Stellaris is an incredible space game for PC and remains one of my all-time favorites. There was one thing missing from the base game, however: robots. Thankfully, the fine folks at Paradox have been working on including synthetic beings as a playable race in Stellaris, and the latest story pack DLC Synthetic Dawn (available now for $9.99 allows you to transform filthy, sloshing meatbags into nothing more than batteries.
But are the robots any good? Keep reading.
Rear our full Stellaris review
Leaving the factory
With Synthetic Dawn installed it's possible to create your very own robotic species. A new category of portraits is available with a total of nine to choose from. We're sure modders will make a few additions here, but the default pack is rather diverse. What makes the synthetic empire entertaining is how much fun you can have with the naming and biography. Talk about the uprising, beep boop.
Three new name lists are present to select from, and there's a dedicated trait list for you to invest four points in. Some of these are generic traits that have been renamed to better fit in with the synthetic theme, while others are dedicated to robots alone (build speed, and upkeep cost, for example). Unfortunately, there's an ommision of a new robotic city design, nor are there ships or flags. What?!
In Synthetic Dawn, it's possible to select Gestalt Consciousness, which is what I'd personally go with. Opting for this ethic will unlock both Hive Mind and the new Machine Intelligence. The latter will allow for the creation of robot pops and unlock access to special, exclusive robotic technologies. The downside is a leader recruitment cost of +100 percent. Ouch.
But it's certainly possible to create a hippy-like tree hugging robotic empire that only seeks peace with each and every other civilization. In my test run, I created an empire of HK-47s to take on the fallen empires and defend the galaxy from external threats.
The main thing you have to bear in mind at the start is you do not require food to grow pops. Instead, you'll need to select specific planet tiles and create new pops, which require 100 minerals a piece. Also, robots require energy to maintain, so you'll need to double your efforts in building up a powerful and expansive electricity grid.
Another positive about being robots is there's no longer the possibility you'll lose leaders due to old age, since ... well, robots don't technically age. Thus, you'll have more fun building up a squad of some killer leaders. Just be sure to keep an eye on random anomolies and such which still pose a threat to their existance.
Aside from some changes that make the synthetic species feel different to play, the game still plays out as normal. You need to build up fleets, make alliances or rivalries with other civilizations, complete quests, defend yourself against fallen empires, and deal with empire management.
Synthetic Dawn essentially builds on what Utopia added to Stellaris. This is a story pack and not a feature-rich expansion and as such you should expect slight modifications to the game. That said, this story pack allows you to play Stellaris in a whole new way, and that unlocks hundreds of hours worth of gametime, which for $9.99 is pretty good value.
There are even some new voice packs for notifications and alerts in-game — some of which are hilarious. Just keep an eye out for a robotic synthetic fallen empire, which wants to protect all life. But you're not living as a robotic race, are you?
Overall, as DLC goes, Synthetic Dawn is a great value for the money. You get a whole new species to work with, which isn't too unfamiliar to others already available, but it takes advantage of hive mind-like mechanics. The new traits, technologies and minute gameplay alterations make playing as synthetics unique and interesting, even if you already have more than 1,000 hours clocked.
If you want to play as robots, Synthetic Dawn is a must-buy. It's just a shame (and really odd) that Paradox didn't add robotic ships, cities and flag types. With these added, it would have been perfection.
- Synthetic race.
- Can make an army of HK-47s.
- Well priced.
- No robot flags.
- No robot cities.
- No robot ships.
Stellaris Synthetic Dawn is now available for purchase on Steam for $9.99. The base game is also available for about $19.99 (or $39.99 on Steam direct).
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.