Paradox’s sci-fi grand strategy game, Stellaris, is getting its next major DLC on the 21st of September. Titled Synthetic Dawn, the latest DLC is themed around Artificial Intelligence and its mechanical wiles, and like every major piece of content, Paradox is giving out a sizeable free patch along with its paid expansion.
At gamescom 2017 in Germany, I had the opportunity to check out Synthetic Dawn shortly before launch, accompanied by game designer Daniel Moregard and QA specialist Daniel Sjoberg. For nearly an hour, they showed me the newest additions to the game and what the latest expansion will contain.
Synthetic Dawn provides an all-new way for players to establish their empire across the stars, including starting the game as a society made of robots. This Machine Empire deviates from standard biological empires due to its unique consciousness and logistical considerations. Unlike normal species, robots have the option of not being individuals, and unlike the Hive Mind introduced in Utopia, synthetic beings do not “die”. This adds a new mechanic to the way you run your society and its population, and can change the way the game progresses.
The first of those changes takes form the moment a race is created, with the choice of one between three origin backgrounds. First, you have the Determined Exterminators, basically Terminator’s Skynet: born of a rogue defense system that turned on its creators when they tried to shut it down. Unable to conduct diplomacy with organic empires and forced to purge conquered organic Pops, they can freely coexist and cooperate only with other synthetic civilizations.
Next there are the Driven Assimilators, (think Star Trek’s Borg): seeking to expand their knowledge and bridge the gap between the organic and synthetic, this machine empire starts the game with their creator species present on the planet as assimilated cyborgs and can make use of the Assimilation citizenship type to integrate conquered organic Pops. They are rightfully feared and despised by most civilisations.
Last but not least, there are the Rogue Servitors, best encapsulated as those little white robots that take care of humans in Wall-E. Robotic servants built by an organic species to make their own lives easier, they eventually assume full control of their creators' civilisation and become the de facto rulers of society. They start the game with their creator species present on their planet with the Bio-Trophy citizenship type, and can integrate conquered organic Pops by granting them this status. Those bio Pops are largely useless, only able to operate special Organic Sanctuary buildings that produce Unity and requiring large amounts of consumer goods, but influencing a new mechanic called Servitor Morale, which represents the Servitors' prime directive to protect and care for organic beings. The higher the percentage of Bio-Trophies in the population, the higher the Morale and direct boost to empire influence gain.
One thing all three machine empires share is their lack of Happiness, factions, and food preoccupations. Synthetic races require energy maintenance instead of food, and also possess unique buildings and unique technologies to play with. There are also several new unique game features and event chains in the expansion, which allow the machines to expand as a robotic consciousness and create an AI-led network that spans the entire galaxy.
Minor additions like Synth AI rebellion/generation, a new mechanic Fallen Empire, new voice packs for your in-game AI adviser, and new robotic portraits -- including one synthetic variation for each biological species -- are also included in the expansion. The free patch notes are not out yet, but we do know they have fixed that old missile bug and projectiles now reacquire targets midflight. Moregard also told me the team is aware of other shortcomings with the warfare and diplomacy system, and plan to adress them in the future with a DLC focused solely on those mechanics.
Stellaris: Sythentic Dawn and it’s companion free patch are out on the 21st of September, on Steam.