This generation has been super interesting for games for a variety of reasons. I’ve noticed many games that are usually associated or exclusive with a single platform release on multiple soon after or at the same time. Console only franchises have started coming to PC and many PC only series are dipping their toes into consoles. Games like Divinity Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity coming to consoles would be unheard of but there are quite a few like those now. When Cities: Skylines was announced for Xbox One, I thought I had seen everything but Paradox Interactive took things even further with the announcement of Stellaris: Console Edition. Stellaris is literally one of the last things I ever expected to see on consoles but here we are and it is fantastic with a few caveats.
Stellaris is a 4X grand strategy game which is basically completely new to consoles. Your aim is to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate (4X). Stellaris is all about exploring space and managing your empire while a ton of things are happening alongside other space faring civilizations. Beginning off by just exploring for planets with your science ships and then growing into a proper empire will never get old. If you’re completely new to the genre, you can even tweak a lot of the difficulty and game (while disabling achievements) just to play around a bit before starting out a proper game.
With Stellaris on console, my biggest concern was obviously the controls. All my fears were unfounded because it plays very well on a controller. The UI has been split up into four main sections that you can zip between on the d-pad. You can even keep all the tutorial tips enabled so you are reminded each time what a particular menu is for. I had this on for the first few hours. Zooming in and out using triggers is also pretty quick. You can also pause at anytime to take a breather or get your bearings.
One of the bigger changes outside the controls for console is the interface. A lot of the icons and elements have been redone or are new just for the console version. They look good. The game itself looks very good almost across the board. When I first discovered Stellaris on PC, the biggest draw wasn’t all the glowing praise for the game but the soundtrack. Stellaris has my favourite grand strategy game soundtrack ever. It fits the visuals perfectly and is great enough to listen to outside the game as well while working. Stellaris’ audio design doesn’t end with that. Everything from the tutorial tips to the actual sound effects are great and probably best in the genre.
The biggest flaw right now is that the game in its current state is more than a year outdated from the current PC release in terms of features. I don’t mean DLC because that will obviously be sold and added over time but in terms of core functionality. The team has done a great job with Cities: Skylines post launch support so hopefully things go smooth with Stellaris so it eventually reaches up to par with the PC release. One other thing to consider is that just like the PC version, there is quite the barrier of entry here. It isn’t really something you can pickup and learn to play in a few hours. The initial curve is something but paying attention and experimenting will be worth it. The team has done a great job with the tutorial even for complete newbies.
Overall, Stellaris on Xbox One X works brilliantly. Tantalus have done a superlative job with the controls and it feels very polished even in its current state. I look forward to the expansions and DLC. The soundtrack from Andreas Waldetoft deserves another mention because it is the perfect scifi soundtrack in my head.