The ambition is notable, considering the original game's vast scale. Yet, after participating in a rather turbulent session of Stellaris Nexus at a preview event earlier this month, it appears that the developer, Whatboy Games, may indeed have devised a strategy to achieve this feat.
Stellaris Nexus Distills Grand Strategy Into Hour-Long Matches
Matches begin by choosing from a variety of factions, each possessing distinct advantages and weaknesses. For instance, the United Nations of Earth is versatile, able to engage effectively in diplomacy as well as bolster their naval forces. On the other hand, the Chinoor Combine excels in amassing wealth, while the Kel-Azaan Republic specialises in aggressive tactics, thriving in combat at the expense of the option to retreat.
Every faction leader in the game is endowed with an exclusive collection of Edicts that enhance the deck utilised during play. To use these cards, one must expend Support, the game's most crucial resource. You will do well to remember that with each action taken, the required Support cost escalates.
You're tasked with overseeing various resources, such as Materials, which are essential for constructing buildings and ammunition that dictate the cap on your fleet's size. The intricacies of empire management are streamlined through edict cards, like Construction, which allows you to erect structures that provide extra resources or bonuses on each planet under your control. Also using edicts, you can engage in diplomacy or espionage, forging (often temporary) bonds, taking over neutral planets without invading them or removing them from other players' control.
Empire management, strategic planning, and fleet maneuvering all occur during concurrent turns. In our preview session, each turn was allocated 60 seconds, plus an optional 60-second overtime for when you needed extra time to plan.
Diving into the game's complex mechanics without first engaging with the tutorial and solo matches isn't an ideal route. Nevertheless, I found myself, perhaps inadvertently, halting a neighboring faction's peaceful growth through early conflict and employing espionage to wrest control of the pivotal Nexus planet from rival players.
Securing Nexus is a strategic linchpin, as control of it offers a significant advantage in the race to victory. This advantage is tied to Succession Points awarded during Galactic Councils.
These councils convene regularly, uniting all factions to vote on various modifiers with universal effects and to set collective objectives. The choices made here can be pivotal, potentially offering a boost in points that aligns with your strategy or, conversely, disrupting your path to success, depending on your approach to the game and your current status.
The developers told us that from the onset of development, it envisioned multiplayer capabilities for Stellaris Nexus, with the intention of incorporating the communal aspects characteristic of tabletop gaming into this more condensed Stellaris experience.
Nonetheless, Stellaris Nexus is also set to offer a distinct single-player mode. This mode will feature story missions designed to familiarise players with the various factions by allowing them to alternate between them. At launch, players can expect access to four such missions.
Despite initially feeling overwhelmed by jumping into the early preview build, I did get to grips with several gameplay elements during my hour-long session. There was a thrill in executing coups that wrested control of Nexus away from opponents while I was still familiarising myself with the user interface. The dynamic of hearing other players' reactions to alliances and acts of sabotage added to the enjoyment, leaving me eager to delve further into Stellaris Nexus.
Stellaris Nexus is set to debut in early access on December 5, 2023. The development team intends to use this period, estimated at 4 to 6 months, to fine-tune gameplay balance and conduct stress tests in preparation for the full release in 2024.
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