So my biggest fault with stellaris is what I call the mid game slump. I am defining mid game as the time beginning when the galaxy has been explored and/or you are landlocked.
Exploration is fucking awesome in this game. It presents you with real choices, and is in general very enjoyable. When exploration ends (the mid game), the core gameplay loop shifts. You now have 2 options
1) get meaningless modifiers from events (and it looks like that is what federations will give us more of 🙁 )
2) Go conquer shit.
Space conquest should be enjoyable in the moment, and rewarding in the end. When I say rewarding, I mean both you should end sucessful conquest with a better game state (more resources etc), and the human being playing should feel good. When I say enjoyable in the moment I mean the act/strategy of space combat (especially in real time, should be fun. Let's look at both of those.
In the moment space combat:
Space combat is boring as shit. it is still I punch through with my deathball wherever you are not, kill some shit, and either leave when you arrive with a bigger fleet or mop up your distributed fleets. The components, which could be super awesome, just become a rock paper scissors, which can't be retrofitted while on campaign without a full retreat. Actually finishing wars is just about killing enough shit to make a timer tick up. As the human I feel like almost all of the descisions are decided right when I declare war and move out. Almost nothing during the war I do matters (unless I retreat and end the war).
After conquest rewards: After I take down a chunk of an empire, what do I get? A shittily built AI planet, more pops to manage, and in general more micro that just makes numbers tick up and boring modifiers get better….yay? Even if the AI built properly, all I would end up with is modifiers going up….yay? Sure the game tells me I am winning, but going to war basically means a bunch of mindless clicks moving a deathball around followed by another set of mindless clicks (by mindless here I mean the correct decisions are obvious) dealing with my new conquests. So that leads to one final question. Is there anything in the game telling me to do this? Other than there literally being nothing else to do? No. The game basically puts no incentives beyond modifiers go up YAY, to go to war. Imagine instead, resources started to go dry, or you needed rare resources to keep going that only a neighbor had. Suddenly I NEED war, I NEED conquest to survive (or trade etc). That need drives me to actually interact with the game. Even if all the tedium were taken out of the system, that need really needs to be there to make this work. After all, all combat is a risk on your part, if you don't need to take it, why do it at all?
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© Post "We need a better core gameplay loop if we want this game to work well" for game Stellaris.
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