Stellaris

Opinions on BtC

I apologize beforehand for writing such a long post. It seems I went over-zealous a little bit on the official forums, and wasn't able to post this over there, and I didn't want all of this for to be nothing, so I'm posting this here.

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I've destroyed the galaxy yesterday. And to be honest, last part of the game was neither tactical, nor challenging, nor fun; it was mindless click-spamming to eat as many stars as you could so that you could activate your doomsday device and be done with the game. Getting declared as a galactic crisis at this point wasn't a big issue, I was already unstoppable.

In my opinion, some of the BtC features feel unbalanced. Like "+30% damage vs Starbases", "+50% weapon damage", "+50% ship build speed" and so on (if not all of them). But more than those, the "menacing" ships are perhaps the main culprit. I think the menacing ship variants have two big oversights; they are 50% faster to build (already), and they always cost minerals and nothing else that matters (not even dark matter nyeh nyeh).


• Rundown of the game

(mostly poorly-written fluff; you can skip ahead to the other point, but the read might give some hints on why I think the ships are perhaps the main culprit)

Started as a "Determinated Exterminator", on an ironman, huge, 4-arm-spiral galaxy game with default settings, including 1.5x crisis strength. My starting space was bountiful; I was in a corner of the galaxy, with a primitive race and two others next to me, giving me ample room to spread immediately and so I did.

As soon as I could, I grabbed the "Become the Crisis" ascension perk, and was a little sad to see that my previous conquests weren't counted. Checked the list of benefits, some of the features seemed too good to be true, but I had to unlock them first, so I started gathering points. I'd like to say that, this system of gathering points is somewhat… counter-intuitive? Nonsense? I don't know how to explain this properly; it isn't a good design I guess you could call it. You could destroy someone, or… you could let them regroup, and farm more points out of them.

After doing a lot of skirmishes with my neighbours, and gaining a level that unlocked menacing corvettes, I realized that they only cost minerals. Using a raw material to build ships, as if it is 1.9.2 again felt good to be honest. I immediately sent my swarm of alloy-ships to the nearest skirmish target, and quickly started building up a fleet of menacing corvettes, and reshaped my economy around minerals instead of alloys.

As soon as I gathered 2 fleets of 25k power, I taunted a fallen empire next to me. I taunted them because if I had declared war, my only options were total annihilation of my own race, as I only have two casus belli types; extermination, and… extermination in short. I had no hopes of winning this war, all I wanted was one successful battle to study the remains. They had 3 fleets of 100k power, and quickly overwhelmed my defenses, and my plan didn't go as planned.

After obliterating my fleets however, they split their fleets into multiple tiny fleets varying in 10k-50k power to capture as many space as they can in a relatively short time. This worked in my favour though. I managed to scrap together two new fleets, and hunted down their smaller fleets, then bowed down to the fallen empire as I'd achieved my goal. I even managed to destroy enough to not even research the technologies; I had studied enough debris so no research was necessary.

Now that there is a ten year truce period, I consolidated my fleets, upgraded their designs, and by the time truce ended, I was ready to take on the fallen empire for real this time. Power wise, they were still much stronger, but I had easy-to-replace fleets, and many mega-warforms ready to invade the planets, so I declared war. It was extremely long, but I played tactical. They bombarded four of my planets into rubble, but they never got to my core sector. In the end, I swallowed the whole fallen empire up.

Later on, I swallowed another fallen empire. And one of them got awakened, and we went into a bloody (oily?) struggle. By this time, I had jump-drives, and I was intercepting their transport ships to buy myself time. As time went on, I decided to protect my borders instead of taking on the awakened empire, because even though I had three great fleets, the enemy had much more at their hands, and my economy started to run dry; I was taking heavy casualties, and was draining my bank just to keep up with the enemy.

Then, Unbidden appears in one of my systems. It was sheer luck that two of my fleets were two jumps away, with the third one at jump-drive range. I tossed the nearby fleets at them, but one of their main fleets had already escaped to the "Brother-Mother-Cradle-Sister" system. I was losing the fight though, and already had a beaten down economy due to the long-winded fight with the awakened empire (whom were happy to settle on a status quo). I had to deal with this now, or lose the precious fallen empire systems, and a big chunk of my empire.

I decided to throw everything I have at them; engaged the jump drives before losing the whole system. And the jump-weakened fleet was able to turn the tide of the battle, I was able to destroy the dimensional anchor. Eventually, I swept the remainders; after I destroyed the first and only dimensional anchor, the other fleets stayed on the systems they were at, so I had no problems sweeping the remains on my own.

Galaxy was a safer place. Or was it? Unbidden could've been the one thing that might've contained me, but I was the better (worse?) crisis. The crisis nominee defeating another crisis, ironic. The war with the Unbidden was costly. The "family" system got obliterated in essence. But I was able to deal with them within a year, and had a truce with the awakened empire, so I was able to rebuild everything. And then, when the time was right (in other words, as soon as truce expired), I obliterated the awakened empire.

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I declared war on anything that stood in my way, and cracked any world that could sustain life. The council decided I was too big of a threat to the entire galaxy, and I got declared as a galactic crisis. By this time, I got classified as a category-5 crisis, and just gained access to star-eaters. Oh, how beautiful they truly are… erasing not just a world, but a system from existence. Perfect tool for extermination. But there is a better tool; a galaxy eraser. So I gobbled up as many stars as I could to power this mega-machine.

The shroud tried. I don't even mention the rest of the galaxy, their attempts were far too late, and far too inefficient. As soon as I started the last leg of the construction, I decided to turtle up, because at this point, it was a ticking bomb. Even if they could amount such a force to stop me, they couldn't make it there in time to do so. And then… the big red button. Mission accomplished.


• Analysis of BtC features

Firstly, I apologize for that poorly-written fluff. I intentionally skipped some parts; parts mostly related to "oh this BtC feature is crazy!" so that I could better explain it here, outside the (poor) fluff. The bonuses are extremely good, with no real downsides in my opinion; if you are planning to play aggressive, there really is no downsides to BtC, only upsides.

I'll start with the menacing ships. All of these ships have a fixed cost and upkeep. And I think this is either an oversight, or a bug. A regular corvette with dark-matter technology was costing me 190 alloy, 0.5 rare crystals, and 1.1 dark matter, with an upkeep of 1.5 credits, and 0.3 alloys. A menacing corvette, with same layout was just costing me 225 minerals, with an upkeep of 0.25 credits and 0.2 minerals. In short, they are dirt cheap.

Not only that, but all of them are built twice as fast. Even faster with the other BtC feature, "+50% ship build speed". A completed mega-shipyard was able to churn out 60 menacing corvettes in one month. And as they only cost you minerals, you can shape your military industry around this, and minimize the alloy production, which I did. The only thing I needed alloys for were for mega-structures, starbases, and population.

The menacing corvettes are far superior to normal corvettes in my opinion. You cannot make missile-boats out of these, however the "Brawler" version can equip a medium-sized weapon, and the extra module slot is perfect to squeeze in bigger guns / better shields. And later down in the line, they even get more evasion and disengagement chance – perfect for hit & run tactics, with minimal losses. They have more base hull points, a tiny amount of armor.

The menacing destroyers have less base hull points, less base evasion, but one more utility slot compared to the normal ones. And the "+30% menacing destroyer tracking" make them excellent hunters, and you also have the "Multirole" section if you want a multi-purpose solution. I built a few small fleets out of these to "police the border", and I think they're the perfect companions for the menacing cruisers so I fielded many of them alongside the cruisers.

The cruisers have more hull points than the normal versions, they're faster (if that matters), but they have less amount of weaponry & utility slots on them. However, with the "+30% menacing cruiser hull points"; which might look weak at first, combined with their higher base hull points, they'll almost have as much hitpoints as a battleship. If you are not using "No retreat" policy, having more hit points will mean more of these puppies will survive an encounter.

All of them also have little amounts of base armor, and I am unsure about the purpose of this armor. If there is a damage-stopping effect between defense layers to prevent damage bleeding through the different layers, that tiny armor is enough to soak one hit that bypasses the shields. But their main strength comes from how easily and fast they can be replaced. Aside from the menacing corvette, others are more in-line with the normal versions, but when you consider my previous point, they're far superior in my opinion.

You can easily take advantage of this by shaping your economy around minerals, and having a good bank. I built a lot of resource silos, I wasn't able to populate my planets with the new introduced curve, so I decided to make use of the empty building slots, and this was a great decision. Combined with the "-75% less war attrition", a huge bank was giving me the ability to push any empire to extinction in just one war.

Extra "+50% weapon damage" is not only great on your fleets, but also on your bastions. Think about this for a second, and then consider how AI weighs its logic. For the AI, it all comes down to the fleet power; "+50% weapon damage" simply destroys the AI logic because your border bastions will look impenetrable, and you can exploit this. I mean you could do this before, this isn't something new, but that extra firepower just makes the AI extremely incompetent at decision making. edit: it specificly says +50% ship weapon damage, so might not affect bastions, and I might be wrong on this point!

The rest are also great; the "30% reduced ship upkeep" perk makes the already dirt-cheap upkeep of the menacing series even cheaper, but if you aren't using menacing variants, the strain on your economy caused by your fleets is cut by a whooping 1/3rd. The "+30% damage vs starbases" is very effective against fallen empires in my opinion.

The ability to declare war with "Existential Expulsion" casus belli is perhaps pointless for an empire with "Extermination" casus belli, but might be welcome for anyone that doesn't have such an option. Though, that option has a problem; as you destroy starbases and not flip the systems, the surrounding area might become "unexplored", meaning that you will have to explore the system with a science vessel first so that your fleets can go further. I don't know what causes it but I think it's an unintended side-effect with the new intel features.

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Last stage of the BtC; at the 5th level, you get access to massive star-eaters that can destroy a whole system. And they aren't defenseless; in my game, each one had 55k firepower on its own, enough to deter an entire armada of enemy ships. Had I known, I wouldn't have gone with the Colossus project ascension perk, to be honest. My tiny, defenseless colossus capable of destroying one planet at a time, compared to a massive ship capable of holding on its own, and destroying entire systems at a time, the ascension perk waste was apparent. Oh and, the mega-structure you get at the last stage gives you lots of stuff. Credits, minerals, naval capacity… as if you needed more.

All in all, every feature has an upside, without any downsides in my opinion.


• The Steps Leading to the Galactic Response

As I've talked about the steps in the game I had, menacing ships, and some most all crisis perks allowed me to stay and keep fighting much longer than I could've under normal circumstances. The AI needs to take notice of you at perhaps the 4th level, not 5th level when the galaxy is already doomed.

The gameplay was fun toying around with your food, even rivalling the fallen empires… the perks are really good. Perhaps too good even, as if it is pay… to win? With minerals, of course. Because till the last stage, all you suffer is the diplomatic penalties, and well, playing as a "determined exterminator", I think I can deal with -X more on top of -1000 that I already have.


• The Galactic Response

To put it simply, the response from the galaxy comes way too late. By the time you are beyond 4th level, you are already unstoppable, and at 5th level, galaxy is already doomed but they don't know it yet. This transition felt somewhat sharp, by the way; the transition from level 4 to 5 was sharp, something felt missing in between. All of a sudden, you gain access to star eaters, and two of them are given for you to use, and you get a megastructure that looks like a Dyson Sphere. Little bit off-topic but, it should have a different model in my opinion, using Dyson Sphere for it felt cheap.

The AI cannot do anything at this point, there is literally no stopping you. Maybe if the fallen empires awakened at a certain stage of the megastructure, to counter the player, it might've amounted to something. For some reason, the (remaining) fallen empires stood and watched as I destroyed the galaxy around them, I can understand why they might not be included in the galactic response, but at a certain stage of the megastructure they should awaken to counter the player.

As far as gameplay goes, the last stage was extremely unfun. All the AI did was to run around the galaxy, clueless. Trying to decide where to attack from. And years went on, as I watched them move around everywhere, but leave my territories be. The AI never did good with multiple fleets trying to attack the same targets anyway, and it becomes even more apparent here; when you are the crisis. The difference this time is, now instead of cursing at the AI for not doing something proper and letting you/the galaxy die to the crisis, now you are laughing at the AI for being as clueless as ever. At the beginning anyway…

I said, at the beginning anyway. Because later down on the line, you realize the AI will never do anything proper to stop you. So the game turns into a clickfest; right click, crack star, right click, crack star, you can even queue the orders up and then leave the game running for a while, then come back to realize the AI has done nothing. The AI at this stage needs to focus on two things: Star eaters & megastructure. These two are the final steps leading to their doom, and needs to be taken out if possible. But I don't think the AI prioritizes them at all, it just acts like it is a normal war.

The psionic entities that get spawned throughout the galaxy also act as an AI blocker, and a major one. When I realized how hesitant the AI become after multiple entities spawned across the map, I scrapped all my fleets save for 2 star eaters. The AI didn't send a proper fleet to anywhere, as it was also blocked with the psionic entities, and just watched as my star eaters ate more and more.


• Suggestions

First of all, the cost and upkeep of menacing ship variants, as I've said, either that is an oversight, or a bug. Their cost and upkeep always stays the same; you can use dark matter technology, but won't require dark matter to construct the ships. This needs to change.

The halved build times for the menacing ships are somewhat understandable, however there is another 50% reduction in the build times down the line. With appropriate technology, and a mega-shipyard, you can churn out 60 menacing corvettes in a month. Combined with how cheap they are, that's just crazy. I said understandable before, because I believe the intention is that the galaxy will respond to you earlier than at the forced, last step. But that doesn't happen. I believe the crisis empire should have an advantage, but unless you are contained very early, there is no stopping you.

Either the base menacing ship build speed should match the normal variants, or the additional reduction later on should be changed with something else. Or, whenever we level up, let us select from a list of crisis traits like it's an ascension perk – which would require more work for obvious reasons. That and, module costs properly being reflected at the ship costs, will put the price : power ratio of the menacing ships more in-line with the rest of the ship types, while still providing advantages for the crisis empire; just not as much.

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A little bit off-topic, and not entirely BtC related, but the weapons that bypass shields (and even armor) are actually extremely potent against fallen / awakened empires. Because they use few, but very strong ships, each ship houses a huge chunk of the fleet's power. Any direct hull damage will not only weaken the ship, but also cause them to route if not destroyed outright, and this leads to a scenario where a 10k strong fleet equipped with direct-hull damage weapons can tackle a 35k strong fallen empire fleet without any ascension perks to deal extra damage, even.

And again, little bit off-topic but this has been something that plagued the game for very long, the AI. The AI cannot decide on anything, and is very eager to change whatever it has decided. In my battle against the fallen empire, the AI thought it was better to attack from another side, and as I was busy with another front, I didn't even see them coming. I was unable to respond. They took the border station, and then they turned back all the way, spending like another year or two in sublight just to go back to their systems. All of my fleets are far away, they already dealt with the border station, and the rest of my empire has no protection, yet the AI decides to go back for some reason? What kind of logic is this? Something is way off with the AI decision-making. Way off.

Back to the topic, star eaters are super-self-sufficient. They can tackle with small fleets, and colonized-system-stations on their own with ease. And they are the priority targets; they take a very long time to be built, and they are the only way that a crisis empire can destroy the galaxy; conventional ways of getting dark matter is somewhat pointless when one star eater requires 7.5k. The AI doesn't seem to know that they're priority targets. If you knock star eaters off of the map, then you'll have a crisis empire that'll have to resort to conventional ways to destroy the galaxy. AI should know this, and prioritize star eaters if they see any.

The megastructure is in the same category as the star eaters. It should be considered as a priority target by the AI, but it doesn't seem so. All the AI does is fighting a conventional warfare, when my goals are letting me use unconventional means. They should focus on taking me away from my toys. Also, the megastructure itself, the bonuses it grants should be toned down; it lets you snowball even further. And as I've said before, it should have a different model, in my opinion.

About the transition between 4th and 5th level. It feels instant, like something in between is missing – well, this time, there is no special project to unlock the features. At the end of the 4th level, I'd suggest making the megastructure available to be built in any system you want. That way, instead of having a special project to advance (which is lacking for 5th level), completion of the frame will serve as the special project. And maybe the first star eater should be a special project, or the frame should yield some dark matter to construct one, but having access to two right away seems a bit nuts.

The psionic entities that spawn all around the galaxy, they act as a galaxy-blocker for the AI more than anything. Making them only hostile to the crisis player would serve nothing, because the AI cannot decide properly, but more than that, they're mostly harmless and even a star eater can tackle one on its own. I'd suggest making it something that'll challenge the crisis player. For example, instead of spawning psionic entities around the galaxy, maybe have a chance to open a wormhole between the system just got destroyed, and a random wormhole in blackhole in the galaxy that doesn't have one? Gateways / wormholes / L-gates are hard for the player (me) to keep track of, but having a potential to open a backdoor to your systems could be an interesting concept, and might present a big problem for the unprepared.

About the crisis itself, just having one type of crisis-empire seems a bit of a letdown. But the DLC also has other features, so it might be the reason. However, I'd like to select a non-shroud type of crisis someday.

Anyway, I'll stop here. All in all, this was a neat surprise, to be honest I wasn't expecting this version and DLC to be this good; I had very low expectations. 3.x has lots of good things in it, and fixes a lot of stuff that I hated in 2.x. This DLC adds some interesting stuff, and here are my opinions, suggestions, and feedback about the BtC part of the DLC. Thanks for reading, stay healthy, and stay safe =)

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