Many of the first pick traditions are about saving, or generating influence.
- –20% Claim influence cost
- –20% Starbase influence cost
Interstellar Dominion is very strong. With the 20% reduction to influence cost, you can essentially build a free Starbase for every 5 you construct. Just keep in mind, expanding that aggressively means you need to sacrifice something like research or consumer goods in order to get your alloy production up quickly.
- +50% Edict duration
Executive Vigor is also a decent pick. It doesn't save you as much influence as ID, but it's the perk that keeps on giving. Your Empire edicts will depend on your governing ethics, but every player (if they are thinking about going this route), should be sure to research Planetary Unification as early as possible, as the campaigns you unlock are where the real cost savings come in. In the mid game, this perk gets even better since the duration bonus applies to both the strategic resource edicts as well as the Unity Ambitions.
- +10% Unity
- +50% Governing ethics attraction
One Vision is also another influence tradition, having all you pops attracted to the same ethic and thus the same faction does two things. First it makes that faction easy to satisfy, generating the maximum influence. Secondly it make all your pops happy. Happiness leads to planet stability. Planet stability leads to a hefty resource production modifier. If that wasn't enough, One Vision also gives you a flat +10% unity bonus, where unlike research labs, it's hard to ramp up unity generation early game since there's only one monument per planet. This perk is great for Egalitarians who generate more influence from happy factions.
- –75% Subject integration influence cost
- Subject Trust Cap +100
Finally, there's Shared Destiny. The biggest problem with this perk is having to wait 10 years before integrating. This makes much more sense as a second perk (with maybe Nihilistic Acquisition as first). To make this worth the pick you need to actually be getting vassals/ protectorates. Early game war is really risky, if you succeed great! If you fail, you've essentially gimped yourself for many years as you struggle to catch up. If you really want to corvette rush someone, go for it. This perk will help make up for you neglecting your economy by taking over someone else's, but it's risky. Unlike all the other first picks, this one becomes useless if you are behind. This perk is also useful on maps with the number of primitive species turned up, but waiting 10 years for 1 system still doesn't seem very strong, better to just take the planet by force. Trust cap is nice, but I don't have much of an opinion on it.
Next up are the governing ethic unique perks
Consecrated Worlds (Spiritualist)
- Consecrate Worlds decision
This is a stronger unity generating perk than One Vision as long as you are playing tall, since you can only make three of them. Consecrated worlds even provide their population with a strong spiritualist attraction. This perk is one of the primary reasons to play spiritualist empires, as it is exclusive to them.
Universal Transactions (Megacorp)
- -15% Branch Office Cost
- Commercial Pacts costs no influence
Universal Transactions seems good on paper, and it can be. To make it better than the other first picks though, you really need to commit to opening branch offices. Unfortunately unlike the other traditions, it relies on what the other players around you are doing. In SP some may be hostile AI, in Multiplayer they may simply refuse a commercial pact if they are fine missing out on the trade benefit.
Nihilistic Acquisition (Authoritarian/Xenophobe)
- Unlocks the Raiding bombardment stance
- +33% Immigration Pull
- +20% Pop Growth Speed if planet has at least 2 different species
- May trigger crossbreeding if planet has at least 2 different species
- Half-species have mixed traits, +1 Maximum traits and +1 Maximum trait point
Holy shit, this is THE reason to play as a Xenophile empire. Pop growth is so important this update, and this helps you in so many ways. First off, Xenophiles get reduced cost migration treaties. In SP the AI already loves Xenophile so you shouldn't have much trouble. In MP you need to hope your neighbors want your species, and they can live together in the same climate. This may make more sense as a later pick if it takes a while to find the right partner for a migration treaty, or to gain climate acclimation. The +33% immigration pull means your new colonies are going to reach 10 pop very quickly. The +20% pop growth means you might consider forgoing the gene clinics on your worlds (though who am I kidding, those buildings are great). The greater max trait cap is just a nice icing on the cake, as not even biologic ascension lets you go over 5 traits normally.
Finally, there are a few other niche first pick perks that we should talk about.
Mastery of Nature
- –33% Clear blocker cost
- Land clearance decision
Mastery of Nature got a lot better this patch. Tile blockers have become more expensive to clear, so the 33% cost savings can start to add up. The big buff though is the change to Land Clearance. No longer does it add a tile or two based on planet size. Instead it add 2 district cap on any planet you enact it on. This is fantastic if you are building tall, or have a world with a lot of bonus basic districts you want to exploit. The tile blocker discount is a situational first pick, but the Land clearance perk means you don't regret grabbing this as you transition into the mid-game.
- +10% Research speed
This is a very weak first pick, and something I see as sort of a new player trap. When your first policy pops up you are usually making around 10-15 of each science. Adding a 10% bonus here means that it's essentially giving you 1 to 1.5 extra science a month. Do you know what else give a crap ton more science? Building a second research lab. Even keeping up on your research station construction will only be giving you +2 to +3 science as you creep towards 20 and 30 science generation. This can be a decent perk if you pick it up in the mid-game. But it just does so little in the first few years, at the cost of other great first pick choices, that I think it may be the weakest first ascension perk.
- +2 Leader level cap
- +1 Leader Pool Size
I've loved this perk for a long time, so I'm sad to see it fall from grace. The removal of the max leader capacity means that this perk no longer provides those precious extra leaders. Instead it increases the number of choices you have to select from when you go to buy your leaders by 1. That can be situationally good, especially when looking for the right scientist discipline. The +2 leader capacity sounds great, but there are a bunch of other traditions (mainly the new discovery ones) that give you level cap without the need for a perk slot. Add on to that, you need your leaders to live long enough to actually make use of their level caps. You either need to be a long lived race, or grab this perk in the mid-game when you've got a few lifespan enhancing technologies. All told, I'm not going to say this perk is bad, but it's definitely not the powerhouse it once was. Only grab this as a first pick if you are playing a Venerable species.
- Can build Habitat stations
This will not be your first pick unless you play a very niche, very RNG based strategy. The worst part about this perk is actually being able to choose it. You see, you need to have Starholds (tier 3 outposts) researched in order to select this perk. The thing is, the Starhold tech card has a -10x modifier if the game year is < 50. You can improve the odds of this tech showing up by bordering a Fallen Empire since having a neighbor with this tech researched gives it a x10 modifier to being drawn. Now that being said, you also need enough tier 2 techs researched to even make this card legal to be rolled for, AND you actually need enough engineering research to be able to get this in a reasonable time. After all that, you need to actually have the economy to support building a habitat. I guess you could delay your unity production by going labs instead of monuments, snuggle up next to a fallen empire, crank out those alloy forges, and pray to RNG for the glorious habitat spam. It's a fun strat, but I'm not convinced it's competitive.
That's all the Ascension perks that you can chose from as a first pick. As you can probably tell, I love early game growth and I am hesitant to engage in early game wars, but that's just my playstyle. Let me know what you all think of my analysis, this patch has definitely shaken things up quite a bit with the planet overhaul and tradition changes.
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