Synthetic Dawn has been out for two weeks and the 1.8.2 hotfix is out. I suppose its time to create a new thread regarding what changed since the last expansion for new players and returning ones.
If you are interested to know what changed since the games' lunch back in May of 2016 up to Utopias' release I suggest checking out this thread by /u/Russ31419 the last time this type of thing was made.
What is Stellaris?
Stellaris is a sci-fi strategy game that combines aspects of 4X and grand-strategy. You start as a nation that has managed to unite its homeworld under a single government which is now looking to expand towards the vast expanse above. This expanse is indeed quite vast as you begin in a procedurally generated galaxy that can have up to 1000 systems, each capable of containing planets, moons and asteroids.
The game offers many different mechanics to simulate the management of such an empire and they include:
- The ability to colonize potentially habitable worlds
- Developing said worlds into figurative ecumenopolises by virtue of building construction and populacional assignments
- Interaction with dozens of different empires, each unique in their own way, including the ancient and powerful Fallen Empires: empires that once ruled the entire galaxy but are now a mere shadow of their former selves
- Personalizing your founding species by choosing its portrait (about 120 different ones) and biological traits and your government type by selecting different ethics, authorities and civics
- Raising a space armada with a somewhat simplified composition (4 types of combat ships but potentially dozens of different, ever improving weapon types and modules to choose from) capable of waging wars
- Researching hundreds of technologies like cold fusion, psionic theory and extradimensional weaponry
- Hiring and managing leaders like governors and scientists, each with different traits, and make them formidable by raising their skills
- Using said scientists to explore the galaxy around you in search of knowledge and anomalies
- Equipping ships with three different types of FTL travel engines, each offering a unique type of playstyle
- Terraforming all sort of planets to better suit your species (or simply for the fun of it)
- Different playstyles based on previously selected ethics, authorities and civics
- Dealing with factions that do not like you (and receiving the boons from those that do)
- Control your population (or not) by making them (or some other species) slaves or livestock for the benefit of the empire
- Genetically modify species, uplift pre-sapients, infiltrate pre-FTL nations or simply purge them all because one should suffer not the alien to live
Its worth mentioning that the game is often patched with hotfixes, but every semester or so a big free patch is released that accompanies each DLC and it includes most of the newly implemented mechanics and gameplay changes. In a way, buying the DLC helps subsidizing the free improvements everyone receives.
You can buy the game at Paradox Interactive or Steam for $39.99 or your regional equivalent. Keep in mind more often than not there are sales that cut the price considerably so keep an eye for those opportunities!
There is also a wiki that is run by Paradox Interactive that is frequently updated by fans of the game and it can provide some much needed context or help for your playthroughs. You can also check YouTube for tutorials and let's plays.
What changed since Utopia?
Since Utopia and its 1.5 (Banks) patch a number of changes have happened, the significant ones are:
- You can now colonize every type of world (if not non-adaptive) as habitability now affects population growth, happiness and resource output (-5% at 20% habitability, the minimum allowed)
- The old, somewhat broken AI rebellion crisis has been replaced by The Contingency, an ancient and dormant machine intelligence that can awaken and proceed to sterilize the galaxy of organic pops
- Vassal creation is simplified, to create a vassal select a planet and click on the "Create Vassal" button, systems can be granted or seized via trade
- Missiles have been severely buffed as they can now re-target if a target is destroyed
- Election mechanics have been revamped – meaning that democratic governments no longer get to choose their ruler from a pool of active leaders, instead it's centered around factions. Candidates are now representatives of factions and by taking into account the citizenship status of pops, the odds of a candidate winning an election are determined by the amount of support a given faction has throughout the empire
- Genetic modification has been reworked, there is now a system of templates you can create and save/modify/delete at any time. Said templates can later be applied on specific pops
- Robots can now have traits via Robomodding (mechanical equivalent of genetic modification)
- There is a new thing called land appropriation which displaces up to 5 pops on filled-out, conquered planets, turning them into refugees
- Manual purging is back but only works on special cases like if a pop is considered a slave or an undesirable
- Awakened Fallen Empires now suffer decadence after 20 years (oh the horror) which slowly increases the larger they are and this decadence manifests as lowered income, ship power and vassal opinion
- Crisis now appear 200 years into a game in the earliest
- Leader skill level cap is 5 by default but it can be increased to 10 depending on traditions, civics, traits, etc.
- There is now a single governor that governs all core systems
- You can now build/demolish buildings and move pops around inside a sector, there is also no longer an influence penalty to remove systems from sectors
- You can now drain 75% of stockpiled resources from sectors at the cost of 100 influence or 25 if in a defensive war (abuse that as much as you'd like)
- You can also press the ctrl key to give 1000 of a given resource to a sector
- You can now tax a sectors' energy and minerals production independently
- You can now terraform inhabited worlds with a new technology called Ecological Adaptation
- Ironman now saves every 3 months instead of once a month
- Many new rooms (those that appear during diplomacy) that represent empires with different personalities, the player can freely choose any at the beginning
- Ruined Ringworlds can now too be repaired with mega-engineering
- Hiveminds have a lot more flavor text
- AI now builds defense platforms with snares near planets with space ports
- Gaia worlds now provide +5 happiness and +15% unity production
- Ship yards no longer give a reduction in ship mineral cost (/u/Sirchinaman)
- Army units now have experience (/u/Sirchinaman)
- Corvettes and ships in general cost more (/u/Sirchinaman)
- No more naked corvettes! And ship modules techs (weapons, shields,…) in general carry more fighting power so technologically advanced ships are now actually better (/u/nonium)
- AI empires play better and more competitively, expanding a lot faster and attacking more (/u/nonium)
For a more comprehensive list, please check out Patches over at the wiki.
What does Synthetic Dawn have to offer?
In regards to the expansion itself: it's not of the same scope as Utopia, meaning that it doesn't really change the way the game is played if one doesn't own it. As its description states, it's a story pack like Leviathans.
There's this neat video made by Stellaris' Game Director Martin Anward which tells what the DLC adds.
In text form:
- Ability to play as a machine empire from the get-go, this means hivemind-like mechanics such as: immortal (but not immune to death/malfunction) leaders, 100% habitability, no food requirements, no happiness nor ethics divergence, all pops must be constructed and different templates can be made to specialize your robotic population, etc.
- Flavor and event chains for your playthrough as a machine, with unique dialogue options with a lot of different empires, anomalies and crisis events
- Machines can now rebel and, if successful, become the new overlords
- Ability to terraform worlds into Machine Worlds that give +25% robot production in every field
- Eight new machine portraits to choose from, each representing a different species group (and each one is beautiful)
- Many new voice packs for VIR that give it different personalities
- Synthetic Fallen Empire and its amusing shenanigans
- Three new songs
I have to warn that the DLC does not come with dedicated ship types.
By all means get this expansion if you are interested in any of the points I wrote in the list above. There are also special types of machine empires such as Driven Assimilators that look to cyborg the entire galaxy (i.e. Borg) and the Rogue Servitors who look to pamper and delight every organic there is (i.e. a bit of Matrix and a bit of WALL·E). Oh, and not to forget the Determined Exterminators who, like the name implies, seek to eradicate the galaxy of any organic (i.e. Skynet).
If you are not interested in any of that, then it's not really that necessary to own this DLC.
Hopefully this quick run-down gave clarifications on what changed since Utopia. If you see any errors in this or anything you think is missing, please leave a comment mentioning it and I'll add it to this thread giving you credit.