Playing my first real multiplayer game with a few friends and a bunch of AI. I decide to play fanatic spiritualist, authoritarian. Leaning heavy into imperium vibes. My neighboring empire friend plays UNE.
I always like spiritualism for the flavor, and because psionics are cool. I also love the idea of quickly unlocking traditions to get a good "strong foundation" society easily. Last time I played with this kind of empire was a few years ago. Back then, I knew spiritualism was technically the worst way to go if you min-max, but still pretty good on its own merits. And that slavers were very strong and figured I could make up for the spiritualism "weakness" with just going for a strong slavery economy.
But… wow. It's not just worse, its awful. Completely awful. And I'm not even going to get into how much worse slaves seem to scale in the late game than utopian abundance, which is a different matter entirely. A few glaring issues –
Nothing can stop a repeatable tech steamroll. If you're going spiritualist, and you're NOT still basing your entire economy around tech, you're fucked. In midgame my UNE neighbor had fleet power hitting 120-150K with a fleet command limit + naval capacity that was half of mine. Really?
I loved the shroud a few years ago, not only for the flavor but for the chance of getting a really great boon that other empires didn't have access to. But i've realized, especially with so many expansions now that add lots of boons on their own (artifacts, l-gates, curators, etc), every empire can pretty much get shroud-style boons, and a lot more reliably. And the shroud boons aren't even that good! A vast, vast majority of them are the kinds of things you just get from random events in general. Faster ship speed for a few years? That ends up being a tiny 10-15% bump? Wowee! So glad I spent 20 months waiting for that. The worst part about the shroud is the fact that the chance to fail is very, very high… even for "easy" and meaningless boons. If I went psionic, and I wanted to go for a green boon, it should pass 100% of the time. Usually green boons aren't actually that good anyways, and Psionics need something to bridge the gap to machine/bio. I should, if I want, be able to get a modest boon 100% of the time. But if I attempt a riskier boon, it should ACTUALLY be rewarding if I succeed. Better governing ethics shift for 5 years should NOT have any chance to fail. The Covenants are OK, but really… a 15% research boost for a downside that curses your empire the entire game? Or… I could go to a curator. And before you go "why not both??" when you're already at +100% research speed with curator, artifact, leaders, etc… 15% added to that is worth a lot less. It's silly. That boon should just be a yellow difficulty temp boon, and the covenant should be something truly meaningful, like a 50%+ boon.
It was ridiculous that this entire game I played, reached into the shroud maybe 2-3 dozen times, and a vast majority of them I simply failed. I wasn't even trying to go for hard boons, I was trying to go for anything. This should not happen, period. This is the ONE cool advantage you have over non-psionics. You should always get more out of the shroud than you put into it, unless you try to intentionally go for pretty high-risk, high-reward stuff. Its crazy to me that I need to work so hard and roll so many dice that synth, bio or even just tech-focused empires get by default. The shroud should make you simply overpowered during the period of the boon if you go for one that has some risk to it. That's the only way psionic could possibly stand up tech focused empires, because randomness (even if its good randomness) is an inherently bad disadvantage in of itself. All boons need to be dramatically buffed to make up for the randomness disadvantage. No benefit you can get in the shroud should be something you could easily just get with a curator or even building a minor megastructure.
- Majority of the good ascension perks… require technology to actually unlock. This is crazy to me. The entire point of going spiritual is the crazy amount of unity you can build up. But this entirely pointless if the ascension perks REQUIRE tech (???) to unlock. And Unity Ambitions too! It wasn't until after 2400 that I actually unlocked the tech required to get unity ambitions & the final ascension perk, despite unlocking the entire tradition trees 100 years earlier. Meanwhile my UNE friend had this unlocked 50 years before that (lets not even get into the fact that Utopian abundance basically gives him spirit levels of unity output, for some reason). Despite not being spiritualist/tradition focused at all, he ends up getting the exact perks he wants 5 decades before an empire who's entire point is focusing on that, simply because everything is actually locked behind techs. I had SO MUCH UNITY saved up from 100 years of being able to do nothing with it that I could select every unity ambition 4X over by the time I got the tech for it to unlock. At this point UNE friend was already "overwhelming" in every category to me, despite my massive, constant fleet production (which he didn't need to do).
I don't mind tying some perks with tech, because it makes sense. But why not make it so if you don't have the tech, it lets you pick the perk anyways 4-5 perks in, and you'll get a guaranteed tech drop? And if you do have the tech, you can pick it early? That way spiritualist empires don't fall in last place vs tech empires on traditions, but you still get a benefit if you're tech focused. And make it so you unlock unity ambitions no matter what once you unlock every tree. It's insane to me that they lock the ability to use unity that you aren't using anymore behind a tech. I'm fine with the final perk being tech-locked, I just want to be able to use my unity if I actually unlock every tree 50-100 years before everyone else. This should be the main advantage I have over non-spirit empires.
Spiritualist ethics seem to have little practical use outside making ethics attraction easier. I wish it played a bigger part in how controllable slaves/crime are, or influence over other empires, or huge bonuses to housing/unemployment, or something. Every other empire type gets a flat bonus that directly improves their game. Spiritualists get pretty much nothing, except a nebulous benefit in ethics attraction (AKA: slightly better influence, which other empire types can do just fine too), and a small boon in unity. Maybe thats the point, and part of the flavor – I get that! I just wish it went deeper into that flavor and made having a load of spiritualist pops truly meaningful to offset the fact that materialists are straight up better.
Something needs to be done to make it not as crazy easy to steamroll repeatable techs, or at least let empires that aren't tech focused to catch up. So much of the game's power is entirely in its tech tree. There needs to be a way to spread that power around to other gameplay systems, maybe indirectly. Or maybe you can "steal" repeatables in the same way you can "steal" tech you don't have yet early game if you win a battle. Something needs to happen though. Tech is just such a huge "I win" button because of repeatables that you're stupid for not going for it, no matter what your empire type is.
There's a load of other things but these are just the ones I can think of now. It's just silly to me that despite going hard spiritualist, my materialist neighbor being played by a friend was able to unlock exactly the perks he wanted a full 50-100 years before I could, be able to spend unity on ambitions a full 50 years before me, have fleet power 2-3X what is possible for me to get despite me having 2-3X capacity, AND not get constantly crippled with negative shroud events. I knew spiritualist wasn't "meta" but I didn't realize just how pathetically trash they are. And it isn't just that my friend is really good – in my other solo game I'm playing as a synth ascended empire and by the time I got to 2400 I was roflcoptering the galaxy with same insane fleets + perfect happiness + perfect unity + all perks too. It's frankly completely broken.
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