can be freely renamed in-game.
Traits are passive effects that can change the behavior of your Populations, Leaders, and Armies. Each species has 2 points to spend on traits. Choosing a positive trait costs trait points while choosing a negative trait provide additional trait points, allowing more positive traits to be picked. No more than five traits may be selected, and you cannot select traits that cancel each other out or have the same effect of different degrees. (e.g., can only choose up to one between Enduring, Venerable, and Fleeting)
You can pick the traits by their sheer power, but remember that you can always pick based on the role-play needs, since species traits doesn't affect that much to the game and bad choices here don't result in the game being unplayable.
There are traits that increases the production yield of valuable resources, such as Industrious and Intelligent. Note that not all resources have the same value, such as Food being one of the least used resources and have little use aside from maintaining organic populations and constructing colony ships.
Adaptive, like the other resource-based traits, is strong because it makes your species operate more efficiently on other worlds—requiring fewer resources in upkeep while producing more at their jobs. It also broadens the available planets your species will tolerate colonizing. However, the trait is moot if a planet is at 100% habitability already, such as your homeworld or a Gaian world. It may also be redundant if your empire relies heavily on robot populations (who don't have habitability concerns).
If you are looking for a negative trait, Unruly is heavily recommended as you get 2 points at the expense of a negligible increase in empire sprawl. Alternatively, Deviants is also a viable choice, because there are many sources to increase your Governing Ethics Attraction to counter its effects.
Wasteful is also worth considering unless you are going to use the Utopian Abundance living standard as an Egalitarian empire, since consumer goods, like Food, have little use beyond population upkeep and constructing colony ships, so it's not terribly costly to pay +10% more for an additional trait point.
Strong is not a good choice because the performance of Offensive Armies is heavily dependent on the base stats of the army type and their number. There is also a vast source of Army Damage improvements, diluting the influence of Strong. When it comes to Defensive Armies, they can, however, be destroyed by Orbital Bombardments before the enemy armies invade the planet, making Strong moot in defensive needs. This leaves the +2.5% worker resource output, which is a tiny amount, even at one trait point. The Resilient trait suffers from the same fate as Strong, and is not recommended.
Fleeting is unrecommended because it reduces the leader lifespan. Leaders start from 28 to 50 years old and have a base lifespan of 80 years old, which turns out to be around 30-52 guaranteed years in service. With the Fleeting trait, this can be reduced to 20-42 years, which causes you to frequently lose your experienced leaders and it becomes more difficult to cultivate highly skilled leaders through time.
While Nonadaptive provides +2 trait points and may look tempting, be warned: a -10% habitability causes the Food, consumer goods, and amenities usage to be increased by the same percentage and Resource Output and Pop Growth Speed to be decreased by half of the percentage on all of your planets (aside from your homeworld). Put simply, even planets within your species' preferred class become quite difficult to turn happy and productive if they are Nonadaptive. Like its Adaptive opposite, this penalty can be mitigated somewhat by using robot populations extensively on other planets.
You can customize the name, appearance, and ruler title of your first empire ruler. Different ruler and heir titles based on leader gender can be set. The ruler title can be changed in-game anytime by clicking the empire's name on the government window. A fallback ruler title can be suggested if you have picked a valid combination of Authorities and Civics. This configuration is purely cosmetic.
|Available only with the Synthetic Dawn DLC enabled.|
Machine species is the only option to Machine Intelligence empires and cannot use other Authorities. They have a different set of Traits, but fewer trait points and trait picks than biological species.
|Available only with the Lithoids DLC enabled.|
Lithoid species do not use Food, instead they eat Minerals. They have increased leader life span and habitability, but in return decreases pop growth speed and their leaders start older than usual (around 50-80 years old).
Their exclusive traits, namely Gaseous Byproducts, Scintillating Skin and Volatile Excretions, are however not so viable to spend your trait points. Comparing to the high upkeep cost consumption of Strategic Resources for advanced buildings, what these traits provide is miniscule. A medium-sized empire in the mid game may produce only 2-4 of these resources through these traits when dozens are required by your empire.
The name of your Homeworld and Home System is, obviously, purely cosmetic, so you can name them as you wish. Alternatively, you can roll a random name, which is drawn from your namelist.
The starting solar system decides how your starting system will look like, but not its position in the galaxy. You can choose Unary systems with only one star, Binary systems with two stars, or Trinary systems with three stars. This is purely cosmetic and has little to no influence on gameplay. Alternatively, you can choose Sol or Deneb as your starting system, where each planet will be named and Earth will also have a background story that can be read by inspecting the Planetary features.
The homeworld planet class can be selected from 9 normal habitable planet classes. While they are almost identical, this determines the base habitability of your main species to other planets. Habitable planets found in the galaxy have a 80% Base Habitability to your main species if it was exactly the same class as your homeworld, or 60% Base Habitability if it was the same climate (frozen, wet, or dry), or 20% Base Habitability if it was of a wrong climate.
For example, if your homeworld is Continental, your main species will have 80% Base Habitability to Continental planets found in the galaxy, 60% to Tropical and Ocean, and 20% to the rest. Your main species will receive a +30% Habitability on your homeworld, so you will always have 100% Habitability on your homeworld, even if Nonadaptive.
Since the 9 classes all have an equal distribution rate in the galaxy, this selection is nearly pure cosmetic and can be picked by role-play needs.
Some origins lock the choice of starting solar system and/or homeworld class.
City Appearance is purely cosmetic and you can choose the one that looks the best to you.
Origins determine the circumstances behind your empire's rise to power, and affect certain conditions or events in the home system. Most simply alter the state of the home world and distribution of pops, but some even start with a pre-existing diplomatic arrangement with other empires. The default origin is Prosperous Unification, and gives the empire's homeworld a decent bonus and is simple enough to be recommended for new players learning the game.
Government & Ethics: This page determines the empire's starting ethics set, government type, and civics, all of which impact gameplay immensely. Ethics determine the basic attitudes of the central government, which then determines the available types of authority. Authority determines the duration which a ruler (NPC leader) is permitted to lead the empire, and how the empire decides on a new ruler once they depart. Civics are the personal touches that differentiate otherwise similar empires, and the available choices are determined by the empire's ethics and authority.
Ethics (also called ethos) are split into four dichotomy axes of thought and provide some bonuses or unlocking otherwise restricted options while also imposing new restrictions elsewhere. Each moderate ethic costs 1 ethic point and it also has a fanatic variant that costs 2 ethic points with doubled bonuses and usually harsher restrictions. An empire must spend all 3 of its ethic points, meaning that an empire must have either three moderate ethics, or a fanatic ethic plus a moderate ethic. They affect both how the empire functions internally and also influence the diplomacy with AI empires in many cases as well. Empires with matching ethics are far more likely to succeed in mutual cooperation from initial contact (vis-a-vis Humans and Vulcans in Star Trek).
While the player may choose the ethics by their sheer power, it's also fine to choose entirely by role-play needs or the player's personal tastes.
Egalitarian vs Authoritarian
- They have increased Specialist output, meaning that they gain more Research from Researchers, more Unity from Culture Workers, and more Alloys from Metallurgists, which drastically impacts the manufacturing economy.
- They also gain more influence from satisfied factions, which is a primary source of influence in the game.
- They can access the Utopian Abundance living standard, which provides an equal amount of consumer goods among all populations regardless of their social strata, drastically increasing consumer goods upkeep for an empire-wide Happiness increase. Political Power is shared equally among all strata under this standard, which has the effect of Worker and Specialist happiness greatly contributing to a planet's overall Stability, as they vastly outnumber the Ruler strata.
- However, they cannot use Autocratic authorities. If they were Fanatic Egalitarian, they cannot even use Oligarchic, therefore leaving Democratic the only option.
- If one wants to build upon these bonuses, then a Fanatic Egalitarian empire with the Parliamentary System and Meritocracy civics will be capable of generating an impressive +20% Specialist job output and +75% Influence from factions.
- They have increased Worker output, meaning that they gain more Minerals from Miners, more Energy from Technicians, and more Food from Farmers, which are all fundamental resources to sustain an empire.
- They also gain a flat number of extra influence, which means they don't need to care about pleasing factions as much as other empires do.
- Like Xenophobe empires, they can also Enslave alien species (increasing resource output and decreasing their consumption of consumer goods and Amenities at the expense of reduced Happiness compared to an ordinary Worker). However, Xenophile Authoritarians cannot enslave aliens.
- They can access the Stratified Economy living standard, which greatly reduces the consumer goods consumption of Workers and Slaves (zero consumption in the case of slaves), and also decreases their Happiness while making the Ruler class happier. Political Power is also stripped from Workers and more is placed in Rulers, meaning happy rulers contribute more to a planet's Stability than workers, even if the workers are very unhappy.
- Similar to Egalitarian, they also have restrictions to their empire authority. They cannot ever use Democratic authority. If they were Fanatic Authoritarian, they cannot even use Oligarchic, leaving the Autocratic authorities the only options.
- Authoritarian empires that liberally enslave pops can benefit from many traits that increase Worker and Slave resource output, such as Industrious, Ingenious, Agrarian, and Strong or Very Strong. Civic choices that build on Authoritarian bonuses to Workers include Mining Guilds and Slaver Guilds.
Xenophobe vs Xenophile
- They can, like Authoritarians, Enslave alien species, reducing their Happiness in exchange for a lowered consumer goods consumption, amenities and Housing usage, which are all needed to sustain your populations, while Slaves also have a bonus in various resource output.
- They can also Purge (genocide) unwanted aliens for a wider living space for their main species, which in turn displeases other empires and inflicts diplomatic penalties.
- They also enjoy a faster population growth speed and lowered influence cost in empire expansion by building outposts.
- Xenophobic empires have reduced starting Opinion with other empires, which could lead to strained relations or outright hostility upon first contact with other empires.
- Their restrictions are they can never give aliens Full Citizenship, nor can alien species ever be allowed in as refugees.
- Xenophobic empires start with Closed Borders to other empires by default, though this can be changed at the start of the game.
- Each empire has 1 Envoy to be assigned to diplomatic tasks, to improve / harm relations with other empires, to increase Federation cohesion, or to increase their Diplomatic Weight within the Galactic community. The number of Envoys is limited, and Xenophile empires have 1 additional Envoy, or 2 if they were Fanatic Xenophile, which drastically improves their diplomatic performance. Furthermore, a Fanatic Xenophile empire with the Diplomatic Corps civic will have access to an impressive 5 envoys on game start, allowing them to exert significant diplomatic influence, whether in the galactic community, in a federation, or within regular diplomacy.
- Xenophile empires also enjoy an improved starting Opinion with other empires, which can lead to improved diplomatic options with alien empires.
- They also have increased Trade Value which is a major source of Energy within an empire and can also be utilized to generate Energy credits or to provide consumer goods to help sustaining populations, or Unity to help speeding up the adoption of Traditions.
- Their restrictions are they cannot displace or purge aliens, nor can they outright reject alien refugees (though they can be limited to only species with full citizenship).
Militarist vs Pacifist
Militarist empires believe that the use of force is to eliminate all those that the empire cannot co-exist with and true peace can only be achieved through the destruction and neutralization of threats and potential threats.
- They have increased Ship Fire Rate, which drastically increases the power of their military fleets, improving their performance in space battles. If combined with Distinguished Admiralty, a Fanatic Militarist empire will have a total of +30% ship fire rate, giving their military fleets a lot more firepower.
- Militarist empires are allowed the No Retreat War Doctrine, which allows for even greater ship fire rate, but at the cost of ships being unable to withdraw on their own, and emergency retreats taking much longer to charge.
- They also have decreased claim influence cost, meaning that it costs less for Militarist empires to claim systems that belong to other empires and start a conquest war to conquer them. Combined with the Nationalistic Zeal civic, it can often cost less influence to lay claim to neighboring systems than to build your own outposts.
- The restriction is, using Defensive Only War Philosophy displeases Militarist factions.
Pacifist empires believe that the use of force is to eliminate war itself, keeping invaders from attempts at aggression, and true peace can only be achieved in mutually respecting and peaceful co-existence.
- Planetary Stability impacts the overall planetary resource production and is affected primarily by Happiness. There are few sources to directly increase Stability itself, with the Pacifist ethic being one of them.
- They also have reduced Empire Sprawl from Pops. Having your Empire Sprawl exceed your Administrative Capacity imposes a scaling penalty to the cost of Technologies and Traditions, so reducing Empire Sprawl can allow an empire to stay under the limit and avoid penalties.
- However, they cannot use the Unrestricted Wars War Philosophy, meaning that they cannot start wars as freely as other empires can.
Materialist vs Spiritualist
Materialist empires trust science over belief and view the universe as a field of material objects with material value. They believe that reason and knowledge are cornerstones of progress, while dogmas and superstitions are shackles on civilization. The more fanatic materialists believe that only the physical world exists, and even non-physical entities such as minds and thought can be reduced to physical processes.
- They have increased Research Speed, which means they obtain technologies faster than other empires and usually comes to a technological advantage.
- They also have decreased Robots upkeep, which means they need fewer Energy to sustain Robotic populations. They are also more likely to draw Robot technologies.
- Materialist empires can access the Academic Privilege living standard, which is similar to Authoritarian's Stratified Economy. Academic Privilege increases the consumer goods upkeep of Specialists and also drastically increases the resource output of Researchers as well as increasing Ruler and Specialist happiness. Specialists enjoy a very large increase to their Political Power, while Rulers enjoy a smaller increase. This has the effect of Specialists' happiness contributing the most to a planet's Stability, due to their large numbers compared to Ruler strata.
- The restriction is, they cannot use Outlawed AI policy and Robotic Worker policy. They are also blocked from accessing the Psionics technologies through usual means.
Spiritualist empires trust belief over science and believe that consciousness brings reality into existence, that is, reality cannot exist without minds to perceive it. They view the universe as a dream we all happen to share and that minds exist beyond the physical world. They believe that unity and faith are keys to ascension. They are suspicious and dismissive of robots and artificial intelligence, treating them as no more than blocks of hard matter that cannot be "taught" true consciousness.
- They have increased Unity output, this translates into a faster progress of Traditions and eventually Ascension Perks.
- They also have a lowered cost for Edicts, which is a method of investing various resources to give empire-wide bonuses.
- Spiritualist empires have better odds in drawing the Psionics technologies for research.
- Spiritualists have access to the Temple building line, a replacement to the Autochthon Monument building line. Temple buildings increase Spiritualist ethics attraction, and their Priest jobs produce a large amount of Amenities as well as Unity and Society research.
- The restriction is, they cannot use Full Rights AI policy and utilizing Robotic Workers can enrage their factions.
|Available only with the Utopia DLC or the Synthetic Dawn DLC enabled.|
Gestalt Consciousness empires are not empires in the traditional sense; they are more like a single organism with a single intelligence comprised of the whole population. It is the essence of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
- It is a special ethic lying in the center and costs all 3 ethics points. Through its unique civics, it has elements of all 4 axes.
- Its playstyle is completely different from standard empires and is not recommended for beginners. While they don't have Happiness or Factions to manage, this in turn limits their sources of Influence and Stability. Thus they have naturally higher Deviancy than normal empires. This is because their Maintenance Drone jobs are far less efficient than Entertainers from normal empires at producing Amenities, and their Deviancy fighting buildings do not have upgrades. Because of these extra management hurdles, Gestalt Consciousness empires are not recommended for inexperienced players.
Authority is the archetype of government that the empire exercises and defines how power is concentrated within the empire. Its primary purpose is to determine how often the leadership changes, i.e. how often a player can take advantage of a powerful ruler or must cope with a weak one.
There are 4 regular Authorities available and each comes to a different way to elect the next empire ruler. They have near to no difference in power level.
- Democratic governments hold elections every 10 years with a large candidate pool to decide on a new leader. While you cannot decide how the people vote, you can invest some Influence to support a candidate and increase their winning odds. Each ruler has a Mandate that's a quest to be done, and if it was fulfilled, the empire receives a number of Unity, which boosts their adoption of Traditions. Rulers elected out from their seat return to their previous position.
- Oligarchic governments hold elections every 20 years with a restricted candidate pool but have the option to hold emergency elections at will at any time for 250 Influence. You can also invest some Influence to choose a candidate. Each ruler has an Agenda that's a static empire-wide bonus. The empire can switch to a different Agenda by re-electing the ruler. Rulers elected out from their seat return to their previous position.
- Dictatorial governments hold elections with a restricted candidate pool only upon the ruler's death. You can also invest some Influence to choose a candidate. Each ruler has an Agenda but cannot be freely switched, because they cannot start an emergency election.
- Imperial governments don't hold elections, instead they have hereditary rulers and the next ruler is a designated heir. Each ruler has an Agenda but cannot be switched, and because of the nature of hereditary, the next ruler cannot be elected based on their Agenda.
Note that having your empire ruler being the leader of a Faction drastically increases the empire-wide ethic attraction of the faction's ethic, which may be undesirable if it was an opposite ethic of your governing ethic.
|Available only with the Utopia DLC enabled.|
Hive Mind is a special authority that requires Gestalt Consciousness ethic. They have an immortal ruler which represents their central consciousness and will never hold elections. They cannot access Robots or Psionics but have drastically faster Pop Growth Speed. While not mentioned in the game, their Leaders are also younger than usual, which amounts to more years in service compared to other empires. They have a unique set of Civics that do not share with other Authorities.
|Available only with the Synthetic Dawn DLC enabled.|
Machine Intelligence is a special authority that requires Gestalt Consciousness ethic and must be played with a Robotic species. Like Hive Minds, they also have an immortal ruler which represents their central consciousness. Their leaders are also immortal because of the nature of Robots, but they also use more Energy to recruit new leaders. They have a unique set of Civics that do not share with other Authorities.
|Available only with the MegaCorp DLC enabled.|
Corporate is an authority that's almost identical to Oligarchic. They are focused on Trade Value and can access Branch Offices, which are established on other empire's planets for mutually beneficial effects. They also have a unique set of Civics.
Civics are the principles and ideas the empire's government was founded on, and provide bonuses that permit players to tailor their empires toward a preferred strategy. Possibilities range from general bonuses such as Idealistic Foundation for additional happiness, to specific bonuses such as Slaver Guilds, which increases the productivity of enslaved pops, to playstyle-altering ones like Inward Perfection and Agrarian Idyll which drastically change how the empire functions as a whole.
Like Ethics, Civics can be picked by their sheer power or purely by the role-play needs or personal tastes, while Civics with "Cannot do something" or "Cannot be added or removed after game start" entries usually result in a restrictive or advanced playstyle. It is recommended to pick Civics with easy-to-understand bonuses while learning how the various systems of the game work.
Mining Guilds is simple and doesn't have any requirements. It gives a decent bonus to the Minerals production, which is required for Districts, Buildings, and manufactured resources such as Alloys and consumer goods.
Technocracy is almost a must-have civic to Fanatic Materialist empires because it provides a needed bonus to Unity production as well as even more research through Science Director jobs. Ordinarily, employing many Researchers would cause Unity production to lag behind. However, with the raw bonuses of Fanatic Materialist, and the Unity provided by Technocracy, your empire can quickly research technologies while still keeping up in Traditions.
The empire's name and adjective used by the in-game text. If the player's species name and government type have been decided on, the game will suggest names with those factors in mind.
Empire flags consist of a primary color, a secondary color, background design, and sigil. While all are purely cosmetic, the primary color also determines the color of the empire's territory in the Galaxy view, as well as model decorations such as engine trails.
- Main article: Ships
Ship Appearance: The appearance of ships are again cosmetic and serves to finish the look of the empire. Some of the lighting effects on the ships are determined by the empire's primary color in the Flag section.
Ship design is handled in game, and as a general rule, specializing in only one type of ship weaponry is not particularly recommended. Diversifying the fleet's weaponry and defenses will allow it to effectively combat different builds of ships. Additional weapon types and upgrades are available for research and should be fully unlocked by the mid-game at the latest.
Stellaris' interface, also called graphical user interface (GUI or simply UI), serves to inform the player of all of the game's happenings and events. This section will briefly describe the interface and the more critical components of it.
The UI of Stellaris is similar to previous PDS games: mainly menus and sub-menus containing any relevant information and actions pertaining to the objects the player selects. Navigating such an interface can appear daunting at first, but all the information is organized logically and players will become intimately familiar with the UI after a few minutes of play. It is strongly recommended that the player uses the in-game tutorials to fully familiarize themselves with the UI, although this section will serve as a brief overview for those seeking a quicker briefing. Like other PDS games, nearly everything in Stellaris has a tooltip with it - if something is unclear for the player, hovering over the button (or icon, statistic, etc.) will explain in detail what it is, what it does, and why it is like that.
In the top left corner of the screen is the empire's emblem; clicking on it will take the player to the Government screen, from which they can view how the empire is doing economically and culturally, as well as reform its government entirely. Below it is a menu that shows contacts, your empire's situation log, the market, sectors, the expansion planner, and more. You can lock or unlock the menu at the bottom of it using the lock symbol. The default setting is that it is unlocked.
Also on the top of the screen are the player's currently available resources, as well as how much of a resource the player gains or loses each month. These resources are, from left to right, Energy Credits, Minerals, Food, consumer goods, Alloys, Influence, and Unity. Beside them are the three types of research: Physics, Society and Engineering. Since research is not a banked resource, it suffices to show only the amount of research gained each month in each field. Further along are the empire's strategic resources, administrative capacity, envoys, pops, starbase capacity, and naval capacity, and all but strategic resources and pops of which are displayed as amount used over maximum. You can go over the maximum, but your empire will incur penalties. Strategic resources are displayed as total amount plus total gain, and if it turns red even though it still shows gain it means at least one of the strategic resources are in the negative.
In the top right corner is the game clock, displayed as a date starting with January 1, 2200. The game begins with time paused, and the player may press the Spacebar (by default) or click the pause button to start or stop advancing time. The game has five unpaused speeds - Slowest, Slow, Normal, Fast, and Fastest - which can be switched between using the plus and minus buttons off to the side or by pressing the plus (+) and minus (-) keys. The clock's pause button should not be confused with the pause button for the music player, which lies just below.
Along the bottom of the upper bar, notifications will appear alerting the player to different events occurring across the galaxy. Most will disappear over time, but the player can also right-click on these notifications to dismiss them manually.
To the right of the screen is the Outliner, through which the player can interact with almost all of the empire's major assets. "Sectors" shows the sectors in your empire. After clicking open the sectors tab it opens the names of each of the sectors in your empire. Clicking open those sectors will show the planets in the sector. "Shipyards" shows a list of Starbases that contain shipyard modules. "Starbases" contains a list of all stations that have been upgraded to a minimum of Starbase, as well as a descriptor of its type (Trade Hub, Anchorage, Bastion, etc.) based on the modules built in it, and a firepower rating. "Military Fleets" shows the number of ships in each fleet as well as the fleet's estimated power level. "Civilian Ships" lists all of the empire's science, construction, and colony vessels. Finally, "Factions" displays the empire's factions, their happiness scores, and the number of pops affiliated with them. Left-clicking on any of these items will either select it or bring up a menu to interact with it.
Along the bottom left lies the system name and a button to zoom out to the galaxy map if you are in a system, and a number of buttons used outside of the main gameplay loop, such as system settings, help, and chat for multiplayer games.
Basic gameplay concepts
Being a hybrid of the 4X and grand strategy genres, Stellaris' gameplay revolves around the classic 4X concepts (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) while also providing deeper diplomacy and governance options. This section will serve as a primer for players new to these concepts and acquaint seasoned strategy game players with Stellaris' mechanics.
- Main article: Exploration
Space is vast and mysterious, and it is only natural to want to explore it and discover its secrets. In Stellaris, players use science ships to accomplish this, and all players begin with one staffed by a scientist. Although players can see the number of planets in any system they've uncovered as well as potentially habitable ones, it is the job of the science ship to survey celestial bodies, identify exploitable resources and enable colonization, as well as to analyze any anomalies found during their surveys.
The player's home system starts off completely surveyed, and as such, one should task their science vessels with surveying nearby star systems. Players should also consider making a second science ship as soon as they have the resources for it, and seek to maintain as many science ships as necessary to complete the player's goals. Additionally, science ships can be used to perform Assist Research on a planet in your empire. This enables the ship to give a boost to the research output of the planet, depending on the scientist's rank.
During their surveys, science ships have a chance of encountering an anomaly. Anomalies often trigger interesting events when analyzed. The time it takes to analyze an anomaly depends on the relative rank/level of the scientist compared to the anomaly's level, with it being 120 days when they're the same, down to just 20 days if the scientist is 9 levels above and up to 16 years if 9 levels below. Since anomalies do not disappear until they have been analyzed, leaving a high-level anomaly alone until the scientist has gained enough levels is a perfectly fine strategy, as leveling up a scientist and then analyzing a high-level anomaly generally takes less time than analyzing it just after discovering it. Logistics involving anomalies can be fiddly at times; they are not analyzed automatically, although a ship already surveying a system can investigate an anomaly it just found and then continue with its survey without the need for extra input. Some anomalies also spawn special projects that require a scientist's presence, sometimes of a certain level. Science ships do not do these projects on their own, and should players wish to undertake these projects, they should do so before the ship leaves the system, or assign another science ship to follow up.
For players who enjoy exploring the galaxy and conducting research, To Boldly Go in the Discovery traditions tree is an excellent early game choice for discovering and successfully analyzing anomalies.
As the player explores the galaxy, they will almost certainly uncover systems that are either rich in resources that unfortunately lie outside of their empire's borders or contain a habitable planet that the empire can colonize. Empires can neither extract resources from systems they do not control nor can they colonize planets in them, and therefore have to expand their territory and lay claim to said star systems in order to be able to extract resources or colonize planets in them. This is done by constructing a Starbase in the system.
Starbases are built with construction ships in orbit of the star of an unclaimed system. There are two main variants of a Starbase, an Outpost and an actual Starbase. An Outpost, described below, does not count toward your faction's Starbase Limit and serves no real function aside from designating system ownership. A normal Starbase on the other hand, which is created by upgrading the Outpost, does count toward your Starbase limit but it can, in exchange, house a multitude of different Buildings and Modules that serve various different purposes. Starbases have a base cost of 100 Alloys (150 for Machine Intelligence empires) and at least 75 influence to build (base influence cost increases the further the star system is from the closest owned system, while certain Ethics, Traditions, and Technologies can decrease it, however, the cost cannot be more than 1000 influence). Once built, the outpost requires 1 energy per month to maintain. This upkeep cost means that players should refrain from constructing large numbers of Starbases unless they can afford it, lest they risk running into energy shortages. The starting influence income for default empires normally allows for the placement of one or two outposts without encountering resource issues.
Outposts work best when they can "capture" systems with abundant resources or colonizable planets. Research deposits are also especially appealing locations. Players are likely to find at least one mineral-rich system lying outside of their borders, an excellent location for a first outpost.
For players who enjoy the prospect of colonizing multiple worlds over the course of the game, traditions from the Expansion tree will prove useful. The tree contains traditions to ease the economic and time burdens incurred by colonization and construction of frontier outposts. Notably, Reach for the Stars and Galactic Ambition both decrease the influence costs incurred by distant colonies and outposts, and decrease monthly maintenance costs. The Prosperity tree on the other hand can be helpful for economy management as it contains traditions that reduce the construction and upkeep costs for ships, starbases, buildings and robots.
- Main article: Colonization
Colonizing a planet takes quite a bit of resources to do and all subsequent development even more so. Each planet in the galaxy has a specific climate determining the habitability of an empire's species and a size value anywhere between 10 and 25 which, along with planetary features, dictates the maximum number of districts it can support. Planets can also occasionally have modifiers on them that can affect the colonists and their productivity.
To colonize a planet, empires must first construct a colony ship at a Starbase that has a Shipyard. Depending on the empire's government type Colony ships will have a differing build cost and typically take a year to build. Once built, the colony ship then needs to fly to a habitable planet in a star system with (at least) an outpost, land, and then take another year establishing a foothold on the planet.
Colonization is expensive on multiple fronts and thus players should plan ahead on when and where to expand their empire. After habitability and availability, planets with a size of at least 16 are typically good colony candidates, although strategic considerations should also be taken into account -- e.g. resource richness, proximity to other empires and what planetary features the planet has. Since starbases can be built up to serve as powerful defensive emplacements in the early game, warmongering players could build an outpost near a potential enemy's borders, set up a colony, build up the system's starbase and then use said starbase and the colony as a forward base for their operations.
Although on average only a third of the available planets will have high enough habitability as to not suffer large penalties in amenity and housing usage (least 60-70% habitability for the empire's main species), to maintain game-balance all empires in the galaxy start the game with a number of habitable planets near their borders. While this ensures that no empire gets doomed out of the gate with their spawn location, if multiple empires with similar homeworlds happen to spawn in the same cluster as each other, losing the opening "land grab" can severely hamper an empire's midgame performance (and conversely, stealing another empire's starting habitable worlds will make them much weaker). Scouting early and building the first outpost in a timely manner will usually suffice to keep players from losing out too much in this respect (unless, of course, they plan to take planets by force).
- Main article: Economy
Resources in Stellaris come in three different categories:
Basic resources are global assets shared throughout the empire and can be viewed at the top of the screen at any time. With the exception of research, all resources have an upper limit on how much the empire can have stockpiled of that resource at a time. The amount of resource will be displayed in yellow if it is at capacity, and any further gains to that resource are usually forfeit until the level comes down. A resource will be displayed in red if there is a deficit. There are numerous resources in the game, below are the more common:
- Energy credits are the currency of choice in the galaxy and are used to recruit Leaders, operate buildings, maintain ships, establish colonies, clear out tile blockers, negotiate deals and more. Energy production can be increased by constructing Generator Districts on planets and setting up mining stations in space.
- Minerals are used primarily to build things - Armies, Buildings, Districts, mining and research stations, and a lot of other things that the empire needs to grow and prosper are paid for in minerals. The empire can also use them as bargaining chips in trade deals and to maintain standards of living for its pops. Minerals can be obtained by building Mining Districts and Mining stations.
- Food is used to feed populations and maintain population growth across the empire. Food surpluses can be used to accelerate population growth, while an exhausted food bank will cause shortage and starvation, resulting in extremely harmful effects to the empire's populace overall. Food can be produced in Agriculture Districts, grown in hydroponic farms, and to a limited degree, made on Starbases by installing a Hydroponics Bay building on the starbase.
- Consumer goods is an advanced resource that represents the various gadgets, luxuries, and goods necessary to give your pops a good life and to perform intellectual jobs such as research. Consumer goods are used to maintain the living standards of a population, generate amenities and perform complex jobs like research. Only non- Gestalt consciousness (except Rogue Servitor) empires have access to consumer goods. Consumer goods are made by special Consumer Goods Buildings which convert minerals into consumer goods. Ecumenopolis planets have access to Industrial Arcology districts which allows them to mass-produce consumer goods in huge quantities.
- Alloys are advanced resources with a military application, which an empire needs to construct Ships and Starbases. Alloys are used for constructing Starbases, Spacefaring Ships, Robot pops, and various Megastructures, and is constantly drained as an upkeep cost of ships and certain jobs. Since they are essential for an empire to survive and expand in space, keep a large stockpile and steady production is strongly advised. Alloys are manufactured by special Alloy Buildings that convert Minerals into Alloys. Ecumenopolis planets have access to Foundry Arcology districts which allows them to mass-produce Alloys in huge quantities. Alloys can also occasionally be found in deep space in limited quantities and extracted by a Mining Station.
- Influence is a currency representing the political power of the central government, and in its most basic sense is used to get the empire's citizens to do things. Building outposts, endorsing political candidates in elections, enacting edicts and decisions, various diplomatic actions and reforming the empire's government are all done with influence. Influence gain per month can be increased by declaring rivalries, researching Technologies, acquiring certain Traditions and establishing Protectorates, among others, while block amounts of influence can be acquired by finishing events, investigating anomalies, achieving particular war goals, and fulfilling mandates of democratic leaders.
- Unity represents the cultural progress of the empire as a whole, and is spent on acquiring empire Traditions. Unity is generated at a flat rate with capital buildings and monuments, but production can also be scaled with certain ethics, civics, and unique buildings. When unity reaches capacity, the empire gets to select a tradition to adopt, with the unity requirement going up for each subsequent tradition. With the Utopia DLC, this eventually leads to the empire acquiring Ascension Perks that ultimately define its endgame goals and potential ultimate fate (if going down one of the three ascension paths).
- The three branches of research - Physics, Society, and Engineering - are each separate resources that are used to research technology for the empire. Raw science output can be increased by constructing science labs and research stations, and sometimes blocks of research can be earned as rewards for analyzing anomalies, scanning debris, and completing projects.
Additionally, there are multiple Advanced Strategic Resources that can be found, mined, or produced in some way or another.
In addition to these basic resources, there are also various strategic resources scattered across the galaxy. After researching the technology to identify and locate these resources, empires may acquire them to receive valuable bonuses. Standard strategic resources, such as Rare crystals and Volatile Motes, are needed for operating advanced technology. Local strategic resources, such as Betharian stone, are specific only to the planet the resource is on. Typically, this allows the planet to construct a special building utilizing the resource, providing multiple benefits to the planet's output and/or its pops.
Energy, minerals, strategic resources and all three types of research can be found on uncolonizable celestial bodies and (besides rare strategic resources) be produced by pops on colonizable ones. Resources on uncolonizable objects can be harvested through mining stations (for energy credits and minerals) or research stations (for research). Mining stations are required to mine Energy / Minerals. After building and deploying a mining station, the color of the resource value will turn from white to green, indicating that the resource is being extracted.
When it comes to producing resources planet-side, this is accomplished by building an appropriate district or constructing a building. Every District and Building generates Jobs which, once filled by an eligible pop, will produce resources. The amount of districts as well as the number of different district types a planet can support depends on what planetary features and modifiers the planet has. One planet might have planetary modifiers that give it the ability to support a large amount of Generator Districts while another planet might have the potential to become a very lucrative Mining Planet. See the Planetary management article for more details.
Most of the player's early game decisions will be limited by the number of resources they have and can produce. A player's citizens on your planets are referred to as "Pops" (i.e. Population units) and are most important in determining the output of your planet(s). Players should prioritize growing Pops and expanding in the early game to maximize Pops thus maximizing resources gathered and gained. Additionally, in the early game, players should make smart decisions as to where to expand their borders with Starbases /outposts, in such a way that will add a net positive to their empire. Additionally, players looking to build tall (i.e. fewer colonies with more pops across them) might consider prioritizing research and unity, as the upkeep of leaders and the cost of technologies and traditions begins to scale up once the player's empire has gone above the "Administrative Capacity."
Systems containing 3+ minerals and/or energy deposits should be prioritized when it comes to placing mining stations, due to their relative cost compared to base level mining and generator districts on planets. Stations are productive immediately, while jobs need to be filled with Pops, so this is an extra consideration when deciding where to spend precious early game minerals.
Once the basic needs of the empire are met, the next goal for the player is to increase their overall production across all basic resources. Some players will find this task is easily handled by specializing their planets in one or two specific resources each. Since food is shared across all the empire's planets, the demand for it is often handled by building agriculture districts or building food-related buildings in an available building slot. Energy and minerals can be improved in much the same way, building and installing Generator Districts/Mining Districts or installing buildings that give Technician/Miner jobs or improve output in various ways. Various technologies can improve the overall output of any resource so players are encouraged to research these when needed.
Players should strive to keep their research incomes as balanced as possible across all three fields to ensure no tech research lags behind the others unless the player has a specific goal or playstyle in mind. To achieve this goal, players will construct research labs on planets that will create researcher jobs for pops. Later in the game, the player may decide to specialize in one of the fields to rush appealing technologies for their empire, but for the early and midgame, a balanced load across all fields will keep options open for the late game.
Unity generation can be maximized by ensuring the appropriate buildings are on each planet in the empire and that there are plenty of pops working Jobs that generate Unity. This will help counteract the higher costs for leader, research, and traditions incurred for going above the Administrative Capacity. Capital buildings, Unity buildings, and a number of unique planetary modifiers all can create jobs that create unity for the empire. Finally, influence is not generated by planets at all, but monthly income can be increased by researching specific techs (usually Society), rivalling other empires, and keeping factions happy. Factions form from the pops of their empire and will grant influence based on the faction's approval rating of your government. Approval rating can be improved by satisfying the issues of a faction. Note that mutually exclusive issues among competing factions will force you into siding with one faction over another. Consider your goals and circumstances when setting out to curry the approval and influence of a faction.
Regardless of what the player's ultimate plan is for a game, it is vital that they maintain a capable fleet of combat ships to be able to both attack and defend against foreign aggression. Even in the early stages of the game, the player's empire may find itself under attack from space pirates or hostile aliens; thus having a respectable military presence is of vital importance throughout the campaign.
There are seven types of ships in the game (from smallest to largest): Corvettes, Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships, Titans, Colossi, and Juggernaut. Each empire starts the game with the blueprints for Corvettes as well as a fleet of three Corvettes, along with a starbase with a Shipyard module for constructing more of them. Researching the appropriate Engineering technologies will unlock blueprints for building ever-larger ships; Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships, and Titans in that order. Colossi, on the other hand, are unlocked via a special Ascension Perk and the associated Special Project. The Ship Designer menu (F10 by default) allows players to custom-build each classification of ships using techs they have unlocked over the course of the game. Each classification of ship takes up 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 naval capacity respectively, as well as the same amount of fleet command limit.
Every empire will have a "Naval Capacity." This number is a soft cap and represents the total empire-wide naval size that a player can have without incurring increased upkeep costs on its ships. Naval Capacity can be expanded through research, traditions, or building the appropriate Naval Capacity increasing buildings on a player's starbases and planets. Military Fleets have a "fleet command limit" which represents the size and complexity an admiral is capable of commanding. It is a hard cap on the number of ships able to be organized in one fleet and can be increased through traditions, technologies, and the Distinguished Admiralty civic. Large fleet sizes benefit from easier deployments and lower overhead, as fewer admirals are needed to command the navy, but can also lead to reduced flexibility when deploying single, massive armadas to meet multiple threats across distant reaches of the galaxy. Sometimes, several smaller fleets operating well under the maximum command limit may be advantageous. Consider your strategic and tactical needs carefully when organizing your navy.
In addition to military spaceships, the empire can also militarize its starbases by installing the appropriate Buildings and Modules on them as well as building Defense Platforms to defend the starbase from attacks. A fully fortified starbase with a full complement of Defense Platforms can command enough military power to rival even entire fleets; backing it up with a fleet of your own can create an almost unbreakable defense.
For each ship design, the player must first decide on which section(s) to use for the ship's hull. Each section provides a number of weapon slots, used for attacking enemy ships, and utility slots, used for defensive systems and power. These slots typically come in one of four sizes - mall, edium, arge, and etra large - although there are also some special types of slots used for oint-defense modules, angars for drones and other strike craft, uxiliary systems, uided weapons like missiles and torpedoes, itan weapons to put on Titan-sized ships, and orld destroyer weapons for Colossi. Each ship contains space for five subsystems - one each for an FTL module, combat computer, thrusters, a reactor, and sensors. Defense Platforms do not have FTL drives or Thrusters.
Each ship runs on Power, supplied to it by the ship's reactor and the reactor boosters in the auxiliary slots. Almost every module that is not armor or a reactor drains the ship's total available Power, which must be at least 0 in order for the design to be usable. In general, components in larger slots deal more damage, have longer ranges, and/or absorb more damage, but also consume more Power, cost more alloys to build, and are less accurate. Players will often build ships with small weapons to fight smaller ships (since small weapons are harder to avoid) and large weapons to fight larger ships.
The are three main weapon types in Stellaris and they are specialized in their own ways, with each one having its own set of strengths and weaknesses:
- Energy weapons (lasers, lances, plasma throwers) have the best armor penetration modifiers out of all the weapon types and are very accurate, but have a somewhat limited short range and, with the exception of disruptors, deal reduced damage to shielded targets.
- Kinetic weapons (mass drivers, artillery, autocannons) are excellent at destroying shields and have a good range, but are somewhat inaccurate and deal reduced damage against armor.
- Explosive weapons (missiles, torpedoes, rockets) are 100% accurate and track enemy ships, meaning their damage is unavoidable and they can roll for higher damage than other weapon types, but they must travel to hit their target and can be shot down by strike craft, flak, and point-defense, negating their damage completely if that happens.
There are also four defensive statistics associated with each ship:
- Evasion shows the probability that the ship avoids all damage from a single shot of an enemy weapon.
- Shields act as the first line of defense on the ship. They can absorb a limited amount of damage before they deactivate for recharging.
- Armor acts as the second line of defense on the ship and protects the ship's hull from any incoming damage that made it past the shields. It is usually sturdier than shields but cannot normally be repaired without docking the ship at a level 2 starbase or higher.
- Hull points are the last layer of defense a ship has and signifies the amount of damage dealt to the ship itself. If the hull points reach 0, the ship will be destroyed no matter what. Hull points also cannot be normally repaired without docking the ship at a level 2 starbase or higher.
If the builds of the enemy ships are known, it is fairly simple to construct and adapt ship designs to hard counter them. For example, if the enemy is using ship designs of battleships with a lot of armor and explosive weapons, then an equivalently powerful fleet of destroyers with point-defense modules and energy weapons will probably make short work of them.
When viewing a fleet in-game, players can see the fleet's estimated power, as well as its composition below it (with one diamond representing corvettes, two for destroyers, and so on). It is important to remember that the fleet's power is an estimation of their strength only; a less "powerful" fleet equipped appropriately is entirely capable of contending with more powerful fleets in battle.
Selecting a fleet - whether it be directly or through the Outliner - will bring up a detailed view of all ships within it, and allow the player to issue commands, as they might do with civilian ships. While learning the basics of fleet logistics is not too difficult, some of the more important tasks for the player to be familiar with include splitting and merging, repairing, upgrading, and reinforcing.
- Main article: Technology
Technologies in Stellaris are divided into three different branches of study: Physics, Society and Engineering. Each branch is headed by a scientist and each one can work on technology research in tandem with the other two branches. Each technology has a field associated with it as well, indicated by the colored icon beneath the technology's numerical progress. If a scientist has a trait whose icon matches the technology's, then that tech research is boosted by 15%, as it is in the scientist's field of expertise. The screen also provides useful information regarding what is unlocked by each technology, research speed modifiers for each branch, and a timer projecting how much more time is needed until research is complete.
Rather than a conventional tech tree, Stellaris uses a deck-of-cards system for determining what technologies are available for research. When selecting a new technology to research, the game randomly selects three technologies the player has met the prerequisites for, and the player may pick any one of them as their new project. The number of techs presented at any given time can be increased by certain techs and Civics (e.g. Self-Aware Logic or Science Division Discovery tradition). If a player is unsure of what they have researched in the past, the Researched button at the top of the Technology window will list all of the techs the player has completed research on.
There are five major categories of technology in Stellaris, beyond the typical separations by branch.
- Starting technologies are technologies that the empire begins the game with, and includes base-level buildings, ship components, spaceports, and ships.
- Acquired technologies are technologies the empire has some understanding of from events or debris analysis but needs to continue research on to fully comprehend it. Acquired techs are surrounded by an orange border and are listed below the standard deal of technologies given to the player when they select a new project.
- Rare technologies are given a purple banner and are very uncommon compared to other technologies available to the player at the time.
- Dangerous technologies are given a red banner and are projects that could bring about an endgame crisis (more about that later).
- Repeatable technologies are given a golden border around the tech's picture and are technologies that can be researched multiple times by an empire for a flat bonus to something each time it is completed at the cost of them becoming more expensive every time.
When researching technology, it is important for the player to balance efficiency with usefulness. While some players may be excited to research a high-end tech earlier than usual, the extreme amount of time it could take means it may be wiser to pass on the opportunity and research some easier, cheaper, more short-term useful techs for the empire instead.
Some special projects in the galaxy may also require one of the empire's research scientists to break from their normal duties and research something else. A common example is the empire's Society leader investigating an alien species. During this time, research points for that branch will instead go towards the special project instead of the standard technology research.
Finally, players should not worry themselves with maintaining perfect uptime when it comes to ensuring research scientists are always researching something. If a branch is not actively researching anything, then any points accumulated for that branch are placed in a pool instead of going to waste. When that branch has a new project, those pooled points are gradually credited towards that project, accelerating its progress. This system allows players to manage their research without needing to pause the game every time a project is completed.
- Main article: Traditions
As the player empire gains unity throughout the game, they will be regularly prompted to select a tradition to adopt for their empire. The tradition tree is split into seven different branches, each of which contains a subtree of five traditions. Adopting a single branch and all of the traditions within it rewards the player with a finisher bonus on top of the adopted tradition, as well as an Ascension Perk slot.
Traditions are typically adopted to define and/or reinforce an empire's playstyle - e.g. a Fanatic Pacifist empire will probably not take too many traditions from the Domination tree. In the early stages of the game, however, there is a myriad of good options available to the player, regardless of where they plan to take their empire later on.
- Expansion traditions aim to get cheaper starbases and new colonies fully operational in less time than usual, meaning that the first few traditions will appeal to most empires in the early game, including those looking to build tall as opposed to wide.
- Domination traditions are focused on various aspects of planetary management (Governor and Ruler level cap) and playing tall. It doubles down on Authoritarian effects of Influence (finisher), worker/slave output (Vassal Acculturation), and reduced crime (Fleet Levies) to help with unrest.
- Prosperity traditions seek to strengthen the empire's economy. Adopting this branch decreases the construction and upkeep cost of districts & buildings, improves specialist jobs, and increases the effects of all city districts.
- Harmony traditions seek to improve the empire's population as a whole and can be used to offset any negative traits or penalties the empire's founder species suffer from. The tree's adoption bonus and Mind and Body are both excellent counterbalances to the Solitary and Fleeting traits respectively while Bulwark of Harmony can be helpful for protecting against hostile incursions.
- Diplomacy traditions aim to make cooperation with other empires easier, but even bloodthirstier empires should consider the habitability-boosting Dynamic Ecomorphism, available early on in the tree, to provide more options for expansion later in the game.
- Discovery traditions all help to bolster the empire's science division, and To Boldly Go is an excellent choice for those who enjoy exploring and taking advantage of anomalies in the systems they survey. Afterwards, Planetary Survey Corps will provide a nice boost to early game research as the empire continues to survey systems.
- Supremacy traditions primarily focus on the empire's military strength and is very useful for aggressive and militaristic empires intent on conquering large swathes of territory from other empires and establishing galactic hegemony through military might. However, even defensive-minded empires with no aspirations for conquest can still benefit from the these traditions, including the Policy War Doctrines policies it unlocks.
- Note that gestalt consciousness empires will have slightly different tradition trees (Synchronicity instead of Harmony and Adaptability/Versatility instead of diplomacy) that fit more in line with their unique playstyle as they don't need to be concerned with diplomacy or deviancy or trade value.
- Main article: Leaders
Leading an empire to interstellar glory is not a one-person job. Empires must assemble their top minds, commanders, and politicians to work together to stand a chance in becoming the ultimate force in the galaxy.
All leaders have a skill level, ranging from 1 to 5 by default, which signifies how experienced the leader is in their role. Certain traits, civics, technologies, traditions, and ascension perks can increase this skill level cap all the way to 10. As they perform their duties, leaders will gradually accrue experience points, ultimately resulting in them gaining a skill level. Leaders also have individual traits (both positive and negative) that determine their aptitudes and abilities. New traits can be gained from events and through leveling up.
The Leader screen lists all the non-ruler leaders in the player's empire. To recruit a leader, empires must spend energy to add them to the roster. When recruiting a leader, the player may select from one of three candidates (the size of this pool can be increased through civics and technology). After recruiting a leader, they are added to the empire's leader roster and marked as "Available." The player must then assign them to a relevant position in the empire for them to start doing their job. A faction can have as many leaders as they want, so long as they can support the upkeep.
There are five types of leaders in Stellaris:
- The empire's ruler oversees all of the empire's operations, and are regularly changed out depending on the empire's authority structure. Although there is no way for rulers to gain experience, civics like Philosopher King can grant them extra levels. Each level provides an empire-wide influence discount to edicts and a boost to unity per month.
- Governors are in charge of sectors, managing their citizens, enacting planetwide edicts, and providing various bonuses to the sector overall. Governors put on a core world will be the governor of all core worlds. Experienced governors quell unrest on the planet, as well as clear blockers and construct buildings faster with every skill level. Civics like Aristocratic Elite can grant them more skill levels.
- Scientists conduct research for the empire, command science ships, and execute special projects. Higher-level scientists conduct research faster and can investigate anomalies more quickly. Traits like Natural Physicists, Natural Sociologists, Natural Engineers and Intelligent synergize well with high level scientists, acting as a multiplying force for the enhanced researchers working under them.
- Admirals command the empire's fleets, granting the ships they manage boosts based on their level and traits.
- Generals lead the empire's armies, boosting them based on their level and traits.
The early game
Once players are familiar with the different systems in Stellaris and how they interact with one another, it's time to begin thinking strategically and planning the empire's future. Creating and honing a strong early game routine will make games all the more enjoyable, knowing that the empire will be off to a good start economically, socially, and militarily. In this section, we discuss a few general guidelines new players should adhere to as they begin their journey into the stars.
Before we begin, let us quickly go over the empire's starting assets when loading a new game. The player can expect to have:
- The initial ruler they designed at the creation of the empire
- A decently sized but procedurally generated homeworld with 100% habitability and 28 Pops working 5 buildings. These buildings include a Planetary Administration and buildings for Research, consumer goods, Administrative Capacity, and Alloys.
- A level 2 outpost (and thus a starbase) orbiting the homeworld's star, outfitted with a Shipyard (and thus able to produce military ships) and a trade hub
- Three corvettes
- A construction ship and a science ship, the latter coming with a free scientist at the helm
- Three more scientists - one for each branch of the empire's research efforts
- A governor supervising the homeworld's operations and citizens
- A reserve of 100 energy credits, 100 minerals, 200 food, 100 consumer goods, 100 alloys, 100 influence, and 0 unity.
Gathering resources on celestial bodies
- Main article: Construction
During the start of the game, players are advised to send their science ships to survey their neighboring systems. As mentioned earlier in the guide, some celestial bodies contain deposits of resources such as minerals or energy credits and these deposits can only be harvested if it has been uncovered by science ships doing surveying missions and such deposits are within the empire’s border. Harvesting these resources would provide players with a better start and allows players to be able to construct ships and stations without much waiting.
- Main article: Surveying
When the science ships are doing their survey on celestial bodies, there is a chance for an anomaly to be encountered. The anomaly may be investigated by science ships and the outcome of the investigation is always a success. The time it takes diminishes for a scientist with a higher skill level though. A special project may appear once the investigation of the anomaly is a success. Upon completion of such project, players may be granted a relatively large amount of research points, minerals or energy credits which provide a boost to players. Many anomalies present a dilemma, whose outcomes can provide an even wider variety rewards.
- Main article: Colonization
Eventually, players will need to colonize other habitable planets to acquire resources for the means to expand their empire geographically and technologically. Colonization is done by sending colony ships to habitable planets that are surveyed and located in star systems with (at least) an outpost built. The colonization process requires a colony ship, there is an initial build cost (Energy/Alloys/Food) and beware the additional upkeep cost (8 energy per month) that lasts until the colony is established. Players are not required to research additional technologies to colonize planets with a different world type. However, there may be "Tile Blockers" such as Toxic Kelp or Dangerous Wildlife, that require technology to be researched in order to be cleared and access to the resources and districts underneath. The housing and amenities usage is increased by the difference between 100% and the planet's habitability (2x usage at 0% habitability, 1.5x at 50%, etc.). Usually, the game puts 2 habitable planets (matching world type - so base 80% habitability) near your starting system (unless Tomb/Gaia world) to help kickstart your campaign.
A newly colonized planet will have a weak production as the population of the planet will be low, and thus the output will be low. A planet’s population will grow over time and the growth rate can be boosted with edicts, technology, decisions, and buildings. All pops must have a job or they will become unemployed, thus contributing to higher crime, lower stability, and increased usage of planetary resources. Jobs are created by creating generator/mining/agriculture districts and/or creating buildings in an available building slot that is unlocked at higher populations. With regards to generator/mining/agriculture districts, they produce the same number of jobs as housing whereas City districts produce more housing than jobs (5 housing, 1 job), so they are a suitable source of housing for pops that work buildings (though this is affected by Traditions, Ethics and Policies). It is recommended to grow a colony's population as quickly as possible all the while making sure the needs of the pops are met, such as employment, housing, and amenities. One strategy a player might use is resettling pops from the player's homeworld to the new colony to boost the initial population and open building slots. As with most things in Stellaris, this will give a boost but also comes with a price. Resettling costs energy credits to do and your homeworld can get a growth de-buff from the pops leaving. Additionally, a player should be sure that the new colony has the housing, jobs, and amenities to support the influx of new pops. The bottom line is this, more pops equals more production. Happy pops equals more production. Take care of your pops.
Maintaining a strong military
- Main article: Ship designer
As with most space 4X games, keeping a strong military presence is vital as it will deter potential attacks. In Stellaris, this statement is true as players may encounter other space-faring empires that have hostile intent or space monsters which are hostile. Therefore, keeping a strong military presence allows for players to defend against attacks should they get themselves into war.
In order to maintain a powerful space fleet, one has to have the ability to build ships. This is accomplished by building Starbases and outfitting them with Shipyards and Anchorages.
There are 7 types of military ships in Stellaris:
Players may use the in-game ship designer to customize and create unique ship designs and construct them at the spaceports.
Furthermore, the player may upgrade existing starbases to higher levels to increase their offensive and defensive capabilities. Starbases big enough to do so can carry offensive or defensive auras which can be important in a battle. Players are advised to construct such starbases in vital systems to defend against enemy attacks.
In addition to maintaining a powerful navy, one must also not forget about their planetary forces. Recruiting armies and stationing them on planets that need them as well as building up defensive infrastructure planetside can help bolster one's defensive capabilities noticeably.
Interactions with other empires
As science ships are out into the void exploring the stars, they will inevitably encounter alien life forms. The alien life forms that players can encounter are divided into 5 types:
During their first encounter with these life forms, a special project will appear which players can research it. Doing so will order the required scientific branch of the empire to put their current research projects on hold and focus on the special project. Once the project is completed, another special project may appear if the alien life forms in question are space monsters or the diplomacy screen for the first contact will pop up if the alien life forms in question are space-faring empires.
There are some exceptions to this. Fallen empires will contact players automatically if their ships venture into their territory. Pre-sentient species and Pre-FTL species are encountered by science ships which are surveying celestial bodies.
- Main article: Diplomacy
After successfully establishing communications with other space-faring empires, the player may access the diplomacy screen. Players are then able to conduct diplomacy actions with these empires. Some of these diplomacy actions are listed below:
- Declaring war
- Offering trade deals
- Declaring rivalries
- Forming Federations
Majority of these diplomacy actions have a 10-year cooldown once chosen with the exception of trade deals which players can determine how long a deal lasts. The chance for a trade deal to be accepted is influenced by the trade partner's attitude towards the trader's empire and the favourability of the deal proposed.
Forming of federations
- Main article: Federation
Besides the construction and employment of a strong military, empires can also improve its military power through the forming of federations. When an empire declares war upon a member of a federation, other members in the federation enter the war as well. However, if a member of a federation were to declare war, other members will be required to vote for whether the member can make the declaration of war (see declarations of war for more details). There are five federation types each with unique benefits. There are Galactic Unions which has the benefit of having -50% cohesion loss from Ethics, Trade Leagues which allows members to use the Trade League trade policy, Martial Alliances which give benefits to ship and army experience and build speed of ships, Research Cooperatives which gives a automatic research agreement between all members, and Hegemony which does not allow members to leave freely. Federation cohesion affects the experience gain of a federation, and experience allows you to level up your federation to increase centralization. Cohesion can be increased by assigning Envoys to your federation.
Once players reach the late stages of the game, they should have built an empire with a considerably strong fleet and a strong production of resources. By this stage, players should be pursuing one of the many victory goals present in the game by default. However, the late stage of the game usually involves events that will affect the entire galaxy.
To win Stellaris the player must have the biggest victory score compared to all other empires, including fallen empires.
As the name implies, an endgame crisis brings about catastrophic results which can affect the entire galaxy. There are several criteria necessary to trigger such events. Besides that, there can only be one endgame crisis in a single game. Some examples of such endgame crisis are listed below:
- The Contingency
- Extra-dimensional Invaders
- Prethoryn Swarm
War in heaven
This event is considered special as it is not considered an endgame crisis. This event involves 2 Fallen Empires which have awoken due to reasons unknown and these two superpowers launch a great war against one another, dragging the normal empires into the war as well. However, this event is not guaranteed to occur and the host of the game must have the Leviathans DLC in order for it to happen.
The Utopia DLC comes with several long-term goals starting in by the middle-game for players to work their empire towards. There are three (mutually-exclusive) species ascension paths, Engineered Evolution (Genetic Strengthening), Mind Over Matter (Psionic Awakening) and The Flesh is Weak (Cybernetic/Synthetic Transformation) as well as the ability to construct ever-larger mega-structures. These represent different destinies of the empire and what kind of mark they leave upon the galaxy's history.
The End of the Cycle
Once an empire has completed the Psionic Ascension Path, it can sign a covenant with the End of the Cycle in the Shroud. It will give huge boosts to resource production, research speed, and naval capacity for 50 years. At the end of this period, the reckoning occurs. The player loses all their planets and they become uninhabitable forever. All ships will be destroyed and all pops and leaders will be killed. The player will gain control of a single new planet called Exile with a group of surviving pops and an entity called the "Reckoning" will spawn with a fleet power measuring in the millions. It will kill everything in the galaxy saving the players for last. All empires will have a permanent -1000 opinion of the player for "Bringing the End" and "Doomed us all".
- Remember to be mindful of your empire sprawl while expanding. Most empires will eventually go above the Administrative Capacity, thus increasing the cost for research & upkeep, but the player should expand in a way that mitigates this increase by choosing their expansion in a way that will yield a net increase to their empire.
- Invest in 4-5 science ships in the early game to get a sense of what is around you and where you should expand. You can also disband them later.
- The galaxy is a dangerous place. There are space amoebas, pirates, marauders, rival factions, uprisings, and leviathans to deal with. Thus, you should be mindful of your military at all times. You should ensure that your military can deal with all the threats presented to you. Keep in mind the positioning of your military too. If your fleets are on one side of your empire it could take years for them to cross it to meet a threat at the other side, by that time the threat could have gobbled up a huge portion of your real estate. This increases the reason to consider having multiple fleets to defend all sides of the empire.
- Remain curious and have fun. Players should keep their science ships busy at all times. As these ships continue to explore the unknown void, the story of the game should unfold for players to enjoy.
- Remember to try to be doing something at all times, try not to leave anything idle and to keep science ships, construction ships, Etc., busy at all times to maximize production and to stay ahead of other empires.
- Try to keep up good diplomatic relations with empires early on, as early wars can stall progress and let other empires get ahead.