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Stellaris: Console Edition

Posted by GG Goblin On March - 4 - 2019

Expanding into space, from your couch.

It has long been the case that strategy games struggle on home consoles, largely due to relying on a controller over the mouse and keyboard, but also because they are generally much slower games that do not really fit with the console gamers. Aside from games that have been developed specifically to counter this, strategy games tend to demand a huge investment of time and patience, whereas most console gamers would be happier just jumping into something that will reward them immediately. When it comes to Paradox Interactive’s grand strategy games, everything is just multiplied. These are games which are so complex that it can take many hours just to learn how to play them, and completing a single game can run into tens or hundreds of hours. The idea of a grand strategy game coming to console, even without the difficulty of translating the controls to a gamepad, is just crazy.

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But then, Paradox Interactive announced Stellaris: Console Edition. Stellaris is probably my favourite of the grand strategy games, simply because it charges the player to take their species, whatever that may be, and expand into space, harvesting resources and solving ancient mysteries all while trying to get on, or wipe out, any other races they may come across. I have sank so many hours into the game, sat at my desk with my back to the world, that being able to play the game from the comfort of the couch really appealed. But this is complicated stuff, can it really work on a console?

Well, there is no denying that it works. While Stellaris: Console Edition take a step back from where the game is on PC, running a slightly older version, it is still instantly recognisable as the same game. Trying to explain a game with this amount of depth is simply impossible, but let’s cover the basics and see if I can get you interested…

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Players will start off by picking a race. Even this basic task can be somewhat overwhelming with the amount of information and the way in which a simple choice like this can affect how you play the game. From the basic humanoids to the more outlandish alien races, it is more about the ideologies that a race has that can affect your game, from the basic pursuit of science and peace, and the more aggressive militaristic ideals, through even more complex ways to play. To start with, I don’t suppose it really matters as players will have to take a few swings at the game to come to grips with the basics and actually find out how they want to play.

Anyway, once a race is chosen, the player will find themselves presented with their home planet and solar system. The idea now is to expand out into space and hopefully build a massive empire. This is very hands off for the most part, in that players will not be flying a spaceship or walking around on an alien planet. They will, however, be setting courses for ships to travel to different planets and harvest resources that will be needed to keep everything moving forward. They will also be assigning science officers to ships so that they can investigate strange space anomalies, maybe even making a discovery that will afford them a new technology. Random events will give the player things to consider and choose whether to risk investigating.

As the player moves from system to system, they will want to expand their control and territory by setting up colonies, and controlled planets will require yet more control as players choose which facilities to build and what resources to concentrate on. And as they expand, the chances of coming across hostile forces will grow. Whether these end up being a random space encounter with a swarm of alien creatures, or one of the other AI races that are trying to build their own empire, players will have to turn to their fleet to settle things. Through the course of the game, the player will have access to various research trees that will unlock further technology, some of which can be used in the development of more powerful spaceships to deal with threats. Again, the level of control is detailed as players can not only design their own ships in the game, but also assign admirals to run the fleet, and even have multiple fleets if their resources can cope. When it comes to the battles, it essentially comes down to who has the most powerful fleet, and again the player takes a hands off role in this after sending the fleet to engage. Of course, players don’t have to fight with their neighbours, as other options are always a possibility.

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Seriously though, this is only scratching the surface of what awaits in a game of Stellaris. It moves along quite slowly to start with, but before long the player will find themselves in charge of may different aspects, all of which have their own menus to deal with. Grasping the basics is easy, but it will take ages to master the game.

So, playing Stellaris on PC is great, especially with the more recent updates that have improved the game. These updates will be coming to console in time, along with a whole bunch of DLC to further expand the game. But none of this really matters if the control method doesn’t work.

Fortunately, Paradox have done a stellar job of condensing this hugely complex game down to be controlled with a gamepad. The d-pad can be used to instantly snap to one of the surrounding tool bars, and navigate them with ease, moving from one menu to the next. Then there is also a cursor controlled by the stick which can highlight various things the player may want to interact with. It all works well, but due to the sheer number of options it feels slower than a mouse and keyboard combo. It can also be difficult to be precise with the cursor later in the game when a lot is going on. Still, in all, it does what it needs to.

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The strategy genre is under-represented on console, and the grand strategy genre is non-existent, so it is great to finally have a game of this depth and complexity on the Xbox One and PS4. However, despite the relative success of the gamepad controls, and the developers really should be applauded for achieving this, Stellaris is still a game best played sat at a desk on PC with a keyboard and mouse. Players who want to dip their toes into the highly satisfying grand strategy genre, and are able, should play the game on PC. For those who don’t have access to a computer though, but still want to build the greatest interstellar empire, Stellaris: Console Edition is the answer. Incredibly deep and hugely satisfying, Stellaris: Console Edition is likely the best strategy game on consoles so far.




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