Stellaris Diary Part 1: Penguins and Arses

Stellaris is a grand strategy and 4X hybrid from Paradox Interactive, the creators of the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis series. One of the main attractions of Paradox games is the wealth of emergent stories that can develop over your time playing. For example, Crusader Kings II could see you attempting to establish a dynasty with a hopelessly incompetent, inbred, and demon-possessed ruler. The charm of CKII was in watching as this ruler hilariously failed at every stage or, somehow, beyond all belief, succeeded and established an empire. Stellaris has toned some of this down by streamlining some systems and leaning more heavily towards 4X gameplay rather than grand strategy; the emergent stories and their charm are still there, however. Stellaris has been out for a few weeks now and, given the insane depth and complexity of its cousins, I was pretty eager to dive in and have a bash, recording my success and failures in this diary.

Say hello to the Holy Penguin Empire:

Rapid breeding, slow learning, and rabidly religious conformists wrapped up in a feathery, fish-smelling penguin package. What’s not to love? Their home is the very fetching Jaktagg System in the eastern fringes of the galaxy, and what a galaxy it is. It’s a smidge on the large side. That little blip you can see in the screenshot here is the extent of my territory at the beginning of the game. On the bright side, I had plenty of room for expansion.

Beyond my home system I had no real detail of what any of the stars around me contained, so the first order of business was to send out my science ship and its resident scientist to survey the surrounding systems. Surveying systems and the planets therein provides details of any resources that they may contain, and also the potential of discovering anomalies. These unusual findings may be investigated by a scientist and offer a wide range of potential rewards, but also carry the risk of failure, which could potentially result in the death of the scientist, or other not-so-happy outcomes for space-penguinkind.

Scanning my home system and its neighbours uncovered, among other things, a dead alien race of vibrating worms; some space amoeba; a primitive stone age civilisation; and a number of resources that allowed me to construct some mining and research stations, giving me a little boost to both my economy and research rates. There seemed to be evidence of a fair amount of life in the galaxy, although at this point it’s either primitive or fossilised, neither of which were of any particular use beyond a slight boost to my research rates.  quite happy that there were no rival empires in my immediate vicinity.

While my science ship had been out surveying I’d focused on improving the infrastructure on my home planet, and began researching some useful technologies. I also established a frontier outpost to expand my borders and began construction of a colony ship to settle on a nearby habitable world. Things were looking pretty good at this stage – my economy was stable, I was preparing to expand, and there

I made contact with an empire of what appeared to be floating arses with heads, calling themselves the Ra-Mur. Probably not quite how the space penguins had imagined their first contact would look. Despite their strange appearance, I hoped that they might be friendly.  so I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and contacted them to see what they thought about my empire.

There was no hope for a penguin and arse friendship. At the moment they were too big for me to take on, but too small to be a real threat. They’re positioned right at the edge of the galaxy, so they didn’t have much room for expansion and the best option seemed to be to just ignore them for the time being and deal with them later.

After greeting our new arsey friends, I finally established a colony in the nearby system of Sethell, on a decently sized planet named Koltren. Since my new neighbours weren’t really a threat at this point, I put all my attention towards creating and improving infrastructure on my planets and establishing some more mining and research stations in the systems under my influence. The only area that I hadn’t focussed on developing so far was my military strength. I’d upgraded my ships as I’d completed the research, but my fleet was still only three ships strong, and my focus on infrastructure and economy meant that I would be able to raise a fairly decent fleet when the time came to deal with my smelly neighbour. I was happy to leave my fleet as it was for the time being, since a larger fleet would be a bigger drain of resources and I had no current need for them.

That was until the bloody pirates! It looked like I may need to build that fleet earlier than I had thought. I quickly raised some new ships and appointed an admiral to my fleet so that I could deal with these pirates but, annoyingly, I lost some resource stations in a system to my south, thanks to their attacks.

Despite this setback, my new and improved fleet very quickly wiped out the offending pirates and, after a quick pit stop to repair and rebuild those ships I had lost, I headed off to the pirate’s space station to cut them off at the source. My fleet obliterated the station after a short battle and the pirate problem was dealt with before it could become more of an issue. There was much huzzahing and clacking of beaks all round. The pirates turned out to be much less intimidating than I had first thought, but they did drive me to build a more respectable fleet, which I could then use to keep my neighbour in check if necessary.

With the pirates dealt with, I got back to improving the situation on my planets, upgrading buildings where possible, clearing land for construction, and building a spaceport on my second planet. It wasn’t long before I encountered not one but two more empires to my east and south-east respectively.

Neither of them appeared to like me much, and it mainly seemed that they’d taken issue with my empire’s purge policy, which allowed me to remove any populations that were resisting my empire’s rule. This policy seemed to be pissing off all my neighbours, so it seemed sensible to forbid purging for the time being to avoid a diplomatic incident. I would need to wait ten years after changing the policy if I wanted to change it back, but it shouldn’t be needed during that time anyway, as I hopefully won’t have any strong rival factions emerging with my empire before then.

To slowly improve relations, I established an embassy in both the new empires, hoping that there could be an alliance in the future. Obviously, my chums to the north-east wouldn’t be invited, and to rub that point in I declared them my rivals. This granted me an extra income of the influence resource but damaged our relationship more, although it was almost non-existent at this point anyway.

I continued improving my infrastructure and built a planetary admin on my new colony; this allowed me to improve all the buildings there by at least one tier, so it was well worth the investment. I started sending my science ship out towards the west to see what I could find there and possibly identify another alien empire. It found a dead world that had an ancient robot facility on its surface. Obviously I chose to activate it, since nothing bad has ever happened from messing with ancient machines in a sci-fi universe. Surprisingly, this didn’t backfire. I was half expecting the robots to activate and wipe out all penguin life, but instead they helpfully cleaned up the planet making it once against habitable. Thanks, robots.

My science ship also found some other habitable worlds to the west, so it looked like a promising option for expansion, especially since I hadn’t encountered any rival empires in that area. Things were definitely looking good for my penguins, and the future was made even better when I gained access to a rare research option that allowed me to essentially create a Jedi penguin as an elite military unit, which would be a huge bonus for attacking or occupying planets.

As I ended this session, things were improving – plenty of room for expansion, two friendly empires beside me, a Jedi penguin, and a strong economy. The future was looking bright for the space penguins, and I was momentarily tricked into thinking I’d come far since our meagre beginnings, but then I zoomed out to see the galaxy as a whole.

We’ve got a long way to go yet.

Last five articles by Neil



  1. Ste Ste says:

    Space Penguins eh? Are you sure your name is Neil?

    This was great, I look forward to the rest of it. I’ve not really looked into this game but it looks like fun. What is the AI like? My main problem with games like this, i.e. Civilization, is the bat-shit crazy AI and their seemingly infinite hostility towards me.

  2. Neil Neil says:

    It’s quite good from what I’ve played, but like any Paradox game it’ll probably get much better with patches and DLC. If anything the AI is too polite, they’re not particularly aggressive and are quite happy to just sit back and let you do your own thing. I think they’re getting a testosterone shot in the upcoming patch though so I’m expecting them to get a little meaner.

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