With our small fleet of ships, we sent to explore first the outer areas of our own solar system and then to the nearest neighboring star. And we immediately encountered strange pink crystals. Living crystals, as it turned out. From there, we had a choice: Research these crystals or fight them.
Sure, you can play Stellaris as a warmongering xenophobe. You can build your fleet and send it across the galaxy, wiping out or enslaving each new race you encounter.
But that doesn’t much interest me. If I compare Stellaris to Star Trek, it’s because the game feels perfectly suited to the same “Conundrum of the Week” storytelling. You know: Captain’s Log, Stardate XXXX, Everything seemed like it was going okay today and then __________ happened. Fill in the blank with whatever science fiction plot you can imagine. “We were recalled to Earth because someone found signs of an alien presence.” “The Dalarians have asked for our help negotiating a peace treaty.” “We encountered strange pink crystals in a neighboring system.”
With 1,000 star systems to explore you can imagine hundreds of these small stories in a single game—some playing out close to home, others as you pierce the veil of the unknown along the frontier. Pink crystals, ancient precursor aliens, empty husks and ruins, mysterious space debris, even (if you’re lucky) humans. Dozens of civilizations all making their way through a crowded galaxy, a few evil or warmongering but most simply trying to discover how they fit into this great cosmic ocean.
Similar to how Crusader Kings II’s much-loved Game of Thrones mod is better than any Game of Thrones game, I’m starting to think Stellaris will be better than any official Star Trek game. It’s not that Stellaris wholesale copies the Star Trek property, but it captures the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s vision in a way few other video games have—space as a place to be explored, not feared or conquered. Space as our final collective frontier.
Stellaris will launch in 2016, Paradox confirmed during my demo—probably sometime in the latter half of the year. Side note: I fully expect we’ll see a Star Trek mod not long after Stellaris is released, and I look forward to it.
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