Windows Central Recommended Award

Stellaris allows you to build up your very own sci-fi galactic empire. Like most Paradox titles, the game has been supported aggressively with large feature updates and paid expansions. MegaCorp is the latest.

MegaCorp adds new governing systems for prospective empires, focusing on commerce, crime, and galactic franchising. In addition, the 2.2 "Le Guin" update fully revamps core aspects of the game, such as planet management, while introducing new systems like trade.

Here are some immediate impressions of MegaCorp for Stellaris, which is available now for PC on Steam and other digital retailers.

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Crime or Corporate?

In Stellaris MegaCorp, you can opt to play with one of several new commerce-oriented playstyles that focus on new mechanics that circumnavigate the more typical border-driven gameplay style.

Usually in Stellaris, your galactic empire expands when you rout planets, win planetary claims in border wars, or team up with other empires to create alliances or federations. While much of this gameplay is still very open to a MegaCorp, you'll also have access to a new mechanic that lets you effectively set up shop on neighboring, non-hostile empires, which divert energy credits for your own ends. The gameplay style is unlike anything we've seen in Stellaris previously, compounded by additional systems that arrive for free as part of the 2.2 update.

While you can focus on trade and good relations with your neighbors, you can also embark as a crime syndicate, which is what I've been attempting to do thus far. Crime in Stellaris has become a focal point for these sorts of empires, since managing the crime on an external planet can be crucial to whether or not you get to keep your branch open on that world. The AI often sweeps in and will shut down your parasitic little buildings on their worlds, which can boost your resources in a number of ways depending on the size of the planet.

Figuring out a good way to maintain this fragile relationship has proven a little difficult, but that's pretty much Stellaris for you — its depth leads to endless complexity that can be difficult to decipher for all but the most dedicated players. But that simply adds to the joy. When the client is working properly, that is.

New management layers, new processing problems

The 2.2 update adds a range of new features that create intriguing and addictive management scenarios to overall play, although some may find the compounding systems to be a little daunting.

Stellaris has now revamped the way planetary growth works, tasking you to build districts and manage specific buildings on each individual planet in your empire, all while balancing the needs, desires, and opinions of your populations ("pops" for short). Trading aliens as slaves or even as livestock can be a lucrative undertaking for a MegaCorp, but it can also lead to revolts and even revolutions. I had one planet go completely rogue in one playthrough, only to instantaneously cut a deal with a hostile empire on my border, effectively giving them a safe haven right in the middle of my empire. The dynamism of Stellaris never fails to impress, throwing all sorts of unique scenarios at you, while you react and plan for each eventuality.

I simply had to go to war with this opposing empire, not only to restore my ego but also because it was funneling trade from other systems to my core world. Its loss cut me off from a huge amount of energy credits, which required setting up extraordinarily long routes to avoid the stolen territory. Trade is a new mechanic in the game, which also presents an additional, fun management layer, that can alter the dynamics of play. Planets and systems with trade value can funnel back the energy credits back to your core world, but only if those trade routes are sufficiently protected against pirates.

I figured it was perhaps best to regain control of the planet, rather than route my trade through an annoying detour. After an expensive (and successful) war to regain control of the planet, however, it was then invaded by a far more powerful Marauder empire, who took advantage of my battered economy and turned my nation into a subordinate.

I began building up to attempt to free myself of this unwelcome new ruler, but a familiar occurrence began to take hold, far sooner than expected. Stellaris is a little notorious for its late-game lag, where the sheer amount of objects and statistics being tracked across the growing galaxy can cause your game to stutter, even if you're running on a powerful system.

Considering that Stellaris's early game has slowed down a bit, it was a bit disappointing to start hitting the stuttering so early before I'd really gotten to the good stuff, including the new Ecumenopolis that allows you to effectively turn a planet into a city-world like Coruscant from Star Wars. Hopefully, the team at Paradox can look into improving things here, but many Stellaris players will attest to the fact that, well ... we've been waiting years for that to happen.

Stellaris's evolution continues

MegaCorp is a great expansion that really typifies Paradox's dedication to improving upon its games, both with free and paid content. The additional layers to empire management make for more involved play, while other quality-of-life improvements, like the fleet designer, help to streamline some of the old tedium.

Pros:

  • Still some of the best 4X strategy out there.
  • New features are refreshing.

Cons:

  • Micromanagement can be exhausting.
  • Still gets laggy towards the mid-game.

4 out of 5

MegaCorp and 2.2 "Le Guin" in general could probably use a few tweaks. The update seems to have quite a few bugs, with A.I. behaving strangely, and for large empires, the micromanagement for planets might simply be too much. Additional resources to look out for, some that are planet specific, are laborious to learn, and even more so to acquire at times, with the galactic resource trading system feeling a little basic.

Overall, though, I'm still loving Stellaris, and I eagerly anticipate where it'll go next.

Stellaris MegaCorp is available on Steam for $20.

See at Steam