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Beginner's guide

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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, [[Xenophile|xenophilic]] empires will always be more inclined towards constructive diplomacy and trade relative to other ethics, while the combination of [[Militarist]], [[Spiritualist]], 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 (after cosmetics). 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 reptilian race with mammalian names who adopt avian architecture and pilot fungoid ships.
==== [[Species]] ====
*'''Species Name''': The 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. A space for custom biography is also available for flavor.
*'''Name List''': The default prefix and name list for ships, leaders, and fleets. Players can freely rename most of these in-game.
*'''Traits''': [[Traits]] are effectively passive effects exhibited by the empire species that can help or hinder their contributions to the empire. With the exception of habitability, all traits selected on this screen affect the empire species only. Players have 2 points to spend on {{green|positive}} and {{red|negative}} traits, with positive traits spending points and negative traits awarding them. No more than five traits may be selected, and players are not allowed to select traits that cancel each other out (''e.g.'' no fair picking up both {{iconify|Communal}} and {{iconify|Solitary}}). Traits can be modified in -game though through research of relevant technologies, and via [[Utopia]] DLC's [[Ascension Perks]].
*'''Ruler''' - Enter the name and choose the appearance of your empire's first ruler. You may also enter the title(s) which will apply to all your rulers (different titles for different sexes are available); if you have already selected a government (below), a title will be suggested for you.
Since there exist multiple viable paths to healthy empire development, and mistakes are not punished too harshly, new players are free (and encouraged!) to experiment with the available traits. Nevertheless, there are a few general guidelines players should consider when selecting traits. Firstly, traits that benefit all populations such as {{iconify|Communal}} are easier to fully leverage than specific traits such as {{iconify|Natural Physicists}}, which only benefit populations working a tile with physics on it. Although players generally begin the game with one species alone, this distinction will become important later if players choose to build robots and/or permit alien species to live in their empire. {{iconify|Resilient}} and other traits related to army damage are relatively underwhelming due to the mechanics of planetary sieges and ground invasions; individual power differences can be overcome with superior numbers. {{iconify|Fleeting}} is a potentially dangerous trait since it places an increased drain on {{iconify|influence}} as players must continually replace [[leaders]] who have died. However, this trait is readily countered with cheaper leader recruitment civics and other early-game options such as the ''Mind & Body'' [[tradition]].
==== [[Homeworld]] ====
==== Empire ====
*'''[[Government]] & [[Ethics]]''': This page determines the empire's starting ethics set, government type, and civics, all of which impact gameplay immensely. Ethics determine basic attitudes of the governing power, 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 (''e.g.'' the British versus the French, as opposed to Communist China), and the available choices are determined by the empire's ethics and authority.
** '''[[Ethics]]''' (also called ethos) are split into four axes of thought, and provide base bonuses to the player empire while also influencing base attitudes 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). Unless the player decides on the '''[[Ethics#Hive Mind|Hive Mind]]''' ethic, the player must allocate three points along the four ethics axes. Hence, the player must decide on either a set of three blue ethics, or a blue ethic and a more extreme orange Fanatical ethic. The four ethics axes are as follows:
***The {{iconify|Egalitarian}}-{{iconify|Authoritarian}} axis governs attitudes towards how power is distributed and its effect on average citizens, ''i.e.'' freedom versus control. Egalitarian empires enjoy lowered [[consumer goods]] costs and more {{iconify|influence}} from satisfied factions, while authoritarian empires spend less {{iconify|influence}} to resettle pops between planets and experience less {{iconify|unrest}} from [[Slavery|enslaved]] pops. Having an ethic on this axis also restricts the type of authority the empire may exhibit.
***The {{iconify|Xenophobe}}-{{iconify|Xenophile}} axis governs attitudes towards alien species, spanning between isolationism and proactive coexistence. Xenophiles naturally have higher opinions among other species and spend less {{iconify|influence}} in negotiations with them, whereas xenophobes have larger borders and gain more {{iconify|influence}} from rivalries with other empires.
***The {{iconify|Militarist}}-{{iconify|Pacifist}} axis governs attitudes towards how the civilization views the concept of war, viewing it as either military tradition or unnecessary violence. Militarist empires enjoy bonuses to army damage and the fire rates of their naval ships, whereas pacifist empires can directly control more planets without the need for [[Empire#Sectors|sectors]] in addition to increased {{iconify|unity}} generation to help adopt traditions.
***The {{iconify|Materialist}}-{{iconify|Spiritualist}} axis governs attitudes towards epistemology[[]], translating in-game as values concerning consciousness, unity of belief, and scientific knowledge. Materialist empires have beliefs rooted in technology and material value of objects, which translates to faster technology research and reduced robot maintenance costs. Spiritualists, meanwhile, are more religious and believe that their purpose is to attain a higher level of existence, and consequently , their citizens are less likely to [[Unrest|rebel]] and adopt different individual ethics.
***Finally, the central {{iconify|Hive Mind}} ethic leads to a completely different style of gameplay and will not be covered here, although it ''is'' arguably a novice-friendly ethic to choose.
** '''[[Government#Authority|Authority]]''' is the archetype of government that the empire exercises. Its primary purpose is to determine how flexible the leadership is to change, ''i.e.'' how often a player can take advantage of a powerful ruler or must cope with a weak one.
** '''[[Government#Civics|Civics]]''' are the principles and ideas the empire's government was founded on, and provide bonuses that permit players to tailor their empires to an ideal strategy. Possibilities range from general bonuses such as {{iconify|Idealistic Foundation}} for additional happiness, to specific bonuses such as {{iconify|Slaver Guilds}}, which increases the productivity of enslaved pops gathering {{iconify|food}} and {{iconify|minerals}}.
*'''Empire Name''': 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.
*'''Flag''': Empire flags consist of a primary color, 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.
Just like with species traits, new players are encouraged to experiment somewhat with what they like with respect to ethics, government and civics to reshape their empire as they desire. There are, however, a few noteworthy points to keep in mind. In regards to ethics, {{iconify|Spiritualist}} has a hidden advantage in [[Psionic Theory]], which permits research into specific psionic technologies starting from the mid-game; these serve to compensate against {{iconify|Materialist}}'s general tech advantage. Additionally, {{iconify|Authoritarian}} empires cannot use {{iconify|democratic}} authority in their government, while {{iconify|Egalitarian}}s cannot use {{iconify|imperial}} or {{iconify|dictatorial}} authority. Both Fanatic versions of these ethics are banned from using {{iconify|oligarchic}} authority as well, leaving {{iconify|Fanatic Authoritarian}} empires only {{iconify|imperial}} or {{iconify|dictatorial}} authority and {{iconify|Fanatic Egalitarian}} empires only {{iconify|democratic}}. For players who wish to experiment with slavery, an {{iconify|Authoritarian}} and/or {{iconify|Xenophobe}} ethic is recommended.
*'''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.
Ballistic or energy weapons are usually recommended for newer players, unless they intend to rush for full fleet capacity as their opening, in which case missiles are the more effective choice. Whatever the starting weapon selection, specializing in only one type is not particularly recommended, as diversifying the fleet's weaponry 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. Note that the FTL setting can be overwritten by restricting the empire's starting FTL type in game setup. An alternative novice player suggestion would be to restrict all empires to either warp or hyperspace travel, which equalizes all empires until jump drive availability.
== User Interface ==
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. Next to that is the '''Contacts''' menu, which will store all empires, [[Fallen Empire|Fallen Empires]], primitive species and everything else the player can communicate with in-game. The menu also displays other empires' opinion scores, their ethics, and what galactic organizations they are associated with. Next is the '''Situation Log''', which includes all side missions and special projects the player's empire can undertake. The icon glows orange when there are updates to be viewed. Next, the '''Research''' menu displays what the empire's three research scientists are currently working on. From here, the player can check the progress their scientists have made on their current projects and assign them new ones once they are finished. The final menu is actually a drop-down containing all other menus in-game. An in-depth discussion is reserved for the main article, but important menus for players to be familiar with include '''Planets and Sectors''', '''Policies and Edicts''', '''Factions''', '''Traditions''', and '''Ship Designer'''.
Further along the top of the screen are the player's current 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, {{iconify|Energy Credits}}, {{iconify|Minerals}}, {{iconify|Food}}, {{iconify|Influence}}, and {{iconify|Unity}}. Beside them are the three types of research: {{iconify|Physics}}, {{iconify|Society}} and {{iconify|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 {{iconify|strategic resources}}, {{iconify|core sector systems}} and {{iconify|fleet size}}, all of which are displayed as amount used over amount available.
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 four unpaused speeds - Slow, Normal, Fast, and Fastest - which can be switched between using the plus and minus buttons off to the side. The clock's pause button should not be confused for 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.
Space is vast and mysterious, and it is only natural to want to explore it and discover its secrets. In Stellaris, players use [[Fleet#science_ship|science ships]] to do this, and all players begin with one staffed by a [[Leader#Scientist|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.
Since the player's home system begins unsurveyed, a wise first action is to task the science vessel with surveying it. After surveying the player's home system, the player should then follow up with all systems inside their borders (this can be hard to determine initially, since the map is 3D but the territory marker is 2D; stars that project a hexagon inside an empire's borders belong to that empire). Another idea that can be executed during the home system survey is to split the starting three-corvette fleet into individual ships on in Evasive Mode and use them to scout for colonizable systems and hostile entities. While the science ship is toggled to Evasive Mode by default, losing an early corvette is much easier to recover from compared to a science ship and the scientist on it. Players should also consider making a second science ship as soon as they have the resources for it, and seek to maintain 2-3 science ships across all stages of the game. Later in the game, when all nearby systems have been surveyed, one of these ships can be sent back to the home system to perform [[Assist Research]] once the appropriate technology is unlocked.
During their surveys, science ships have a chance of encountering an anomaly. Anomalies often trigger interesting [[Events|events]] when analyzed, however , there is also a chance of failure (presented in the anomaly's pop-up window) that can result in the ship being destroyed and/or the scientist being killed. This chance is mostly determined by the relative level of the scientist compared to the anomaly plus other modifiers and traits. Since anomalies do not disappear until they have been analyzed, leaving a high-level anomaly alone until the scientist has gained a few levels is a perfectly fine strategy. 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 [[Traditions#Discovery_tree|Discovery traditions tree]] is an excellent early game choice for discovering and successfully analyzing anomalies.
==== Frontier outposts ====
Many of the resource banks in the game are in star systems that do not have any colonizable planets in them. If such a system lies outside the borders of an empire wishing to exploit these resources, then instead of sending a colony ship to the system, they may instead use a construction ship to build a [[frontier outpost]] to lay claim to the nearby star systems. Frontier outposts can also be used as a short -term alternative to colonization, or to safeguard a potentially colonizable world from other empires.
Frontier outposts cost 200 {{iconify|minerals}} and at least 30 {{iconify|influence}} to build, similar to colonization. Once built, the outpost requires 3 {{iconify|energy}} and 1 {{iconify|influence}} per month to maintain. This upkeep cost means that players should refrain from constructing large numbers of outposts, lest they run the risk of exhausting an important resource for empire management. The starting influence income for default empires normally allows for the placement of one or two frontier outposts without encountering resource issues.
*[[Economy#Local_resources|Local Resources]]
Basic resources are global assets shared throughout the empire, and can be viewed at the top of the screen at all times. With the exception of research, all resources have an upper limit on how much the empire can have of that resource at a time. The amount of resource will be displayed in {{yellow|yellow}} if it is at capacity, and any further gains to that resource are usually forfeit until the level comes down. There are 8 basic resources in the game:
*{{iconify|Energy credits}} are the currency of choice in the galaxy and are used to power buildings, maintain ships, establish colonies, clear out tile blockers, negotiate deals and more. Energy production can be increased by constructing [[Buildings#Energy|power plants]] and setting up [[Construction#Mining_Stations|mining stations]].
*{{iconify|Minerals}} are used primarily to build things - [[ships]], [[armies]], [[buildings]], [[spaceport]]s, construction ship stations, and just about everything the empire needs to grow and prosper are paid for in minerals. The empire also uses them as bargaining chips in trade deals and to maintain [[Consumer_Goods|standards of living]] for its pops. Minerals can be obtained more quickly by building [[Buildings#Mineral_production|mining networks]] and mining stations.
The three weapon types in Stellaris 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, but have a fairly short range and, with the exception of disruptors, do little damage to shielded targets.
*'''Kinetic''' weapons (mass drivers, artillery, autocannons) are excellent at destroying shields and can roll for higher damage than other weapon types, but are the most inaccurate of the three types.
*'''Explosive''' weapons (missiles, torpedoes, swarmers) are very accurate and track enemy ships, meaning their damage is almost unavoidable, but they must travel to hit their target and therefore they can be shot down by strike craft and point-defense.
If the builds of the enemy ships are known, it is fairly simple to construct ship plans to hard counter them. For example, if the enemy is using an outfit of battleships with heavy armor and missiles, then an equivalently powerful fleet of destroyers with point-defense modules and lasers 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 setting rally points.
* {{tech|start|Starting technologies}} are technologies that the empire begins the game with, and includes base level buildings, ship components, spaceports, and ships.
* {{tech|acquire|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 a an orange border and are listed below the standard deal of technologies given to the player when they select a new project.
* {{tech|rare|Rare technologies}} are given a purple banner and are very uncommon compared to other technologies available to the player at the time.
* {{tech|danger|Dangerous technologies}} are given a red banner and are projects that could bring about an endgame crisis (more about that later).
Leading an empire to interstellar glory is not a one-person job. Empires must assemble their top minds, commanders, and politicians to stand a chance in becoming the ultimate force in the galaxy.
All leaders have a skill level, ranging from one to five stars, which signifies how experienced the leader is at in their role. 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 {{iconify|influence}} to add them to the roster. The base cost for of recruiting any leader is 50 {{iconify|influence}}, which can be modified through leader traits, technologies , and other modifiers. 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.
Empires can only manage so many leaders at a given time. Empires may only have ten leaders hired at any given time, not counting the empire's ruler. This number can be increased through relevant civics, technologies , and civics, but if an empire must make room for new hires, leaders can be dismissed by clicking the "X" on their portrait.
There are five types of leaders in Stellaris:
=== Researching Anomalies ===
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 can be a success or a failure. The chance of failure diminishes for a scientist with a high skill level. 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.
=== Colonizing ===
Eventually, players would 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. The colonization process requires a colony ship and the expense of some {{iconify|influence}}. The amount of {{iconify|influence}} needed is based on the distance from the target planet and friendly territory. As of update 1.3, players are not required to research certain technologies to colonize planets with a different world type. Players may now colonize planets that have a habitability of at least 40%.
Planets project borders around them which allows for empires to occupy more systems. The size of these planets' borders are is less than the size of the border projected by the empire’s capital world. Be advised that the size of a planet's border may increase as the number of population on said planet increases. Therefore, players should keep an eye out on the systems that are on the edge of the border as these systems maybe may be acquired through such border expansion.
=== Planetary Development ===
Besides the construction and employment of a strong military, empires can also improve their 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 [[Warfare#Federation Warfare|declarations of war]] for more details).
Furthermore, there is a victory goal in which members of a federation occupy 60% of all the habitable planets in the galaxy to win the game.
== Late Game ==
Once players reach the late stages of the game, they should have built an empire with a considerably strong fleet and a strong production on 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 you must meet the conditions for victory. See here for [[Empire#Victory_conditions|victory conditions]].

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