Since launch, there’s been one thing plaguing Stellaris: war. Fortunately for us, war does change, and the Apocalypse expansion brings several new features related to combat and warfare.
As usual, the DLC accompanies a free patch, but unusually, this free patch is a major revamp of a huge part of the game’s mechanics. Due to that, it can be a tad hard to identify and judge the expansion’s features on their own merit, so I’ll break the review down into specific additions and try to stay clear of 2.0 changes. Read our 2.0 review to find out more about the many changes the Cherry update adds.
A race of space nomads that aren’t really all that nomadic, the Marauders act as the new scattered mercenaries of the Stellaris universe. Like the old privateers they replace, this multiple organised groups of pirates care only for money, and will attack anyone – or stop attacking them – for the right sum. They have so little scruples you can even hire one Marauder group to attack the other, weakening both rivals with a single strike.
Unlike Privateers, Marauders can unify during the mid-game to give rise to a pathetically Earth-sounding Great Khan. This individual unites all warring groups into a single barbarian horde that starts expanding through the galaxy, acting as a sort of mid-game crisis.
Luckily, they tend to keep to their own unless paid to attack you or triggered, meaning you can safely keep an watch on them through sensors and not risk having a sudden incursion in your territory. The crisis itself works about the same way as other Stellaris crisis do, requiring a huge fleet power to beat it into submission. Aside from the nonsense of a group of alien pirates naming a leader after a Mongol warlord, the Marauders work mostly as they should.
The biggest and most powerful ship classes yet, Titans are huge flagships capable of destroying battleships with a single shot. With special area of effect bonuses that buff allies and debuff enemies, the limited-number Titans are the one ship in Stellaris to really make a difference when attached to a fleet.
On the down side, they are very straightforward and offer little customisation, possessing only a single type of hull and few Titanic-sized options, effectively limiting builds into a single “Perdition Beam” meta. Given they are the only ship type added in Apocalypse, one could expect a bit more care and variety.
The main selling point of the expansion, Colossi are huge superweapons capable of taking a whole planet out of commission. Unlocked by an Ascension Perk and researched by a Situation Log project, there are four Colossus weapons so far: A world-destroying planet-cracker capable of breaking even megastructures apart; a genocidal neutron sweep that kills all organic life; an eternal and impenetrable shield that cuts a planet from the galaxy forever; and a ideological conversion beam that’s exclusive to Spiritualists.
All of them take a few months in-game to charge and fire, requiring the use of proper fleets while both in use and on the move. While powerful, their use is extremely situational – you must fulfill a series of requirements to choose your target, effectively limiting its use and only being able to fire at where the game lets you. You can’t target a star or put a shield around a colonisable planet and deny it to the enemy, for example, which is very disappointing – especially given the power and possibilities of a globe-shattering superlaser or an eternal impenetrable barrier.
Civics and Ascension Perks
Apocalypse also brings new Ascension Perks and Civics to the game, adding some options during the campaign and when creating your race, respectively. Of the Ascension Perks added, Enigmatic Engineering is doubtlessly the most useful, making reverse-engineering of your tech impossible and giving you a bonus to sensor range.
Civics, meanwhile, consist of the Post-Apocalyptic or Life-Seeded origins – a race evolved on a Tomb World or on a Gaia World, respectively – or the Barbaric Despoilers background, which turns your people into non-NPC Marauders (no, you can’t become a Great Khan).
In the end, Apocalypse is an interesting – yet not essential – expansion. The only real game changer are the Colossi, as a ship type, a handful of perks, and a boring mid-game crisis are hardly worthy of an expansion pack. The team at Paradox seems comfortable with putting in the minimum amount of effort when coming up with creative options.
But even while it adds planet-killing superweapons, it displays a disappointing lack of creativity in them and holds your hand the whole time, preventing you from ever using them freely. It’s bad enough that they restricted the number of megastructures in the previous patch, but this senseless clamp on superweapons mechanics just perpetuates a trend that will undoubtedly ruin the game in the long run.
A needed yet ultimately disappointing expansion.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Destroying the capital of a huge slaving despot empire with my first superlaser, after years of conflict.