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Stellaris adds free narrative content

Paradox is doubling down on what makes their 4x game special

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

There’s a new patch dropping today for Stellaris, the turn-based strategy game from Paradox Interactive. But in addition to bug fixes, there’s a bit of treasure packed inside: New narrative content from Sunless Sea’s lead writer Alexis Kennedy.

When I reviewed Stellaris earlier this year I noted how surprisingly good the game was at telling stories, comparing it to the very best episodes of Star Trek. That’s not something I expected to say about a 4x game. But sadly, those sorts of narrative encounters sort of petered out in the mid-game.

Lo and behold, it seems that Paradox has spent a lot of time since the game launched beefing that mid-game up. There’s now a $9.99 DLC pack called Leviathans, which breathes life into the game’s floating space monsters and adds a few more strange alien species to the mix. They’ve also contracted Kennedy, the co-founder of Failbetter Games, to write the latest free content update which drops this afternoon.

Kennedy left Failbetter in May, and since then he’s set up shop as an independent games writer. The Stellaris DLC is described as a “cosmic interactive horror novelette” called Horizon Signal inspired, in part, by the movie Event Horizon.

Of course, writing for a 4x game has provided some challenges for Kennedy, several of which he’s wrestled with on his blog.

“I’m used to writing about people with nonspecific gender,” Kennedy quipped. “Now I’m writing about people that may in fact be bird people or spider people. I just gave a character recurring nightmares and then thought, can I assume fungoid macrocolonies dream? Well, hell, anthropomorphism.”

In addition to working with Paradox, Kennedy has also been contracted at BioWare as their first ever guest writer.

“I have put probably thousands of hours into BioWare games over the years,” Kennedy wrote in December. “They’ve been a huge influence on my own work, so this has me literally rubbing my hands in delight every time I stop typing. I also get to work directly with Mike Laidlaw and Patrick Weekes — both exceptional amalgams of talent, charm, and stylish beard-hair, whose work I’ve admired since Jade Empire and the first Mass Effect.”

No word yet on precisely what he’s working on, but it may very well be content for the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda.

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