“Last, Best Hope”, or how I learned to stop caring and love the game

The FIRST time I opened Stellaris, I chose one of the pre-generated civilizations (Lokken Mechanists, by the way), stared at the screen after the game loaded up, and started to panic. My eyes glazed over as I was bombarded by the number of resources being tracked at the top of the screen, the information in the quick reference on the right, the number of items in the navbar on the left – and then I shut it down.

I gathered myself mentally, and the next day I came back, and took the time to slowly digest all of the ins and outs of the game, and quickly fell in love. I made it twenty years into my first real playthrough before restarting because I felt like I had a much deeper understanding of the game and wanted to start from scratch. The next save lasted 75 years. It was four of five games before I stuck with it long enough to see a crisis, but I was enjoying the crap out of myself as I explored the seemingly bottomless depth of content and play-style, the open-ended goal setting the afforded me the chance to spin off in any number of crazy directions and still feel like I was accomplishing something.

At some point, there was yet another shift; once I felt like I had a rock-solid grasp of all the mechanics, my completionist brain turned to achievement hunting. Every playthrough was structured to snag a few, at the expense of in-game strategic decision making or civilization RP. I was obsessed! In 5 weeks of owning the game, I've collected 98 of 114 possible (pre-Nemesis) achievements.

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This all culminated in my most recent play-through, that was primarily aimed at getting the Rogue Servitor achievement; I knew it was gonna be a long-haul since I had to tackle at least one FE, so I buckled up for the ride.

And then, in early late game, I total gem fell into my lap! Despite the fact I was playing medium galaxy with only two FEs, the materialist chose the holy guardian as a rival, and the War in Heaven was on!

I was already the leader of the most powerful federation (I'd been angling for "Opposites Attract", which I also snagged this game by the way), and I got my chance to start the League of Non-Aligned Powers. Boom. Super-stoked to catch a great chance at a fairly difficult achievement to engineer, I immediately declared war on both FEs and led my forces to victory.

And then there was no achievement pop.

I went to Reddit and the Hive Mind told me I'd f**ked up; I need to wait for emissaries from the FEs give me "one more chance" and then let them declare war on me, and THEN I could crush them and pop the achievement.

Well, f**k.

I spent about half a day feeling incredibly depressed; I had come so close, and fumbled the opportunity by not doing sufficient research before charging into a war declaration. IDIOT! As I mulled over my next playthrough, what tack to take, what angle to play for, I realized that I had already checked all the obvious boxes. I had all of the achievements with specific requirements for empire species and ethics (except "Payback", not gonna lie I'm only playing humanoids until I check that box). A sense of release washed over me.

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I could play any empire I wanted; whatever achievements are left, they'll cross my path or they won't. Somehow pulling this massively bone-headed move has freed me from the fixation to complete all possible achievement-related fringe scenarios, and I have an immense feeling of reconnection to all the things I loved about the game from the start – the epic scale, the high-concept sci-fi, the ability to define literally any goal and role-play the interactions of my empire with a unique set of conditions in every single game.

F**k, I love this game. I just forgot for a few hundred hours.


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