Exploration

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This article is for the PC version of Stellaris only.

Exploration is one of the most important tasks for a spacefaring empire. At the start of the game, no empire knows anything about the universe beyond their home system. To learn more about other systems, an empire will need to send their science ships out to survey them. Early game exploring is key for an empire to start growing rapidly, however caution is warranted for the various events and anomalies associated with exploring can bring either great boons or banes with them. Part of the Discovery tradition tree Discovery tradition tree is focused on exploration.

Exploration mechanics[edit | edit source]

Besides an empire's home system, all systems start unexplored and unsurveyed. Systems become explored when they are in sensor range of a fleet, starbase, or colony; have been visited by a science ship, or are owned by another empire for which the empire has at least low intel on. Unexplored systems can only be entered by a science ship which has an assigned scientist leader. Explored systems must further be surveyed with a science ship led by a scientist in order to build a starbase and claim the system. Systems which are gained from other empires (by war, trade, or integration) are automatically surveyed.

Science Ships[edit | edit source]

Cinematic of an Arthropoid science ship surveying a planet

Empires can build science ships from the start of the game, and every empire starts with a science ship which is ready to be sent out to survey the stars. Every science ship must be assigned a Scientist.png scientist for the ship to perform tasks such as surveying, assisting research of a planet, exploring uncharted hyperlanes, or researching a special project (the ship can still move around without being assigned a scientist).

By default, science ships are set to evasive stance, which means they will flee any system where hostile ships or spaceborne life forms are present. They can be set to passive stance instead, which lets the ship continue its current orders even if the system contains hostile aliens.

Science ships cost Alloys.png 100 Alloys. They are built at starbase shipyards, like all other ships. They do not have weapons but are automatically equipped with the latest sensors, engines, reactors, armor, and shields based on the empire's current technology. Science ship components are automatically upgraded as technology advances without the need to refit them at shipyards.

Science ships can do the following actions, all of which require a scientist to be assigned to the science ship:

  • Survey Survey gives detailed information about a celestial body, namely deposits, habitability, and anomalies.
  • Research Anomaly Research Anomaly investigates an anomaly, with the investigation time dependent on the relative levels of the scientist and of the anomaly.
  • Assist Research Assist Research allows science ships to boost the research output of the planet, by Research.png +2% output per skill level of the scientist.
  • Automatic Survey Automatic Surveying surveys the galaxy automatically.
  • Experimental Subspace Navigation Experimental Subspace Navigation requires the Tech experimental subspace navigation.png Speculative Hyperlane Breaching technology and the passive stance, and allows traveling directly to any explored destination as MIA rather than through the hyperlane network.

Science ships are also required to research most special projects.

Surveying[edit | edit source]

Surveying is the process of revealing details about celestial bodies. The first time a celestial body is surveyed by anyone, there is a 5% chance of revealing an anomaly, which is increased by 0.5% for every surveyed body with no anomaly. After any empire has surveyed a celestial body, no other empire can reveal an anomaly. Additionally, every survey has a 1.25% chance of revealing an archaeological site, and this chance is not blocked by a previous survey. Surveying may also reveal exploitable resources such as energy credits, minerals, strategic resources, or research points, Pm planet from space.pngPm frame 1.png any terraforming candidacy modifier, or a primitive civilization or pre-sapient species. The base time to survey a celestial body is 20 days.

In order to survey a celestial body, select a science ship, right-click on the celestial body, and select the "Survey" option. The player may also select the "Survey System" option to order the science ship to survey every celestial body in the system. From the galaxy map, the player may queue survey missions by holding down the "Shift" key and right-clicking on a system and selecting the "Survey System" option one by one. The science ships can only survey systems that they have a path to. Science ships can also be ordered to explore the galaxy automatically.

Celestial bodies in systems owned by a regular empire cannot surveyed by other empires that have communications with that empire. However, celestial bodies in systems owned by a Fallen Empire may be surveyed if accessible. The same applies to Marauder systems in Apocalypse.png Apocalypse. Any systems that become unowned (whether because of a crisis or the empire is entirely destroyed) will have to be surveyed if not previously surveyed.

Mod ship science survey speed.png Survey Speed Modifiers
Source Amount
Per Scientist.png Scientist level +10%
Leader trait roamer.png Cataloguer/Leader trait roamer.png Roamer trait +25%
Leader trait custom AI assistant.png Custom AI Assistant trait +10%
Leader trait sentient AI assistant.png Sapient AI Assistant trait +20%
Leader trait scroll.png Towel-Bearer trait +42%
Leader trait curator.png Curator trait +25%
Leader trait psionic leader.png Psychic trait +25%
Leader trait psionic chosen one.png Chosen One trait +50%
Trait brainslugged.png Brain Slug Host leader trait +15%
Tech automated exploration.png Automated Exploration Protocols technology +25%
Tech curator lab.png Curator Exploration Lab technology +33%
Menu icon edicts.png Map the Stars edict +25%
To Boldly Go To Boldly Go Discovery tradition +35%

Situation log[edit | edit source]

A Typical Situation Log with events.

The situation log Situation Log helps to keep track of special projects, anomalies, and some event chains, which are discovered when venturing out into the galaxy and exploring, and allows individual projects and anomalies to be tracked on the map. For Auth democratic.png democratic governments, it will also display election mandates. If there is an update to the situation log, it will glow in orange Situation Log with Update.

Most projects are centered around a celestial body and require the presence a scientist assigned to a science ship before the projects can be researched. However, some project may require something other than a science ship, such as a military warship, a troop transport, or construction ship. Some special projects are timed and will disappear if not researched, while others will remain available until resolved.

First contact[edit | edit source]

Eventually, alien ships or starbases will be encountered for the first time, creating a multi-stage first contact, which can be accessed from either the galaxy map or the situation log. In order to complete a stage, an Envoy.png envoy must be assigned to the first contact. Every 50 days, the envoy has a chance to make a breakthrough and advance to the next stage. This chance is increased by previous successful first contacts as well as codebreaking. If no breakthrough is made, there is a chance to gain 1 or 2 insights instead, increasing the breakthrough chance for the rest of the stage. At the end of each first contact, the empire completing the first contact will receive a small amount of Influence.png influence. Various events can take place during a first contact. These events can increase or reduce the insights for the current stage.

Each first contact has 2 or 3 stages:

  1. Completing the first stage will compile the information known about the aliens based on whether first contact was made with a ship or a starbase. If Menu icon policies.png first contact protocol is set to aggressive and the target is an empire, completing the stage will bring the option to seize a ship (if no starbase was encountered) or abduct specimens (if a starbase was encountered).
  2. Completing the second stage will reveal the primary species of the target empire as well as their first contact protocol. If the target is spaceborne aliens or an empire created by the Origins lost colony.png Lost Colony origin, first contact will be completed. Auth hive mind.png Hive Mind and Auth machine intelligence.png Machine Intelligence empires also complete first contact at this stage if the other empire is the same type. If specimens were abducted, the empire will gain the option to vivisect them; a Civic devouring swarm.png Devouring Swarm can eat the specimens for a 50 Food.png Food, Minerals.png Minerals or Alloys.png Alloys depending on the targeted species. The abduction or seizure will be canceled with no other effects if the aliens turn out to be part of the same species.
  3. Completing the third stage (if applicable) will complete first contact. Abducting or seizing a ship will bring a temporary Diplomacy opinion.png −100 opinion and a permanent Diplomacy opinion.png −25 opinion. Vivisection and eating will unlock a random Biology.png Biology technology if the targeted species is biological or a random Computing.png Computing technology if the targeted species is robotic, at the cost of a further temporary Diplomacy opinion.png −50 opinion. In addition, if Nemesis.png Nemesis is enabled, vivisecting a biological species will also grant an Internal Organs asset.

Completing a first contact provides Influence.png influence depending on Menu icon policies.png first contact protocol, contact type, and actions taken during first contact. Only the empire which completess the first contact first receives the reward.

First contact protocol Peaceful contact with regular or fallen empire Other contact
Contact friendly.png Proactive Influence.png 15x Influence output (60 ~ 150) Influence.png 9x Influence output (30 ~ 120)
Contact isolationist.png Cautious
Contact hostile.png Aggressive
Influence.png 10x Influence output (40 ~ 100) Influence.png 6x Influence output (20 ~ 80)

Completing first contact with another empire will enable diplomacy and bring the first contact dialogue for both empires. Depending on government and ethics, the exact replies will vary but will otherwise have the same effects. The proactive option is not available to empires that have Civic inwards perfection.png Inward Perfection or Civic fanatic purifiers.pngCivic devouring swarm.pngCivic machine terminator.png genocidal civics, hacked the other empire, abducted specimens, or seized a ship.

  • Contact friendly.png The proactive option gives a temporary Diplomacy opinion.png +30 opinion with the other empire.
  • Contact isolationist.png The cautious option gives the other empire Spy network.png −33% Spy Network Growth against the empire for 15 years.
  • Contact hostile.png The aggressive option gives Spy network.png +33% Spy Network Growth on the other empire for 15 years as well as a temporary Diplomacy opinion.png −30 opinion with them.

If the first contact protocol is set to aggressive, fleets can be ordered to attack an unidentified empire. Any hostile action adds a permanent Diplomacy opinion.png −25 opinion towards that empire, while destroying 10 or more ships or capturing any of their worlds will mark it as a first contact war and adds a permanent Diplomacy opinion.png −75 opinion instead.

The first time a first contact is completed with an empire of different authority, an additional bonus may be gained.

Source empire authority Target empire authority Reward
Auth democratic.pngAuth oligarchic.pngAuth dictatorial.pngImperialAuth corporate.png
No.png Xenophobe.pngFanatic Xenophobe.png
Auth hive mind.png Either:
  • Mod pop resource output.png 10% Worker output (No.png Egalitarian.pngFanatic Egalitarian.png)
  • Society Research.png 24x Society output (500 ~ 1000000)
Auth democratic.pngAuth oligarchic.pngAuth dictatorial.pngImperialAuth corporate.png
No.png Spiritualist.pngFanatic Spiritualist.pngCivic fanatic purifiers.png
Auth machine intelligence.png Engineering Research.png 24x Engineering output (500 ~ 1000000)
Auth hive mind.png Auth democratic.pngAuth oligarchic.pngAuth dictatorial.pngImperialAuth corporate.png Society Research.png 24x Society output (500 ~ 1000000)
Auth machine intelligence.png Auth hive mind.png Society Research.png 24x Society output (500 ~ 1000000)
Auth machine intelligence.png Auth democratic.pngAuth oligarchic.pngAuth dictatorial.pngImperialAuth corporate.png Unity.png 18x Unity output (250 ~ 1000000)

Galaxy Map[edit | edit source]

The layout of star systems is determined by the galaxy shape. All systems are connected by hyperlanes in clusters connected by choke points. The latter will never be a home system nor will they house anything that will stop an empire's expansion. The systems at the very edge of the galaxy will always be isolated, with a single hyperlane connection.

The number of choke points is indirectly set at galaxy generation by hyperlane density.

Nebulae[edit | edit source]

Nebulae are visible from both the galaxy map and the systems located inside and tend to have fewer habitable planets within them, but the chance of finding Strategic Resources is increased by 50% and allow Starbases to construct the Sb nebula refinery.png Nebula Refinery building. Nebulae block all sensor coverage originating from other systems, meaning that it is impossible for an empire to see what is within and beyond a nebula's hyperlanes without having a ship or station inside. Nebulae are named and visible on the galaxy map from the start of the game.

Systems within a nebula have a small chance of being ionized, visible by occasional lightning strikes within the system. Such systems disable shields and apply Mod ship speed mult.png −50% sublight speed but grant Evasion +30% evasion.

A Space Storm

Space Storms[edit | edit source]

After the mid-game year passes, there is a 1% chance each year for a Space Storm to appear. Space Storms affect half of the systems in the galaxy, disabling all shields and causing Mod ship speed mult.png −50% sublight speed.

Space Storms last 5-10 years. After they dissipate, another Space Storm cannot occur for the next 20 years.

Space Storms can be used to defeat superior fleets or Guardians that focus heavily on shields.

A neutron star's effects combined with a Space Storm will slow down ships greatly, so caution should be taken when navigating the galaxy during a Space Storm.

Precursors[edit | edit source]

First League anomaly

The Precursors are the oldest known galactic empires, though long dead. Their ruins are scattered across the galaxy to be discovered via anomalies or archaeology sites. Precursor anomalies reveal a special project which once investigated grants a small amount of Engineering research Engineering, Physics Research Physics, or Society research Society research as well as a precursor artifact. 6 artifacts are required to reveal the location of a precursor's home system. The Ancient Relics.png Ancient Relics precursors are found through archaeology sites instead of anomalies.

After 50 years have passed, a random event can add another precursor special project on an uninhabitable planet in the empire. AI empires can also sell a discovered artifact to non-Gestalt empires for Energy.png 1000 energy. Civic corporate dominion.png Corporate Dominion empires can counter with Energy.png 500 energy. If the empire has the Civic warrior culture.png Warrior Culture civic, it can threaten the AI empire to surrender it for free, the success rate depending on both empires' relative fleet power. Empires that have a Protective, Friendly, or Loyal attitude will offer the artifact for free instead of asking for payment. Each AI Empire can offer an artifact only once.

Precursor actions[edit | edit source]

Players can spend Minor artifacts.png 25 minor artifacts to discover a precursor site with a cooldown of 5 years. In addition, once a Precursor homeworld has been discovered, the empire will gain an artifact action to spend Minor artifacts.png 50 minor artifacts to start a special project to delve into the secrets of the Precursor civilization. Finishing the special project will grant a permanent empire benefit. If the Ancient Relics.png Ancient Relics DLC is installed, precursor anomalies will also grant Minor artifacts.png 1-5 minor artifacts.

There are 7 precursor civilizations, 2 of them requiring the Ancient Relics.png Ancient Relics DLC.

Precursor civilization Homeworld Homeworld reward Home system contains Clues source Ancient Relics.png Secrets of the Precursor special project DLC
Cybrex Planet ringworld.png Ruined Ring World
  • Unity.png 120x Unity output (240 ~ 9999)
  • Engineering Research.png 48x Engineering output (1000 ~ 1000000)
  • Energy.png 24x Energy output (350 ~ 10000)

  • Ancient Relics.pngMinor artifacts.png 10-30 Minor Artifacts
  • Ancient Relics.pngR war forge.png Cybrex War Forge Relic
  • Ancient Relics.png Secrets of the Cybrex artifact action
Planet ringworld.png Ruined Ringworld Anomalies Engineering research 12000 Engineering research cost
  • Tech mega engineering.png Mega-Engineering technology research option[1]
  • Mod megastructure build speed.png +10% Megastructure build speed
  • Engineering research Engineering researcher gains Voidcraft.png Expertise: Voidcraft or 200 xp if already has it
First League Planet nuked.png Fen Habbanis III
  • Unity.png 120x Unity output (240 ~ 9999)
  • Society Research.png 48x Society output (1000 ~ 1000000)
  • Influence.png 24x Influence output (150 ~ 300)

  • Ancient Relics.pngMinor artifacts.png 10-30 Minor Artifacts
  • Ancient Relics.png Secrets of the First League artifact action
  • Planet Size.png Size 25 Planet nuked.png Relic World
  • Minerals.png 10 Minerals
  • Energy.png 10 Energy
Anomalies Engineering research 6000 Engineering research cost
  • Tech housing 1.png Weather Control Systems
  • Tech housing 2.png Anti-Gravity Engineering[2]
  • Research speed (Engineering) +15% Industry Research Speed
  • Mod planet building build speed mult.png +10% Planetary build speed Planet Build Speed
  • Engineering research Engineering researcher gains Industry.png Expertise: Industry or 200 xp if already has it
Irassian Concordat Planet barren cold.png Irassia
  • Unity.png 120x Unity output (240 ~ 9999)
  • Physics Research.png 48x Physics output (1000 ~ 1000000)
  • Minerals.png 24x Minerals output (350 ~ 10000)

  • Ancient Relics.pngMinor artifacts.png 10-30 Minor Artifacts
  • Ancient Relics.pngR pox sample.png Javorian Pox Sample Relic
  • Ancient Relics.png Secrets of the Irassians artifact action
  • Research.png 10 Research
  • Minerals.png 10 Minerals
  • Alloys.png 5 Alloys
  • Energy.png 10 Energy
  • Exotic gases.png 5 Exotic Gases
Anomalies Society research 3000 Society research cost
  • Biology.png Next Organic pops technology Tech genome mapping.pngTech frontier health.pngTech frontier health.pngTech gene tailoring.png[3]
  • Research speed (society) +20% Biology Research Speed
  • Mod pop growth speed.png +5% Pop growth speed
  • Society research Society researcher gains Biology.png Expertise: Biology or 200 xp if already has it
Vultaum Star Assembly Planet barren.png Vultaumar Prime
  • Unity.png 120x Unity output (240 ~ 9999)
  • Research.png 24x Research output (each 500 ~ 1000000)

  • Ancient Relics.pngMinor artifacts.png 10-30 Minor Artifacts
  • Ancient Relics.pngR orb insight.png Vultaum Reality Perforator Relic
  • Ancient Relics.png Secrets of the Vultaum artifact action
  • Research.png 10 Research
  • Minerals.png 10 Minerals
  • Alloys.png 5 Alloys
  • Energy.png 10 Energy
  • Exotic gases.png 5 Exotic Gases
Anomalies Physics Research 3000 Physics research cost
  • Physics Research.png 48x Physics output (1000 ~ 1000000)
  • Research speed (Physics) +15% Computing Research Speed
  • No.pngGestalt consciousness.png Mod planet amenities mult.png +10% Amenities
  • Yes.pngAuth machine intelligence.png Mod pop assembly speed.png +5% Pop Assembly Speed
  • Physics Research Physics researcher gains Computing.png Expertise: Computing or 200 xp if already has it
Fanatic Materialist.png Fanatic Materialists receive option for an additional special project.0
  • When the additional special project is completed there are 2 options:
  • Option 1:
    • Influence.png 24x Influence output (150 ~ 300)
    • Physics Research Physics Researcher: 50% commits suicide, 35% gains 200 xp and Leader trait maniacal.pngLeader trait substance abuser.png or 15% gains 200 xp and Leader trait maniacal.png
  • Option 2:
    • Influence.png 24x Influence output (150 ~ 300)
    • Unity.png 48x Unity output (700 ~ 2000000)
    • Mod country all tech research speed.png +10% Research speed
    • Mod pop happiness.png −20% Happiness
    • Physics Research Physics researcher gains 200 xp and: 35% Leader trait maniacal.pngLeader trait substance abuser.png or 65% Leader trait maniacal.png
Yuht Empire Planet barren.png Yuthaan Majoris
  • Unity.png 120x Unity output (240 ~ 9999)
  • Energy.png 24x Energy output (350 ~ 10000)
  • Minerals.png 24x Minerals output (350 ~ 10000)

  • Ancient Relics.pngMinor artifacts.png 10-30 Minor Artifacts
  • Ancient Relics.pngR cryo core.png Yuht Cryo Core Relic
  • Ancient Relics.png Secrets of the Yuht artifact action
  • Research.png 10 Research
  • Minerals.png 10 Minerals
  • Alloys.png 5 Alloys
  • Energy.png 10 Energy
  • Exotic gases.png 5 Exotic Gases
Anomalies Society research 3000 Society research cost
  • Tech colonization 2.png Atmospheric Filtering
  • Tech colonization 3.png Hostile Environment Adaptation[4]
  • Decision animal wildlife.png Initiate Yuht Cleansing Process Decision
  • Society research Society researcher gains New Worlds.png Expertise: New Worlds or 200 xp if already has it
Baol Planet nuked.png Grunur
  • R baol.png The Last Baol Relic
  • Secrets of the Baol artifact action
Planet Size.png Size 20 Planet nuked.png Tomb World Archaeology sites Society research 3000 Society research cost
  • Tech epigenetic triggers.png Epigenetic Triggers technology or Tech terrestrial sculpting.png Terrestrial Sculpting technology[5]
  • Mod country terraforming cost.png −15% Terraforming cost
  • Society research Society researcher gain Biology.png Expertise: Biology or 200 xp if already has it
Ancient Relics.png
Zroni Planet shroud.png Zron Prime
  • R zro crystal.png Psionic Archive Relic
  • Secrets of the Zroni artifact action
Zro.png 5 Zro Archaeology sites Society research 6000 Society research cost
  • Tech psionic theory.png Psionic Theory technology progress[6]
  • Research speed (society) +10% Psionics Research Speed
  • Society research Society researcher gets Psionics.png Expertise: Psionics or 200 xp if already has it
Ancient Relics.png

References[edit | edit source]

  1. If this technology has already been researched, then Gain Engineering Research.png 48x Engineering output (potential yield gain of 1000 ~ 1000000), else add this technology as a research option.
  2. If this technology has already been researched, then Gain Engineering Research.png 48x Engineering output (potential yield gain of 1000 ~ 1000000), else if Tech housing 1.png Weather Control Systems has already been researched, then gain 50% progress and add this technology as research option, else add this technology as a research option.
  3. Grants Tech genome mapping.png Genome Mapping, Tech frontier health.png Genetic Healthcare, Tech frontier health.png Cyto-Revitalization or 50% progress towards Tech gene tailoring.png Gene Tailoring if the prerequisite technology is researched. If all technologies are researched or unresearchable (Auth machine intelligence.png), Gain Society Research.png 48x Society output (potential yield gain of 1000 ~ 1000000) instead.
  4. If this technology has already been researched or is unresearchable (Auth machine intelligence.png), then Gain Society Research.png 48x Society output (potential yield gain of 1000 ~ 1000000), else if this technology is a research option, then gain this technology, else gain 50% progress and add this technology as research option.
  5. If Tech epigenetic triggers.png Epigenetic Triggers is already researched, gain Tech terrestrial sculpting.png Terrestrial Sculpting instead. If both are already researched, Gain Society Research.png 48x Society output (potential yield gain of 1000 ~ 1000000).
  6. If this technology has already been researched or Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt Consciousness, then Gain Society Research.png 48x Society output (potential yield gain of 1000 ~ 1000000), else gain 20% progress and add it as a research option
Game concepts
Exploration ExplorationFTLAnomalyArchaeological siteRelicsPre-FTL speciesFallen empireEventsSpaceborne aliensGuardiansMaraudersCaravaneers
Celestial bodies Celestial bodyColonizationTerraformingPlanetary featuresPlanet modifiers
Species SpeciesTraitsPopulationPop modificationSpecies rightsEthics
Governance EmpireGovernmentCivicsPoliciesEdictsLeaderFactionsTechnologyTraditionsSituations
Economy EconomyPlanetary managementDistrictsBuildingsHoldingsJobsDesignationTradeMegastructures
Diplomacy DiplomacyRelationsGalactic communityFederationsSubject empiresIntelligenceAI personalities
Warfare WarfareSpace warfareLand warfareStarbaseShipShip designerCrisis
Others The ShroudL-ClusterUnique systemsPreset empiresAI playersEaster eggs