Stellaris Console Edition: Leviathans DLC Review

May 22, 2019
Xbox One

After reviewing the base (and rather superb) Stellaris back in March, it came to my attention that the console version of the game was quite a bit behind the current PC version. Developer Paradox has been doing a magnificent job engaging the Stellaris community and actively adjusting and evolving the game on PC to universal improvement and praise. That the majority of these updates have been free is similarly applaudable, with only major story packs and expansions being a paid-for item. According to developer reports, the console version of Stellaris was essentially the base game that was initially released on PC back in 2016, with a few of the newer system updates thrown in — but the intention is for the console version to catch up as soon as possible to bring both versions in line with one another.

“Sir, it seems to be some sort of … SPACE DRAGON!”

So given that the Leviathans DLC pack is around £3/£4 on PC (depending on where you buy it), why on earth is it £8 on console? I’ll tell you why — because some corporate hack decided that the free under the hood interface updates that came in tandem with Leviathans on PC should be paid for on console. Seriously. I cannot begin to describe how angry that has made me as both a gamer and a reviewer.

Because I bloody well love this game. I didn’t expect to, but it crawled under my skin and I’ve spent hours at a time pondering ways to explore/subjugate/bring harmony to the galaxy. I adore the depth and richness that Paradox has brought to this game in the form of its alien species — it feels like a fully realised glimpse to the future. There were little bits here and there that made it slog along rather than skip along, but it was all sort of part of the charm. Leviathans has brought along some little nips and tucks that just sort of tidy up what’s under the hood, and while I couldn’t give you specifics, the whole experience just feels much, much slicker.

“Sorry, you paid HOW much for a text screen?!”

However, in terms of visible content — you’ve got a smattering of traders and a War of Heavens endgame situation, which you won’t see unless you put in dozens of hours into a single playthrough. That’s it. For £8 (that’s a third of the price of the base game, if you wondering why I’m banging on about it). Even as a lover of this game, I’m wincing at this; I just don’t have anything to really write about that this DLC brings to the base game to justify the price. The traders help if you have surplus of one resource, but little of another, or if you need some help with scientific research (though I do enjoy the travelling galactic art troupe in my current playthrough). They also guide you to mysteries dotted around the galaxy, which are worth investigating to access rare technologies and resources. This is minutes of gameplay within dozens of hours of a playthrough. The War of Heavens endgame is meatier and it puts your society smack in the middle of two ancient awoken and warring empires that you had to endure, join, or scurry from. It’s a good crisis, but it’s a finishing line story. But the clue is in the name — it’s an endgame. It’s hours upon hours away. You are buying a DLC that you might get to play essentially, because as anyone who plays Stellaris will know — things can go awfully, awfully wrong for your fledging empire very quickly.

“I love the smell of orbital bombardment in the morning.”

It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, minimal content for maximum pricing is a slap in the teeth for any consumer. What’s frustrating is that because Stellaris is so wonderful, and anything that can add to it is only a good thing, there’s obviously an arrogant confidence to the pricing. With two more DLC packs coming in the next couple of months, there’s a real concern that the total cost of these small expansions will total to more than the base game.

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If you’re going to charge big for DLC, you better deliver big. Leviathans has content, but it’s locked behind dozens of hours of standard playthrough. It does make small, indiscernible improvements to the base game but you can, and should, wait for a sale and pick it up then.
Daniel Garrod

You can usually find me scrabbling in the low Golds of Competitive Overwatch (the fact that I'm a Roadhog main this season is a coincidence), or shouting to any poor soul within earshot how amazing Dungeons & Dragons is (it is).