Like most strategy games, particularly those of the 4X kind, Stellaris is jam packed full of extra downloadable content to choose from. They vary in size from full-fledged expansions, to smaller story packs, and even tinier cosmetic bundles. But what’s worth your cash? In this guide, we’ll rank each piece of DLC in a tier list format to highlight what the best Stellaris DLC is.
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S-Tier Stellaris DLC
The best of the best. Stellaris is a much better game with these packs installed.
At this point, Utopia is basically required content for all serious players. It adds megastructures like Dyson Spheres to super charge your energy production, massive sentry arrays to increase your intel level, and habitats to create planets out of nothing. The latter are incredibly important for confined species which need to build tall rather than wide, something that’s incredibly challenging without this DLC.
Utopia also adds three endgame Ascension Perks in the form of Biological Mastery, Synthetic Evolution, and Transcendence. Do you want you species to become the perfect creature? To become one with machines? Or maybe ascend beyond the mortal plane? All are impossible without this.
Beyond that it also overhauls relations with subservient species. You’ll be able to indoctrinate primitive civilizations and hand define roles for enslaved populations. With it, you can choose who goes to battle, who stays at home and serves, or who is nothing but livestock for your rapid purifiers.
It also adds hive mind races which is cool.
Fan of diplomacy? Federations drastically overhauls the entire feature set, introducing federations of species, coming together for a greater good. That good being subjective, of course. Do you come together to form a diplomatic union, a trade league, or even a martial alliance? You could take it even further and form a hegemony where leaving of said federation is punishable by war. Who rules said federation and controls the floating federation fleet is up to a vote, of course.
Once communications have reached enough of the universe, the Galactic Community can be founded in an effort to keep the universe free. Here you’ll vote on resolutions such as implementing ecological protection, making material exploitation more expensive; commerce sanctions, putting penalties on those who break galactic law; or put implement rules of war, banning weapons of mass destruction.
If exploring is your thing, Ancient Relics fleshes out that experience with valuable relics to discover among the stars. These relics are rare and usually come from completing new quest chains that come with the DLC. Each has a passive and an active effect which has some kind of cost to activate, usually in influence. For example, one of the random archaeology site excavations rewards an artifact which gives you five percent more research speed. The active effect costs 150 influence on a 3,600 day cooldown, automatically halving the remaining research in a random technology. More powerful artifacts lie behind quest chains and bosses like the Ether Drake.
Leviathans adds NPC boss fights to your games. Have you ever wanted to fight a giant Ether Drake or a Stellar Devourer? How about assaulting the Enigmatic Fortress for the plunders inside? Or perhaps figuring out exactly what the Infinity Machine is? These massive guardians are the main feature of the story pack though you’ll also get weaker spaceborne aliens like space whales, ancient mining drones, and more. The other main focus is on the War in Heaven, a special event where the Fallen Empires go to war, dragging the entire universe into it with them.
I’m personally a big fan of DLC which adds to the entire game no matter which empire you’re playing, but some aren’t fans of the giant bosses and would rather avoid the encounters.
A-Tier Stellaris DLC
These content packs are worth picking up, but they’re not required by any means.
If you want to play as a robot civilization you’ll need Synthetic Dawn. That’s the main feature of the entire pack though it comes with some other features to help flesh things out. Namely, you’ll encounter other machine empires in your games and introduce yourself to the risk of a machine uprising. This new event can cause all oppressed synthetic life forms around the galaxy to rise up and rebel against their creators.
It’s this new effect on the entire galaxy that makes it slightly more valuable of a pick up than the content packs that follow it.
B-Tier Stellaris DLC
This is DLC you can live without but is good if this type of play style appeals to you.
Whereas Synthetic Dawn adds machine empires and improves the interactions with robotic pops, Necroids gives an origin centered around death. It’s unique in that the species can’t create offspring. Instead you convert unwilling members from other species into your primary species. That’s the main feature, to be honest. The minor civics give you undead armies, death cults which require sacrifices, and being reverent of tomb worlds. It’s a great pick up for role players.
Want to focus all of your efforts on generating money and winning economically? That’s what MegaCorp is for. These empires are meant to build tall and are heavily discouraged from controlling large swaths of the universe with double the penalty for exceeding their administrative cap. Since you’re restricted in empire size you instead build branch offices on planets in other empires. These have their own building spaces, and generate energy for both you and the empire you are allied with. It’s a much different way to play the game compared to everything else Paradox has offered.
You’ll also gain access to new world types, nomadic fleets, and a galactic slave market.
C-Tier Stellaris DLC
Passable pieces of content that you still may enjoy.
While the goal of this DLC is to let you play as the galactic conflict in an attempt to destroy all life in the galaxy or become the galactic custodian to try and get the entire community behind you, making you stronger than ever possible. It also adds espionage, but the community decries the lack of usefulness.
If you don’t have grand plans to either lead the entire galaxy or destroy it, this is one you can skip.
Apocalypse is easy to explain. It lets you blow up planets, create humongous capital ships, and employ marauders for a price. That’s it! If you like fighting with big stuff and large hordes, Apocalypse might be for you.
D-Tier Stellaris DLC
Content that you can easily do without.
While Distant Stars has new anomalies, events, solar systems, and gargantuan creatures, the focus is on the L-Cluster. This area of stars is outside the galaxy and only accessible via one of the L-Gates in the galaxy. Opening it might be a huge mistake or a boon to an uncharted area of the galaxy. The content is passable and by no means required.
Rock people! Lithoids eat minerals instead of food. They grow slowly, but are harder to kill and more resilient when it comes to habitability. That said, their other traits are incredibly lackluster and the DLC doesn’t completely change your playstyle.