STAFF REVIEW of Stellaris: Console Edition (Xbox One)

Friday, March 8, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Stellaris: Console Edition Box art Space based adventure games have always been one that sparks a journey of mythical lands and incredible experiences. What if though, you could formulate your own journey? What if the incredible experiences are yours to create rather than scripted plotlines that follow in sequence? Enter the real time strategy game Stellaris: Console Edition, by Paradox Development Studio. Stellaris attempts to bring one of the most in-depth real time strategy experiences to the Xbox One and at a wallet friendly price point of $39.99 USD. Normally, I would insert some clever transitional phrase here, but let me just start out by saying if you're a fan of real time strategy games then this is a must have for you, and let me tell you why.

Loading the game up you're witness to some incredible cinematics and presented with a start screen that boasts some simplicity mixed with and incredible soundtrack that really helps set the mood up for this immense experience. Upon hitting Start, you'll be tasked with choosing your race to play as. For the social justice warriors of gaming, you'll be happy to know that there exists a vast and incredibly diverse number of races to select from and that each one is unique in its own way.

You could have one type of government be a democracy while others could be classified as military tyrants. While one race may be open to new species as a method of working together, another may be looking at them as targets that they can occupy for resources to fuel their own civilization. I found myself actually going through each individual option and checking out how some benefits of the passivist style governments, set them up with bonuses that adequately correspond to their own ethos, where as an enslaver style of ruling would grant bonuses to military power and be less "diplomatic" when it came to be interacting with other races in the universe.

After you've selected your race, you can go to customize the game as you wish. You can designate how many AI are playing in your level, their difficulty, how many star systems there are and much more. This type of tailored customization works wonderfully instead of the typical branded "easy, normal, hard" pre-configured motives. Once you have all that configured, kiss your foreseeable future goodbye, as the game starts up and your experience begins. I strongly recommend going through the tutorial and keep the hints on, as there is so much to discuss that you'll find that 90% of Stellaris: Console Edition is centered around menu management.

First, you'll find each border of the screen is a menu. The right side is what I'm calling your quick selection menu, where you can select individual items within your entire content. Selecting a science ship or construction ship is as easy as pushing Right on the D-Pad and then moving the cursor to the ship and press A. The bottom menu is your alert menu. This is where you will get notices about your completed research, any sort of scientific discovery, election results (if applicable, will discuss later), and any other point of interest that comes up pertaining to your game. The Left menu system acts as your reference point where you can review your completed logs (quests) and current ones that you have available. The top menu acts as your resource’s menu.

It's important to note that every one of these menus have multiple menus within them, and multiple menus within them that lead to yet, more menus. And that's just on the main screen edges, because every ship, building and planet that you can use has another menu that can lead to other menus and more menus after that. For instance, there are multiple types of scientific research that you can pursue, and each one of these three researches breaks down into 3 more possible research options. You can easily find yourself lost in tasks and spend a lot of time trying to figure out what, or more importantly, how, to do certain tasks, which is why tips should be always displayed until you feel comfortable with the enormous amount of content that you have to cycle through.

It also must be said that you have to also manage your citizens/slaves as well as explore other systems and enter into either diplomatic relations, or try to conquer them, or let them be their own sovereign species and act as an alliance, etc. This is where the depth of Stellaris rests. Not only are the customization options numerous to the point of almost madness, but the having to simultaneously tend to the needs of your people and see to their happiness means that this is like a steroidal version of The Sims at times.

The goal ultimately is to beat your adversary(ies) through the use of researching technology and expanding your civilization's boundaries into neighboring stellar systems. Each system is unique with their own mix of planets, moons, asteroids and much more. One really cool feature I loved was how the game notified me if there as a celestial event, such as a comet, and I was able to watch it as it traveled through space. These types of events really help bring the universe to life and I'm actually excited to witness other items such as black holes. Should you encounter a neutral planet (one that hasn't been occupied by the enemy), then it's up to you to turn the system into your fold. If, however, you come across enemy terrain, then any sort of confrontation could lead you to war.

When you're at war you'll be going up against other civilization(s) who are trying to either defend their own territory or expand into yours. To achieve victory in War, you'll have to decimate your opponent, and to do that you'll need to be building ships, researching technology, relying on allies and neighboring systems and much more. The formation of a technologically advanced army is crucial to winning a War. I found that it's best to start small with Stellaris in terms of your game creation, and once you overcome the 90-degree learning curve, you'll be in a much better position to go against multiple civilizations at once and utilize the old phrase, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

If you thought that was it for the depth of Stellaris, you'd be quite wrong. Stellaris though continues to go deeper. In peacetime through War, each race has their own sets of beliefs. How they perceive their own civilization, how they perceive other civilizations, etc. These beliefs bring about Edicts that affect the civilization. More Edicts can be learned over time and development, but these should be regarded because they can help shape the development of your entire race and possess unique trait bonuses. It goes without saying that Stellaris makes sure that there is just as much focus on intergalactic politics as there is in collecting resources or researching new technology.

This is one aspect that makes Stellaris one of the most in-depth RTS games you can find now on the Xbox One. Another aspect is the absolute brilliant graphic system that you find throughout every facet of Stellaris. It took some time to adapt to working in a pure 3D styled environment, but once I started to get familiar with the control scheme, it became far more manageable. I will say though that I can see why a keyboard and mouse for this game would be a massive benefit when compared to the controller. While I get the reality of the controller being the primary input device may not be the ideal situation, Paradox Development Studio did a fantastic job converting the user interface to fit the controller like a glove.

While the PC version came out in 2016, Stellaris: Console Edition delivers one of the most amazing individual experiences to be found on the Xbox One to date. Full customization and so much content that you will easily wonder where the last two weeks of your life went. Stellaris is a game that allows you to become a benevolent leader, interstellar overlord and everything in between, and tailors a graphically beautiful real time strategy experience that shouldn't be missed. For $39.99, Stellaris: Console Edition is one of the best bargain priced titles you can find to play.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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