Parents' Guide to

Stellaris

By Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Deep, engaging space strategy has big challenge for players.

Game Mac , PlayStation 4 , Windows , Xbox One 2019
Stellaris Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this game.

Community Reviews

age 11+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 12+

Little objectionable content, but requires a great deal of patience

Stellaris is an excellent strategy game, where you create and play as a spacefaring civilization. You can explore the galaxy, settle new worlds, build an interstellar society, encounter other life forms, and possibly kill them. Stellaris has very little in the way of objectionable content, largely due to gameplay taking place on a literally galactic scale. Violence and warfare is a major (and unavoidable) feature, but even if you zoom in, all that is shown is starships fighting and exploding into debris. Sexual content and profanity are nonexistent (in single player). Drugs are very occasionally mentioned, but not shown. However, this game is also extremely complex. There is a tutorial to show new players the basic mechanics, but actually mastering the game requires a lot more time. Random elements can doom a playthrough in ways that may not be visible until several hours into a game. Younger children may not have enough patience, and are likely to be frustrated. That said, the simple beginning - a single star system and a few ships - makes this the easiest of the Paradox strategy games to get into. If your child is already familiar with other strategy games, particularly Civilization, they will probably be able to enjoy this one as well. If you are considering buying this game for yourself, you could probably involve younger children in designing your alien society. The game doesn't offer a particularly good or bad message. Your society could be a bastion of peace and democracy, or a bloodthirsty empire bent on galactic genocide. You could be devoted to your faith, or a ruthless criminal syndicate... or, in some cases, both. It should be noted that the game has a multiplayer component, with up to 32 possible players in a single game, and all the concerns that online multiplayer brings into any game.
age 10+

Like Civ V in space

Has great mechanics and a great premise, but has many of the same problems as Civ V where it just feels like something's missing, especially in the midgame, and its adoption of policy trees like Civ V is I'd say one of the greatest mistakes in its design. As well, whereas the civilization games have gone down a path of really ignoring atrocities, this game lets you do some messed up stuff to your populace (or fight those who do), which does help a little in flavor, but in the end, it's a lot of throwing balls of ships at each other while playing Star Trek brueaucracy sim.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (15 ):

This massive space-strategy game can easily keep you playing for hours, as long as you're willing to put in time to learn its secrets and deal with frustrating random moments. Stellaris takes the large scale of 4X games (which require you to think multiple steps ahead to be successful) and expands it significantly. Sure, there's exploring new star systems, establishing your empire, and keeping your citizens on your home world and colonized (or terraformed) planets happy and productive. You'll also have to fulfill political mandates from elected leaders and determine how peaceful or aggressive you'll be toward other cultures. Stellaris reinvigorates the genre with random events based on the mystery of space. Whether it's discovering extinct alien cultures, rogue science cults within your own empire, or advanced robot uprisings that threaten to destroy all organic life in the universe, many events can crop up at any time, which require your attention and change the direction of your game immeasurably. You'll be surprised by how many times you'll tell yourself you're just going to play for one or two more minutes, just to see what the next random moment will be. Couple this with the ability to tailor almost every aspect of play, from the universe size to the number of species you encounter, and you'll be guaranteed that no two games will ever play the same way. It's notable that the console version of the game works just as well as the PC version of the game, and has just as much content as one of the later PC updates, making it perfect for console strategy fans looking for a challenge.

While the random elements definitely reduce boredom, it's also a double-edged sword, because you can get completely overwhelmed by events out of your control. You can start a game and find yourself almost immediately surrounded by rival civilizations, each of which is potentially larger and more advanced than you. Or perhaps you're extremely resource-strapped, making your expansion moves incredibly difficult to accomplish. You can even have so many negative random events happen that your species is doomed shortly after it begins. That's frustrating and will force you to restart the game repeatedly to find a decent starting position. Similarly, the tutorial is rather sparse, so even if you're trying to get instructions from the game, you'll need to put in dozens of hours before you'll really understand how some of the resources you have or develop seem incredibly abundant one minute, and vastly depleted the next. It's confusing and requires some dedication (and multiple playthroughs) to start figuring everything out. But these issues aside, Stellaris has immense, deep play for strategy fans that will keep them reaching for the stars and new solar systems for hundreds of hours.

Game Details

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