Brace yourself, rant incoming. But I simply don't know where else to post this and I need to say it. TLDR version at the bottom if you'd like.
I found this game many years back, not very early in it's development but early enough to have been here for several of the big changes. I have, up until now, stuck by it and still felt it worth playing. Today I officially give up, it's simply not worth the high blood pressure and wasted nights where I could be up playing other games or sleeping.
What pains me most about this is the sheer potential this game has to be truly great, which is utterly squandered by innumerable problems that make the great gameplay all but unreachable. There is so much here to love, but overshadowed by a laundry list of problems that I just can't ignore any longer.
In no particular order, here is my list of grievances against the design of Stellaris, and what I feel is holding it back from being something truly great:
- The AI is utterly useless.
This is a massive double edged sword, causing severe damage to the fun of playing in multiple ways. The first is your opponents who, assuming you're playing single-player, are the entirety of the challenge. They are the antagonists, the one sole thing you fight and the only thing to play against. A good AI is thus neccisary to have an enjoyable experince, but oh boy…it is lacking.
From a basic understanding of building usage, to expansion, to war actions, to diplomacy…no aspect of the AI's methods works well within the game. How many times have you conquered a NPC world only to find the thing covered in precinct houses and have nothing of use on it? How many times have you accelerated in power far beyond what the NPC's do because they do not use any of their resources correctly? From leaving empty planets uncolonized in their space to throwing their entire fleet headfirst into the meat grinder, the AI is simply useless.
And unfortunately for you, due to the sector system, large portions of your own empire are also subject to it's whims. Whenever it can, it will waste your resources, and it has only gotten worse with the complexity added by 2.2. There is only one way to combat this, which helpfully leads me into my next problem…
- The micromanagement is off the charts.
There is simply no way to play this game without getting carpal tunnel. While some would argue it's a feature of the gameplay itself, and that it's part of the difficulty, it has been taken too damn far. Recall for a moment what Stellaris used to be like, and look at what we have now. Le Guin has exponentially increased the level of complexity, and trying to keep over 20 planets from constantly being overrun with problems is a nightmare. Make this, change that, demolish this other thing, new building slot, need another district, shit out of housing again. ENDLESSLY.
The issues with the AI and how it runs sectors only adds to this, as you need to run around like a coked up firefighter trying to keep everything from burning down, playing wack-a-mole with all the problems. I'm not saying it shouldn't exist, all I'm saying is that this should NOT be the defining feature of the game. Add to planets the economy, military, expansion, building, diplomacy, exploration, and every other facet of the game at the same time and it's simply too much. Again, the management is the gameplay and it's not like it should be removed, but could we please turn it down from 11 to a comfortable 9? Some simple stuff like automatic military stances for fleets (like one to fight piracy without you manually setting all patrol routes, or a "set home defense" one that will respond automatically to weaker hostile ships entering your space), auto-explore unlocked from the start for science ships, proper automatic trade routing, and a working system of AI management for planets you don't chose to micromanage. The diehards who enjoy the chaos can say what they like, for a casual player this is a necessity QOL change.
- The balance is seriously out of whack.
I won't touch as heavily on this as other things primarily because it's a dead horse so thoroughly beaten that nothing remains but a red stain. But I would like to point out though the sheer number of smaller balance issues, as glaring problems get far more attention.
For example: Ship building and weapon choices are skewed to certain items, certain ethics are clearly more strong then others, certain tradition paths are glaringly stronger then others, the accession paths are not equal, certain parts of megacorp utterly break wealth generation and make you hilariously rich, too much strength is given to research, and nothing is quite expensive enough to match what you have to spend. Alone all of these would be perfectly fine and tolerable, but combine this with too many other tiny things to mention and it becomes too much. This game is far too easy to break.
- The performance needs some improving.
This is not anywhere near as bad as other issues, but still needs mentioned. Stellaris has some optimization issues, and while it's gotten a lot better it's far from perfect. Even on a good PC trying to play through the end-game without mods or fixes and tweaks is a challenge. Long load times, framerate drops, overall lag, and other issues persist. This isn't a top priority, and if the problem were alone it would be fine no questions asked. But it's not, it's just another turd for the heap. It only adds to the others.
- The bugs and glitches are endless.
Normally I'm not one to ever say a word about this, but Stellaris takes it to a whole new level. I'm a veteran of dozens of games known for being a bit fucky, but never have I ever seen a game as glitchy as this one. I don't understand how it's not talked about more, I literally have never gone through a single playthrough of this game without something being broken. From messages that the same caravan system has been blown up and reestablished multiple times in a row, to empty unremovable fleets with no ships, to disappearing entities and L-Drakes, to an empire opening and closing their borders to me dozens of times. Again, shit for the shit heap, skulls for the skull throne, alone it means nothing…but combined with everything else it only adds to the frustration. Having to deal with everything else only to get the camera randomly stuck jittering in the corner of the system, and having to wait 5 minutes for a quit and reload to fix it…aggravating like nothing else.
And finally, the straw that broke the camels back, and the real reason I'm here dumping a wall of text. Just skip over this if you want, it's entirely conjecture and opinion.
ALL MECHANICS CURRENTLY SURROUNDING WAR ARE UTTER NONSENSE.
Stellaris is a game covered with military strategy and gameplay. Every empire, even a pacifistic one, has a fleet to wield. That it should be this messed up is utterly inexcusable. It is a core feature of the game itself, to not be able to use it is beyond mere annoyance…it renders it unplayable.
Rather then describe, let me give you an example.
I spent dozens of hours grinding up a great empire for a massive, ludicrous fleet and keeping diplomatically neutral. Once ready, I decided to expand my borders and have some much needed conquest. Every other empire on the list read as "pathetic" save for the fallen empires, and nothing would stand in my way. I had every tradition, every tool, most research, a fleet ten times the people I would fight, and a colossus. There was no way I'd lose. I didn't bother with total war because I was only taking a handful of systems. I claimed a dozen stars, and went in. Another empire also decided to join in and take some systems for themselves too.
Hours later i have claimed all of their systems (that wasn't being held by the other guys fighting them), taken every planet they had (again, save for the other guys), destroyed every fleet, destroyed every army, destroyed every station, and pushed them into and past 100% war exhaustion for years. And still nothing, hundreds of points too low to finish the war and take my systems. I did the only thing left, I flew my colossus to their capital world and destroyed it. And…
Nothing happened. They have NOTHING. Every planet in ruin, not one p of fleet, not one army, no utility ships or shipyards, not even a single system left…and these gas-huffing little shits can still defy an entity that has a hundred thousand P worth of hard work and effort permanently bombarding everything they had left? While the loss of the largest planet I was claiming (because I destroyed it) raised their acceptance dramatically, it was still too low to claim a dozen systems.
I did the only thing I could do. I disbanded all of my fleets, set every species to utopian abundance, reformed my government to fanatic pacifist and spiritualist (for all the times I had uttered Jesus Christ), deleted the save file, and uninstalled the game.
Rather then explain my problems with the current state of the game's war system (OUTSIDE OF TOTAL WAR), instead I'm just going to ask you to imagine with me for a moment that the casus belli system was split into two stats. "War Exhaustion" which incurs penalties if you continue fighting, and "War Devestation", which is a simple measure of how much of how much of your stuff you've lost to war.
The first stat causes acceptances to certain surrender types like now, as well as penalties if you don't, but the second gives the player absolutely zero choice in the matter at certain levels. Lose enough of your empire, and you have no capacity to fight. This would allow us to both have negotiation and non-negotiation scenarios within the game and would allow us to better force win conditions to prevent stalemates.
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read my rant. I'm no expert, and I'm sure there are far better ideas for how to "fix" parts of the game. But as it is now, I can no longer play in good conscience if none of this changes.
This is an amazing game ruined by some incredibly sad faults. I do not nearly have enough cocaine to play Stellaris anymore, I wish you guys all the luck in the world and I hope things change. Until then, or most likely permanently, I'm going to leave you to it.
Downvote, disagree, whatever you like. I just needed to say it.
Edit: Apologies, formatting broke my numbers.
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© Post "I feel robbed: Why I’m putting down Stellaris permanently" for game Stellaris.
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