Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn expansion brings playable robot overlords in September

Paradox Interactive has announced that Synthetic Dawn, the expansion to the 4X strategy game Stellaris that will let players take on the galaxy as a renegade "Machine Empire," will be released on September 21. The publisher also rolled out a new trailer that provides a quick rundown of the four different types of mechanical menaces offered in the expansion, as well as a new Fallen Machine Empire called the Ancient Caretakers. 

Machine Empires are "playable robotic hive minds that have overthrown their organic masters and taken to space to expand their robotic civilization," game director Martin Anward explains in the video. In addition to the "regular" Machine Empire, which by all appearances functions like a fairly conventional faction, there are the Exterminators, a "rogue defense system" dedicated to the annihilation of all organic life (and is thus unable to interact with it in any way other than "purge"), the Assimilators, which seeks to understand life by assimilating it into its collective consciousness, and the Rogue Servitors, built by a decadent society to serve their every whim who have now taken to space in search of other life forms that "need to be liberated from the burdens of self-determination."

The Ancient Caretakers isn't a playable empire, but rather a faction that players with the Synthetic Dawn expansion can encounter in their travels. "The Ancient Caretakers is a fallen synthetic civilization that appears to be the remnant of some great conflict in the distant past. From what they tell you, they appear to have been part of something called the 'Custodian Project', an initiative to construct and maintain a number of ringworlds as a refuge for biological sapients fleeing some unknown menace," Paradox explained in a June dev diary. "Their erratic behavior and speech, however, suggests that something may be very wrong indeed with this Fallen Machine Empire." 

Anward told us in an August interview that Paradox "really wanted to put a focus on making the Machine Empires as different as possible," especially since the hive minds in the Stellaris: Utopia expansion "were a little too much like a regular empire fluff-wise." 

"They are pretty distinct in that they all have new mechanics. They are fairly different. [The similarity] is more that they don’t have Happiness, they don’t have factions to worry about, these sorts of things. Even like, the organic pops are handled in different ways," he explained. "So they all play pretty distinctly from normal hive minds. They also have unique buildings, unique technologies, other technologies have been renamed." 

Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn will go for $10 on Steam

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.