The much-anticipated Nemesis expansion for Stellaris launches tomorrow alongside the game’s free 3.0 patch. I managed to get my hands on a review copy so I could “be the crisis,” and I have some early impressions.
First things first: Nemesis is primarily an end-game enhancing DLC. But its accompanying free update has a little something for everyone including much-needed improvements to early game scenarios such as making first contact with alien species and a wonderfully-implemented version of Europa Universalis IV’s espionage system.
What’s good: The biggest changes with Nemesis occur during the end game. Players will have several new options in fighting the final galactic threat and, as mentioned, you’ll even get the opportunity to become the crisis.
Do-gooders will get the chance to organize or even lead the galaxy against the final threat and those who fancy themselves the Palpatine type can declare themselves the emperor of the galaxy and rule with an iron fist.
But what’s best here is the opportunity to become the crisis. Once you’ve reached a certain level of experience (I’m being intentionally vague here so as not to spoil anything for people who want to maintain a little mystery for their first play-through), you’ll be given the opportunity to work towards becoming the ultimate evil.
As the crisis you’ll set off on a path with goals that include destroying entire star systems with all-new technologies and choices. You’ll, essentially, burn your way through the galaxy until you collect enough resources to power an ultimate doomsday device.
This makes the decision to begin the game as an evil or self-centered species a lot more fun. Prior to Nemesis, I felt compelled to be one of the generally decent species in the galaxy simply because the mid and end game crisis required a certain level of teamwork among species. Now, I have the opportunity to be a monster from day one all the way through to the end. I love it.
What’s bad: As far as I can tell, there aren’t any cosmetic updates such as new portraits or voices and I didn’t see any new options in the species creation interface (aside from the option to start with new imperial ship models, which do look pretty rad). It’s possible I missed something, but if I didn’t: it’s a bit disappointing. This would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce a handful of new dark and evil portraits for species other than the Necroid to add an additional layer of immersion for villainy campaigns.
What’s great: I cannot overstate how much the combination of tweaks to first contact, espionage, and the end game change the Stellaris experience for the better.
For the most part, Stellaris has always felt like a really good board game you played on the computer. But Nemesis turns it into something more. It finally feels like the galaxy simulator I’ve always wanted. I have a lot of control over how the big picture looks now.
Aside from the end-game revamp, there’s also the free 3.0 update. Here, the developers have leaned into some of the best features of Europa Universalis IV to flesh out the rest of the experience. In doing so, they’ve recaptured the sense of wonder that comes from turning your attention to a new species, not just painting the galactic map. First contact is much improved and makes a lot more sense, as does no longer having instant access to intelligence about an entire species’ domain.
Bottom line: This is a must-have expansion if you enjoy Stellaris. I think it replaces Apocalypse as the most fun and Federations as the most useful. Veteran players will get the most out of it, but for those new to the game wondering if they should buy any expansions: I’d recommend this as one of the top three you should pick up, with Federations (adds much-needed diplomacy features) and Synthetic Dawn (you get to play as robots) rounding out the list.