by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
Back before Christmas, Paradox Interactive released their third expansion for space 4x epic, Stellaris. This one geared towards tackling economy and the so-long absent trade system. Megacorp introduces a whole host of features, but primarily a new playable Corporate Authority, with its own set of civics, plus a feature called a branch office, which can be built on the planets of other factions, conferring benefits to both of you. There’s the introduction on a new planet type as well, the aptly dubbed Ecumenopolis, which is basically a Hive City from 40k, a planet-wide metropolis which can be created when a population reaches a certain level.
WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER
I find economy boring — I am unsure as to whether that’s a popular opinion, but I’m not someone who enjoys playing the numbers game, far preferring tactile features, representations of economy that I can get excited about, or actually interact with in any significant way. I think many 4x’s fall into the idea that complexity automatically adds more player value, but I think Megacorp is one of the more successful economy additions I’ve seen. The introduction of the caravan fleets, basically space salesman who travel between systems offering deals, or the caravansary hub where you can make gambling trades, go a long way to making economy more interesting. The new mega-structures, which allow you to mine blackholes, create space sculptures, or a central strategic mega fortress for your fleets - all on top of a usual trade and market system - make the 4x economy system more palatable.
TWO POINT TWO
However, I feel Paradox have really shot themselves in the foot releasing the 2.2 update at the same time. I’ve long been of the opinion that Stellaris has undergone a few too many changes - developing a game is good, but when it requires players to relearn the primary features of an already complex game, it isn’t. This isn’t a game in early access, so players shouldn’t be seeing features entirely overhauled. 2.2 kills one of my favourite features, the tile system for planets — a feature which was delightfully simple amid such overall complexity, a basic tile strategy mini-game that gave players a fun representation of their planet. In its place we have a system of districts, buildings and jobs. Districts and buildings create jobs, and jobs create resources, sounds simple right? But with the addition of two extra resources, consumer goods and alloys, created from your already existing resources, you end up tied in an overly complex knot of up-keeps and population types for filling the correct jobs. On top of that, alloys fulfil very little purpose it seems, apart from upgrading space stations.
Megacorp is a refreshing expansion, mainly because it shows that economy can be fun and interesting when it is represented by interesting features and not just by numbers and a same-old 4x market and trade system. But much of that seamless simplicity is lost in the convoluted additions of the 2.2 update. Complexity does not automatically make a good 4x, and I personally feel big overhauls have no place in updates this far into development. I love 4x, but I’m a casual player and can only come at it from that standpoint. I can’t, for example, give you an accounting of every single feature and its effect on the overall game, or its effect on the AI, but I personally can see no reason for the overhaul of the tile system for planet management, or even what significance it brings, beyond a relearning of one of the games core features? Stellaris is still a great game and this is a good expansion, but it unfortunately lands in what seems to have been received as a negative update.
Great features representing economy, plenty of bang for your buck
2.2 update negatively impacts the DLC