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Stellaris: Apocalypse adds death stars, stargates and intergalactic barbarians

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Plus new perks catering to hardcore solo players

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Paradox Interactive released a video detailing the next expansion to Stellaris, its space-based grand strategy game. Called Stellaris: Apocalypse, the expansion will arrive on Feb. 22 alongside the game’s much anticipated 2.0 patch, which will go out free to all owners.

Apocalypse is a military-themed batch of content that includes new units and rules that are shuffled into the existing game. It finally deals with some of the issues I had with the game’s combat system and mid-game pacing when I reviewed it back in 2016. One of the most exciting changes is the addition of a computer-controlled faction called the marauders. Game designer Daniel Moregård likens them to “space moguls, a squabbling and warlike society with powerful fleets.” So, less like the Klingons and more like an irascible Elon Musk.

For the most part, marauders will stick to themselves, but every once in a while a great leader will rise up and the marauders will migrate across the map destroying everything in their way. The only path forward will be to fight them off or pay them tribute.

If players are lucky, they might even be able to hire on marauder admirals or hire them as mercenaries to attack their foes.

An earthlike world under fire from a death star-like weapons platform called a colossus.
A colossus opens fire on an inhabited world.
Image: Paradox Interactive

Apocalypse will also add a couple of new weapons platforms. The colossus is basically a Death Star, a huge ship capable of destroying entire planets. Each of the game’s empires will have its own colossus design, each with its own assortment of mega weapons. They are complimented by titans, huge warships capable of taking out opposing battleships with a single shot. Ion cannons are defensive structures intended to be the check against these new offensive systems.

Finally, Apolcalypse adds two new perks to the game. An empire with the “life-seeded” civic perk will be able to start the game on the largest, most vigorous world available. However, every single other planet in the galaxy will be uninhabitable for their species. This will give an extra level of complexity to those players who opt for the “one-planet challenge,” a particularly hardcore way to try and complete the game. On the other side of the spectrum, the “barbaric despoiler” perk will allow players to abduct a planet’s population during orbital bombardments.

The free 2.0 patch will fundamentally change how players take control of star systems. Now they’ll need to build a starbase in order to exert influence, which should slow expansion somewhat in the early game. Starbases have received a lot of attention since the game’s launch, and will now be able to be built out as specialty installations suited as shipyards, trading hubs or defensive bastions.

Massive ships exchange purple laser fire backlit against a yellow nebula.
Titan-class mega ships will clear a path for colossus’ to bring their weapons to bear.
Paradox Interactive

Gateways are being added to the game as a compliment to wormholes. Just like in the movie Stargate, empires will need to research them extensively to determine how they work. But, once they’ve cracked the code, they’ll be able to dial up any number of networked portals across the galaxy and move between them instantly. Moregård even said that highly advanced empires should be able to build their own gateways in time.

The team at Paradox Interactive may be the single most tenacious group of game developers on the planet. They never seem to stop working on their products, opting instead to spend years polishing off the rough edges and giving their games new facets. Stellaris is no exception. Since it was released in 2016, the team has come out with two substantial pieces of downloadable content: Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn, which adds a robotic artificial intelligence to the game, and Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack, which adds new narrative content written by Sunless Sea’s Alexis Kennedy.

Stellaris: Apocalypse will launch on Feb. 22. Pre-orders are open now, and Paradox is running a sale on all of the game’s related DLC.