Art by Empanada
On Tuesday May 22, Stellaris’ developer, Paradox Development Studio, released its first major update to the revamped ‘Stellaris 2.0’ that was launched earlier this year. The Stellaris 2.1 ‘Niven’ update comes with the paid ‘Distant Stars’ DLC. Buyers will enjoy a host of new anomalies to research, three new Leviathans – giant space monsters – to defeat, and travel to the namesake Distant Stars, a cluster of stars outside of the galaxy that is randomly generated with each new game, and is geared towards opening at the mid-game.
As has become usual for Paradox, core systems of the game are rolled out with the free patches and 2.1 ‘Niven’ is no exception. The patch is named after Ringworld author Larry Niven, and targets the strategic progression and exploration mechanics of the game.
Patch 2.0 originally revamped the strategic progression by limiting galactic travel to hyper-lanes only, and coupled system ownership to maintaining an outpost, doing away with the influence-based border range of previous versions. This allowed players to strategically reinforce their pockets of space by creating and holding choke-points. 2.1 ‘Niven’ explores this concept further by taking a page off EVE’s playbook and tweaking the map generation algorithm to create constellations. In my first campaign, I found that this alters the progression substantially, with determining how to weaken my enemy by striking their strategically important systems and isolating pockets of space.
Explorers will be rewarded by the introduction of a fog-of-war preventing you (and your opponents) from seeing the galaxy’s complete hyper-lane layout, making scouting imperative, and changes to anomalies. Anomalies are Stellaris’ events in space that provide technology points or resources. Previously, anomalies had a percentage-based chance to succeed based on the level of the exploration ship. With the new patch, anomalies always succeed, but the time to research them is level-dependent. That way, you are less likely to switch ships out or skip anomalies altogether. Especially with the new anomalies introduced in the ‘Distant Stars’ story pack, early and mid-game exploration feels more meaningful.
The key feature of ‘Distant Stars’ is the addition of L-Space, a pocket of space outside of the galaxy that can be accessed by exploring around black holes and conquering a system with an L-Gate. The exact makeup of the L-Cluster differs from game to game to encourage multiple playthroughs, but in my game I found some strategic resources that buffed my research output and fleet strength. Others have found creatures, and other potential spoilers.
This has be my first campaign since the Banks update, about a year ago, and I am pleasantly surprised by the direction the game has taken. Before 2.0, the game was a free-for-all sandbox with many systems that did not gel too well with each other. 2.0 restricts some systems to allow for a smoother overall experience that, finally, has a good early- and mid game that you are not just fast-forwarding through. I recommend you give it a shot. If you want to watch some Stellaris first, I recommend the official Stellaris ‘Distant Stars’ stream.