If there is one thing PC gamers can brag over their console gaming brethren, it is that there are pretty much no options for 4X (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) gaming on consoles. There is a port of Civilization VI for the Nintendo Switch, but that is really about it. It is a genre that is practically exclusive to PC gaming, and for a long time, it seemed that would not be changing anytime soon. RTS games, such as Command & Conquer, have had a successful life on consoles, and if a port is handled properly, then using a controller over a keyboard and mouse is easily doable. With 4X games, however, they tend to be extremely menu-centric, which means using a controller can be a frustrating experience. Paradox Interactive, however, have decided that not only can they port a 4X game over to the consoles (PS4 and Xbox One at the moment), they have chosen arguably one of the most popular 4X games of the last few years, Stellaris.
When Stellaris was initially released in 2016 on the PC, it became an instant hit amongst 4X veterans and newcomers alike. It was a game that managed to appeal to a wider audience than other 4X games, such as Paradox’s Europa Universalis, due to the fact it was set in a science fiction world. Starting Stellaris for the first time can be a somewhat daunting task as right from the start there is just so much information thrown at you. You will need to pick a race (which range from humans to squid-like aliens) and then a government type. You can either pick one of the pre-generated governments, or you can make your own from scratch. This is a lot of fun, and once you get used to Stellaris, the different types of governments truly affect your way of playing, but I highly recommend you create an Empire from scratch once you are comfortable doing so. You generally have the freedom to either create a peaceful democracy who value science and discovery over violence, or you can create the vilest warmongering dictatorship that galaxy has ever seen.
After creating your government/species of choice, you are thrown into the solar system of your choosing. This again can look like an impossible task as there is just so much going on. Thankfully, Stellaris has one of the most in-depth tutorials around. You can either choose to have it tell you about everything, or you can just use a basic one if you haven’t played for a while and just need some reminders. If you are a new player, the only choice really is to go for the full tutorial. It never feels like it’s just throwing information at you, it is paced out brilliantly and sets you simple tasks to get you used to your adventure ahead. It is a tutorial as well that will be with you, even eight or so hours into the game, where you discover something new or haven’t done something to allow you to progress the way you want to.
The adventure ahead though does start off a little bit slow, so those of you who want to conquer the galaxy by war, war and more WAR!! will have to wait some time. The first few hours in Stellaris are all about exploration, building up your resources, and expanding the borders of your Empire. Even when you make first contact with another race, it really isn’t wise to declare war straightaway, especially if you discover a Fallen Empire; you stay away from those dudes until you are practically the Galactic Empire, because if you provoke them, your game will end rather quickly.
Managing aspects of your own Empire is an important aspect of Stellaris. You will need to carefully manage your resources, so making seemingly easy decisions, such as building some more ships and expanding your borders slightly, do require some thought. If you end up having a minus next to any of the three main resources (minerals, food and energy), no matter how many you have stockpiled, they will soon deplete and throw your Empire into chaos. As a ruler of a vast Empire, you will also need to manage your citizens, where it is rare for all of them to be happy. Again, depending on how you rule, the citizens’ livelihoods will depend on how you A. treat them and B. deal with them.
But, how does all this feel on a console with a controller rather than a PC with a keyboard and mouse? The answer, truly, not that bad at all. When I first heard Stellaris was coming to the consoles, I was like, “Yeah, right, that’ll work”. Well, good thing I didn’t make a stupid bet about eating a hat or something because it not only works, it works well. Tantalus have done an outstanding job porting Stellaris, much like they did with Cities: Skylines. Stellaris, much like all Paradox games, is extremely menu-centric. The navigation of these menus is easily achieved here as the menu is spread out on all four corners of your TV, which are easy to get to by simply pressing the corresponding direction on the D-pad. Left is Empire Management, the top is your Resources and other such numerical information tabs. The right-hand side is your Planets, Fleets etc. And the bottom shows how much time is passing and also any messages you may receive. The analogue sticks are used for navigation around the map, and the face buttons are used for selecting units, cancelling, etc.
There are some slight issues with the Stellaris: Console Edition, mind. Firstly, this game is actually just over a year behind the current version of the PC release. It won’t be so much of a problem if you are brand new to Stellaris, but players of the PC version looking to maybe get this for a console will struggle to go back to this older version of the game. It is a real shame that Paradox couldn’t include the 2.0 versions of Stellaris as they really improved the game with better features, such as better fleet management, some new soundtracks, and some more ship types. To help this massive game run well on the consoles as well, Paradox had to cut the maximum number of star systems from 1,000 to 600. Don’t get me wrong, 600 star systems is still a huge number for you to explore, and to be honest, casual players won’t really notice the difference, but it is again something that may well put off someone who has played Stellaris on the PC and keep them from purchasing the Console Edition.
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 22nd February 2019