This first real DLC package affects gameplay and offers more content for the mid-to-late game, including ring worlds, ascension perks, indoctrination, and advanced slavery and governments. These are mere feature highlights, and if that weren't enough Utopia is also matched by a free patch that changes a bunch of things for every owner of the title.
Another large addition is the megastructures. Advancing one's empire will now see you task construction crews with massive undertakings, like Dyson Spheres and ringworlds. Huge scientific or espionage stations can also be constructed to provide empire-wide benefits and instill fear into any species that dares cross your path.
Habitat stations are on a slightly smaller scale but are just as important for allowing the population to reside in space. This allows for overseers to more efficiently plan out their empires, building artificial homes for their people. Need more room but don't wish to take any more planets? Throw down a habitat station and migrate population to its new floating abode. Advanced governments and slavery add unique elements to the game to allow for a unique playthrough.
The former sees new civics and authorities for governments, unlocking new ways to face friends and foe, as well as interacting with your own population. Wish to develop a hive mind and avoid politics altogether? That's entirely possible! Slavery has also been reworked for enthralled species to be placed into specific roles like domestic slaves or even battle thralls for warfare. The new ascension perks also help with this by offering unique perks in exchange for unity points.
Finally, and probably my favorite feature in Utopia, is the introduction of indoctrination. Come across a primitive civilization? Why not have them adopt your ethics, getting everything ready for annexation?
That sounds pretty good in practice, but you need the gameplay to be top notch to bring more to the somewhat slow mid-game, and luckily for those who voiced complaints, Utopia's additions really make a difference here. The ascension system allows one to plan for the end-game and craft a goal for a specific species. Couple everything with the Banks update and you've got quite the release.
Some highlights from the Banks update (note that this is a free update that will hit everyone's installation, regardless as to whether or not you picked up Utopia), include:
- Added Authoritarian ethics.
- Added Egalitarian ethics.
- Removed Collectivist ethics.
- Removed Individualist ethics.
- Government system has been completely reworked and Civics have been added to the game, allowing for far more customization when creating your empire's government.
- Traditions and Unity added to the game. Unity is a new resource that is used to unlock Traditions.
- Food is now stored and distributed empire-wide instead of being local to individual planets. When food reaches the empire storage cap, surplus food contributes to increased Pop growth across the empire.
- Pops now have a monthly mineral cost called Consumer Goods. How large this cost is depends on what living standards are set for their species in the empire.
- Reworked ethics attraction. Pops now only have a single ethic, and their attraction to different ethics depends on a wide variety of factors such as their traits, the empire's governing ethics and policies, the local conditions on their planet, and so on.
- Reworked the faction system. Factions are now political movements with specific issues rather than rebels, and have a happiness level based on how well your empires' policies and actions fulfill those issues. Faction happiness determines their member Pops' base happiness, and factions with high happiness will provide an influence boost to the empire they are a part of.
- Unrest is a new mechanic that affects planets. Unrest is generated by unhappy Pops and slaves, and can reduce productivity and in extreme cases spark rebellions. Unrest can be lowered by certain buildings or by garrisoning armies.
- Added the ability to Displace Pops as an alternative method of Purging, this forces them to move out of the empire instead of killing them.
- Pops that are being purged will now sometimes manage to escape to other empires.
- Added a policy for whether an empire accepts refugees (Pops that are being Purged or Displaced) from other empires.
- Added a new policy for which Pops are allowed to live on an empire's core (non-sector) planets.
- Added a policy that determines whether an empire tolerates pre-sentients living on their planets.
- Added a music player that lets you select which tracks you want to play, play specific tracks on demand, and toggle shuffle mode on and off.
I really like Stellaris and gave it a glowing review. Utopia takes the experience to the next level. I highly recommend anyone who enjoys the game or who finds it lacking in some ways to pick up this DLC to see the new ways to interact with not only other species but your own population.
Should you not yet be an owner of Stellaris, I strongly recommend you check out our in-depth review and pick up the base game. Now, please excuse me as I pour another hundred hours into this exquisite title.
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.