Content of the article: "Why is the diplomacy of this game so simplistic?"
Let me start by saying that I love games like Stellaris, EU, CK, HoI etc. Paradox Interactive is one of the few companies out there with the talent and skill to create games of such quality and depth.
With that said, there are certain things that bug me in the game Stellaris. I know that it's easy to throw around suggestions when you're not involved with the programming, budget constraints etc. Game design is one of those things many have an opinion on, but very few actually understand, myself included. However, I think when it comes to this particular issue, I might offer some advice that I hope you will consider.
Currently, the game is challenging for the first 50-60 years, but once you win your first two or three wars, not a single one of the regular empires stand a chance against you. The game quickly turns into a map-painter where the regular empires just sit idly by while you gobble one of them after the other. None of them bother to form coalitions against you, none of them throw serious sanctions against you, none of them seem to give the slightest damn about your fleet being stronger than their entire federation. Why? Because the game simply doesn't have these features. In fact, one of the features that is supposed to counter this, i.e. federations, exacerbates the problem as it limits your abilities to conduct diplomacy without giving you an alternative to maintaining influence across the galaxy.
That nation whose independence you were guaranteeing after having waged a 15-year long war to liberate them? Sorry, they got destroyed by your neighbor because you weren't allowed to guarantee them anymore after joining a federation, a federation that didn't allow your neighbor to join because a two-planet empire said no.
You've conquered one empire after the other, and are an obvious threat to the independence of the rest of the galaxy? Well, no worries as your enemies are so big-brained that they won't form any alliances against you or sanction you, allowing you to instead defeat them one after the other.
Oh, your enemies finally formed a federation? Good, because federations aren't allowed to diplomatically interact with each other, form alliances etc. apart from waging war, so you can still take them out one after the other.
The thing that makes grand strategy games to interesting is the constant state of competition between empires. Competition that results in alliances and counter-alliances being forged, wars being declared, promises being make/broken, embargoes being upheld etc. All this can be just as fun as the warfare itself. But unfortunately, Stellaris is severely lacking in this regard. (Although the addition of the Galactic Community and Council has helped quite a lot).
No-one in the galaxy seems to care about the balance of power, which is probably one of the most important elements of modern diplomacy. No-one seems to realize the existential threat of one empire becoming all-powerful, not even your neighbors.
Another issue is that for a game that revolves so much about ethos, there is very little ethos-based foreign policy. Sure, nations have an aversion towards each other based on conflicting ethos, but there is very little *direct* consequences of this apart from the liberate casus belli.
So here are some suggestions that can spice things up and make the game challenging without giving the AI a 50% fire-rate and energy bonus:
Add the concept of threat level:
If your nation is too powerful compared to other empires, they should feel threatened and more likely to form defensive coalitions against you. This is determined both by the size of your fleet and economy. The reason this feature is important is that currently, my nation can attack and gobble up every single neighboring nation without anyone giving a damn about the fact that I'm becoming too powerful.
These defensive coalitions should be formed solely against you by nations who consider you too much of a threat. The defensive coalition doesn't work against other empires. Its sole purpose is to counter you. If you attack any nation that's part of this defensive coalition, every other member will join the war against you. Upon victory, they will force you to make some concessions to maintain the galactic balance of power. If two nations in a coalition against me are already at war, you can consider making them hostile towards each other as well. Kinda like with Crusades/Jihads in CK2, where a rebelling duke's troops can be hostile towards the invaders while also being hostile towards his/her liege.
Kinda like EU4. If you conquer too much territory in too short a time, other nations take note and form *offensive coalitions* against you. Offensive coalitions should function similarly to defensive coalitions, but with the ability to launch the war against you rather than wait for you to attack. Upon victory, they will force you to make huge concessions and return all the territory of your recent conquest/conquests.
Policy-based casus belli:
Give nations with the "liberate" war policy the ability to attack other nations who have problematic policies. e.g. A xenophile nation should be able to have a special casus belli against nations with the purge policy. A religious nation should have this against nations without AI servitude. Egalitarian vs slaver nations etc.
This addition would make the game far more lively and open up for roleplay. Currently, I can't even see what policies other nations have without using the console to switch over to them, which of course breaks immersion.
TL;DR for those who wish to avoid this word-diarrhea.
Add new diplomacy interactions and make the AI more obsessed with the balance of power, and give nations more casus belli depending on policies.
- [Update] Viable Feudalism and Imperialism – Empire Federation
- Cold war mechanic idea
- Defender of the Galaxy’s threat list of government types
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