Parents' Guide to

Stellaris: Utopia

By Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Civics takes to the stars in deep space strategy expansion.

Game Windows 2017
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This expansion adds more complexity to the deep strategy game, making it a richer, more challenging, and more partisan universe than before. For example, if you gain a new alien planet (whether by conquest or border expansion) with an alien species different from yours, you can now decide things like whether you're going to grant them full citizenship, enslave them, or purge them outright. That may sound extreme, but that's because there's a new focus on civics in Utopia: More political factions and causes arise, forcing you to appease their interests to ensure your society works. Keeping your people happy and your government running boosts the new resource, Unity, which can be redeemed in one of seven Tradition trees, all of which strengthen your civilization. What's more, fully completing a Tradition tree gives a significant boost with an Ascension Perk, giving your empire a status boost. These can even unlock new megastructures like ring worlds or Dyson structures to enhance the population bonuses or power output for your empire. While they take a ton of resources and time, the rewards from these massive structures are immeasurable.

All the new features are great, but they come with an added cost of complexity. While some new features reduce the need to immediately restart your game if you're surrounded by other empires, there are still a lot of times that you'll start over because of a lack of resources or a random event that devastates your fledgling empire at the beginning. Couple that with trying to juggle all the resources and Unity, and you'll spend a lot of time getting up to speed on the changes, even if you've been playing for a while. Plus, there are some adjustments that don't feel fully fleshed out. For instance, if you choose to play as an insect hive mind that treats other species as livestock, why would you care about diplomacy as a Tradition? Shouldn't this tactic change if you choose to be a plague on the galaxy? Similarly, shouldn't the resource of Unity turn to Fear if you choose to be an oppressive regime or threat to your neighbors? These feel either like missed opportunities or features that don't go far enough in capturing all the play styles available to gamers. But for space emperors interested in giving their political and territorial ambitions a boost, Utopia could be just what they're looking for.

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