Ah Stellaris, we have had a love/hate relationship. Our cold metal machine based emotion cores have grown fonder over the years however, and I can feel arcs of electricity between us now as we take over the observable universe with our sentient machine race. It’s time to talk about the dawn… of the synthetics. Dun dun duuuun.
As is the way with all Paradox published grand strategy games, Stellaris has received a plethora of post release game content. This content has come in the form of free major patches released alongside paid DLC of varying sizes. This makes complete sense marketing wise, muddying the waters between what is free and paid content making you believe you are getting more content for your money upon purchase of the optional DLC. Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn is no exception and it is important to dissect out what you are actually paying for.
In Synthetic Dawn you receive:
The ability to play as a machine empire, which has a number of unique (but minor) features, traditions, civics and buildings.
Three special civics for robotic pops (Rogue Servitor, Determined Exterminator and Driven Assimilator) of which only the Rogue Servitor is truly unique.
Fallen Machine empires
Frankly, it isn’t a lot. Of course the price point of £7 is relatively low, the amount of content gained here is minor. As to the content itself, the quality is absolutely there. There is clear effort in designing the machine empires, they feel unique and have a number of interesting interactions. The new features, traditions and buildings are rather misleading, since many are just renamed to fit with a machine empire, and while it’s a nice touch, it feels like that claiming that these are “new” is just artificially inflating how much content is included.
On to how the machine empire plays. I’ve had a full complete game with a machine empire custom made without the special civics and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The robots are different enough to add a new lease of life at least for two or three games. The main difference is the lack of need for food, the requirement to build additional population for resources, the innate ability to “refit and upgrade” robots (exactly the same as genetic modification) and the upkeep cost of maintaining a large robot population. I found that the robots can snowball, and hard. Without any need for habitability, and with one less resource to worry about the robot nation can colonise every planet, removing the food tiles and consuming planets with purely minerals, energy and science. As long as energy demands are met, the robots can expand almost indefinitely. Additionally once you reach mid and late game, where often you have a huge surplus of energy, you can terraform planets into machine worlds which give a large boost to production. Playing as the special civics add slight variations upon the same theme. The Determined Exterminator gains the same bonuses as the hive mind exterminator, nothing too exciting. The Driven Assimilator allows you to absorb foreign pops into your cybernetic hivemind, effectively reducing the amount of resources required to build more robots while losing the ability to conduct diplomacy. The Rogue Servitor is perhaps the most interesting, forcing you to serve some biological pops within your empire, each of which live in complete luxury, however each of these “trophy” populations give you a bonus to influence and resource gain.
The machine empires are cool, and I had the pleasure of experiencing a robot fallen empire too. The fallen empire was tied in with the reworked AI crisis (now called The Contingency, and available free as part of the patch) and acting as a sort of universal defense system helping out with the crisis. They were thematic and interesting, even if they only became relevant in the crisis.
Other than that there isn’t really much to say. You don’t get much for your money and for that reason alone I’m much more hesitant about recommending Synthetic dawn than I should be. The content itself is good though and provides new life into a game that can often become stale after multiple playthroughs. If Stellaris has been sitting gathering dust in your steam library and you are looking for a bit of a content boost to see you through a few more games, then this DLC is for you. However if you are just picking up Stellaris for the first time, see how you get on with the base game and Utopia before you shell out any hard cash on some nice extras.
(Additionally, the free patch released alongside the DLC is really good and streamlines a lot of the features that were annoying people about the base game. Even if the DLC doesn’t take your fancy you should absolutely jump back in for another game post patch)
|– More great Stellaris content, an interesting twist on how to play.|| – Costs too much for what you actually get
– Free content disguised behind paid DLC