Let's just start by saying I love what Stellaris could be, and that is the problem itself; After years playing this game on Steam and GoG, with over 2500 hours in total, I have come to realise I never actually liked the game itself, I only liked what the game could be, because it misses the mark in every respect as far as what could be possible.
The game itself is marketed as a 4X, but at best it is a Pseudo 4X, it looks like a 4X, but it smells like City Builder and plays like a very shallow RTS game, in truth I'd call it a Empire/City Building Mod Engine. That's where the truth lies, I have downloaded and created mods by the dozens to try and modify this game into what the image is I have in my head, but even with mods it falls short of the mark.
Since I began playing it's essentially come down to a continuous circle, I start a game, I play for a while, I think of a half dozen things that should be different, I quit, I download mods, edit my playlist, modify my personal mod, then start a new game, then I think of half a dozen things that should be different, I quit, I download mods, edit my playlis, modify my personal mod and start yet another game. This continues over and over because Stellaris just has no depth, it has no meaning, and it has no challenge, the only thing I end up enjoying is my own empire design, hence why I restart over and over, because no game keeps me going beyond the idea I had in my head.
This game will suck you in and chew up hours of your life, you'll keep playing it over and over but the reason is not because it's a good game, it's because the game will never satisfy you, you'll always start a new empire in a different vein, and while you may play to victory over and over, you will no doubt be thinking the entire time "This should be different". Then you'll start downloading mods and find that a lot of it really can be different and much better and but still because there's no true substance to the game you'll just modify your playlist over and over to try and get that perfect game, but the truth is you're only playing to realise a picture you have in your head and the game doesn't care about that picture because it was designed to be random.
In the end, from a code perspective the game is not really a game as much as it is a poorly developed Mod Engine, it has a bunch of basic assets like you get when you develop on Unity, a basic environment, and modular support for replacement and modification by the end user, over three years of development on that engine have resulted in multiple functions being bootstrapped in to support mod features and mod author requests. The truth of the game model is Paradox have released a modding engine and the DLC's are development modules that provide basic assets for mod authors to build on, that's why the best mods for the game are absolute total conversions because then the game matches the idea in your head, without that total conversion you'll never be satisfied.
I don't recommend you buy this game as it plays on addictive psychology to sell the product by always keeping you satisfied enough to start again but never satisfied enough to walk away. My 2500+ hours have been spent chasing a dream, a dream that, sadly, Stellaris will never capture.
Edit: Btw, IMO this is why one of the Fallen Empires says "Don't break the fourth wall, you clever child.", it's actually Paradox saying keep your imagination going because it's the only real reason you're playing this game, break that fourth wall and the reality is quite stark. If you can stay behind the fourth wall then by all means do so, but it crumbled for me a long time ago.
Note: Feel free to tell me your perspective/informed opinion, however please be respectful and remember the human, I would like to hear counterpoints or discussion on what I have written so feel free to disagree, just please be polite.
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