Whether or not you were disappointed with the release of Stellaris earlier this month, you’ll be glad to know that Paradox have long term plans to support it. As well as detailing their main objectives in a recent developer diary, Paradox have been quick to release their first major beta patch, hoping to release it to all players as soon as possible.
We’re going to walk you through what’s changed, and how it will affect your game. If you want to see the full notes, you can find them here.
Sectors & Sector Governance
From the Patch Notes:
- Respect Tile Resources setting will now prevent sector from building the wrong type of building for a tile regardless of special circumstances
- Improved the way sectors determine which resources the country needs when constructing buildings
- Fixed a bug where sector AI would move Pops back and forth
- Fixed budget issues that were preventing sectors from properly managing spaceports and construction ships
- Fixed a bug where military focused sectors would not build military stations
- Fixed an issue where the AI would not enslave any Pops
What it Means:
Previously the AI felt incredibly static when it came to managing sectors. Best case scenario, they would be completely inert, and worst case they would inadvertently sabotage your empire. A lot of this came down to the AI generally misunderstanding what it was supposed to be doing, but this update brings it up to speed.
Sectors can now build and manage spaceports, something they previously ignored completely. They’re also more competent with slavery, as is the AI in general, and have a better understanding of what they should be building at any given moment. In practice, you might not experience these changes until you have much larger sectors, since they’ll always focus on building their own economy up first; they need to generate their own minerals and energy before they can start specializing. However, at least now they should be building in the right direction.
There are still plenty of changes that need to be made, and we should see them coming relatively soon. Sectors are one of the core concerns for Paradox in their first patch, and for plenty of future patches too. Later this year, in their 1.3 “Heinlein” patch, Paradox hope to add some more politics to sectors, linking them to factions and maybe more. For now, we’ll have to be content with a sector AI that is at least capable of its job. Although in their own words, “This kind of work is never finished”, Clarke certainly has a good go at letting the sector AI take the reins competently.
Corvettes & Fleet Balancing
From the Patch Notes:
- Strike Craft engagement range was significantly increased
- Strike Craft launch time reduced from 5 to 3 days
- Fighter movement speed increased from ~2 to 3.5
- Bomber movement speed increased from 1.5 to 3
- Chemical Thrusters Chance to Evade reduced from +10 to +5
- Ion Thrusters Chance to Evade reduced from +20 to +10
- Plasma Thrusters Chance to Evade reduced from +30 to +15
- Impulse Thrusters Chance to Evade reduced from +40 to +20
- End of Combat UI has been improved
- Military Station maintenance is now correctly discounted by 25% instead of increased by 75%
What it Means:
The main issue with fleet combat on release was the strength of corvettes compared to any larger vessels. The ability to stack evasion bonuses from engines, technology and admirals meant that corvettes were able to avoid 72% of shots, making them almost impossible to take down in large numbers. Although the above number changes may not look huge, they have a knock-on effect to the multiplicative bonuses that admirals etc. give them, so corvette evasion is now a more manageable 48% maximum. Still potent, but nowhere near unkillable.
Based on tests by Anruz on the Reddit r/stellaris subforum, battleships reclaim their place as the mightiest of ships, and corvettes perform much better as dog fighters, hit-and-run craft or for running interference.
Alongside these changes, strike craft have been much improved, now able to attack from much further than their previous range allowed. This upgrades them from “useless” to “potentially devastating”, right where they should be. Military stations previously cost more than a similarly outfitted ship, and now cost an appropriate amount. It won’t bankrupt you to build them anymore, so go nuts!
Finally, the screen you receive at the end of combat has had a massive overhaul. It now shows you useful information such as how much damage you did and how much you took over the course of the battle. This is invaluable for evaluating a fleet’s performance, and I’ll be sure to be tinkering with my own fleet loadouts thanks to this update. Perhaps the best improvement though, in my mind, is that you can now see how many ships you lost in combat, so you can easily see what needs replacing.
There will always be a ‘strongest’ fleet loadout, but at least with these changes Paradox has ensured that ‘strongest’ and ‘optimal’ aren’t always going to be the same thing. I’m sure that every patch will bring fleet balance changes with it, but this is the one that needed to happen right now.
AI Aggression & Diplomacy
From the Patch Notes:
- AI is now more aggressive against easily defeated targets
- Added settings for AI aggressiveness in the galaxy setup screen
- AI is now more open to trading access, migration rights and (for some personalities) research treaties
What it Means:
Paradox have changed things up so that if the AI sees a weak neighbor it will be much more likely to pounce. As it gobbles up the smaller empires, this should have a knock-on effect where it becomes stronger and stronger, making it more likely to grow into a troublesome threat. From my experience so far, you’re more likely to see a couple of larger hegemonies appearing in certain quadrants of the galaxy.
If that’s not enough for you though, Paradox have also added an AI aggressiveness slider in the set-up screen. It won’t make pacifists start foaming at the mouth, but it will make the AI slightly less cautious about going to war. If it wants to start a war, it will do so more rapidly and more frequently the higher you turn the dial, so if it still feels a bit passive, this may be the fix you need.
This should create some more interesting galactic dynamics as larger empires start to dominate the galaxy through force of arms, and hopefully alliances might even be easier to form against them. For a human player, the mid-game will become less of a stomping ground and more of a competition.
For now, Paradox have also made the AI more willing to open their borders to your civilians, so that you’re not so hemmed in by meeting other empires. In future, though, diplomacy should become even more in depth. Patch 1.2, “Asimov”, hopes to completely re-write the way border treaties work, as well as add extra war goals, defensive pacts, joint war declarations and ‘diplomatic incidents’. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but the mid game and the AI should become much more interesting if Paradox achieve their aims.
Internal Politics & Ethics
From the Patch Notes:
- Fixed bugs related to Ethics Divergence. Pops should no longer drift to “neutral” ethics. Drift towards empire ethics is slower than drifting away from
What it Means:
This innocent seeming line in the patch notes has huge consequences for how Stellaris plays with the new patch. Previously, ‘ethics drift’ would tend towards neutral, so that over time you ended up with a lot of pops that didn’t really believe in much at all. Now, they’ll drift towards different beliefs, making them more likely to be unhappy with how your empire is run.
Now you might end up with a few xenophobes on your core planets, who become unhappy at your migration treaties, and even unhappier when aliens actually start living next door. Some of your pops might tend towards pacifism, and become suddenly unhappy when you go to war. As your population grows, so too will the number of different ethics, and it might become impossible to keep everyone happy. With ethics divergence working properly, we should also start to see pops producing less, forming factions and generally becoming a pain in your side.
This is far from the only internal politics that Paradox plan to introduce in future, but for now it marks a big change that creates a diverse and difficult to manage empire, something that Stellaris is really supposed to represent.
The biggest change to look forward to in future, hopefully with the 1.2 “Asimov” patch, is the re-introduction of an emancipation faction for your slaves. Although such a faction currently exists, Paradox had problems with it prior to release and currently you won’t see it ever cause problems. Once they’ve resolved this, slaves should become yet another internal problem for your empire to manage, and not just a way of scraping extra minerals from the mines.
General Balance & UI Changes
As ever, a strategy game without a good UI is no strategy game at all, and Stellaris still has a way to go. However, a couple of major changes that came with “Clarke” already make it that much easier and less frustrating the play. Firstly, the addition of sectors to your outliner makes them easier to keep track of and easier to manage. You can’t do as much here as I’d like to be able to do, but just having them there makes them easier to access when you need to.
Secondly, inhabitable planets are now much easier to manage from the galactic map, so finding the perfect spot for your colony ship is now much less of a hassle. Just mousing over a planet icon will tell you the planet’s type, size and habitability, and you can click on it to be taken directly to the planet screen without leaving the galaxy map mode. Now you can browse about and find what you need without having to jump between two different screens constantly.
As well as these major points, there are a whole host of smaller balance changes with “Clarke” that are too long to list all here. For full patchnotes, check out Paradox’s official announcement. It’s just a start, but in my mind it’s a particularly strong start, and shows awareness of what the community has been asking for. All-in-all there should now be fewer ‘incorrect’ choices, and more depth to the game while you play it.
Platypi (Platypuses?) for Everyone!
Finally, Paradox have added more customization options for your self-made empire, including the ability to change your ruler’s title and add a custom biography. Perhaps most importantly, there’s a new Platypus species available to everyone, and a Paradox flag to go along with it. This was previously available to anyone who played a special mini-game that Paradox put out a long time ago, but there’s no sense being exclusive with it. Check it out below:
How to Download
If you just can’t wait for the official patch to release, the beta option is available for anyone who wants to try it. Just right click on Stellaris in steam, go to properties and open the Betas tab. From the drop-down box select 1.1.0_beta and let Steam download the update. As soon as it’s released for real you’ll be moved back to the official version of the game. Beware, though: although Paradox tend to release stable betas, they make no promises about what it might do to your save file, so any bugs that you encounter are a risk you’re taking by entering the beta.