TL;DR – A fantastic addition to the base game that really improves the exploration phase.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Last year I got back into Stellaris a 4X space strategy game, a combination that feels like a video game designed just for me. Over the years it has had a lot of improvements building upon the strengths of the base game. Since then there have been a couple of expansion packs and DLCs and today we are looking the latest addition for the game Ancient Relics.
The core component of this new story pack is the addition of archaeological digs and from this the addition of minor and major artifacts. As you explore out at the start of the game you may stumble across archaeological digs on random planets. These require a science ship to work them much like anomalies but with a little twist. There is a random element in the process where you have a chance to improve until you crack the next level. Most of the digs have multiple levels that you have to progress to before you can complete it and earn research points, resources, or more.
While the bonuses are good, what really makes this system shine is the story components. When you complete every stage of the dig you unlock more of the story of what happened at the location. Is it a crashed ship and we are reading the last logs of a crew falling apart? Is it questions as to why a planet suddenly collapsed all at one, or why an asteroid has a hidden base? Because there are so many different digs, I have played many, many games and I am still finding more new digs, or new ending to ones that I have already explored. The writing is really top notch, even if there are very few happy outcomes.
As a system it is a small change but like dropping a rock into a pond the ripples spread throughout everything in the game. On the base level, this new system dramatically improves the opening exploration phase of the game, the explore part of explore, expand, exploit, exterminate of the 4X genre. This has improved the precursor’s storylines by giving them more of an improvement at the end of the line by the addition of major artifacts that can really shape up the game. You can also get major artifacts from each of the major plot points throughout the game making you want to get involved.
there is one area where it does not work as well as it could, it is in the
final bonuses at the end of the digs. A large percentage just give out say 500
sociology research etc., and after a long process this just feels really anti-climactic
when you get a couple of them in a row. I know it would be impossible from a
balance perspective for them all to have individual rewards like The Herald,
however, a little bit more verity in the rewards like alloys or something similar
With this expansion comes a huge patch that had a lot of big changes and one of the big improvements was in how sectors work. I have liked how they have slowly developed sectors throughout the life of the game, but they never felt like they were helping until now. One of the big changes is that after your first sector, you get to pick where the new sector starts, so you can position it a lot better and avoid the two planet sectors that plagued the game before. Now this really feels like this is the change that this mechanic really needed and for the first time in the game I have been actively engaged with the sectors mechanic rather than ignoring it or avoiding it at all possible.
In the end, do we recommend Stellaris: Ancient Relics? Yes, yes we do. It is mostly a story pack so it is cheaper than a lot of the other DLCs but I think it packs more of a punch than a lot of the big expansions. It dramatically improves the start of the game and it lets the writers at Paradox a chance to have some fun. If you liked the base game, or writing in science fiction, then this is one you need to pick up.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the staff of Stellaris
Game Direction – Martin Anward & Henrik Fåhraeus
Game Content Lead – Henrik Eklund
Art Direction – Fredrik Toll
Developer – Paradox Development Studio
Publisher – Paradox Interactive