Stellaris

Am I missing something about this game?

stellaris 5 - Am I missing something about this game?
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I have recently been getting back into Stellaris, and into my third game, the longest I have played by far. I am now in the year 2350. There are some questions I have, some comments. This game fits my perfect genre, and there is so much about it that bothers me.

  1. I think I am about halfway through with the game. How long is a game supposed to take? I think my hours into this run are over 30. I really don't know what else can be left for another 30 some hours of gameplay. The last few hours have been just running the game at max speed waiting for a notification to do something.
  2. Influence. I despise this mechanic. I have still not claimed every available star system. The only reliable way to get more is to declare other empires my rival, which pisses them off. If I ever accept any diplomatic deal, I loose influence. And it is needed for EVERYTHING. I can't take over my neighbor because even though I could wipe the floor with him I can only conquer 3 systems. I got a cool ascension perk to increase planet size, which I have only gotten to use once because it is so expensive. I can't use a good part of the edicts system, because it is also super expensive. And I even created this empire specifically to be good at this aspect of the game and to make it cheaper.
  3. Administration capacity. This might be worse than the influence. Takes a lot of effort to increase it a little bit, while any sort of expansion increases sprawl a lot. And if the sprawl is too large, the most enjoyable aspects of the game, such as choosing new techs, are weakened into nothingness. I had to get a mod to effectively remove this so the game was playable.
  4. Technology. I looked up the tech tree, and it seems I am most of the way through it. I am now researching techs that I didn't pick earlier because they are the only options available. And they get so expensive and take so long I can play for half an hour before completing one, giving me nothing, and then letting me pick from 5 techs I don't care about.
  5. Pop growth. Again, why is this so SLOW!
  6. The "civics" tree. Similar to tech, I am mostly through these. It seems kind of pointless making choices here when I am only halfway through the game and I have completed 5/7 trees and started on the sixth. And the trees I am now working towards don't benefit me due to the path I have chosen to take.
  7. Anomalies. These were probably the most fun I have had so far. Figuring out what the story behind them was, making choices with different actions to take that affected the rewards I received. However, it seems as the game goes on they occur less and less frequently. I assume this is because I have encountered most of the anomalies possible, the the chance of more is very low.
  8. War. Why if I am winning a war and have control over all claimed systems can I not continue to fight in the war, and slowly claim and conquer more. Forcing me into a peace due to some war weariness mechanic really sucks, especially when it takes 10 years, which amounts to a few days IRL, to declare war again.

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Just in general, it feels like this game really suffers mid-late game (wherever I am at). Strategy-wise it feels very weak. The only fun decision making options were with anomalies, tech choices, exploration, rushing to claim territory, and ship design. However, all of those have sharply fallen off. Building on colonies feels like making very similar choices/following an algorithm. I remember in an earlier edition I played there was an adjacency mechanic where you had to arrange building placement that was fun to optimize for certain things. Now it feels like you have to be very balanced. The creation of mining and research stations is only interesting in the very early game where it matters if you build for power or mineral. Now I just right click on the system and say build all. Resource management after the early game seems to be focused on alloys for which fleets to build/upgrade and the rare resources like gas or crystal.

Are these concerns/criticisms common in this community? Am I somehow playing the game wrong? Overall, it feels like this game is very weak strategy-wise, and it takes far too long for anything to happen after the "early?" game. Is the game mainly meant to be played during that empire establishment phase, and then restarted with a new empire? Even that would be lessened because I know the techs and the more interesting anomalies now.

Edit: Should have said this, but I have none of the DLC.

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