Paradox Interactive stopped by last week to give us a brief look at Stellaris, and while the galactic grand strategy game looked cool as a whole, I came away most excited by its multiplayer. And not even the multiplayer gameplay itself, exactly, but the possibilities of what its scope allows. Stellaris’ largest map size generates a four-armed spiral galaxy with 1000 inhabitable stars spread across it—each with a solar system and planets of its own—which leaves enough room for a whopping 32 players or AI factions to fight for supremacy. That’s going to make for some amazing stories.
Game Director Henrik Fåhraeus told me that although Stellaris’ early game plays out similarly to other 4X games, its mid and late games are more like Crusader Kings 2, with a focus on politics and land grabs. Simply purging the galaxy of other species isn’t always the best option, and welcoming other races into your empire can benefit both of you. You can even form a Galactic Federation with other species, giving control of all political decisions to a rotating leader and sharing a victory if you can achieve it. That’s an interesting feature in single-player, but bring that system into a large-scale multiplayer setting and it sounds phenomenal.
Like Paradox’s previous games, Stellaris isn’t turn-based—instead ticking away ‘days’ at a game speed only the host can adjust—which makes the multiplayer more appealing to me. How quickly you make decisions and (to a certain extent) your ability to micro become real factors of success. Fåhraeus said they worked hard to reduce the amount of things you need to closely micro-manage—you have no direct control over units in combat, for example—so it won't end up feeling like StarCraft, but it will reward skilled players for thinking faster than their opponents.
And, of course, you don’t have to play against 31 people—a small galaxy with a 1v1 match could be just as interesting—but it’s the potential for giant wars that excites me. I’m glad Paradox made multiplayer a priority, because I want to hear the crazy stories that will inevitably emerge about rival Federations locked in 100+ hour games. And if Crusader Kings 2 is any indication of things to come, I can’t wait to see what the modders do to this one.
Stellaris doesn't currently have a release date, but it's coming next year.
[Update: Reworded a phrase in the third paragraph which made it sound like Paradox's previous games were turn-based. They aren't.]