Space is a huge place, and it seems even bigger when you trying to dominate it; attempting to become the ultimate ruler of the universe. You’ve got to get your research ships out to all the corners of the universe, and you’ll need to deal with different races and their particular needs. You are also required to gather resources for all your subjects and build armies of military spacecraft and exploration vessels. It’s like juggling knives – hot knives the size of asteroids. That is no more true than with the Stellaris: Utopia expansion which has placed me into the starry forever night once more. I’d quickly forgotten how stressful it is trying to be a leader, but with Utopia those stress levels will raise once more.
The original Stellaris: Console Edition released in the early months of 2019 and, like its PC predecessor, was provided with a healthy dose of DLC to keep the space warring families forever in their travels. I very much loved the original base game as it would happily provide a hugely deep space simulator/strategy experience; an experience which the Xbox One has very few of. The controls do take a bit of time getting used to, but once you understand them it’s all fairly simple – and going back again with an expansion is just like riding a bike. The game is a time-eater though and I forgot just how deep, interesting and detailed this game can be.
The Utopia expansion for Stellaris promises to add hours of extra gameplay to an already massive amount of time. This is the biggest expansion yet for Stellaris on console and it doesn’t fail to deliver on that promise. Essentially this is a game about politics and the new DLC really does enhance this notion, utilising it in a deep and meaningful way. When we think of the word ‘utopia’, for example, we generally will have a vision of what that may entail – puppies and humans living in harmony, everyone dressed in white and some light dancing. But of course everyone has a different version of what perfection might be, and some of these are somewhat frightening.
First of all, with Stellaris: Utopia it’s about how you govern and what route this will take. There are a few options to enjoy, like the good old democratic route with elections every few years, or the dictatorship road when you only change the leadership when they die. There are a couple of variations on these types of democratic and fascist governments, but there is also a very different type of government. See, you could choose to have a robot-led government, one that works like a hive mind, where all the decisions are made as one and the ruling party leads forever.
Utopia brings many new options, and now you can build from those choices different civics (like running a police state for example) with belief structures that really do give complicated and structured nuances to the governing role. You could go completely into a passive pro-democracy governing principle where problems would centralise on political corruption or warring fractions being set up with different ethics at play. If you decide to go the right-wing way and be a repulsive dictator, “Advanced Slavery” is an option you can choose. Here you can partake in the horrible aspects of breeding a whole race of living beings, all for use as livestock for your ever-hungry population. Or you can put beings into domestic service, and if they become disobedient then extermination or neutering are both options.
Apart from the government, there are also new ascension perks that inspire you to pursue the ultimate utopian goals for your subjects. You can choose to use your points on Biological, where you can enhance what the body can do through genetic modification to create the perfect race, or Psionic where you can expand what the endless reaches of the mind can do and communicate with alien races and expand tech. There is also a Synthetic route, which is basically totally focused on the vision of the machines from the Terminator franchise. Each to their own, and all that.
There are also megastructures at play here, helping house your growing universal population, however they require a whole bunch of resources to get there. You could have, for example, the Sentry Array that when built will be able to scan the whole galaxy, making life easier. There is also a thing called a Dyson Sphere – with no connection to the hoover guy – which basically brings prestige to your government, providing unlimited power by building a huge machine that sort of wraps itself around a star and saps up all the energy to be converted for power.
Overall though and the Utopia expansion for Stellaris: Console Edition on Xbox One is an excellent piece of DLC for the already very good base-game – particularly if you are happy to drop in many more hours of game time. If you like the original game then you’re in for a treat with the amount of detail in regards to governing and how to guide your subjects to eternal bliss. The ascension perks systems are really interesting as well, providing another goal to an already objective-heavy experience. For now though I’m heading back to my people as they need me to finish the Dyson Sphere, end slavery, stop the rise of the machines and solve Brexit. If only Utopia could cover all those things!
- Excellent amount of content
- Ascension perks
- Detailed governing choices
- Will be far too information-rich for some
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game to : Paradox Interactive
- Formats – Xbox One (Review), PS4, PC
- Release date – August 2019
- Price - £16.74