As said in the title, I'm a new Stellaris player. Bought the game about a month ago with Utopia and so far I've been enjoying it a lot.
For my first playthrough I thought I'd delve into a "vanilla" game to catch the basics. Made a "Politically Correct" human empire, egalitarian/democratic/pacifist values. Also created a Federation which slowly grew to have 3 out of 5 of the biggest Empires in the game. Found a half-built Dyson sphere which I repaired as fast as possible, and built a navy to protect me from the fanatic slaver monarchy next door (changed the balance of power to "Overwhelming military power" to "Pathetic" in a matter of some years). As for the Victory Score, I was way ahead of everyone except for the Sleeping Empires in all aspects. All was good in the world and no wars were being fought at all since my diplomatic weight stirred everyone to non violent solutions and galactic laws. I even managed to integrate a slaver empire by allowing them to become my protectorate. At the same time, I spent all my remaining resources on encircling the dormant empires with full defenses and navies built specifically to counter each Empire's build on the Fleet Designer tab.
Suddenly I was notified that one of the two sleeping empires turned from "Remnant" to "Restorer". Naturally they declared war on one of the two neutral Empires who they conquered and defeat really fast. When I noticed this I tried to capitalise even more on defenses and choke points, which became absolutely impregnable to anyone in the galaxy except for the awakened empire, who I thought could be countered to a certain extent if I defended with all I had (plus my 3 allies in the federation).
Then it happened: the Restorers declared war on one of my allies, which in turn meant I was at war with them as well. Their first navy came on my door where I had a starbase of 18 defense platforms and a navy tailored to counter their playstyle; But they managed to destroy every single fortress and annihilate my navies without even sustaining a few losses. At the time of me writing these lines, they keep advancing into my territory as if there is no opposition (capturing megastructures, planets, resources and so on) with me only being able to answer with some corvette guerilla warfare to delay them, while at the same time my ally who they declared war upon in the first place whistles indifferently and even gains some Awakened territory to my expense. Our further-placed allies don't even bother other than moving their troops around erratically in attempt to appear busy as AI, I suppose.
The reason I'm writing all this is I have no reference as to if this gameplay is normal. Is the desperate helplessness of the AI bypassing every measure you can take against it supposed to work like this? Are Federations just a mechanic to offer a few buffs and nothing more as a military alliance? Did I manage to ruin my first playthrough somehow or should I wait and see how this develops in any case?
Truth is I prefer games that give me the sense of control and reward my plan-making (I have enough stress and surprises in real life, I don't need that in video games as well), but Stellaris might be the first game that keeps me interested to see how the story develops even if it throws all my endeavours and hopes into the trash. My only worry is if the playthrough is bugged or ruined, but since it's my first try I really can't tell. Feel free to share your thoughts and similar experiences!
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