Stellaris expansions come out every few months, and they offer either more advanced mechanics & gameplay features, or aesthetic upgrades, making for a necessary addition to the game.
All of us “hate” Paradox Interactive’s DLC policy (releasing 50 DLCs per game, if you weren’t aware), but we (have to) buy most of them either way. This guide aims to clear out confusion from your buying choices, and help you concentrate on which expansions are the most important to your own gameplay style.
Paradox Interactive is following a similar DLC strategy with all of their grand strategy titles, Stellaris being no exception.
With each main expansion, they are adding new features, mechanics & systems to Stellaris, offering more variation & depth to your campaign in meaningful ways.
Truth is, all Paradox games are too “niche”, therefore those who enjoy them the most will probably need to get hold of every single expansion in order to get the most complete experience the game can offer.
Let’s break down all Stellaris expansions from the newest one to the oldest one, and identify the core additions each one makes to the game.
Most 4X games introduce a Spying mechanic through one of their earliest DLCs, but Stellaris decided to come late to the party. I’ve never felt this type of mechanic made for an interesting expansion, but hopefully there are a few more things included in Nemesis, making it a worthwhile DLC all over.
More specifically, the endgame gets more attention, with new Crisis mechanics, that even put you under the driver’s seat! Stellaris already offers a strong endgame in a genre that’s desperate for it, and Nemesis will definitely make your experience better – if you do own most of the other expansions!
Nemesis Feature List:
Become the Crisis – A new mechanic lets your civilization become the endgame Crisis itself, unlocking powerful bonuses as you grow, and letting you ultimately destroy the whole galaxy if you aren’t stopped on time!
Galactic Custodians – You can acquire one through the Galactic Community, offering you ways to combat the endgame Crisis, and choose the Galaxy’s fate afterwards.
Espionage System – You can spy on friends and enemies alike, growing your intelligence, or even turning civilizations against each other, while keeping your identity a secret.
New Ships – Many new vessels inspired by famous Science Fiction empires.
The “diplomatic” expansion – Federations – aims to advance the diplomacy part of the game, and let you influence or manipulate the other empires without resorting to warfare.
It’s one of the most essential Stellaris expansions, since even though micro-management is at the core of the game, diplomacy always lacked major attention, and using warfare was pretty much necessary even for the most peaceful races.
A must-have for players that prefer alternatives to war, and a worthy continuation to the Stellaris franchise.
Federations Feature List:
Expanded Federations – Being a member of a Federation provides at last a ton more benefits, whether that’s a Trade League, Martial Alliance, or a Hegemony.
Galactic Community – Stellaris catches up with other major 4X titles, and now provides a Galactic Senate, where all the leaders can vote on resolutions & legislative agendas that affect everyone – some positively, others negatively – letting you become a main influencer of the board, if you have what it takes to scheme your way up the ladder!
Empire Origins – A new empire customization system, Origins, will let you shape your civilization’s background, therefore altering your starting conditions, and roleplaying capabilities.
New Structures – You can construct a Juggernaut, which is a massive mobile starbase (able to repair your fleets even in enemy territory), and a Mega Shipyard, a new Megastructure that can produce new fleets as fast as possible.
Apocalypse features big things, but is probably one of the “smallest” Stellaris expansions to date. It adds several warfare-based mechanics, that really feel like a free update, instead of an expansion.
What’s more, its main features are mostly experienced quite late in the playthrough, or require you to be the “evil” guy. Definitely try to get Apocalypse on sale!
Apocalypse Feature List:
Planetary Destruction – You will be able to construct the special “Colossus” Ship in late-game, which offers six different configurations, with one of them being able to entirely destroy a planet!
Titan Class Ships – You get access to “Titan” Capital Ships, which you can use to offer great bonuses in the fleets under their command, offering an epic feeling of conquest!
Ion Cannons – You can fortify systems with huge orbital installation modules, that provide extreme defense capabilities.
Marauders – Another feature that should have been in the main game, Marauders are space pirates with no base, that roam around and raid settlements. You can also hire them as mercenaries, and take advantage of some cheap warmongering!
Utopia is a must-have Stellaris DLC, adding a lot of depth to many mechanics that will make ruling your empire that much more fun and efficient!
It’s the first step in the right direction, and an essential expansion in order to experience the later expansions’ features as well (due to Ascension Perks). It should be the first one you get!
Utopia Feature List:
Megastructures – Similar to Civilization’s “World Wonders”, Megastructures are huge buildings you can create, in order to gain unique buffs to your systems.
Habitat Stations – You gain the ability to build “tall” instead of wide, with massive space stations that can house more population, and serve as planets in a small empire.
Ascension Perks – A great progression system that should have been a part of the main game, Ascension Perks are unlocked through Unity Points, and offer three main paths: Biological Mastery, Synthetic Evolution & Transcendance.
Indoctrination – Gain the ability to influence primitive civilizations by using observation stations, and make them slowly adopt your ethics, until you can enlighten or annex them.
Advanced Slavery – Enthralled species gain new purposes, as you are now able to assign a special role to them. Slaves can become Domestic Servants and serve your population, Battle Thralls in order to fight for your empire or just Livestock to feed your people.
Advanced Governments – Gain access to unique civics and authorities for your government. Eradicate diplomacy by being a Fanatic Purifier, avoid political strife by becoming a Hive Mind or adopt Syncretic Evolution to become a multi-species empire.
Stellaris Story Pack DLCs
One of the first things that made me fall in love with Stellaris, is how rich the lore is, and how alive and purposeful everything feels – from a small discovery to a planetary war!
I can’t blame Paradox for bringing more storytelling in the form of paid expansions, but these are definitely targeted only to the most loyal followers. Story packs also offer unique events and questlines, that make every playthrough more memorable!
If you enjoy discovering the unknown in Stellaris, then Ancient Relics is a great addition to your collection!
There are many nice micro-mechanics added, and they definitely make for a more thorough experience in your campaigns.
Ancient Relics Feature List:
Ancient Relics – When completing a dig in a multi-stage archaeological site or finishing other game events, you have a chance to uncover an Ancient Relic, which will provide various benefits to your empire.
Archaeological Sites – You can explore the newly added archaeological sites in various planets, where each one will provide you with a story that may last from 1 to 6 chapters, and provide helpful buffs on completion.
2 Precursor Civilizations – The Baol – a former sprawling plantoid hivemind, and the Zroni – the most powerful psionics that ever existed, are added as Precursor Civilizations to the game, and you can take advantage of their knowledge by investigating their home systems.
Relic Worlds – Inside Relic Worlds you will find all the archaeological sites that contain the powerful relics and artifacts.
Minor Artifacts – A new consumable resource, Minor Artifacts are use to empower your empire, and harvested from archaeological research.
The first story pack for Stellaris – Leviathans – doesn’t offer too much, or too little. It will definitely enrich your gameplay, and unlock some quite useful features like the Enclaves.
You can live without it, but it’s a nice addition, especially on sale!
Leviathans Feature List:
Guardians – Powerful entities roam space, with unknown motives and needs. You can investigate them and unlock new technologies, or fight them to gain treasure.
Enclaves – Many independent outposts will show up in the galaxy, inhabited by artists or traders, that can help you exchange resources, sell you information about the galaxy or prepare a great work of art that will boost your empire.
Fallen Empires – Choose sides in the War in Heaven, where two ancient Fallen Empires revive their differences while your playthrough is progressing.
Stellaris Species Pack DLCs
Paradox are well known for their DLC-galore, and inventing new types of DLCs.
“Portrait Packs” are one of these types, and they exist in Stellaris too. Hopefully they are not just portraits, but provide new Species to play as too. If you’re not a hardcore Stellaris fan, you can simply ignore them.