Let me start off by saying I've recently started playing Stellaris again after not touching it much since release, with the odd game around the Apocalypse expansion. I think the game has massively improved since then and I personally love the new pop management/district aspect of the game as I love micromanaging my empire. It actually gives you something to do at peacetime, unlike some other Paradox games where it's just war, war and war.
On the topic of war the one thing that REALLY annoys me in Stellaris is the entire war aspect of the game. It seems to have not changed at all in the last 3 years, if anything it seems several steps back even compared to much older Paradox games.
1. War Exhaustion Why on holy terra is war exhaustion a thing for a stellar empire? Let alone FORCING you to peace out? What was wrong with war score based on planets, starbases and battles won that can change depending on the flow of the war? As far as I know so far, WE only ticks up.
This is probably the most annoying mechanic in a paradox game I can remember. At least in EU4 it simply applies negative penalties to your nation to coax you into seeking peace, or you can ignore it and attempt to stabilize your nation whilst you finish the war, and lastly, you have the means to reduce war exhaustion by spending bird mana. This allows the player several choices to make which is key to strategy games, not simply "you have 420 days left, grab everything you can and peace out" which Stellaris encourages.
The nearest Stellaris' war exhaustion compares to is the force peace stab hitting mechanic also in EU4, which again you're able to fight by upping stability or reclaim the war goal. It's also only for a nation that's losing the war quite badly and is a godsend in multiplayer. In my current game, my hivemind devouring swarm was fighting a machine empire. The AI just kept throwing wave after wave of suicide ships at me in an effort to seize some insignificant system. Why would either of us care? Let alone enough to be forced to peace out. I don't think a citizen ever saw a battle or knew there was a war (hivemind consciousness ignored). In fact the war was quite profitable and I was happy to let it continue. But no, instead you're forced to rush the enemy territory and seize as many systems as possible before the timer runs out.
It's obviously a system in place to arbitrarily limit player expansion and I get that, but at least give the player ways to endure or fight it.
2. UI The war screen UI is a mess. Again I don't think this screen has seen a single update since release and is utterly useless at providing information half the time. The demands list X, Y, Z and 26 other systems. What other systems? Why isn't that information listed in detail?
3. Simplistic and inflexible war goals and demands. I find it odd that a game set thousands of years ahead of EU4, Hoi4, Imperator, Vicky 2 and CK2 has an inferior war negotiation system than any of the other games. You shouldn't be so heavily limited based on which war goal you choose, and even then there needs to be far more options for a game set around galactic warfare. Enforced disarmament, displacement of pops, trade deals, subsidies, neutral zones and embargos, the ability to split the territory claimed between yourself and vassals etc. Why annexation, liberation and vassalisation are mutually exclusive or require certain policies I don't know.
4. Forced military access. I'm sorry but you're telling me the determined exterminators, devouring swarms and frankly anyone would agree to open borders after a war? It should be a war concession, not an enforced game mechanic. Again I assume to simply prop up the AI which wasn't needed in any other paradox game. Why not simply exile units?
I won't talk about the AI as I know it's not a simple fix and obviously something Paradox are aware of and are always trying to improve. But the rest of the stuff are relatively simple fixes that are standard in their other games. Sorry for the rant, but it's great seeing how much this game has improved but goddamn is the warfare annoying in comparison. There just seems to be an overall lack of player choice or involvement in this aspect of the game, and I hope the next DLC/patch will focus on addressing this.
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