Stellaris - title

Last year, after my initial enthusiasm for Civilization VI began petering out (until the announcement of the expansion), I went on a bit of a space-4x bender. I spent some time with the rebooted Master of Orion. It was good, but I was underwhelmed by its limited scale and casual depth. I also planned on hitting up Endless Space 2. I played the first Endless Space briefly off-and-on, and I liked it, but kept getting diverted to other games and projects and never really allowed myself the time to get comfortable with the game.

But first, before diving into Engless Space 2, I wanted to tackle a game that's been in my library for over a year: Stellaris. This is an epic, space 4x strategy game developed by Paradox Interactive -- the same developer who brought us the infamously complex and detailed Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings series.

A gentler learning curve than Europa Universalis

I was hesitant to try Stellaris because of its relationship to Europa Universalis (and its notorious complexity), but I was surprised to find that Stellaris has a bit of a gentler learning curve. Instead of starting you out "in median res" with a developed European kingdom with armies already mobilized, alliances and rivalries already in place, and wars already in progress, Stellaris starts you out in control of a single planet in a single star system, with just a small fleet of corvettes, a construction ship, and a science ship at your disposal. You send your science ship to explore the other planets in your system, then on to the nearest star, and slowly explore from there at a much more comfortable pace that is akin to a game like Civilization or Master of Orion. Unlike with Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis, I didn't feel like I needed to sit down with a history textbook in order to know what was going on at the start of my game.

You start the game with a single science ship to explore your own star system, and work your way out from there.

Don't let this initial apparent simplicity fool you. Stellaris is still quite deep, quite complex, and the galaxy that you'll explore really does feel vast. While the Master of Orion reboot has galaxies with a mere dozens of stars (very few of which contain more than one or two planets), Stellaris features a default galaxy size consisting of hundreds of stars, most with their own planets, which might (in turn) contain moons.

There's still going to be some trial and error, as you'll make a lot of mistakes and miss a lot of opportunities in your first few games. If you left the "ironman" mode disabled, then you'll at least be free to re-load earlier saves and try to play better if anything goes horribly wrong. However, Paradox throws a bit of a curve ball at players by disabling achievements if you disable ironman mode. You won't stumble into achievements in your learning game(s) or by save-scumming; you'll have to earn them in the Ironman mode!

You also won't be able to manually save while in Ironman mode. You have to wait for the game to perform an auto-save (which I think happens every few in-game months, or maybe every year?). This can be very annoying if you don't notice the "saving game" popup and don't know if the game has saved your most recent actions. It's fine to include a single save file for this mode, but they could at least include a "Save and Exit" option in the pause menu!

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Civilization V: Brave New World - banner

In my review of the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V, I expressed some disappointment that some of the legacy civilizations didn't receive significant updates. I also complained about a few mechanical issues such as how the "warmonger" mechanic works and the value of trade routes. Well, Firaxis has released a major update to the game earlier this fall that addresses some of these complaints.

Civilization V: Brave New World - German Hanse bank

Several of the vanilla civilizations received a major overhaul. As I mentioned in my review, Germany and America seem to have been completely one-upped by the Zulu and Shoshone. Well, Germany has been given a major update, and America has received a small tweak in order to better differentiate them from the BNW successors. In addition, Japan has received a small (but significant) buff.

Germany was probably the civ that was in the most dire need of a facelift, since the Zulu leave them completely in the dust. Both civs had a huge military flavor, discounts for unit maintenance, and a unique Pikeman replacement, and the Zulu had Germany beat on all accounts. In order to differentiate the two, The Landsknechts unique unit was replaced with a new unique building, the "Hanse".

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According to a post that I saw on Operation Sports, EA has finally submitted its second patch for NCAA Football 12 to Sony and Microsoft for approval for release. It's about damn time. This patch was announced back on August 2nd on the EA blog, and football fans have been waiting [not so] patiently for a whole month to hear news from EA regarding the patch's release.

This patch is supposed to fix a bug that changes player tendencies when their names are changed, which makes it impossible to play the game using named rosters, since AI-controlled players will behave completely inappropriately. Most hardcore football fans have had to wait for the patch to release in order to be able to even start their Road to Glory and Dynasty modes.

...

Personally, I've been delaying my review of this game while I wait for this patch to hit, since the problems are so severe. Regardless of whether or not the patch significantly improves the quality and playability of the game, I will be taking the poor state of the game at release into account when I write my final review.

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This April has been a busy week for video games, and a very weird one, too. And the news has varied from good, to bad, to ugly, and everything in between. Here's some of the stuff that caught my attention:

Table of Contents

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Yesterday, 2K Greg (community manager for the 2K Civilization V forums) posted a topic previewing the changes being made in the next patch (supposedly due out by the end of April). In addition to a large list of changes, 2K Greg teased the Civ V community with this quote from Dennis Shirk (the producer of the game):

"The patch notes below are the first part of a large two-part update. We wanted to focus this part of the update on stability and bugs, and as you’ll see in the notes below, we’re progressing nicely. There is also continued work going into the AI, the modding framework, and WorldBuilder, and we expect to have this in your hands shortly.

The second part we have begun working on will be released in the coming months, and will include our next balance pass (for those areas of the game that were not included in the March 1 update), as well as continued work on AI, diplomacy, and a much-requested addition to the game that we’ll be discussing in more detail very soon.

You guys have all been instrumental in helping us to continue to make Civilization V better with each update, and there’s more to come!"

So what might this "much-requested addition" actually be?

There are 3 main possibilities:

  • Addition of the previously-promised pit-boss, hotseat, and pbem multiplayer modes
  • Addition of the previously-promised mod support for multiplayer games (currently, multiplayer games do not allow mods)
  • Addition of source C++ and AI code access to the modding SDK (hopefully along with some better documentation
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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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